Marilin Webb had been at The Stratford a few weeks when a resident told her about “a fella that draws wolves.”
Curious, Webb ventured down the hallway of the assisted living center on Smith Level Road and peered inside the man’s room.
Joe Dixon sat in his wheelchair, a drawing board at the foot of his bed.
“He wheeled his chair over to where he kept his drawings and started turning them over,” Webb said. “The more he turned them, the more impressed I became with his work.”
Webb, a one-time actress and film librarian, eventually bought 14 of Dixon’s pieces. She gave away all but 10 as gifts, saving three drawings of wolves and a pair of owls for her bedroom wall. One of the owls has blue eyes, “whimsical,” she says.
Webb may be the 69-year-old Dixon’s biggest fan. But he’s about to gain more with his first-ever show of his art work, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 at the Stratford, 405 Smith Level Road.
The former welder had a stroke 15 years ago that paralyzed his right side. He was right-handed and says it took seven years to teach himself to draw with his left hand, and he’s still not as good as he was.
“Oh, no, no,” he says.
But that doesn’t stop him. He draws almost every day, recreating pictures from art books, websites, or the center’s back yard where he spreads out sunflower seeds for chipmunks that scamper on the patio.
“When I ask him why (he draws), he says it just makes him feel better,” Bob Dixon said of his brother, the oldest of four boys who grew up in Vestal, in upstate New York.
A former biker and Army mechanic in Vietnam, Dixon has decorated his walls with pictures of his Harley Davidson motorcycles. A signed photo wishing his mother a Merry Christmas in 1974 says “Live to ride and ride to live.”
He doesn’t talk a lot, but he smiles easily and happily shares his work.
“Don’t sit down,” he cautions as a visitor backs up against the bed where his drawings are spread out: animals, landscapes and ... Vampirella.
He opens a laptop to show the sexy vampire he sketched from. He turns up the volume, and the website plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
His brother chides him about the superheroes but says “it’s incredible that someone (using) a non-dominant hand can draw that well.”
Dixon’s work is simple but detailed, Webb says.
The aerodynamic lines of a motorcycle. A tropical sunset radiating yellow and orange.
A sketch of Sheena, “Queen of the Jungle,” that looks like a movie poster.
Webb calls the latter one of her friend’s “sultry ladies.”
“I asked if they excited him, and he said no,” Webb said. “I said, ‘I don’t believe you.’”
Dixon plans to include all his drawings in the show and laughs when asked if the exhibit could mark the first time an assisted living center has displayed such scantily clad superheroines.
“I know,” he says, “but what are you going to do?”