87-year-old painter A. Weldon Kent is still going strong and wants to offer free space for local artists to sell
A. Weldon Kent painted one of his first works, a watercolor titled “Board Thorobreads,” in 1927, at the age of 13. It looks almost like an early Norman Rockwell sketch. The fenced-in dogs have brown eyes that range from hypnotic to demonic, and one can sense an early flair for art in the colorful details.
“The dogs behind the fence are bored,” says Kent, pet cockatiel Tammy perched on his green suit like a curious yellow bow, “while the tramp is outside having fun with his bone.”
Kent has had some fun of his own throughout a long and healthy life spanning nearly the entire last century. And he’s still quite a character, sharp and to the point. Billing himself as a painter, writer, publisher, animal/charity activist and avid golfer, he owned and ran a successful drapery business for more than 60 years (six upholstery stores and two factories in Southern California that became one small store on The Esplanade in Chico when he moved here in 1970).
Though he gave up painting for four decades—"The Depression goofed things up, then there was World War II"—he started again in the late 1960s, sporadically painting various landscapes, animals, floral still lifes and rural Americana. Today, at a feisty 87 years old, he can’t seem to stop painting. He even recently began a new business of printing some of his paintings onto greeting cards.
“I can’t wait until nighttime, when you’re asleep,” he says. “That’s when I work.”
Over the last few years he has executed more than 700 oil portraits of various landscapes and seascapes, many copied from other paintings or photographs, all on display in his studio/store located in the Almond Orchard Shopping Center (2201 Pillsbury Road), which is overflowing with colorful, price-tagged oil portraits.
“I steal from everywhere,” he says cheerfully, describing the ideas for his painting topics and alluding to magazine clips on a drawing table. “I paint because I love it, and I’m cheap and have more variety than anybody in the Northstate.”
As you can tell, he’s till a salesman after all these years.
Every other Saturday, Kent offers the long walkway outside of his store for local artists to display their goods—"no matter what,” he says. It’s called the Almond Orchard Art Group, and for some it could mean the difference between paying the monthly bills and not.
“Places like the mall will usually charge you one or two hundred dollars for a table to set up your stuff,” local artist Frank Bella says. “Kent is offering a pretty cool service to help artists get by out there.”
After getting to know Kent, Bella began working part-time for him helping transfer artwork to greeting cards on his computer—or his “push-button machine,” as Kent jokingly calls it.
Roaming around the store floor is another of Kent’s pets: proud-trotting Teresa, a friendly little white Lhasa apso, which is kind of like a poodle. Kent’s pets mean a lot to him. He even has a small notification from the Guinness Book of World Records on his wall for playing golf at Sunset Hills with his bird and dog.
Aside from the recent accidental death of another pet, a cat, things have been going well. Kent has recovered from a minor car wreck a few years ago, and is also in complete remission from skin cancer. Now, he has plenty of energy to paint and just wants to get the word out to any artists that he has free space.
“If we get a good turnout, who knows? It could go to an every-week event. I have shelter from the rain, so it doesn’t matter about the weather,” he says.
For all questions, call Kent day or night at 895-3779.