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Published in the Columbia Daily Tribune 28 May 2006

JD King

I don't know what the exact statistics are, and if anyone told me they knew for sure I'd be dubious.  But my gut tells me that out of 100 people who consider themselves "artists" (fine artists, writers, musicians, et cetera), maybe 1 or two might be able to make a decent living solely from their art.  Sure, some are full-time instructors in their field, but that isn't the same thing as just creating full-time and living a normal, middle-class life.

So that means, for the remaining 98 or 99 of us, we sometimes find ourselves looking into the mirror and asking some variant on the following:  "If I'm so damn smart/creative/talented, why ain't I rich?"  It may not always be phrased like that, and indeed the psychological turmoil it indicates might not even rise to the point of being a conscious thought, but the basic question remains.  Why indeed?

JD King has a MFA in painting from MU.  Most who know his work, and know something about art, appreciate what this 50-something Columbian can do with a paintbrush.  And, of the above statistics, I suppose JD falls someplace in the 97th percentile:  he's earned money from his art, and his paintings can command upwards of several thousand dollars.  He's doing better than 96% of the other artists.  But he just can't quite seem to break through that final barrier, the one which would allow him to stop doing other jobs in order to pay the bills and just paint full time.

For most people, being on that threshold would be frustrating in the extreme.  To know your work is good, and will sell if given the opportunity and the right audience (the last show we did featuring King's work when I had Legacy Art sold 13 of 16 pieces), but to still struggle with gaining recognition and finding gallery representation - well, that would push some people to despair.

JD King isn't some people.  Oh, don't misunderstand, he has seen more than his share of struggles with depression and addiction over the years.  And he knows that those are fights which can never be completely won - they can only be fought to a draw each and every day.  But he doesn't give in to despair.  He keeps painting, even though the work isn't selling right now.  He has work at the Columbia Art League, though he won't be at this year's Art in the Park.  (He discovered last year that it wasn't the right audience for him.)  You'll also find his work at the Tribune, through the CAL Community Exhibits Program, at Dunklin Street Gallery in Jefferson City, and at Cord Harper's Gallery in Fayette.  And he has an extensive website with his paintings (and some sculpture).

Rather, King has faith that the future will be better.  Partly this is a religious faith.  Not the simplistic, happy-happy, untested kind of faith that some successful people have.  Faith of the kind that only comes from surviving hard battles, from knowing darkness yet having again come into the light.  Faith with honest scars and an understanding that nothing is ever easy or simplistic for those who question.  Like his art, his faith is mature, sophisticated, willing to look at the world realistically and act accordingly.

JD King struggles with that question:  "If I'm so damn smart/creative/talented, why ain't I rich?"  For now, he has something of an answer:  it isn't his time just yet.  Perhaps someday it will be.  His faith tells him so.  But he knows that unless he keeps working hard to deserve that chance, to fight those fights each and every day, he won't be ready to succeed.  As he says in the page on the CAL website profiling him:  "Making art is its own reward.  It is a way of life, or maybe it would be more accurate to say it is a way of seeing life.  I am very grateful to be able to paint and do my art on a regular basis.  It has always been my dream to do what I am now doing."

And that is just about the best answer to that question I have ever come across, for myself or anyone else.

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