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Roseville artist explores life’s mixture of light and darkness

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 16, 2020

 Local artist Fredrik King’s work typically has a strong gothic style, as demonstrated in his piece called “Rooftop Dancers.”

Local artist Fredrik King’s work typically has a strong gothic style, as demonstrated in his piece called “Rooftop Dancers.”

Image provided by Fredrik King

  King titled this piece “House of Relativity.”

King titled this piece “House of Relativity.”

 Roseville artist Fredrik King produces pen and ink drawings.

Roseville artist Fredrik King produces pen and ink drawings.

Image provided by Fredrik King

ROSEVILLE — While many artists dream of having their work hung up in museums and being admired by adoring crowds, most artists work locally and create pieces for use in small projects or just because they enjoy the process of creating.

That’s the case for Roseville artist Fredrick King. For more than 20 years, he has created works of art for books, small shows or just for his own enjoyment.

“I used to hate to use the word ‘artist’ because so many frauds use it to prop themselves up, but when I started to sell some of my peculiar little works, I started to use the term,” King laughed. “In 1995, I was looking through a pen and ink magazine and I thought I could do better than what I was seeing. My background is in English, and I’ve always seen myself as a writer, but it evolved into being an artist as well.”

Art was never something King expected to pursue. In fact, he was as surprised as anyone when he discovered how much he enjoyed it.

“I was teaching in the Detroit Public Schools, and they invited some art teachers to submit some works for exhibition, so I tried to draw some buildings but I got tired of trying to make things that a camera could take and do better,” he said. “But I was reading a book called ‘Hyperspace,’ by Michio Kaku, on quantum physics, and it discusses multiple realities, and I was thinking of these perfect houses with straight lines, and I started thinking about the different versions of that house existing at the same time. It really drew me in.”

An English teacher and professor at Central Michigan University, King began exploring where his passion for art was taking him. By his own admission, it took him to some very strange places.

“Some people have said I have a dark side, which I suppose is true, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” he said. “I did one with people dancing on rooftops, which I see as a balance of dark and light. I like to find that balance. I was very influenced by Gothic literature.”

Among those who have worked with King is author John Rosenman, from Virginia Beach, Virginia. His book of short horror stories titled “More Stately Mansions” was among the first books that King provided art for.

“He seemed to really tap into some of the strange and eerie spirit of my fiction,” Rosenman remarked. “His work on the cover showed a skewed, distorted and almost schizophrenic lens. In one of my best horror stories, it had a woman coming down the stairs, and he captured the horror just by showing her from the knees down.”

The two met at a convention for authors and artists, and the two hit it off quickly.

“I was at a horror writer convention, and we met and became friends,” said Rosenman. “He had shown me his artwork, so when I published a book of short stories, I sent the manuscripts to Fred and he illustrated it.”

King works in the medium of pen and ink, a style that he says is very underused. It’s also a black and white medium, which he said doesn’t usually sell as well as color pieces, because they don’t draw the eye as much.

“The drawback of pen and ink art is it’s extremely time consuming. … It can take up to 60 hours to complete one piece,” explained King. “It’s a very direct medium though. It’s just you and your pen and a piece of paper. I use very fine pens, so it is very fine and thin. There’s something very direct and simple about it. I like using this simple medium to do complex things, like using tonalities or creating visual paradoxes.”

King is now creating a book displaying and explaining some of his work. He hopes it will show people the possibilities that pen and ink has to offer.

“I am assembling a book for publishing in the next few months,” he said. “It will cover a lot of my Gothic-inspired art and will include notes about what they are and where they’ve appeared. I might add some new drawings.”

Rosenman said that people get something from local artists they can’t get from hiring a big art firm.

“For one thing, it’s less likely to be commercialized or just a matter of routine,” he said. “Local artists will give you a unique perspective. They will create something individually for you. It’s more of an individual style that suits what you are creating and allows them to present a more distinct voice.”

King’s advice for other artists is to follow their passion and learn all they can.

“I never had that consuming interest in art. It was kind of something on the side that grew into something,” he said. “My best advice is to go into art school. You’ll never see a computer-generated piece in a fine art museum, even though a lot of the visual medium is leaning toward computers. So learn about whatever school of art you’re interested in.”