Watercolorist's first show to be at Walla Walla Roastery

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For a man who has examined projects in blue and white for decades, Gary King would appear to be a big fan of color -- portrayed with intense depth and vibrant surprise

The Tacoma-area building contractor has read blueprints, drawn straight lines and squared edges his whole career. He is steeling himself for his first commercial exposure at an exhibit that will hang at Walla Walla Roastery.

About 10 years ago, King found himself pulled back to the fledgling interest of his college years, he said. Since then, the watercolor artist is seeing things in a different perspective ­ -- less straight-forward and in richer hues.

It happens most when he travels, King, 66, said from his home in Roy, Wash.

"My wife and I have traveled a lot in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Nevada. Along the way I take pictures, and if time permits, I sketch a scene," he explained in a statement.

Both King and his wife are graduates of Washington State University, and the eastern side of the mountains continues to tug at his heart. The tools of an agricultural society are well represented in King's pieces, including an ancient oil pull tractor done in shades that echo the wheat fields of nearby valleys.

"It's important for me to totally experience the sights, sounds and smells of a scene in order to paint it. The emotions of the moment seem to lead to a color palette and a sense of approach to the painting."

A particular use of the brush is one of the major components of his work, the artist said. "Fresh clean strokes that are not overworked have always caught my eye. It's the simplicity I believe that causes the viewer to pause."

Better to stop while he's ahead, however, King added. He works fast, lost in a "zone" of artistic reverie, but knowing when to quit is critical.

"If I find myself doodling, that's the signal to put the brush down. I will study the painting for several more days, sometimes adding a little. However, I always like to err on the side of not quite complete, rather than produce an overworked painting," he said.

His art is more representative than a true picture, he noted. "It's what I see, the image I see and the colors I see."

And the work answers a need deep inside him. When the urge to paint comes over King, it's under certain conditions, he explained.

"You can't be in angst over something else, you can't produce that zone... I kind of get into that, then emerge hours later," he said. "I don't even know how the whole thing happens because if I looked at it, I would swear I didn't know how to do it."

His art -- strong, masculine, simple until it is not -- is the sort of thing people really like or really don't, King said. "Certain people are drawn to it. But if you're not, you just walk away."

While he's exhibited once before, this will be King's first experience with price tags, he said. "It's taken me a long time to really decide this next step."

The artist is cautious about retaining enjoyment of his craft by not going overboard with the marketing side of things, but that chance to share it with others was finally irresistible, he said with a shy laugh. "I just want other people to have this."

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