The self-taught artist is always a bit of a marvel, and in the case of King Saladeen, it is even more so. World-famous in galleries around the globe, he is noted for an iconic character, “Money Bear,” as well as his other street art-inspired works.
Always painting, even in his earliest years, he self-trained his eye and hand on the walls inside of his family home, where his parents encouraged him to “beautify” the walls all around. “It was a great outlet,” he says, “a way to express emotions,” and gain insight to his creative self, and practice the skills he has mastered today.
Raided in West Philadelphia, his art uses the same “splashes of vibrant colors and bears to depict his abstract inspirations and state of mind, expressing himself through his art.”
Contemporary art was not an activity he could easily practice as an inner-city child, and so he focused energy on basketball and it was his success here that let him experience travel across the U.S. As one article noted, it was “during these travels that he began daydreaming about color and design. The landscapes he viewed were another source of influence and inspiration.”
Injured in a vehicle accident at the age of 15, his basketball career had an abrupt end. While in recovery, his desire to do art returned.
Determined to be a successful artist, he has certainly achieved that goal. As an article about him on Widewalls explains, he is “now an expert with many different paints from acrylic to spray paint on canvases and exotic cars. Thus far, Saladeen has exhibited his works on the sixth floor of the NYSE, released a custom clothing collection with Champion athletic wear, and debuted his own toy “JP the Money Bear” at ComplexCon (2018) and Shenzen Toyz Festival (2019).”
"JP the Money Bear" by King Saladeen
Before his successes in the art world, however, he was a design artist for a clothing company, and he then began working in a youth home to teach kids how to reduce daily stresses with art. By 2011, he was ready to launch what the world now knows as the Saladeen Art Group and from there the rest is history.
JP the Money Bear
The famous character and figure of JP the Money Bear is inspired by the artist’s late friend and mentor John “JP” Thompson who purchased King Saladeen his first complete set of art supplies and nudged him forward in his practice. At his death, it inspired Saladeen to go as far as his skill and drive could take him, and it is the reason that this now-iconic character bears the name of his friend. It is such a popular character that the figure sold out within two hours of its release at the Shenzhen Toyz Festival.
Art by King Saladeen
Fashion and Art
Merging the ideas of fashion and art in his work, he painted “Buy Low Sell High Fashion Forward” in 2017, and it was immediately purchased by the São Paulo Museum of Art in 2017.
When asked about his inspirations, he said that he will “create from the heart, not my eyes. My heart isn’t going to lie. My heart is always going to say what it feels. It’s going to really push out the definition of me on canvas or whatever I’m creating on…”
The level of his success is surprising when one considers that it was only 2011 that he “walked out of his 9 to 5 to walk on water,” according to an article at kulturehub.
Does he walk on water? Naturally, the answer is no, but the level of success that this natural-born, self-trained artist reveals is certainly evidence of unnaturally high levels of talent and skill, which can be seen in the streetwear his initial design inspires, as well as his gallery work, murals, and more.
"Modern Day Sneakerhead Triple Soul" by King Saladeen