By Ladonna Paedae Rodriguez
Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox 

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche 

The watercolor art of Janet King reflects her gratitude in each piece she creates. Gratitude for the ability to masterfully paint. Gratitude for her family. Gratitude to have clients who cherish her art, clients who have in turn become cherished friends.

Raised in a small New England community on a street comprised of houses which were mainly occupied by her relatives, Janet was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to visit art galleries. Driven there by her Aunt Lily who lived three doors down and who was herself a creative, Janet was exposed to the arts at a very young age. Lily would set up a painting area for 7-year-old Janet out in the yard and let her paint. 

Her parents Dick and Mary Foley, were very supportive of young Janet, and enrolled her in the Baum School of Art in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she took lessons in oil painting, silver-smithing, and film development. She learned “how to see, how to look at something to realistically replicate an image.” Added Janet, “When I traveled, I took notes and did sketches, noticing how my subjects looked and how they made me feel.” 

In 1993, now living in Sebring, Janet’s husband Robert King and their children Jason, Drew, Barrett, Alexandra and Chris presented her with the gift of a week-long painting class under the tutelage of artist Jan Kunz. At the workshop’s end, she brought home the paintings she had created. They realized how truly talented she was and proudly hung them all about their home. So began the family’s adventure in having an artist for a wife and mom. 

Seeing that Janet could make a career of her art, Robert offered his office space located on North Ridgewood Drive in downtown Sebring for Janet to use as her studio, and she wasted no time in purchasing a kiln, bringing in her art supplies, and holding classes for children and adults alike. The classes soon became full. The pottery groups were enjoying creating keepsakes for brides-to-be, and Janet’s original paintings began finding homes with local patrons.

As word spread around town, the demand for her works grew like wildfire. Soon, she was creating watercolor paintings for offices and homes around Highlands County, including clients that Janet King is so very full of gratitude for, and would like to publicly recognize: clients like Dr. Bob and Norma Midence, whose children took art lessons from Janet and who loved her artwork so much that not only did they commission Janet to fill their office walls with her paintings did the same for their home. Kathy Futral and Molly Doctrow purchased her works of art for South Florida Community College, bringing a new audience to see Janet’s work. She is grateful for clients like Jimmy and Jeri Wohl, who “have always been very faithful and lovely friends and patrons,” and Chris and Terri Rudasill, who “made my heart happy. Chris loved historic paintings and thought that the lady in my painting of the Sebring train station looked like his mother.” Tommy James, a building contractor, commissioned Janet to fill his model homes with paintings of her own design. She appreciates Jim and Anne Kelly who proudly display Janet’s work in their home and office, and Lon and Sherri Crow, good friends for whom Janet painted one of her favorite pieces in years: “Koi fish,” done in her clean and vibrant style. For Nick and Maggie Hucke, Janet painted their children at the beach. Of her supporters Christine and Phil Hatfield, who own The Inn On The Lakes Hotel in Sebring, Janet said, “They purchased my art, and it is on display in their hotel, exposing me to so many people who would have never seen my work.” 

Indeed this humble artist would rather talk about her love for those she met because of her art and about her church family than about herself. “All of the support and love I have received is amazing. This community embraced me, welcomed me, and I will never forget them. I doubt I’ll ever find a connection with another community like I have in Highlands County,” Janet said.

Janet King

Although she will soon be moving away from the area, Janet plans to keep in touch and will treasure each and every friendship she has built over her 40-plus years here. One of those dear friends is Alice Hansen, whom Janet calls “the best artist that Highlands County will ever see and my awesome friend.” There are numerous friends that Janet wants to acknowledge such as Steve VanDam, Wade and Van Sherwood, Beth Skipper, Margie Rhoades, DoDi, Ned and Tammy Hancock, John and Jan Shoop, Elsa Kahn (who invited Janet to serve on the Highlands Art League board), George and Nancy Hensley, and other friends and patrons as well. Her overwhelming message is gratitude and love. 

And while she may hesitate to speak of them, Janet King’s successes are many. One of her pieces was displayed in the Florida State Capitol building for a year. She has been the featured artist at the Amsterdam Whitney Art Gallery in New York City. This surreal opportunity came about because Janet requested some information from the gallery on a postcard featuring her work. To her surprise, instead of receiving a mailed reply, she received a call from the magazine, asking if it was her work on the postcard. The New York gallery wanted to feature her. She thought “This must be a joke,” but her husband Robert said, “You have to do this, and we have to bring the kids.” They booked their flight, loaded up the kids who were still living at home, and off to New York they went, paintings in tow. Little did Janet know but Robert had secretly let all of her family and friends know about the event, and they (including this writer) filled the venue in support of “their Janet.” 

Following the gallery showing at New York, Janet had no idea that other monumental opportunities awaited her. Upon her return to Sebring, she was approached by John Shoop, who commissioned her to paint a series featuring historic-themed, local landmarks from the 1920s to be displayed in the then Highlands Independent Bank, of which he was President. Her talent has taken her to Italy, where she taught a group who had traveled from all over the United States specifically to learn from her. She has taught local groups, including her “Thursday Girls” group, who came every Thursday to take three-hour lessons from Janet. 

A prominent piece of art created by Janet is the Harder Hall watercolor. When asked why she created the piece, King said,“I love old, historic things. I passed by it a lot and when I thought it was going to deteriorate, I wanted to capture its image.” This piece has been reproduced and is now in the homes of Mike Swaine, Dawn Dell and is also in Mae Lee’s Deli. Several of her pieces found a new home at the local cancer center, and many people have remarked that her art was uplifting to see during a difficult time. 

Alice Hansen, a close friend and accomplished artist had this to say: “She is a wonderful friend and artist. Janet has an incredible amount of art knowledge. She has helped me with my art. She teaches in a way that keeps the students’ interest. They improve and have fun at the same time in her classes. Janet is quite a character, and I will miss having her here. I love her dearly.” 

Former student, and successful artist Jaye Whitehead Backus remembers taking art classes with Janet at age seven. “Within the walls of her studio, we stuck clay to our faces and laughed at painting blunders, yet I always left feeling smart and important. Mrs. King nurtured my individuality and celebrated my creativity, giving me, a once painfully shy little girl, a space to be heard. Her kindness and warmth changed the trajectory of my life.” 

Lauren Taylor Spigner, also a former student of Janet’s shared that “I began taking art lessons from Mrs. King when I was 8 years old. I am so grateful for the time spent with her in her art studio!” 

As for what the future holds, Janet, whose husband Robert passed away in 2022, plans to spend time with her children and grandchildren Marina, Ashton, Saylor, Chris, Kate, Phoenix, Beau and Carolina, and other family members, and to continue her art. With the Atlantic beaches in Jacksonville, Florida at her front door, certainly her subjects will be the ocean, God’s beautiful creations, and her family, all of which will certainly be painted with a heart full of gratitude. 

To see Janet King’s works, visit her website: If interested in commissioning her please email Janet at or

Publisher Note: We are proud that Janet King was featured in our premier issue of Heartland LIVING and that her art images were also used on covers of another publication we did, The Best Values of Highlands