Woodrow "Woody" W. Allred, 71, of the Pleasant Hill 3rd Ward, believes his ability as an artist is a spiritual gift.
"The Lord gives all of us many gifts," he said. "The greatest blessing in this life is to be able to use those gifts for the Lord."Regardless of the subject that Allred is working on, he paints marathon hours as a matter of habit, starting at 5 a.m. and painting up to 10 hours. "Sometimes, if it is going good, I paint for 12 to 15 hours," he said. Evidence of his work "going good" hangs throughout his home - wooded mountains, moody ocean scenes, rustic western landscapes.
After a long career in commercial art, Allred has had some of his paintings used by the Church. He painted the portrait of J. Reuben Clarke Jr. that hangs in the Clarke Law School of BYU, as well as others here and there in Church facilities.
Allred's work for the Church began rather inauspiciously. Long an admirer of President Harold B. Lee, he painted a portrait of the Church leader. he also painted one of President Spencer W. Kimball. He wanted to donate the works to the Church.
"The brethren are so busy," he said. "They have so much to do that I didn't want to disturb them." He phoned the first Presidency's office and asked if he could just crate up and ship the paintings. However, he was invited to bring the portraits, and meet President Kimball in person. "They just rolled out the red carpet for me," he recalled.
Allred's first accomplishment in art came in the first grade in Salt Lake City - a drawing of a horse. "My teacher told my father that it was the best horse ever drawn by one of her pupils," he related.
Despite praise from his teacher and others who were to follow, Woody received less than enthusiastic encouragment from his father. "Who makes any money out of painting?" he asked.
Allred subsequently showed his father that he could with enough preparation. After graduating from West High School in Salt Lake City, he attended the California School of Fine Art in San Francisco and then the Chicago Academy of Art.
In Chicago he supported himself through evening classes by working as a commercial artist in the daytime. Allred's first big job was to make drawings for an advertising company for the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. His next job was in Hollywood, Calif., where he worked for Fox West Coast Studios.
Here he created posters with portraits of the stars for moviehouses. "Myrna Loy, Jeannette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Spencer Tracy - I did them all," he recalled. In all he painted 2,000 portraits. Many of the posters have become collectors' items. "I wish I had kept some of the things I did," he reflected.
When World War II started he served in the Navy for three years, and then came to northern Calfiornia after the war to operate his own floral design and commercial art business. In his career, he's worked with such people as entertainer Rudy Vallee, cartoonist Charles Schulz, and Time publisher Henry Luce. He has lectured and taught art, and has a lifetime teaching credential from the California Department of Education.
In recent years, a bout with cancer has been a trying experience. Yet he perseveres in attending the Oakland Temple and in other activities, said Bishop H. Brent Egbert. In the Pleasant Hill 3rd Ward, the artist, a former high priest group leader, is remembered also for the less-noted things he does, such as taking corsages to widows on their birthdays and providing flowers for the ward on special occasions.
"He's a very thoughtful man," said Bishop Egbert.