Arts feature: Former OSU footballer carving out a spot in arts community

Erica Thompson

“I'm more than a football player,” said Percy King, though most locals likely know him as a former OSU safety, and they remember the punt he blocked for a touchdown against Penn State in 1998. The play was so impressive it was recognized in Sports Illustrated.

“I've had interceptions and great hits, but that was … my signature moment,” he said.

But 17 years after King graduated from OSU and completed a brief stint playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, he is in the beginning stages of an art career. In a city bursting with painters, sculptors and sketchers, King has the potential to make a unique mark with a medium that, to his knowledge, no one is using.

“My actual name for it is called the ‘Shaolin Wood Technique,'” King said of his 3-D wood portraits of hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Tupac and Biggie. To achieve the desired effect, King creates a digital image and draws it on his materials, which mostly include layered sheets of compressed composite wood, utilizing the natural wood tones for color variations.

“From there, I just cut it out and decide which layer is gonna be which color, and usually I work from darkest to lightest,” he said. “It's just like putting together a model, attaching pieces and sanding.”

King draws on nearly two decades of carpentry experience gained completing home-improvement projects like installing wood floors and building mantels. He then progressed to building furniture, which ultimately sparked the idea for the Shaolin Wood Technique about a year and a half ago.

“I was thinking, as far as furniture goes, there's no distinctly black-American style of furniture,” said King, who then decided to build the cabinet doors of an entertainment center with an inlay of Bob Marley. He quickly realized the concept worked better as an art piece. Thinking he might try to sell the work for $500, he was shocked when a trusted friend in the arts community appraised the value much higher, based on the unique technique.

“It was almost like being on ‘Antique Roadshow' when they flash the value sign … and the people are all surprised,” King said. “And I was like, ‘All right, well, I think this is what I'll be doing from here on out.'”

King previously worked in sales, an industry former OSU football star Archie Griffin encouraged him to enter after King was released from the NFL. But now King can concentrate on art full-time, having sold pieces — some commissioned — and completed his first solo gallery show at Art of Republic last month.

However, he admits being a new artist is challenging. “Just the things like getting together a portfolio and having your website together and how to submit your portfolio to different galleries, those are all the things I'm struggling with right now,” said King, whose work can currently be viewed at

But the momentum is building, and King's reputation may soon be linked to art rather than sports.

“When you talk to me you're gonna get more than a football story,” he said.