Another portrait features a famous figure in West Virginia’s history, “Devil Anse” Hatfield of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud.
“The administrator of the local Moose Lodge commissioned me to do that. Some friend he had in the upper echelons of the Moose claims to be kin to Devil Anse Hatfield.” Shuck smiled “And I don’t know anybody in West Virginia who doesn’t claim a connection to Devil Anse Hatfield.”
Railroad scenes, coal tipples, and other subjects are among the many paintings Shuck has created during the last 40 years. For Shuck, creating an image that looks like something from life is fascinating. When asked what he likes about painting, he thought for a moment.
“To put something on a flat surface, you know, that has depth. You can actually look in a painting like a landscape. I guess that’s part of it, to get something on a flat surface and make it look three dimensional had some sort of fascination about it for me,” he said. “And, of course, I hit the books hard. I always study other artists in books.” He pointed out a nearby bookshelf. “Oh, that’s just a few I bring out in the summertime. I have shelves of them in the house.”
“My philosophy on really succeeding in art is to hit the books, and I think that’s about the best way to succeed in anything. Read how the do it and learn how to do and new editions on how they do it. When I do a painting and I run into a snag or I’ve got a problem and I can’t seem to work it out and can’t seem to make it look right, I go to the books – Sargent and some of these old masters – and I see how they painted it, and it helps a lot.”
The 19th Century artists such as (Claude) Monet and the impressionists are good, but Sargent is especially helpful.
“He’s more like a traditional realist and an impressionist and a water colorist. He was just a really an amazing jackof-all-trades artist. He’s one of my favorites,” Shuck said “He did 800 portraits and 8,000 other paintings. He was a prolific artist. You could see how he did different things.”
Shuck said he admired the old master painters because they could create great works of art under what would be considered primitive conditions today. Instead of electric lights, they worked under sunlight and candlelight. They also had to mix their own paints and make their own brushes. There were no local art stores or online art businesses that delivered.
And like those artists, Shuck practiced to learn how to use oil paint and watercolor as well as acrylic paint.
“You just have to get into them and keep working them until you get the feel of them,” he said, adding that he prefers acrylics now. “I use acrylics because they don’t have the stink of turpentine. They dry basically the same way as oil on canvas.”
Art specialists estimate that acrylic paintings will last just as long as those painted with oil paints, and some oil paintings are 400 years old, he said.
Painting with watercolor paints is especially challenging.
“Watercolors are a whole different matter. With watercolors, you need to have a plan. You better know what your plan is before you start, because it’s totally unforgiving. With oils and acrylic, you can go back and work over it, paint over it, but with watercolors it’s a onetime shot. If you blow it, wad it up and throw it in the garbage, and the watercolor paper is very expensive. It’s mighty expensive. To do a really good watercolor painting, you’ve got to do it right. If you smudge it, you’ve smudged it forever.”
Shuck was working on one type of painting he enjoys doing, a portrait.
“I’m also fascinated with portraiture because people get so excited with a painting or a pencil portrait of their child or something like that,” he said. “They see that likeness and they say, ‘Oh, my God! It looks exactly like him!’”
For many people, the idea of having a hand-drawn or painted image of a loved one is exciting. Portraits of family members are especially popular.
“Those pencil portraits of the children, they are really a drawing card,” Shuck said. “Around Christmas time, I get totally bombarded with orders for those things.”