Artist Elias Reynolds stands in front of the City of Russell mural he painted.

ASHLAND A local artist is playing a crucial role in the revitalization of the city of Russell.

Elias Reynolds of Ashland designed and painted Russell’s new mural based on a painting he did for attorney Tracy Frye.

“(Frye) commissioned me to make a painting of Russell encompassing various landmarks for her law office in Russell,” Reynolds, 32, said. “The Russell City Council liked it so much they decided they wanted a mural of it. I added the ‘Welcome to Russell’ for the mural later on.”

He said after redesigning the painting as a mural and adding the greeting, he showed the council several mockups. Once members agreed on the fonts, he said it took about a week to paint.

“My thought process behind the mural was the encompassing of various popular landmarks in Russell that have had a positive impact on the community in the past and present,” he said. “I wanted to express the rich history of Russell and the progress happening with Revitalize Russell.”

Because of their size, murals are more difficult than a traditional painting, he said, but other factors, such as weather and condition of the wall, make it challenging, too.

“Knowing what I’m going to paint and how I’m going to do it is mostly pre-planned, with some minor adjustments and adapting to details along the way,” he said. “It’s a long, tedious process, but I have fun with it and enjoy the process. And seeing the finished piece and how people react to it is always fun.”

The Russell creation was the fifth mural Reynolds has done, but murals aren’t his only media. He offers a service called live painting.

“Live painting is basically where I set up for an event (wedding, vendor events, etc.). For live wedding paintings, I paint a moment of the wedding, like the first kiss or first dance in real time,” he explained. “Then, during the reception, I add all the details and it makes for great entertainment for wedding guests. For other events I just set up and paint whatever is requested and, by the time the event is over, I’ve made an original painting.”

He also designed an album cover for local singer-songwriter Shelby Lore.

“He had wanted to update his logo, so I made that for him and he liked it so much he wanted me to make his new album art,” Reynolds said. “He pretty much already had an idea what he wanted me to do and I took his vision and came up with the art.”

The Richmond native studied painting at Eastern Kentucky University, but art is in his genes.

“I’ve been drawing/painting since childhood,” he said. “My mom was a painter, so I grew up around art. I decided it was what I wanted to do in college.”

He said he likes to paint in acrylics and watercolors and especially likes subject matter such as cultural icons, animals, landscapes and improvised paintings.

“I mostly use acrylic, but I also enjoy watercolor, and sometimes oil,” he said. “For murals, I use spray paint and exterior paint. I like acrylic because I work fast and acrylic dries faster than other paints.”

His process often starts with a sketch on canvas or wood, followed by multiple layers of paint, starting with shadows and outlines and finishing with highlights and details. Paintings are finished with a layer of topcoat for protection; many are made into limited edition art prints.

Reynolds said his wife, an Ashland native, and two daughters have lived in Ashland for five years. He said his daughters enjoy painting with him at their home.

“My wife is an incredible supporter of my art and local art in general,” he said. “(She) comes up with a lot of good ideas for paintings and murals also, she’s the main source of my drive (besides loving to paint/create). My muse, you could say.”

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