Getting To Know Artist David King

Getting to know David King

I’m a car guy, I love the classics, mostly mid-1960’s and earlier.  I love hot rods and customs too but also built to the style of an earlier era. I sometimes feel like I was born about 30 years too late. Of course with such a strong interest in cars they had to become a subject of my art.  I often sketch at car shows and have even sold a couple of sketches to the owners of the cars I was sketching. However, since my painting style tends more toward abstraction now I don’t feel there’s much of a market for my paintings with the automotive enthusiast crowd who tend to favor either realistic or cartoonish style art.  The only genre of automotive art where abstraction seems to be accepted is in motorsports since it’s a good way to convey a sense of motion, but that’s not my genre.  I feel like I’m straddling a line between “car guy” and “modern artist”. Maybe my art will form a bridge some day to help car guys appreciate more diverse styles of art and to help modern art lovers see the automobile as a valid subject for fine art.  I don’t know, that seems like a lofty concept for a simple, old fashioned guy like me.  – David King


What’s your background?

I’m not one of those artists that was drawing from the moment I could hold a crayon.  I don’t believe I spent any more time making art in my youth than average.  However my activities and hobbies always involved working with my hands and using my creativity.  I did take art classes in grade school but didn’t really learn much in spite of getting good grades.

I did always dabble with drawing, in particular pen drawing, I did do some pen and watercolor architectural renderings in high school since architecture was my primary interest at the time. As an adult I didn’t do much drawing, though I did learn to do vector graphics on the computer but that was mainly to support my hobbies.

I didn’t get serious about learning how to make art until about ten years ago, (I’m 51 now).  I’m not sure why or where the desire came from but suddenly I wanted to learn how to draw and paint.  Maybe it was a mid-life crisis.

For a few months all I did was go out with a small sketchbook and pencil and sketch various things from life.  From there I started learning from studying books, then participating in an online forum and then by watching videos.  I have taken a few classes from local artists but I am what most people would consider “self taught” though I don’t really like that term, I don’t feel like I taught myself anything but rather learned from other artists.

Abstract Johnny

Does your artwork come from that background?

How can an artist’s background not influence their art? In my case I think my Father and having grown up in northern Utah have a lot to do with my art.  My love of classic cars and trucks comes from my Father who was a mechanic and independent long haul truck driver.  He also owned a wrecking yard and I spent many summer days playing around in the derelict cars and trucks sitting out there with a son of one of the workers there and my cousins, I suspect that’s one reason rusty old vehicles are so often a subject of my art.

Music choice by David

As for living in northern Utah I don’t think you can without being influenced by the landscape here.  We have quite a variety all within a short drive of the Salt Lake Valley, from tall alpine mountain scenery to desert to rural farmland, all of which end up as subjects in my art.

It seems when people think of Utah they automatically think of towering red rock formations and canyons, but that’s only the southern portion of the state and some of the central, where all the national parks and national monuments are.  However Utah is much more diverse than that.  Up here in the north we have the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats that many people are aware of but we also have a couple of beautiful mountain ranges with plenty of green forests, wildlife, lakes, rivers and streams that are part of the national forest system and are protected wilderness areas. Many of the peaks are at well over 10,000 ft elevation.  We also have lots of rural areas with farm/ranch land.  One of my favorite things to do is explore the back roads, discovering old wood barns, abandoned tractors and trucks or just watching the cattle grazing in the fields.  In another life I think I might have enjoyed being a farmer.  – David King

What are you trying to say with your work?

I’m not really trying to say anything in particular with my art.  I have no interest at all in using art for political or social commentary, in my opinion we are already overloaded with such things.  My motivation is just to make interesting and beautiful images that feature the things I love.

Abstract Red Tractor

What made you choose the medium you work with?

I work with a variety of mediums, oils, soft pastels, and acrylics for painting, graphite, pen, conte, and charcoal for drawing and just about anything for sketching including watercolor.   For painting however I mostly use acrylics and usually paint on panel.  Acrylics were the second painting medium I tried, preceded by soft pastels.  My frustrations with the super quick drying times of acrylics, (especially in our dry climate) caused me to spend some time with oils, especially for plein air painting.  However I hated the long drying time and my tendency to end up with a painting that was “mushy” and gray when painting with oils so I kept going back and forth between oils and acrylics until I learned to deal with the quick drying time of acrylics, at least in the studio.

The reason I like a quick drawing time is I prefer to work in layers, lots of layers, something that just can’t be done with oils, at least not in a single session. I never could get used to acrylics for plein air painting so I just sketch outdoors now.  Besides the quick drying time vs oils I like the durability vs soft pastels.  I still return to oils or pastels on occasion but I primarily paint with acrylics.

