Art Beat feature: Cheryl King on painting with a purpose and her ‘Art 4 Animals’ exhibit

5-7 p.m., Saturday, May 4, Red Sky Gallery, 17171 Bothell Way NE., Lake Forest Park

Wildlife artist Cheryl King has always loved animals. As a kid growing up in Mountlake Terrace, she considered the Woodland Park Zoo a second home. She vividly remembers summers in the 1960s when her grandmother would load Cheryl and her four siblings on a city bus and take them to the zoo, where they would spend entire days. The amusement rides, the wading pool and the pony rides played second fiddle to the wild animals that captured Cheryl’s delight and imagination.

“Juniper,” 12×12 digital hybrid painting.

Now, King is a faithful supporter of the zoo’s conservation efforts and consistently donates art to its annual auction. When she learned of the zoo’s Forests for All fundraising campaign, she knew she had to get involved.

Forests for All seeks to tackle deforestation, habitat loss and climate change, which are urgent threats to people and wildlife alike. And the zoo says it’s not too late to halt and reverse these trends. Woodland Park Zoo works with communities in the Northwest and worldwide on lasting solutions.

“Mr. Charming,” 16×16 oil on aluminum. This painting will be raffled off at the end of May, with all the proceeds going to the zoo.

In May, King will honor the animals of the Woodland Park Zoo with a solo exhibit at Red Sky Gallery in Lake Forest Park. The show will feature favorite animals throughout the years, as well as new furry and feathered friends. Half of the profits from sales will be donated directly to the zoo. Additionally, the painting Mr. Charming will be raffled off at the end of May, and all proceeds will go directly to the Forest for All campaign.

King is passionate about conservation. “If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s part of your DNA,” she said. “We seem to have early and long-standing awareness, perhaps because of our natural settings and the beauty of our environment. We seem to have a lot of animal lovers here. It probably started for me as a child.”

“Rhino Nation” 20×32 oil on aluminum.

Her involvement with the Woodland Park Zoo came about during COVID. “I found myself asking, ‘I am an artist; what is my worth in this world?’ There are nurses out there on the front line. There are firefighters and teachers. There are all these people who have these very important jobs in society. Society tends to undervalue artists. The arts get cut out of school programs. Even though you’re confident in what you’re doing and your calling, you still question your worth. ‘What good are you doing in the world?’” King began to think, “Why don’t I start painting with a purpose? I tell you, that’s the secret sauce. I have had more joy painting these paintings for this show than I have had in my entire 30-40 year career as an artist because I know I’m giving back.”

“Drifting Thoughts,” 12×12 mixed media.

The exhibit will offer something for everyone and every budget. “This is a fundraiser, after all,” King said. “You want people to buy them, enjoy them and be connected to them.”

“It’s going to be a huge show,” King added. There will be 18-19 larger-format, black-and-white, oil-on-aluminum works. “I’ve been painting on aluminum for about eight years now. I love the surface. What it does is it shows a lot of brushwork and the dynamic of the artist’s hand. I’ve reached that point in my career where I feel confident enough with my drawing and painting skills. I shied away from it in my earlier years.”

“Kingpin,” 16×24 digital hybrid painting

She will also have 20, 12-inch-by-12-inch mixed-media pieces. They have an acrylic background, an acrylic pour and oil on top, giving them a layered dimension.

Additionally, King will offer metal prints of her digital art. “During COVID, I didn’t have room to paint any more oil paintings,” she said. Also a photographer, King began creating hybrid works with the ArtRage app on iPad. “I started importing photos and digitally painting on them. They’re quite bold and bright, too.”

“Mind Reader,” 24×20 oil on aluminum.

The painting she’s most excited to share is Mind Reader, featuring Godek the orangutan. “I love all of them, but I have to say if I were going to keep one of the pieces for myself, it would be Godek. He is a 15-year-old orangutan, and he’s just starting to grow his cheek pads. There is something about the wisdom in orangutan eyes. It feels like they supersede us in some ways with their tranquility and their gaze. It sends shivers down my spine. They have intelligent recognition.” She also appreciates the technical skills used in Mind Reader. “ I’m working on abstraction in the background, and I really let go in that one,” King said. “I’ve been using many different tools, shapes, sizes and types. Artists call it mark-making. I’m using a lot of drips. I even paint with a paper towel sometimes or take a pin and scratch. It’s been very fun to experiment, and I feel like I achieved a lot of that with this one.”

“Zuna,” 12×12 mixed media.

King’s adoration of “all things creature” was first developed and nourished at Woodland Park, and to this day, it’s her favorite Seattle destination. ‘Whenever I need a lift, I head to the zoo,” King said. “I observe animals all day and leave feeling lighter.” Zoo officials have stated that “every person has the power to create meaningful change” — a statement that resonates with King. Art lovers can make a difference, too, by attending King’s exhibit. Find additional details on the gallery page and on King’s website

— By Elizabeth Murray

Elizabeth Murray is a freelance writer thankful to call Edmonds home. When she’s not busy wrangling her two kids (and husband), you can find her playing ukulele. She can be reached at


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