Exhibit to feature self-taught artist

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By Christopher Brooke



A self-taught local artist’s works will grace the Henry County Public Library meeting room in an exhibit in June.

Kenneth Ray Smith, 46, of New Castle, has been drawing ever since he can remember. 

Even as a boy, his drawings went well beyond the simplest scratching that most children make, according to Virginia Downey, Smith’s mother.

“He was only about 4 years old, and I took him to this psychiatrist,” she recalled. “I told him that Kenny liked to draw Elvis Presley. Well, [the doctor] thought he was going to draw a stick man. At 4 years old, it’s sort of hard to believe he drew Elvis Presley. It wasn’t a stick figure. It was a regular picture. It sort of surprised the psychiatrist a little bit.”

Smith kept sketching and added painting as he got older in order to work in color.

“I always tell everybody I want to be a famous artist,” Smith said. “I’d like everybody to see it.”

Bookmobile librarian Leslie McBride discovered Smith as she made the rounds with the library’s outreach vehicle in New Castle, where Smith and Downey have lived for the last three years.

McBride had stopped to drop off a book for Downey, but she wasn’t home, the librarian said. Smith invited McBride in to see his work. 

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I love these. You’ve got to do a show,’” McBride said.

A fan of Elvis for years, Smith has been drawing the rock and roll legend from Memphis for decades. He also uses as subjects famous people from Kentucky including President Abraham Lincoln, explorer Daniel  Boone and Colonel Harland Sanders. 

Founding patriots including George Washington and Betsy Ross also appear in Smith’s sketches and paintings.

To get new ideas, Smith will pick up books from flea markets and draw images from them. 

He also gets inspiration by watching his favorite artist, Bob Ross, when his show comes on Kentucky Educational Television on Monday evenings.

Smith spends as much time as he can painting. “Whenever I can buy the canvas, paints and everything I need,” he said.

A selection of Smith’s oil and acrylic works will be on exhibit at the Henry County Public Library meeting room June 1 through 30.