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Do you work in a studio?

My “studio” is just the spare bedroom in the duplex that I rent, it’s approximately 10′ X 14′.  I live alone so I can appropriate any space for any purpose I like. The duplex also has a basement and part of the basement is dedicated to varnishing and framing.

David’s Studio

What is the one thing in your studio you just could not be without?

That would probably be my chair since I have back problems and can’t stand for more than a few minutes at a time.

Who are your biggest influences?

In general I’d have to say Richard Schmid is my single biggest influence even though I don’t paint anything like him or even in the same medium.  I own his landscape painting DVD’s and have watched them many times and I consider his book “Alla Prima” to be the most complete painting instruction book ever made, if I could only keep one art book that one would be it.

Richard Mckinley has also been a big influence especially in my pastel work.

Richard Hammond, a British artist has been a big influence as well, especially in my getting a handle on acrylics but in also in developing my design sense in regards to light and color.

However initially my biggest influence may be an artist that few in the United States have heard of, Johannes Vloothuis.  Johannes is Canadian but lived many years in Mexico, he is a top artist and offered free webinars for a time on landscape painting via an art forum.  Johannes’ lessons basically kept me from quitting.  His approach is a bit dogmatic for my taste now but at the time he was exactly what I needed.

What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?

I can’t pick just one, so I’ll pick two, maybe three.  For landscapes I’d have to say “Wild Autumn” is my favorite, it’s the only painting I’ve sold at an exhibition as well.  For vehicles I’d have to say “Red Abstract Tractor” is my favorite followed closely by “Green and Out”, both of those paintings represent a breakthrough of sorts for me with palette knife painting.

Wild Autumn

How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?

Nowadays a painting will take me between two and four hours, maybe a little longer on occasion.  A drawing can take more than ten hours but I haven’t done that kind of drawing in a long time.  A sketch usually takes 30-60 minutes.

How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?

One of my flaws is probably that I walk away too easily.  In fact I have a bunch of unfinished paintings sitting at the foot of my easel. I will sometimes pull one of those out and take another run at it, sometimes it works out, more often than not it doesn’t.  For the ones that I actually finish without taking a long break I’m not sure how it happens but I just at some point decide I don’t need to do any more to it, or maybe I just got tired of working on it and decide to declare it finished.

What project are you working on now?

Whatever is on the easel.  I almost never plan out projects, I just get the itch to paint a certain subject, find a reference photo and get started.

Green and Out

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

It’s all about the shapes.  I don’t know where I heard it first but it was crammed into my skull by Johannes Vloothuis during those webinars.  Remembering that is helpful in several ways.

Simplification, reducing complex subjects to basic abstract shapes helps with drawing and with developing your composition.  This is why doing your thumbnails is so important, if the design doesn’t work as a thumbnail (a small, simplified drawing of abstract light and dark shapes)  it won’t work as a painting.

I also remember a magazine article by Richard Schmid where he describes his “selective start” technique that uses this principle.  He starts a painting with a shape he knows he can get accurate and then builds the rest of the painting from that point by comparing each shape to the last one to make sure they are accurate relative to each other.  My paintings immediately became more accurate once I started keeping that concept in mind.  Any subject is just a collection of shapes, you can draw/paint any subject if you keep that in mind.

About a year or so ago I discovered the joys of palette knife painting, after avoiding the palette knife for all the years before, it just always felt so unnatural to me before.  I’m, not sure what prompted me to give palette knife painting a serious try but I’m glad I did.  It is still very challenging though, resulting in more failed paintings than winners.  Now I seem to be developing a style that starts with painting most of the painting with brushes then finishing it off with areas of palette knife work.  This gives me the control and detail with brushes, which is something especially useful for painting vehicles but allows me to add the interest and texture that only the palette knife can.  As a result of all this experimentation my work has become much more abstract than it was just two or three years ago.  I’m not even sure what to call my style, it usually goes beyond impressionism but isn’t fully abstract either.  – David King

What was the first piece of art you sold?

It was an autumn nature landscape I had painted based on a sketch I did in the mountains.  I didn’t have a photo to use as reference since I had forgotten to pack my camera on that trip, so it became an experiment in developing a painting from a small pen and watercolor sketch.  I took the painting to work and hung it on the wall by my cubicle.  The administrative assistant for our group was instantly smitten by it and told me I had to sell it to her.  I can’t even look at the photo I have of that piece now, it embarrases me.  I might try redoing it with my current skills and techniques.

