For more than 30 years, Tiffin artist Roxanna King has used her skills in a variety of ways. She has exhibited and sold paintings in the Toledo Museum of Art's Collector's Corner, designed T-shirts, painted commissioned portraits of homes and even lettered trucks. More recently, she has extended her creativity to photography, floral arranging and interior decorating.
King said her interest in art began early on. Whenever she traveled with her parents, she was anxious to draw some of the things she had seen on the trip. Painting tends to have a calming effect on her,
"As a child, I always enjoyed drawing. My first experience with watercolor was a class that I took at the library in Fostoria. That was over 30 years ago," she said.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Roxanna King twirls a brush to “load” color.
After that, King joined the Findlay Art League and took watercolor classes offered there, but she developed her own style by practicing on her own and attending workshops and seminars, including classes at the Toledo Museum of Art. She has read "all the watercolor books in two libraries" in addition to the ones she owns.
When her children were young, King served as a teacher's aide for art classes at Hopewell-Loudon Elementary School. Next, she studied architectural drafting at Terra State Community College. For 11 years, she worked at Seneca Millwork in Fostoria, first as a manual draftsman. Later, she learned CAD (computer-aided design) to design wood moldings. She appreciates all her art-related experiences.
"Everything makes you who you are at the present time." King said. "All those things sort of meld together."
For a few years, King had a van to transport her work to juried art shows within a 100-mile radius. Networking with "my people" (other artists) was especially fun for her. Outdoor events presented special challenges because paintings can be damaged by wind, moisture and harsh temperatures. Glass brought from a cold vehicle into a warm room can form condensation.
"Watercolors are very fragile. They don't like bright sunlight. They don't like heavy humidity. They're touchy," King explained.
While she and her husband were spending winters in Florida, King and another "artsy friend" started an art show to showcase the many artistic people in their gated community. They were surprised when 50 people signed up to show their work. King sold 17 of her paintings in one day, her best ever.
"We had everything you can imagine, from stone sculpture to all different kinds of paintings. It's still going on."
Now that King spends less time away from home, she has been active in the Tiffin Art Guild. She contributed a photograph and framed needle art for the TAG auction in June. She also was elected vice president of TAG for a two-year term. King would like more area residents to visit the TAG gallery.
"It is beautiful. It's like a little New York gallery. ... It's something unexpected in a small town," she said.
A shaded patio at her home has become King's summer studio. At the time of this interview, she was painting an underwater scene with colorful fish. Many of her watercolor pictures have tropical or seaside themes, inspired by visits to the South. Unusual buildings, foliage, wildlife and koi fish are favorite subjects. King often begins by shooting a series of photographs from all angles and then selecting details from each to make one composition. She makes a sketch on a separate paper before starting to paint.
"Accurate drawing is very important because that's the basis of the whole painting. I've never been one to take a blank piece of paper and start painting on it. A lot of people do, and it comes out wonderfully ... maybe it's the draftsman in me," King said.
She described watercolor as an "unforgiving" media because mistakes often cannot be corrected. Usually, the painter must start over. For example, wetting the brush and "loading" it with paint must be done carefully so that excess water or paint does not drip onto the paper where it is not wanted.
"You roll the water off ... It's a lot of twisting and twirling of the brush," King said. "Some colors will scrub out, but the rest of them, when they're there, they're there to stay."
Also important is keeping the palette moist. King uses a window cleaner spray bottle for that purpose. The best way to prevent mold growth in the paint is "paint often," but placing a penny on the palette also helps. She uses a good T-square to draw straight lines and keeps a color wheel handy to mix colors. King likes natural brushes with long handles because the weight feels better in her hand. Other times, she uses natural sponges or masking for special effects. Her supplies are stored in a fishing tackle box.
The transparent watercolor paint King prefers can come in tubes or small pans. She orders paint made in England online, along with 140- or 300-pound rag paper made in France. The heavier stock can hold its shape and lie flat without taping and can be painted on both sides. King said quality materials help keep mistakes at a minimum.
"If anyone is thinking about starting to paint, buy good materials. Buy the best you can afford to buy. Otherwise, you'll be frustrated," King explained.
For the bubbles in the fish paintings, King uses a fine-point masking pen. When the painting is complete, she can remove the hardened masking fluid, leaving white circles with color around them. A tiny, pointed twig serves as a tool for painting fine lines on the fish and in the watery landscape.
"I learned this from my first watercolor teacher in Findlay," King said.
Several of King's paintings are available as prints, including "Buddies," an image of two teddy bears, and collages of scenes in Estero, Fla. Her home is a showcase for other pieces. She keeps supplies on hand and constantly collects ideas for the next creation.
"A blank piece of paper can be very intimidating. ... Once I've started, I'm ready to paint every day until it's finished," she said.
To contact the artist, send e-mail to email@example.com.