If you or your family were locals in Bellflower, California around the mid-1950s, you may have seen one of the cars in this post. They have one thing in common - all of these cars were custom hand-painted by Larry Watson. He was a phenomenal self-taught car painter responsible for inventing and perfecting many of the patterns and techniques used in the industry today.
Watson was born in 1938 in Bellflower, California. He started his work in 1955 when he was only 16 and still in high school. At the time, southern California was buzzing with the sounds of engines of many American car models. His interest in custom painting was sparked after he saw the works of Kenneth Robert Howard, widely known as Von Dutch. He was an artist whose style was mainly about pinstriping. You can read more about him here.
Larry saw Von Dutch's work on a car and wanted to start painting cars himself. So he bought some paintbrushes and copper paint and went to work on his own Chevrolet. It took him 2 days to complete a pinstripe rendering on its back hood. He called the car Grapevine. He decided to debut it at the local Bellflower Clock Drive-In. Everyone thought this was work by Von Dutch.
Word quickly got around, and soon enough, there were always 3 or 4 cars parked outside Watson's garage, waiting for a custom paint job. A 1950 Ford was the first model he ever did for a customer. When, in 1957, he finally finished high school, he opened his business "Watson's House of Style" in Long Beach, California.
As mentioned in the introduction of the article, Watson was an innovator in the world of artistic custom-made car painting. He invented and developed many patterns and coloring techniques that are widely used to this day. Some of them you may even know by name, like the "seaweed flames" (as seen in the photo above).