Edge of Autumn

Do you find it hard to navigate the artworld?  ie is it really hard work?  Do you find it confusing? Please share truthful feelings about being online as an artist

I can’t honestly say it’s been a very positive experience for me.  I’m an exteme introvert and this new world of social media has turned out to be almost as difficult for me to engage in as the live world is for me, just so much online noise.  I do well in traditional forums, those are like small clubs where everybody gets to know each other but social media is like entering a night club with music blaring and hundreds of people dancing and yelling at each other to be heard over the music, it’s just not my kind of scene.

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As for the artworld in general, I really don’t consider myself to be part of it, I’m an outsider. I was a member of the local artist’s society for a few years and participated in a few of their group exhibitions but it just never clicked with me, I never fit in.  I’ve always felt awkward in the presence of a group of artists, like I just can’t be myself.

Into Autumn

What are you personally doing to advance your work career?

I’m not really doing anything in particular.  I paint or sketch when I feel like it, though I do try to finish at least one painting a week. I have a blog that I  post to maybe once/month and I have some paintings listed on ebay and images on a couple of “Print on Demand” sites and that’s it.  While I do have Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter accounts I stopped using them, I decided I’d rather spend the time creating. In the live world I am doing even less, I haven’t participated in a group exhibition in years, I’m not pursuing gallery represenation and I’m not interested in doing art fairs or anything like that.

Music choice by David

Bottom line, I’m not a professional artist but rather a hobbyist who paints and draws.  There is a car show near the end of the season that has an auction for charity, I might donate a couple pieces for it, if I get real ambitious I might set up a booth there, but the idea of sitting in a booth all day on a Saturday after spending all week sitting in a cubicle does not excite me.

How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?

I base my prices soley on size but on a sliding scale.  By sliding scale I mean that smaller pieces have a higher price per square inch than larger pieces but always consistently, I always price two paintings that are the same size the same.  I price by size because I think that’s what the average person understands and would expect.  If two paintings sitting side by side are the same size by the same artist and are the same price that would make sense to anybody, but if they are different prices it’s likely to confuse buyers, it’s like they have to read the mind of the artist to understand why one painting costs more than the other.  Did it take longer?  Was it harder to do?  Does the artist just like it more?  Who knows?

Do you use social networking in your day to day life? 

As mentioned in my response to a previous question I’ve given social media up.   I never felt it was worth the time it was taking from doing things I really want to do.  While I did enjoy watching what other artists were doing it’s way too easy to fall into the rabbit hole and end up losing an hour a more at a time just surfing social media. Social media never really showed any promise of turning my hobby into a business anyway.  That’s probably all on me, I guess, I don’t really know, I felt like I was following as much of the advice out there as I could but it just felt like I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere, my personality just isn’t a fit for social media.

Hot Red Chevy Truck

Is there anything that really annoys you about the artworld?

Psuedo inaccessibility.  I’ll probably ruffle some feathers with this one.  There’s way too much “putting on airs” in the art world.  It seems like those “in the know” are trying to keep it as an exclusive club only for those that know the proper handshake.  The art market will not expand if the art world keeps alienating the average person. What do you think most people think when they see an image full of what look like crayon scribbles by a three year old and a description below full of incomprehensible art speak?  They end up thinking that art is weird, complex and inaccessible to them. But art really isn’t that complex and hard to understand, the “art world” needs to get that message out and be more accessible to the average consumer, that’s the only way the art market will grow in my opinion.

What advice would you give new artists?

I’m not qualified to give professional advice but the best art making skill advice I can give is to spend lots of time with your sketchbooks and sketch as much as possible from life, especially in the beginning of developing your art skills.  Drawing is the foundation of all art, without developing good drawings skills it’s hard to be good at anything else.

I Can See For Miles

Have you got hobbies?

Painting, sketching and drawing are hobbies for me, but I also build scale models, I’ve had that hobby most of my life,  I’m actually the newsletter editor for a local club and help out with club sponsored events and with a museum that preserves the history of the hobby.  If I had a garage though I’d be building a hot rod, or at least have a classic car to tinker with.

Where are you based?

I live in Taylorsville, a city almost exactly in the center of the Salt Lake Valley in north of the state of Utah in the United States.

David King Studio


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Isabella F A Shores
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Isabella F A Shores

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Hello, my name is Isabella Shores.I'm a dog lover with two Alsatians.A bird lover...2 budgies, and an avid writer.

I live in Manchester, UK and try to promote other artists and writers when I can.I'm so pleased you found our community and I hope to chat to you soon!!Please comment on my posts if you like them 🙂
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Wonderful art and a wonderful interview. Enjoyed it a lot@

Darice Machel Mcguire

Great interview David! Your work is beautiful. I agree with your views about the ” Art world”.