After a two-year stint in the army during the Korean War, the Goliad County native returned home and found work painting houses in Victoria and later used his brush skills at a local sign company.
It wasn’t until 1965 when, to the dismay of his parents, he decided to embark on a career as an artist.
“My family didn’t discourage me to paint, but they sure didn’t encourage me, either,” Windberg said.
“I didn’t know any artists who were doing this for a living. It scared the heck out of me. I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not. But I guess I lucked out.”
Fifty years later, Windberg is considered one of Texas’ legendary artists. Known for his “smooth surface” technique, Windberg has sold original paintings for as much as $75,000 and has galleries in Taos, New Mexico; Aspen, Colorado; San Antonio; Houston and other cities throughout the Southwest.
Windberg has more than 240 prints and has sold out several editions.
Discovering his talent
Windberg was raised in the Kilgore Community and attended Goliad public schools. He often found himself uninterested with his classes and doodled to pass the time.
“I didn’t really catch on to school that much,” Windberg said. “One of my teachers told me I should take some art lessons at the Catholic school that was right across the street from the public school.”
Windberg took the teacher’s advice and learned the basics of painting and how to mix colors from a nun at Immaculate Conception Catholic School. He sold his first painting at the age of 16 while taking lessons in Victoria from noted Rockport artist Simon Michael.
Windberg was drafted into the army at the age of 19 and spent the majority of his military service in Germany, where he learned to appreciate the European style of painting.
“I went to many museums over there and that inspired me to paint,” Windberg said. “I admired the techniques of the artists and what they were trying to do. They were all smooth paintings with no brush strokes. I told myself that I was going to paint Texas like that when I got back home.”
Beginning a career
Windberg didn’t get enough nerve to pursue art as a career until six years after returning from Germany. He produced 365 paintings – one a day – his first year and sold many of them at street markets throughout South Texas.
“I had to paint that many just to survive,” Windberg said. “The cheapest painting I ever sold was for $2.75 right here in Goliad.”
Windberg continued to take lessons from Michael and eventually began teaching classes in Cuero, Yorktown and Goliad to make enough money to get by.
“It was a hard gig,” Windberg said. “You just didn’t run into too many artists in this part of the country. I would tell people that I was an artist and they would ask me what I really did for a living. It was considered a hobby.
“As my paintings started selling, I dropped teaching the classes. I finally got some of my paintings into some galleries and then the print business took off. It grew from there.”
Windberg said he followed a unique marketing strategy to increase the exposure to his work.
“Once I sold a painting to somebody, I didn’t care to sell them another one. I wanted to find somebody else,” Windberg said. “One person may have only 10 or 20 friends who will see the painting. You don’t want all your paintings in the same house. You want as many people as possible to see them.
“I would tell anyone getting started to not fall in love with their paintings. You can put too high a price on them. No matter who owns your painting, it is still yours. You just want to get them hanging in someone else’s home, not yours.”
Windberg learned early in his career that customers appreciated paintings of landscapes that were close to home.
“I found out that people in Texas didn’t care about a painting of a snow-capped mountain,” Windberg said. “Here in Texas, they wanted paintings of things they see outside their own window like bluebonnets. They wanted some kind of local connection.”
Windberg said another key to his success was to offer something other artists didn’t.
“I always looked around to see what everybody else was doing,” Windberg said. “I told myself that I didn’t want to compete with these people, so I had to find something that they were not doing. At the time, nobody was painting classic night scenes. They also weren’t painting anything that had glassware in it. So I started painting pictures of glassware.”
Windberg, who lives in Georgetown where he operates out of his Windberg Art Center, now produces about 10 paintings per year. He and his son, Michael Windberg, travel the country offering lessons to aspiring artists. In March, the Windbergs brought several of their students with them to Goliad for a series of classes.
“Teaching is a challenge sometimes,” Windberg said. “Sometimes it is frustrating for me to get things across. But it is always rewarding when you can pass on something that you’ve learned to somebody else. A lot of things I learned, I learned on my own. I couldn’t find anyone teaching what I wanted to know. I had to find out myself.
“Back when I was learning how to paint, it was like rocket science. One artist would never tell another their secrets. Artists would go to the grave with what they would do. I like to share what I’ve learned.”
Nancy Balmert of Clear Lake has been a student of Windberg for over 10 years and was in Goliad for his latest class.
“Dal has got to be the greatest living artist at this point in time,” Balmert said. “He can look at something and know what value and intensity the paint needs to be.”
Windberg, who resides in Georgetown with his wife, Evelyn, has been the subject of two biographies: “The Paths of the Masters,” published in 1978 and “Dalhart Windberg – Artist of Texas,” published by the University of Texas Press in 1984.
Windberg said he has no plans of putting a paint brush down anytime soon. His passion appears as fervent as ever.
“It’s so important to love what you do,” Windberg said. “I tell everybody that what I do sure beats working for a living.”