Finding joy

Local artist Robyn King shares her story of growth and gratitude as she closes out her exhibit at the Bucks County Visitor Center

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Too often, the dawn of a new day is met with resistance. Many struggle to find motivation to go to their non-dream job or complain about minor issues and ailments. While most are hitting the snooze button over and over, Robyn King is enjoying the sunrise and simple pleasure of being alive — something the Bensalem-based artist conveys in her work. Through Sept. 15, guests at the Bucks County Visitor Center can experience the beauty of nature and message of hope at King’s vibrant yet serene exhibit.

Providing hope: Half of all proceeds from Robyn King’s piece “Hope” benefit research and awareness for RSD, an internal disorder she was diagnosed with that causes tremors and pain. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Throughout her artistic career, King has become a quadruple threat specializing in photography, painting, digital art and in her spare time, poetry. Growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, King discovered her knack for creativity as a child when she preferred coloring and drawing over all other hobbies.

When it came time for college, King knew she wouldn’t be happy unless she was creating art. Though at first hesitant at her decision, her parents supported her passion and after some research, found that the Moore College of Art & Design was one of the best in the area. It was an all-girls school, but that was perfectly OK with King — she was there to become an artist, not date.

Until that point, King was self-taught and lacked the portfolio required for admission. She enrolled in a last-minute summer class to create the best one she could in a limited amount of time, and brought it to her interview. After one glance, it was evident to the dean that King didn’t have any formal training. Still, she loved the aspiring artist’s work.

King was allowed to begin classes at Moore on probation, which meant if she faltered in any, her education would be cut short. Determined to succeed, she surpassed all expectations and graduated with top honors on the dean’s list.

“Them taking a chance on me wasn’t wasted,” she said.

During her freshman year, King took basic general education classes before having to select a major her sophomore year. She always envisioned herself as a comic book artist, so she chose illustration. But things took a turn junior year during a basic photography course.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “I thought, I have to do this.”

Following her instinct, she switched her major to photography and ended up minoring in illustration. With this well-rounded background, King is able to utilize a variety of skills in her work today, whether it be watercolor or typography. Her “old school” education, as she calls it, also allows her to fascinate and teach young artists who grew up in the age of technology and never spent hours developing photographs in a darkroom.

After graduation, the ambitious artist set out to get her career started, but things were put on hold after an accident left her fully disabled. King was diagnosed with RSD, “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy,” also known as complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS. To look at King, one would never know anything is wrong. RSD is something internal that spreads over time and causes tremors and constant pain.

“It’s an invisible disease,” she said.

Unfortunately it’s not well-known, though it was brought into the spotlight by Paula Abdul, who was previously diagnosed. Several years ago, a friend of King passed away from RSD. For King, who was unaware the disorder could cause death, this was a shattering reality. To raise awareness, she turned to what she knew best — art.

Her piece “Heaven Sent,” a digital creation made from an original painting, was sold to raise money for RSD research and awareness. It ended up being the most popular piece on her website.

The message behind “Heaven Sent” is hope and positivity, something King lives by every day. Despite the severe physical pain, she doesn’t take painkillers. King endures purely through positive thinking.

Last May, King hosted her first solo exhibit entitled “A Peaceful Mind,” and each piece was created with the goal of helping those suffering or in distress ease into a meditative state. While planning the exhibit, she tested the pieces on both herself and her friends. If something didn’t evoke the calming emotions she wanted, it wasn’t included.

“I only used the ones that were the strongest,” she reflected.

King wanted people to connect with her pieces and feel a sense of joy — the same emotions she felt while creating each of them, usually while on a beach. Several of these meditative pieces can be seen at the Bucks County exhibit as well as several photographs from a family cruise. All of them are uplifting, joyful and colorful, with many capturing the serenity of daybreak at sea.

“I got up with the sun,” she said of her time on the cruise. “It’s the birth of a new day. Anything is possible. Your slate is clean.”

Also featured at the exhibit are “Heaven Sent” and “Hope,” the proceeds of which go toward rsds.org to benefit research for RSD. Through her art, King encourages people to see the world as filled with endless possibilities and each day as a new beginning, despite the struggles they may be going through.

“I say what I am,” she said. “I say that I’m happy.” ••

King’s exhibit is open daily until Sept. 15 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Bucks County Visitor Center, 3207 Street Road in Bensalem. Visit 1-robyn-king.pixels.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com