Larry Welden, a prominent Sacramento artist and teacher who painted Northern California landscapes in ethereal watercolors, died Oct. 25 after a recent series of strokes, his family said. He was 90.
Widely considered a master at depicting the Golden State in watercolor, Mr. Welden used strong gestures and a light touch to create active paintings of the Sacramento River, the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe.
He was a nature lover and an avid hiker who began many scenes en plein air near his family's Twin Bridges cabin before completing the works in his studio. (Many can be seen online at larrywelden.com.)
"His paintings are usually defined by a very specific sense of place," Sacramento City College art professor Chris Daubert said. "They're almost portraits, not generic landscapes."
Mr. Welden showed his art widely in Northern California, including invitational exhibitions at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
His works hang in many private and public collections, including the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento City College and many professional offices.
"He was a master of watercolor who used the medium to its full advantage," said artist Patricia Tool McHugh, a retired SCC professor. "He was fearless. He would wash out half a painting without blinking an eye."
Mr. Welden was also an influential figure in the art world as a teacher at Sacramento City College from 1960 to 1985. He was one of several faculty members including Fred Dalkey, Gregory Kondos and Wayne Thiebaud who helped establish SCC's wide renown as a top art program.
Besides Dalkey, his former students include artists Gary Dinnen and Gary Pruner. His son Jay Welden is also a well-known watercolorist.
Engaging and enthusiastic about teaching, Mr. Welden was a beloved professor and mentor to many aspiring artists. He often invited students to his cabin and other outdoor locations to paint with him.
"He was very generous," Daubert said. "He invited people into his world, as opposed to someone who is just passing information down from professor to student."
Born in 1922 in Berkeley, Larry Truman Welden moved with his family to the Sacramento area in the 1930s.
He earned an engineering degree at UC Berkeley and drew airplane engine parts as a draftsman before pursuing painting.
He earned a bachelor's degree from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and a master of fine arts degree from California State University, Sacramento.
A longtime Granite Bay resident, he raised five children with his wife of 59 years, Jean Welden. He enjoyed fishing, excelled at snow skiing for many years and was an accomplished pianist.
He traveled in recent years in Europe and the Middle East. He kept in touch with family members and friends through watercolor postcards he painted of the British Parliament houses in London, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, feluccas on the Nile River and other picturesque scenes.
Besides family, Mr. Welden was devoted to teaching, said his daughter-in-law Gina Welden. On his 90th birthday, he invited his children and grandchildren to a painting class at his home.
"There were about 15 of us, and he taught us all how to paint a tree and then critiqued each one," she said. "First, we had to go out and hug a tree and feel its energy and then give it back in painting. He brought out the best in all of us."