June 14, 2010 – Whidbey Chat with Gwen Sam

Whidbey artist Perry Woodfin strolled down the Coupeville wharf this morning to join Gwen in the KWPA studio for a little conversation.

Painting what surrounds him, Perry Woodfin says, 'I feel each piece of my art is like a word (or sentence), and when all is said and done I would hope people would say I had something interesting to say.' Pictured here - Coupeville Wharf, 2004. 10.5"x16.5" - Watercolor. Original Available. ~ About the Coupville wharf, home of KWPA's studio, Perry Woodfin says, "An elderly man told me about being a child in Coupeville in the 1930s. His parents wouldn't let him go out on the wharf without an adult present, so he and his friends would sneak out and hide in an outhouse situated on it's deck. They fished through the hole in it's floor.

A Pacific Northwest native, Perry Woodfin makes a full-time job out of selling his paintings.  With an impressive track record in the corporate working world, this Whidbey Island resident can now be found selling his watercolor paintings in local galleries, at the Greenbank and Coupeville Farmer’s Market’s, and from his website.  A world traveler, new technology student and easy-going gentleman Perry Woodfin is a Whidbey artist with plum.

Telling Gwen and listeners about his grand and great grand parents westward migration to the Pacific Northwest, settlement in Palouse and stage-coach service they ran, Perry is the product of pioneers, and a father who owned a large chicken farm in Palouse, where he grew up and was laden with farm chores.

Bringing up an image from every American child’s memory, Perry described the little red wagon that is his earliest memory of making art.   While sitting on his mother’s lap, Perry said, she drew a little red wagon, then handed him the pencil and paper and asked him to draw one too.  That little drawing by a four year old, the American icon we all know and love, would be Perry Woodfin’s first original piece of art.

Years later, as a young teen, after his parent’s divorce and his father’s remarrage, another woman, his step-mother, Jananne (Nan) Goltz, would play a pivotal role in pointing him towards art again.   In a dramatic story, he tells how on the eve of his departure to a world-class animal husbandry program at a foreign university well-known for its veterinary medicine department, his step-mother told him she believed he was headed into veterinary medicine not because he loved it; but because he wanted to make his father proud, by following in his farming footsteps.  Nan challenged Perry to take a few art courses at a Pacific Northwest university before he embarked to faraway lands and studied to become a vetrinarian.   Just out of high school, Perry conceded and signed up for classes at Washington State University.  It was those classes that would change his life’s course forever.  Now, 45 years later, Perry Woodfin is the artist he was meant to be, since first drawing that little red wagon.

Perry’s spoke to Gwen, and listener’s, about his realist work, how he balances the need to make a living as an artist, by producing what will sell and be collected, and his need to express himself in more abstract or metaphorical works, not easy to sell or heavily collected.

One of Perry's pieces the couple was considering - To Aid One, 1991. 13.5"x18.25" Watercolor NFS

The other piece the couple considered - Anacortes Fuel, 2001. 11"x16" Watercolor. NFS

Perry recounted witnessing the difficult decision a couple were having at the Greenbank Market this past weekend, trying to decide which of his images to purchase.  The couple were headed to a foriegn county on an educational mission and wanted something that would help them describe where they were from in America. To hear more about this decision making process, and the lengths that couple went to to come to a final decision – listen to the interview.  But until then, you choose from the two Perry Woodfin pieces pictured here.  The two the couple were weighing the balance of.  Which one would you choose?  

Perry Woodfin’s interview exposes some of the history and inner thoughts of a man, and artist, many people on the island, and in the world, know and collect.   From that moment on his mother’s knee, to today, Perry’s story of becoming and being a full time artist is interesting, intuitive and humorous.

Ironically, on the heels of KWPA’s smash hit “OLD TIME RADIO LIVE ON STAGE” shows at Fort Casey yesterday, Perry also talked about how radio played a part in is life as a young boy.  Born in the 1940’s, the hey day of radio comedies and drama’s, Perry shared some of his favorite old-time radio shows of the era, and how those shows kept him company as a young boy, like they did so many of us.

Perry Woodfin

THANK YOU PERRY ! – for taking the time to come down to KWPA and visit with Gwen and Whidbey Chat listeners!  We’ll be looking to hear you again!  Safe travels.

Listen to the recordings of this interview on Thursday, June 17th, at 9am and or Friday, June 18th at 4pm.  The show airs on 96.9fm in the Coupeville area of Whidbey Island, and streams worldwide on the internet from the KWPA website.

POSTSCRIPT: PERRY WOODFIN is also a poet.   Some other time, on Whidbey Chat with Gwen Sam, Perry Woodfin will share his thoughts and inspirations on poetry.

The poem below is an obvious strand from Perry’s life growing up on his father’s large chicken farm in Palouse.  A tribute to the beloved writer Betty McDonald (1908-1958), a Vason Island writer who was a friend of his father’s and lived on a farm near them.  Though Perry only met her once – she inspired something in Perry he still carry’s with him today.  An egg…

The Egg and Me

Copyright by Perry Woodfin

When her name comes up, as it has on occasion,

I reminisce about our only meeting.

We had climbed the long flight to the ferry boat cabin.

We stop suddenly at the top.

A woman is coming down.

Dad and Mom talk with her.

Dad, proud, introduces me, his boy.

Then he tells me, “This is Betty MacDonald.

”To me she’s just a another grown up.

I seem to remember all of that.

I think she had on silk stockings, high heels.

There may also have been white gloves, perfume.

I wonder if I’ve invented all this ?

It’s just a memory, a brief moment in time.

As I said, on occasion it has come up.

Then I turn it over, move it around,

gaining nothing except what is here.

Well, maybe a slight scent of sophistication;

maybe a touch of class.

But have I hatched this too ?

Questions remain as questions always seem to do,

just laying there.


“Whenever I catch a ferry and see that high flight, small memories like this, soar. Hope you enjoy this. I like poetry for its more immediate creative outlet (usually). More immediate than painting, anyway. The poem describes an incident that occurred in, I would guess, about 1950.” – Perry Woodfin

More on Perry’s father Donald A. Woodfin (1920-2004), an interesting and hardworking man, who eventually moved from Vashon to Whidbey Island, where he lived for 26 years before his death.

The Betty MacDonald Farm is a historic farm and takes overnight guests.