PRINCETON — Behind the house, there’s a small brick garage that’s been turned into a summer art studio. One enters by going past a screen curtain held shut by magnets. On the shelves stand an assortment of art supplies and a collection of art books. One volume about the work of artist John Singer Sargent sits on a table.
The focus of the studio is the portrait in progress. It’s only the latest of the many paintings 65-year- old J.R. Shuck of Princeton has created during the past 40 years.
Shuck took a break while an orange cat, Buddy, sat and watched. A garden fountain was running just outside the door.
“It’s just something I’ve done for 40-some years,” Shuck said of his work. “Ever since I retired from the real world; well, I worked for the coal industry mostly, but I’ve helped my wife with restaurants. Between jobs I helped her with that, and I squeezed in some college education over the years. I have a bachelors degree from Bluefield and a master of fine arts from Syracuse, N.Y.”
Many people were introduced to Shuck’s paintings when he started hanging them at his wife’s business, Kim’s East & West Restaurant, near the Mercer County Courthouse. He pointed out a mirror sign he made for her.
“She was there 16 years,” he recalled. “She had a good clientele there. It was a good business.”
When customers came to dine, they saw Shuck’s work and started asking about it. Soon he was selling paintings and getting inquires from people who wanted to commission portraits and paintings of landscapes and other specific scenes. Shuck said he liked drawing and painting when he was a boy, but his interest bloomed even more when a person he knew tried painting and gave up.