BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Feb. 29, 2016)-- A local artist has been walking the Indiana University campus in Bloomington for the past 27 years. He started out working on campus, but little did he know his day job would lead to a major platform to display his artwork that's now been seen around the world.
Joel Washington now works on campus as a custodian, but he's known for what he does with his hands off the clock: painting masterpieces. Many of them hang in the hallways on campus.
"Been doing art work all my life. I specialize in acrylic paintings," said Washington.
Washington is an internationally-known artist with his work on display at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. He presented Quincy Jones with a portrait of Michael Jackson during his visit to IU. But as he walks the halls of the student union during his day job, many people have no idea he's the man responsible for some of the paintings they stop to explore, like the piece featuring Indianapolis jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.
"It feels good seeing a person talking to another person about it. Seeing two people discussing your work," said Washington.
IU got wind of Washington's true talent and started purchasing his work. He watches people admire his paintings and will sometimes introduce himself.
"It lets me know personally that i'm doing what I set out to and it just gets bigger and better. And one day I do believe in my heart i'm going to do this full time," said Washington.
Washington is inspired by music and has quite a few musical legends in his collection like Louis Armstrong.
"I'll start off doing the portrait and then when I'm ready to throw the colors in just play psychedelic music."
He's also responsible for images of other historical black figures inside the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center on campus. Maya Angelou and most recently President Obama and the First Lady. Washington is a self taught artist and says he's gotten this far with most of his clients through word of mouth and he's not slowing down anytime soon.
"My own set up for myself is do what you love and love what you do."
His next piece will feature Carrie Parker, the first African American woman to attend IU back in 1898.