He also traveled the globe, lived with an aboriginal tribe in New Guinea when he was in his 70s and could include another famous Everett artist, Chuck Close, among his students.
Mason died Wednesday at age 93.
"Alden Mason was my teacher, my mentor and my friend. He has probably had more impact on my work and my career than any other person. I wouldn't be who I am today -- or as successful -- if it weren't for Alden," wrote Close in a prepared statement.
Close, an artist whose massively scaled portraits have been on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and who was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, called Mason one of the greatest painters to come out of the Pacific Northwest.
Close studied with Mason from 1960 to 1962.
"He was encouraging, inspiring and often tough on me -- probably when I needed it," Close wrote. "Luckily, we talked a week ago and I was able to tell him about the impact he had on me, my life and my work and that I loved him like a father."
Mason's work can be seen in numerous museums across the country. His work has also been represented since 2002 at Foster/White Gallery in Seattle, which sent out a statement Wednesday.
"Mason was an adventurous and enthusiastic naturalist and painter," wrote Phen Huang, director of Foster/White. "He loved the northwest landscape, color, birds, natural concretions and to dance to rock and roll."
Mason's most recent exhibit in Snohomish County occurred in 2010 when the Schack Art Center was based at the Monte Cristo Hotel. Mason's work was seen alongside two other artists in an exhibit titled "Moments: Alden Mason, Steve Klein and Karen Simonson."
Mason's experimentation with watercolors and oils earned some fame worldwide in the 1970s with his Burpee Garden series of paintings, named after the seed catalogs of a Skagit Valley farm where Mason grew up.
Mason's career spanned six decades. Born in 1919, he received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1945 and a masters degree in fine art in 1947 from the University of Washington, where he returned to teach for 32 years.
Carie Collver, Schack Art Center's gallery director, said Mason's work was unusual in the way he used color. She had always thought it would have been fun to take a class from him.
"He was really taking a different route from the other teachers at the UW," Collver said. "In his style and in the amount of paint he was using. He was really breaking boundaries."
Mason's exhibition work drifted over the years between abstract and figurative styles. At one point, Mason was forced to switch to acrylic paints after suffering an allergic reaction to the toxic fumes of oil paints.
Mason exhibited his work in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, B.C., and New York.
He traveled to South America, Mexico, Africa and Papua New Guinea. Mason's most recent pieces were inspired by his appreciation for primitive cultures.
"His big head series was fantastic," Schack gallery director Collver said. "Those pieces were like a crazy dream, but he loved primitive art and really had an appreciation for their colors and imagery."
Of his own work, Mason called his paintings "a private world of improvisation, spontaneity, humor and pathos, exaggeration and abandon."
"They reflect my travels and interest in tribal art and children's art," according to Mason's artist statement. "Old-fashioned emotional involvement is still my main priority in painting."
In his personal life, Mason loved to dance, flirt, tell stories and deliver puns, such as, "I have good genes and wear them everyday." What Mason did wear all the time was his signature fedora and neck kerchief.
Collver recalled Wednesday that during Mason's exhibit in Everett he was in a wheelchair in his late 80s yet surrounded by a group of young beautiful women.
"They were all googley-eyed at him and he was telling his stories," Collver said. "And I thought, 'God bless him. He's still got it.'"
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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