Woodies wind their way into artist’s passion

By Brad Mosher


Larry Stephens has a love affair he’s thrilled to show off.

For the rest of June, the former Garibaldi resident will be the featured artist at the Garibaldi Museum.

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He kicked off the one-month spotlight of his work with a reception Sunday.

That means for the rest of the month, the museum will have wall-to-wall “Woodies.”

They became the iconic image of the 1960s surfing culture in Southern California, even though they had been around 30 years earlier when automakers used wood in the passenger compartments of vehicles to cut down weight or to add a touch of class.

For Stephens, the focus on the popular vehicles began in 2008 when he took a watercolor class.

“Marcia Wilson was my art instructor in Tillamook. She was my mentor,” Stephens said.

His first effort was a scene with a bison. When he was finished, she asked what he was going to do next.

He didn’t have far to go for inspiration.

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It was a colorful beach shirt covered with woodies carrying surfboards that triggered his interest.

“The shirt inspired the whole phenomena. I showed some friends the artwork and they said ‘Wow.’

A year after he started painting Woodies, one of his pieces won a blue ribbon at the Tillmook County Fair.

He has continued to create more woodies on canvas – and has spread out into t-shirts, coin purses, mouse pads and coasters.

It also has become a home-based business, thanks to the internet. Classic Woodies by Larry can be found when people search online for Tillamook and woodies.

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He said that the display at the Garibaldi Museum has sparked more interest and sales.

According to Stephens, his interest in Woodies has paid off in other ways. “Our goal is to send at least 10 percent of the profits to International Children’s Care (ICC). ICC provides food, clothing, lodging and education to impoverished and orphaned children in third world countries around the globe. They are children who would otherwise have a very difficult time dealing with the harsh realities of life,” he said.