When it came to becoming an artist, James King was a late bloomer.
"I’m 73 and I’ve been painting for the last three years," the New Bern man said.
King is the featured artist in this year’s Touch of Class Art Show scheduled for Friday through Sunday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, King had a 24-year career in the Navy followed by a 21-year second career training space shuttle astronauts for Lockheed Martin and TRW Space and Electronics.
He traveled around the world in his first two careers and always found time to visit some of the most prestigious art galleries, but he could never make the time to actually become an artist himself until retirement.
"I started after I retired and moved out here," King said. "My employees knew I liked art and knew that I used to go to a lot of museums, so they gave me coupons for art materials."
King met and took lessons from local renowned artist Ed Macomber.
His subjects are wide ranging from sailboats, regattas, and fishing boats to portraits of children and military personnel.
"Different people have different appreciations for art. I like more realistic art and compositions whereas a lot of people like abstract because of the color," King said. "Watercolor is the most difficult. Acrylics and oils are kind of fun. They are not as dangerous as watercolor. Watercolor has so much beauty with transparency."
King said one of his weaknesses is landscapes.
"Portraits to me are the fun things, catching a person with a certain type of expression," he said.
King didn’t have time to train in art early in his life so his advice to young artists is to "start early and don’t stop."
Artists should work on their technique and skills every day, he said.
"The whole thing about art is that between your hand and your eyes making that connection so that what you see is what you put on the paper," King said. "You have to have patience with it."
Ironically, and despite his late start, King says he’ll soon be putting his paint brushes aside for other interests like sculpture and gardening.
"I’m going to be completing the art this year and go onto other things," he said. "When you’re 73 there’s not a lot of time left to do other things so I’m going to dabble into sculpture and a couple of other things that I’d like to do. When you stop and think about when you give yourself three years, you’ve only got about a thousand days.
"I’ve enjoyed it. When I’m doing it, it’s really fun to do."
Much of King’s work can be seen in the Baker’s Kitchen restaurant on Middle Street in New Bern.
While King is the featured artist, the weekend show will include a variety of artists, including student artwork, that will be available for purchase.
This weekend’s art show, sponsored by the Havelock Cultural Arts Committee of the Havelock Parks and Recreation Department, begins with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday. Times are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.