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King of Paint: Puyallup artist Rodney King paints Black history in vivid colors

King says we all have a talent that lies dormant within us, and we just need to let it breathe. #k5evening

PUYALLUP, Wash. — At Intentions Juice and Smoothie Bar in Tacoma, Rodney King has once again been the featured artist for Black History month. Owner Marquita Evans is a fan.

"This is his third time I've been showcasing his art and I love the colors and the vibrancy and even just the lines," Evans said. "It adds character to the walls as well as you're getting a piece of history and, for me, that's important."

"I like to share the good things about history and basically reintroduce things to the culture," King said.

In the garage of his Puyallup home, King streams old school soul as he sits down to paint. His subject matter might be sports heroes like Jerry Rice and Florence Griffith-Joyner or music icons like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin.

"I love to show like a lot of soulfulness in my art," King said. "You can hear the music through my paintings."

There's a painting of Martin Luther King Jr. giving the "I Have a Dream" speech and another one featuring the Harlem club boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

King could feel his anxiety growing during the pandemic. He works for the post office, so working from home was never an option. There was a sameness to every day that further irritated King. That's why he returned to something he loved in high school. 

"It's a stress reliever," King said. "It just helps me to calm down, you know?"

His first paintings were made quickly with big brush strokes. Now King's more methodical.

"I'm not painting like my life is gonna end any longer," he said.

There are bright colors, thick lines, and geometric shapes.

"My wife was always telling me, 'you need to have your own style where people can recognize that's a Rodney King original,'" King said.

Color is his calling card.

"A lot of color," he said. "Just a lot of vibrancy in my pieces."

There's a painting featuring jump roping schoolgirls called "Leschi, 1988."

Credit: Rodney King
"Leschi, 1988" courtesy of the artist Rodney King.

"It just takes me back to the fourth grade where everybody was literally just worried about what was for lunch that day," he said.

You may feel nostalgia looking at a Rodney King painting. He sees a life lesson.

"No matter how long that artist is dormant inside you, it's still alive," King said. "You just have to bring it out again because that's your therapy. When I'm feeling down I can always paint."

And as long as Rodney King is painting there's someone like Marquita Evans who is interested in putting it on a wall.

 "As I told him each month it just gets better," Evans said.

To see Rodney King's paintings you can visit Base Camp Studios in Belltown on March 10th from 6-9 p.m. He'll also be at the Tacoma Art Market on March 12th located in Tacoma at 611 S. Baker St. from noon to six. Finally, you can his works at Pudding and Paint at the Tukwila Community Center on March 17th from 8-10:45 p.m

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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