Kootenay legend Wayne King was a painter, woodcutter, philosopher, shaman and beautiful soul, according to those who knew him, and he lived a uniquely monastic life before passing away peacefully in his 70s on June 14.
“Wayne was one of the most prolific artists in the Kootenays. His work was split three ways between landscape paintings, visionary paintings and woodcuts, many of which had little aphorisms for daily life. My favourite was ‘leave no turn unstoned’,” King’s close friend Dustin Cantwell told the Star.
“His comments on life were uplifting and philosophical and beautiful. He liked art, chess, hasish and beautiful women—not necessarily in that order.”
Another close friend of King’s, Karla Whitaker, quoted him as saying that “life is an ocean of beauty and wonderment.”
“I really like that,” she said. “It embodies Wayne. He really was a yogi; he almost wasn’t human. He was someone we all went to—he slowed our lives down and showed us the beauty and the colour, the light and the love. He was the hermit in the woods who gave us all the things we couldn’t get ourselves.”
King, who was known for not having a fixed address and for acting as “the unofficial welcome wagon to the Kootenays”, was beloved by everyone lucky enough to meet him according to Lilli Vandermeer.
“He was one of my elders. I used to model for his goddess pieces. Anyone who knew Wayne knew he could talk circles around anything. The way he thought was never-ending. He was passionate, he was a philosopher, and he reflected that in his art.”
After news of his passing reached social media, a number of Nelson residents posted pictures of his artwork from their own collections and expressed their grief.
Tributes have been posted in a number of businesses downtown, including Oso Negro.
“Today I must bid adieu to a friend, an inspiration, a mystic, an artist, philosopher, dreamer, flirt, rebel, adventurer, revolutionary…an irredeemable, lovable freak,” wrote Stevland Ambrose on Facebook.
“Wayne E. King, your passing is a massive loss to everyone who’s life you’ve touched, especially for those of us who have had a good look into those sparkling, baby blue eyes.”
Cantwell said King had a unique ability to reach across societal boundaries.
“He could basically elevate anybody’s consciousness, from a skate punk to a single mother to an elder. He was able to shift a person’s thoughts from the mundane to the spiritual. That was his amazing gift to people of this area was raising people’s consciousness.”
Chris Kolmel seconded that sentiment.
“He spoke in eloquent and highly imaginative prose, emphasizing the divine light, the magic and energy that fed his passion for art and life. His paintings and woodcuts touched the true beauty of our common landscape and brought that colour and richness into many lives and homes.”
Cantwell said King lived a simple life.
“I still remember him living in shacks on the outskirts of town. He had very few possessions and he liked a yogic life. At one point he was living on a sailboat on the west coast, and he would canoe to shore and saw pieces of yellow cedar, making them into woodcuts on his boat then bring them to shore to sell them.”
Kolmel said the Nelson community has lost a “humble and visionary elder.”
“I am thankful to have known him and to have felt his passion to fearlessly live his life and love his mother Earth.”
Vandermeer said she attempted to keep track of King over the years, even after moving away from Nelson, and she’s heartbroken she didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
“I will forever be grateful to Wayne King for so much more than I can say. Long live the memory of the King.”
Friends and family of King are encouraged to submit their thoughts and tributes to the Star via email@example.com. A memorial is in the works, but was not confirmed by press time.