By Eric Rizk
When I moved to Bay Ridge a year and a half ago, one thing that stuck out is what a festive neighborhood it is. Neighbors put up decorations for literally every major and minor holiday. Businesses on Third and Fifth avenues would be festively decorated, as well—mainly with window paintings. From looking at these works of art, you could tell they were by the same artist; he has a distinct style, and his own interpretation of holidays. Usually this entails a painting of some characters related to the holiday proclaiming something related to the holiday; many times, what they proclaim is something you might not associate with the holiday. I started taking photos of these “windowscapes” and posting them on Facebook and Instagram, and I found out that many people enjoyed them as much as I did. I wanted to learn more about this artist, so I set out on a mission to contact him. In the window of the Emphasis Diner on Fourth Avenue was a phone number and the name “King” in the lower left hand corner. Last month I contacted King.
What is your real name?
Courtney King. I go by King or Black Dragon.
Where are you originally from?
I’m from Montego Bay, Jamaica. I moved to the United States 15 years ago. I currently live in Coney Island.
How long have you been doing art?
I was born a very artistic kid. I could draw very well from when I was a child, but I learned professional painting techniques from other artists that I met in my country that were deep into fine art and commercial art, so they taught me and told me one thing: “Once you are a good artist, you can draw and you can paint—don’t underestimate yourself.” I could only do pencil drawings at first, but they taught me to paint professionally with colors, and I practiced and mastered them on my own. My mother saw my love for art when I was young and encouraged me. I further studied art at a community college in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Your window art can be seen in storefronts all up and down Third and Fifth avenues in Bay Ridge. How did you get your start painting in Bay Ridge?
I paint all over New York City, but I’ve been painting in Bay Ridge for five years now. I got started by going into local businesses and introducing myself and getting to know members of the community. Bay Ridge is a nice neighborhood. The people are friendly and down to earth. I might consider Bay Ridge as my second home, because I have a lot of friends in Bay Ridge who respect my work and respect who I am as an individual.
How long does it take you to do a window display?
I work very quickly. It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to paint a window display.
What is some of the inspiration for the window art?
Well, you know, most of the places I go around and paint, they don’t give me any pictures to work with, so the inspiration is from my mind. I use my imagination and bring the image out, then put the colors in.
What are your plans for the future?
I have a lot more work at home that I want to get out there. I have paintings of Cleopatra, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Jet Li and Bruce Lee. I also design T-shirts, as well. I’m going to do a lot of T-shirts for the upcoming Mermaid Parade in Coney Island in June. I definitely want to get the work out there and have an art show and an exhibition of my work. I want to arrange a one-man show of my work. I also want to do some new pieces, as well, to fill up my collection. I lost seven paintings to Hurricane Sandy.
Any final thoughts?
Once you are an artist, you can do practically anything, if you put your mind to it.
If you want to see some artwork by King, try the Emphasis diner on Fourth and Bay Ridge avenues. It usually has a large holiday piece painted on its front window; presently, it’s one for Father’s Day. You can follow King on Instagram @KINGOART. If you would like to commission King, he can be reached at (347) 628-0138.
Eric Rizk is a writer, aspiring filmmaker, actor and podcaster living in Bay Ridge. Follow him on Twitter @ericgrizk
Follow Hey Ridge on Twitter @heyridgebk