Artist inspires children with his color usage


Local artist Joel Washington paints a colorful portrait of B. B. King on Friday evening at the WonderLab Museum of Health, Science and Technology. Children watched him work as part of the First Friday Evening Science of Art sponsored by the museum. Clayton Moore

Joel Washington’s skateboarder name used to be “Rad Rat.”

On Friday, the 52-year-old Bloomington skateboarder-turned-artist used his colorful pop art to teach children about color theory at the WonderLab Museum of Health, Science and Technology.

Joining him were portraits of Michael Jackson, B.B. King and four of his own brightly designed skateboard decks.

“I’m a color fanatic,” he said. “There’s little colors I have to put in.”

Washington, who started longboarding in 1976, keeps his life decorated with skating and painting. This year, four new skate decks he designed will be available at Rhett
Skateboarding, 118 S. Rogers St.

“I just never wanted to let go of it,” he said. “It’s a passion to me, just
like art.”

Families at WonderLab were able to speak with Washington about his vivid work and create their own color demonstrations as part of the museum’s “First Friday Evening Science of Art” production.

“We were thrilled,” Assistant Gallery Manager Andrea Oeding said. “We scheduled him for about a year in advance. We try to keep it different.”

In previous “First Friday” exhibits, WonderLab recruited a foundry to teach children about metal casting as well as groups who specialized in ice sculpting and glass blowing.

“The activities here we’re doing go along with how Joel presents his art,” she said. “We want to introduce kids to ways they can introduce colors.”

Blaze Timonet, a fourth-grader from Louisiana, learned about complementary and analogous colors through hands-on creation.

“It pops out because this color goes to that color,” Timonet said while pointing to a color wheel.

He was designing a yellow folder decorated with orange squares and blue microscopes to take home.

Rosie Black, a 4-year-old preschooler from Bloomington, was experimenting with popsicle sticks.

“I have a shed, and it’s snowing cats,” she said of her abstract design.

Children from the community gathered to stare at Washington’s art in the playroom, a Xanadu of creativity.

Some enjoyed the skeletal designs on one particular skate deck. Others stood silently and took in the neon-tinted glow of his work.

“I just ended up putting it all together, and it worked,” Washington said of his skateboard’s stencil technique.

A lifelong Beatles fan, he was first inspired by the Fab Four’s “Yellow Submarine.”

“It finally came on TV, and I was just blown away by the art and graphics,” Washington said. “I had never seen that before.”

Washington developed a reputation by painting celebrities in eye-catching styles. He presented a portrait to music professor David Baker for his 80th birthday last year.

Washington’s art was recognized in 2010 at City Hall for his 50th birthday. However, even though he’s known for portraiture, Washington always finds time to skate.

“I don’t get to do it as much as I used to,” he said. “But sometimes you’ll see me blasting on the way to work at 4 a.m.”

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