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The Art of Elegance

Posters for the Lake Tahoe Concours d'Elegance pay tribute to vintage wooden boats



Photos by Greg Betty

“I have a long love affair with Lake Tahoe,” artist Roy Dryer confesses. And, luckily for us, that love affair is well documented. For each of the past 36 years, Dryer has created original posters commemorating the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, the grand extravaganza of wooden boats.


A pair of Chris-Craft racing runabouts zoom across another dynamic poster.

“I was introduced to Lake Tahoe when I was eight by old family friends,” Dryer recalls. “I went up there a couple of consecutive summers and got to drive their wooden boat—of course, back then all the boats were wood—and I just fell in love with Lake Tahoe,” he says. “How could you not?”


Dryer in his studio. “People say, ‘Oh, the wooden boats are so much work!’ But you get paid back tenfold when you’re out on the water in the boat,” he explains. “It transforms you.” [Photo by Rick Shaddeau]

In the 1980s, Dryer was painting portraits of cars and boats when he had the clever idea to take his skills to Lake Tahoe, where wooden boat enthusiasts had been gathering for the Concours since 1972. He painted his first poster for the 1984 event, and it was a success. 

“In ’84, I was pretty much landlocked, so I portrayed the show from my point of view of being a spectator at the show,” he explains. “Then, as my personal involvement evolved, so did my perspective of being around the boats.” Dryer found more opportunities to examine the gleaming watercraft up close—first getting invited aboard boats, and then eventually acquiring his own and becoming involved with the Tahoe Yacht Club. Today, he’s on the board of the Tahoe Maritime Museum.


Looking across the lake, the 2017 poster depicts two Chris-Crafts and a Philbrick utility boat.

Each year’s poster showcases a fresh nautical scene in Dryer’s crisp, bold style. “They usually have a mark class for every year, and I try to incorporate the mark class in every poster, plus try to tell some kind of boating story,” he explains. “I don’t put the names on the boats, so the general public can fantasize themselves into the boat; and I’ve created more collectors by that, I think, than anything else.”


Roy Dryer launched a beautiful tradition with his annual Concours posters. The 2014 edition showcases barrel transom boats, including two Chris-Crafts and a Gar Wood.

Dryer’s fascination with the Concours shows no sign of fading, and he still relishes each season’s artistic challenge. “I’m known for my watercolors; that’s the media I’ve used for the posters since the beginning,” he says. “It’s always kind of my Olympics every year to test my capability.” The intensity of his colors is especially striking. “I deal with transparent watercolor, not opaque, so everything that you’re looking at is like looking through stained glass,” he explains.


A sleek Sea Lyon graces the 2007 edition. “The whole philosophy of the boat poster was to get people to fantasize about wooden boating,” Dryer says. Mission accomplished.

“After the boat show is over, I always sit out at the end of my pier and just remember all the history,” Dryer reflects. “And how fortunate I am to have this illustrated history and hopefully knocked it out of the park every year.”

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