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2/25/2009 HOUSTON -- Watercolor artist Larry Stephenson toys around his studio with antique marbles, model planes and cars, wind-up tin men and old-time funny papers. Thanks to his playful eye and serious talent with the paintbrush, the vintage toy collector and painter has garnered multiple art awards, most recently being named featured artist of the nationally ranked Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park March 27-29.

The Kansas-based artist will display his “A Day at the Airport,” the Bayou City Festival Memorial Park’s featured artwork, among his many whimsical pieces, joining more than 300 visual and performing artists from around the U.S. and the world at the fine juried art festival.

Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park was ranked #3 festivals in the U.S. as voted by the readers of AmericanStyle Magazine (February 2009.)

Stephenson, who has earned two first-place ribbons in watercolor at Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park, creates life-like scenes with toys as his subjects. Sometimes they are still-life pictures, such as “Austin’s Marbles,” a painting of the childhood marbles of Austin Miller, his friend and Antique Americana authority, on a backdrop of a comic strip. Or, he will juxtapose the toys in unlikely situations. In “A Day at the Airport,” Stephenson stages robot-like businessmen figures at the airport, while cartoon children are piloting toy spaceships overhead. This light-hearted piece will grace Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park billboards, posters, programs and T-shirts.

From 1978-90, Stephenson was selected to exhibit in many of the most respected watercolor competitions in the country, such as Exhibits of the American Watercolor Society, National Watercolor Society, Rocky Mountain National Water-media Exhibition, Midwest Watercolor Society and the Watercolor Societies of Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, among others. His works were included in the National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibition as well as in Exhibitions at the Butler Institute of Fine Art and Salamagundi Club Open Exhibitions in New York City.

Throughout the 1990s Stephenson sustained a successful commercial art career designing a line of poster prints and images used on hundreds of products worldwide. After selling off the publishing rights to much of his work, he decided to create a new collection of paintings that he had longed to do for many years, focusing on his vintage collectibles. He embarked on this body of work in January 2001 using a combination of gouache, watercolor and egg tempera. “This is where my heart is, “ says Stephenson, a member of the Watercolor Honor Society since 2006.

Of the Festival’s 300 visual artists, two-thirds will be returning to the Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park and one-third will be first-time participants. Showcasing works representing 19 media formats, Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park, held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., features clay, drawing/pastel, fiber/textiles, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, watercolor and wood.