UK graduate meshes Kentucky’s nature with art


Artist and UK graduate Darrell Ishmael analyzes one of his paintings, which are made from natural Kentucky elements like coal, at ArtsPlace on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Photo by Cheyene Miller

By Cheyene Miller

[email protected]

Coal is not typically associated with art, but for one UK alumnus it can be as useful as a paintbrush.

When artist Darrell Ishmael turns a natural element like coal into a work of art, he does it to convey a sense of emotion in the viewer.

“I wanted to bring nature into an indoor space,” said Ishmael, who called his use of coal and acrylic in his art a “dynamic way of painting.”

Ishmael’s work is currently on display at ArtsPlace on North Mill Street as part of the “Of The Earth” art exhibit. The paintings are for sale, with prices ranging from $300 to $3,200.

A Kentucky native and UK graduate, Ishmael frequently uses Kentucky-oriented elements like coal, Kentucky River sand and limestone in his paintings.

“It’s my brand,” Ishmael said in regard to using coal in his paintings. He said that he has his opinions on coal, but he doesn’t use his art to express them.

“Most of my work doesn’t make socio-political statements,” Ishmael said. “I use it strictly for texture.”

Ishmael has been an artist for 25 years. He began with water coloring, and said that he immediately fell in love.

“It really resonated with me,” Ishmael said.

Ishmael does most of his work from home, and he and his wife decide when a piece is ready for display.

Ishmael said more than 400 people showed up to the grand opening of his exhibit, which also features the work of artist Scott Ross. Some of the names of the artwork include “City Lights,” “Sedona,” “Dancer,” “First Dawn” and “Copper Sky.”

“I can’t say I have a favorite,” Ishmael said.

Naming the pieces is one of the most difficult parts of the process, he said.

Ishmael’s work has been displayed all over Kentucky, and as far as Sacramento, Calif. He has paintings on display in Saint Joseph Hospital, and said that he advocates using art in hospitals to give an emotional healing for patients.

I know that it helps them, Ishmael said.

People who come in and view the exhibit can leave comments for the artists in a comment book on their way out. Some of the words used by the viewers to describe the pieces included “lovely” and “beautiful.”

“Your landscapes blend into my faded memories,” wrote Connor Kinslow in the book.

According to Ishmael, inspirations for his art come from all aspects of life.

“I try to just take it in,” Ishmael said. “That’s the beauty of art. You’re escaping into another reality.”

The exhibit is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., and runs until Feb. 28.