I once visited Don King’s Midtown Raleigh home – specifically, his garage. That’s King’s atelier, the place where the former Green Beret perfects his encore career as one of the Triangle’s best creators of the old-world fancy lettering art of calligraphy.
I never forgot the serene intrigue inside King’s studio that November morning; the hum of a space heater and a radio tuned to easy-listening set a calming backdrop.
And I never forgot King’s passion for the beautiful flow of his pen.
The Rev. David Howell’s memory is even longer. The two met over a decade ago when Howell owned a small advertising design business.
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Now, as pastor of creative arts at Crossroads Fellowship on Millbrook Road, Howell opened the church doors to King’s art in unique escorted showings of AN EXHIBIT: calligraphic works in two and three dimensions by Don King.
“I just thought somebody who has that many years experience in the art and has that type of body of work, it all needed to be displayed at one time and in one place so people can see the range of talent he has and the transition of his work over the years,” Howell said.
The exhibit runs through October.
Visitors can view the exhibit any time the church is open for services. Twice each week, on various days and times, King will be there to escort viewers and answer questions about his artwork and calligraphy in general.
The next escorted tours are set for 4-5 p.m. Wednesday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Others will be announced.
There are about 45 pieces in the exhibit. Each represents the realm of possibilities of calligraphic art. Among the oldest, King said, are inventory pieces he created in the late 1980s. The newest are about two months old.
The show’s feature further sets King apart: five three dimensional pieces he created from 2000-2001. Back then, he had a large studio in Wake Forest with enough space to produce the largest work in his collection. It’s 4 feet by 8 feet.
Calling King’s rare three-dimensional pieces “almost sculpture,” Howell said the church is the perfect place to showcase King’s calligraphic art.
“It’s the nature of creativity that we want to put on display,” he said. “We believe that honors God.”
King, 75, designs works as small as 4-by-5-inches and in a variety of mediums, from water color and gouache to colored pencil and precious metals.
About half of the works in the exhibit are “Bible-based,” and the rest display various quotes, songs and other texts, King said.
“It’s a very wide range of stuff,” he said, noting his signature variety is the very thing art critics pinpoint as “a minus in my work.”
Without a set style – think Picasso or van Gogh – it’s impossible to immediately know it’s King’s work.
No problem, King said. It’s intentional attention to the words he writes.
“My approach is to serve the words,” he said of his variations of design, illustration and color. “Each text is different – it says different things, it has different meanings and it feels different, so each calls for a different treatment from other works.”
Certainly, that’s one of a kind – and hard to forget.
This month, King resumes calligraphy classes off of Six Forks Road. Classes are open to anyone 14 and older who is interested in calligraphy, from Beginning Italic and Beginning Copperplate to Envelopes & Etiquette and Color & Calligraphy.
“My goal is to edify the public, to open people’s eyes to what the art form really is,” King said. “I plan to continue doing the same thing, as long as my eyes and my right hand hold out.
Lori D. R. Wiggins writes about the people and places of Midtown Raleigh. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.