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A yellow and orange cat has fun with leaves and trees. A blue and purple penguin with a green smile is flying because it cannot wait to get home. A tiger is happy because it feels orange.
The animals are King Godwin’s friends, creations that come alive in bright acrylic paint, dabbled over in tiny numbers—often ones and sevens—if you look closely, because, in the Raleigh artist’s mind, numbers and colors correlate with feelings.
This month, “The Artist Is Having a Very Good Day,” a book celebrating Godwin’s paintings, will make its official debut in Raleigh. Artist Susan Woodson, a friend of Godwin and his mother, Yuko Taylor, a painter, wanted to capture Godwin’s work, and his story, in print. Woodson plans to promote the book with an eye toward catching a publisher’s attention for wider distribution.
In the light-filled ground floor of her studio, Moondog Fine Arts, on W. Morgan Street, Woodson recalls watching Godwin, who is autistic, grow into a confident, happy young person the more time he spent painting and creating.
“The more he painted, the better it got. The more he worked, the more he sold, the prouder he got,” Woodson says. “King started developing as a person and his personality came out and now, he stands tall and is very proud of his work. It has been amazing to watch that development.”
It was a transformation Woodson felt she had to capture in print.
Godwin, 27, came to painting nearly a decade ago when Taylor told him he had to find a job. He could stock shelves at the grocery store, or sort books in the library, but his mother made it clear that he had to find a useful way to fill his time. So, Godwin said, like her, he wanted to paint. They sought out art collections at museums and bookstores, hoping to land upon a style.
Godwin pointed to a painting of a pink background, filled with yellow circles.
“Oh, you want to do that?” Taylor asked him. Godwin said he did. Taylor gave him her paints, and a space in her own studio at home, and let him at it.
Today, Godwin, who also has studio space at Moondog, is a prolific painter. His process is meticulous and he labors over every number until each painting feels complete. His work is for sale both at the studio and online and Taylor believes painting, working as an artist, brings her son much happiness.
“These animals and lovely friends he paints are himself, I personally think,” Taylor says. “It’s him in his life. It’s inspiring. As a mom, I was told he had some kind of limitation, or lots of limitations. But my goal was to have him grow up as a person who already has everything he needed and to express himself. I told him, ‘Be proud of who you are, unique is good, it’s the essence of your life.’”
“Every parent wants their child to grow up to be happy and successful and that is exactly how King is,” Woodson says. “He’s happy with his life and what he’s doing with it. That’s a blessing for any parent, autistic or whatever. It’s what you always hope for for your child.”
“King Noboyushi Godwin: The Artist is Having a Very Good Day” debuts May 8 at the Gregg Museum from 6—8 p.m. The book launch is open to the public and you can check out Godwin’s work online at kinggodwin.com.
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