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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Good King: Arian Armstrong's Magical World

Arian Armstrong in Paris, France (photo: provided)


"I Wish I Could Cure Cancer. But I'm an Artist. So I Draw."

Fort Thomas resident Arian Armstrong is a visual artist - an illustrator, set designer, mom and visionary. Her experiences abroad, her strong Christian faith and the day to day moments she creates with her family inform her ongoing art project, The Good King.

Children (and adults!) sign up to join The Good King "tribe" (it's completely free) and are sent weekly secret coloring missions that spread goodness far and wide. Arian illustrates a new coloring sheet each week especially for a nominated individual, family or group experiencing illness or some kind of struggle. Each coloring sheet has a blank speech bubble where encouraging messages can be written. After Arian receives photos of participants holding up their finished coloring sheets she has the photos printed in a hardbound book and gives to the recipient.

The Good King Mission #33 
The Good King project acknowledges the suffering of an individual or group and connects them in a safe way to a community of support that is primarily, though not exclusively, children. Children actively participate in bringing something positive into the world. They offer their time and abilities on a weekly basis - over time the habit of love and encouragement is established.

Arian was recently awarded a Globe Grant through The People's Liberty. In March 2018 she will transform a storefront in Findlay Market into a "magical space where kids can come color The Good King missions in person."

Fort Thomas Matters spoke with Arian about The Good King recently at Fort Thomas Coffee - her favorite local spot and where she had her first solo art show.


Fort Thomas Matters (FTM): How did The Good King come about? How has it evolved since you started?

Arian: I was doing a lot of work as a freelance illustrator when work suddenly dried up last spring. It was good, because it gave me a chance to step back and ask myself what I REALLY wanted to be doing with my life. 
I decided I wanted to build something that was: 
Creatively limitless...something where I could use my illustration skills and eventually my degree in theatrical set design and my experience in animation.
Something that helped young artists believe that art has value in "the Kingdom" by giving them a chance to make art that makes a difference. 
 I started reading business books that talked about the value of offering something free if you're trying to start a business and thought parents might sign up to get free weekly printable coloring pages. When sharing this idea with a good friend he suggested occasionally encouraging those parents to send the coloring pages to someone specific in need of encouragement (you know, the "art can make a difference" part). I thought, "Why not do that EVERY week?" So the free thing ended up becoming the main thing and everything that comes after this will just support it. 

Arian's son holding up the sheet he colored for a boy named Roman

FTM: Where do you draw inspiration for the The Good King illustrations?

Arian: The world of The Good King is a mix of magic and turn of the century inspired art supplies -  old typewriters, printing presses, cameras, ink wells and vintage fonts. All that plus animals wearing suits and kids with paper crowns. 

The Good King (photo: provided)

FTM: How would you describe your philosophy of being? Your way of living in the world?

Good question! Well I'd say The Good King sums it up. I think God gave me artistic talents for my own enjoyment but more importantly for the good of others. I'm here to get to know God better, get to know myself better, and to be a blessing to others. 

The Good King illustration by Arian Armstrong

FTM: How do you find balance/what does balance look like for you as a mother and an artist?

Arian: This has been tough, for sure. After I had my third son (he's 6 now) I didn't draw for almost a year, which is crazy to think about. But there just didn't seem to be time. It took 3 years of feeling pretty depressed to finally admit that I'm just wired to be an artist, as well as a mom, and if I'm not making art regularly I'll lose my mind. So when my fourth son was 6 months old I started using childcare regularly and I worked harder at getting freelance work to make sure that I was drawing at least 15 hours per week, often times more. It's made a huge difference. 

Recipients of The Good King colored sheets at a home for rescued girls in India (photo: provided) 

FTM: How has The Good King changed you?

Arian: I started this but now it kind of has a mind of it's own and people who are counting on me to keep on keeping on. It's a good feeling, although sometimes the logistics keep me up at night and it's hard to stop thinking about it all the time. Mostly I'm thankful to wake up and have meaningful work that I love that's full of creative possibilities. 
The Good King (photo: provided)

FTM: What does the future hold?

Arian: I plan on continuing the weekly coloring missions for as long as my hands can draw. I'd love to have The Good King chapters all over the world where kids get together with other local kids in the tribe and color secret coloring missions. I'll support it by hopefully publishing some The Good King kids books and collaborating with social-justice-minded companies to launch The Good King products. Lots of possibilities!
Armstrong Family (photo: The Simple Portrait Project)

 FTM: Do you feel like you are making a difference in the world?

Arian: I do, because even small changes are changes. We've all received a compliment from a stranger or an unexpected word of encouragement from a friend that stuck with us. 
 Since The Good King started in June 2017, I've been able to surprise strangers with a total of over 2000 colored pages filled with compliments and words of encouragement from people all over the world. 
I wish I could cure cancer. But I'm an artist. So I draw. 

Arian enjoying Paris (photo: provided)

Arian grew up in Fort Mitchell and now calls Fort Thomas home. She studied Theatrical Set Design at the University of Cincinnati and travelled for several years before settling here with husband, Daniel Armstrong, a designer/animator/illustrator. They have four sons.

Find out more about The Good King and to follow progress on the Findlay Market coloring space:

Follow The Good King on instagram @followthegoodking and on Facebook 
The Good King website:
Check out Arian's other art work and animated music videos  at 

Related - Street Class: Highland Avenue's Artist in Residence

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