Peter Webb, 1954 – 2022: The Surf World Says Goodbye To A Design Icon And True Artist
Through his work at Quiksilver, Webb “led the surf industry into an explosion of color and art.”
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of artist and designer Peter Webb, Quiksilver’s iconic and beloved creative director for more than 27 years.
Webb grew up just outside of Melbourne and spent much of his life in Torquay, where he met one of his closest longtime collaborators, Simon Buttonshaw, just as Webb was getting somewhat serious about his art career, showing his work in galleries.
According to Surfer, “In 1984, through his connections with contemporary Australian artist Simon Buttonshaw, he began working with the Quiksilver International art department, and found a very exciting application of his artistic talent. While pursuing his fine art expressions, Webb supported his career by contributing to the Quiksilver design group headed by Buttonshaw, where he designed hundreds of pieces of artwork used by the company during his 18-year association. Working in Torquay, with owner Alan Green, Peter was able to practice his craft and was afforded the opportunity to travel around the world visiting the best galleries and absorbing the various local cultures, music, religions and lifestyles. This experience is reflected in both his graphic work for Quiksilver and his often-controversial canvases for the Powell Street Gallery in Melbourne, where he has exhibited for years.”
When Buttonshaw left Quiksilver, Peter was promoted to Art Director at Quik, where he remained and worked until 2005. Though Webb showed personal work in Sydney, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne, and Laguna Beach, he seemed concerned over the years of being pigeonholed as a “surf artist.”
Here’s a feature from ABC Australia on Webb:
Knowing that he created iconic surf designs back in the 80s gives Webby quiet pleasure, he says. But today, he’s worried that having that reputation could work against him.
“First and foremost, I’m an artist,” [Webb] says. “Now I’m a surf artist. That’s how I’m recognised, it seems... Will a city gallery give me a show anymore? It’s a hard thing to say, ‘you’re an artist’. It’s such a wank! It’s not like you’re a doctor saving lives… Society without art is morally bankrupt. I just hate talking about it – explaining paintings – I don’t like doing it. I like hearing other people doing it though… I don’t like trying to explain paintings. I can do a disservice to my paintings if I talk… I don’t want to be a ventriloquist for the paintings.”
Last year, our friends at Monster Children covered Webby’s last major showing of paintings, Time Tough: A Retrospective, at the Fine Thanks Gallery in Torquay. Writing about the show, Tom Cole—a fellow Quik creative, almost four decades Webby’s junior—had this to say about his time witnessing Webby’s work ethic and ethos.
“Webby is the artist who painted most of the iconic artwork you wore on your Quiksilver gear throughout the surf industry’s golden age,” writes Cole. “But his personal, vibrant artwork has always reflected the satire and ofttimes dark brain of Webby himself. This has always been his gift as an artist. The exhibition spans works from as early as 1977, and experiencing this linear evolution of ideas is clearly a message to rise above, work through adversity and be a good human. The moral of the story being left entirely up to the viewer, which is you… Funnily enough, [Fine Thanks Gallery] sits in the atrium of the aforementioned Quiksilver offices—where Webby painted for many years. If those walls could talk…”
In the aftermath of his passing, a flood of tributes came through from surfers and creatives who had worked with and spent time with Webby, especially his comrades from Quiksilver.
“In the 1980’s during my time at Quiksilver, iconic pieces of surfing industry artwork like Warpaint, Ghetto Dog, Echo Beach and many more were created just a few steps from my desk and on many occasions the whiff of inspiration wafted through the door,” writes Peter “Joli” Wilson. “So many memories that stretch back into the 70’s. Webby has left all of us a legacy both physically with his art and personally with his character and story telling. R.I.P. Webby.”
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