Designer drew on childhood interest to find his creative niche

Wetherington and some of his work at Pasta Garage on Delaware Avenue.  He designed the logo and helped  shape "how they want to feel to their customers."
Wetherington and some of his work at Pasta Garage on Delaware Avenue. He designed the logo and helped shape "how they want to feel to their customers."

Say what you want about Wikipedia, but it's hard not to like a website that in a matter of seconds tells you everything you need to know — with footnotes — about doodling: the origins of the word, the results of a study on the effects of doodling, where and when doodling most often occurs, famous doodlers in history.

One of the most famous was none other than Leonardo da Vinci, who happens to be the hero of a local doodler named Josh Wetherington.

"I was doodling as far back as I can remember," Wetherington says. "Doodling led to more doodling, drawing letters, putting together compositions. I never really thought it could be my career."

Now, he's a professional graphic artist and woodworker with a full-time job at Whole Foods and lots of freelance commissions. If you've been to the Pasta Garage, Willie's Locally Known or Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge, or if you've shopped at Whole Foods, then you've seen his artwork.

Wetherington, 30, did his early doodling in the high desert of California, where he spent his first 11 years. Then he and his family moved to an unfinished house on 37 acres in Owen County. That lasted a year, but it was a long one. Wetherington drew what he saw around him.

"The scenery was new to me, so it was mostly nature scenes."

When it ended, Mom and the kids moved to a duplex in Lexington with all the modern conveniences: indoor plumbing, and electric lights to do homework by. Yet even with a functioning desk lamp, Wetherington says, he was "terrible in school," which is another way of saying he was developing his doodling.

According to Wikipedia, bored students and meeting-goers make up the majority of doodlers.

Classes in drafting piqued his interest, as did wood shop class at Bryan Station High School. He had no inkling at the time, though, that he might have found the one thing that graduation speakers are always telling young people to follow: his passion.

In high school, he met his future wife, and in that case he knew what he'd found. It was what he both wanted and needed, and he sees it as the turning point in his life. Her family became his family.

For five years after high school, he did manual labor — working with his hands, but not his head or heart. Then, again, his wife's family "did a pretty amazing thing. They allowed me to stay with them and go to college. ...That was probably the point where I knew I could do this (graphic arts) as a full-time thing."

Wetherington, the onetime "terrible student," graduated with a 3.8 GPA from EKU in 2011 and went to work that same year at Whole Foods as a graphics and décor designer.

It was there that he developed the chalk art that's becoming his signature around town.

"I kind of developed it from there."

For frequently changing signs at Whole Foods, he uses regular chalk, but more permanent displays require several steps: often he hand-draws first, then transfers that to a computer, then projects the finished design onto a wall, and then fills it in with permanent chalk markers.

At Crank & Boom on Manchester Street, for example, his drawings cover one wall. At Pasta Garage on Delaware Avenue, they're a prominent part of the décor. In both, you can see the strong influence of his doodling period.

With his father-in-law, Wetherington has developed his woodworking so it plays a big role in his design business, End Grain Design + Craft.

"Half of my commission work is graphic design; half is woodworking. I like to use natural elements as much as possible, like cracks and knots. I really appreciate what nature gives us, and in my work, I like to amplify it and showcase it," he says.

Wetherington doesn't just decorate the walls of a business; he helps each business define its brand and refine its image.

At Pasta Garage, he designed the logo and "shaped how they look, how they want to feel to their customers."

"I go talk to the business, and we try to establish first what they want. ... From there, I try to determine what they need. I've found that what a business wants is not always what it needs."

Figuring out what a business needs can involve a bit of high-level doodling.

"After I get home, I go through my notes and immediately put ideas on paper. Those ideas then get refined over and over until I have something I find to be the best solution," Wetherington says.

When Willie's Locally Known, the restaurant, bar and music venue on North Broadway, wanted a new logo, they called on Wetherington. He saw that they needed "a logo that could represent the space and atmosphere of the venue, even when not in context. So I used elements that I saw: wood paneling and rugged textures."

Owner Wilson Sebastian says Wetherington is "fantastic. He has a real good sense for being able to give us what we want when we can't articulate it ourselves."

In other words, when he gave them what he thought they needed, it turned out to be exactly what they'd really wanted.