Herald News, Joliet, Illinois
Elwood native is living his dream
By Denise M. Baran-Unland
March 8, 2019
Joliet Central High School alumnus Mark Anthony King has accomplished what few artists ever accomplish. King is a full-time artist. According to his biography, King has sold over 300 pieces of art over the last 13 years to people all over world. Art that includes photography, digital works, paintings and mixed media works. But King didn't find success overnight. And he didn't find it alone.
King's biography said his mother encouraged creative expression and that his father, a carpenter brought home "various scraps of paper, wood, drawing and painting supplies." As a young boy, the artwork King's older brothers created inspired him to create, too.
Some of his his earliest and happiest childhood memories were spent stretched out on a brother's bedroom floor. "I'd put on his records, lay out some paper and sketch away the day." This was, King said, despite having grown up in a lower class family in the farming town of Elwood "where there wasn't much art around."
But King did have an art teacher at Elwood School who encouraged him to develop his talents. "This was a huge key to me feeling confident about what I was doing," King said. "I credit her to this day." Favorite subject matters at the time were sports heroes from King's baseball card collections and characters from his favorite comic books.
As a teen, King joined local rock bands and created logos and posters for the bands. He also played around with painting and tried imitating the style of Bob Ross.
"I thought, 'If he can do this, I can do it,'" King said. "So I bought some canvas and oils and tried my hand at it. If I had stuck with it, I'd have done a lot better. But I found that I just didn't enjoy painting landscapes at that stage."
Before King fell away from art in early adulthood, he dabbled in etching the likeness of rock stars into marble tile. He also found a vendor for his work – the former Crow's Nest in Joliet. "I sold quite a few of them there," King said. After becoming a father at age 20, King said he worked various labor and factory jobs to support his family. In 2000, after a divorce and remarriage and at the encouragement of his wife, King enrolled in a photography program at the at College of DuPage.
Although he spent plenty of time in a darkroom, he also began independently experimenting with digital photography and software and liked it. Manipulating images reminded him of painting and drawing, "It was a whole new avenue for me to explore and it fed my creative urge," King said. While attending school, he worked any photography-related job he could find. He worked in photo labs, camera shops and as a freelance photographer, assisting other photographers and shooting graduations and sporting events.
King moved to Colorado in 2005 and opened Stoneheart Gallery in 2006 in Evergreen. The gallery represented King and 10 other local artists in the beginning before expanding to include more than 30 artists from all over the country.
"It didn’t take long until the influence of working with other artists started to affect my photography," King wrote in his biography. "Soon I started incorporating unconventional techniques into my photographs. "Printing on wet papers with conventional inkjet printers, hand painting in details, scratching out others, layering in multiple images and more. My images continued to take on more and more painterly qualities until, eventually I found myself in front of a blank canvas with brush in hand.
"In the following years the boundaries between photography and painting continued to blur. I discovered that having the ability, knowledge and talent to move in, out and in-between these formats kept the creative mind busy, lively and productive. If I hit a wall in one, the other rises to the forefront and the ebb and flow works wonderfully for me."
Six years later King sold that gallery to open The Muse Fine Art Gallery in Denver. A couple years later and finding little time to create his own art, King sold that gallery, too. In his biography, King cites his influences: Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Fritz Scholder, Picasso, Lance Green and Christian Dore. His photographic works range from tintype to digital.
"I have spent the past several years concentrating my efforts inward instead of outward," King wrote in his biography. "Working and selling out of my home studio in Colorado Springs and representing myself. I feel that I have finally reached that point where it is time for me to seek gallery representation and just be the artist I was always meant to be."
Goal: "I don't know that I have a specific goal other than to take people away from reality for a few moments a day and let their minds wander and to help keep their imaginations alive because so much is spoon fed to us these days. It's so easy to sit back and unwittingly become shallow. I grew up in a cornfield; my mind used to wander quite a bit. I try to keep that inspiration in people alive. I strongly believe people need that and without that surely they suffer."
Subjects: "Basically are figurative works in an expressionistic style. I like loose; I like a lot of colors. The work is very ambiguous and I like to leave it that way. My idea is basically to bring a viewer into a piece and hold their hand while they walk around a little bit. And to give them an idea about what might be going on but to let them finish it out, to drive their imagination."
Words of Wisdom: "Don't stop. Give it a few minutes a day, if that’s all you can. Pause, maybe; pause and reflect, but don't stop. Keep doing what you want to do. Create fearlessly and don't try to limit yourself to a specific style or medium. We all change as we grow and we all have varied experiences in life and we’re allowed to draw at from all of them."