SPRING HILL — Although he has loved art since he was a child, it took Paul Shaskan more than 40 years to truly connect with his passion for creating it.
But at age 78, the Spring Hill artist and retired stockbroker says he's enjoying painting more than he thought possible. He can't wait to go out every morning to his garage art studio and grab his brushes.
"There are few things that give me as much pleasure as creating a painting," Shaskan said. "It took me a while to get to the point where I'm comfortable with what I put on canvas. And I think I'm getting better at it all the time."
A landscape artist who likes to create pastoral images of New England farming communities, Florida coastlines and the desert Southwest, Shaskan, who will be among the artists exhibiting at this weekend's Art in the Park, works primarily with oils. For him, it's a medium that begs for being bold with colors.
"I love finding that combination that expresses a unique thought and emotion to the viewer," Shaskan said. "I've always felt that art should grab you and make you think."
Shaskan's artistic odyssey began at age 12 in his native Syracuse, N.Y. His father, an avid art collector, urged him to take a few lessons with a local art teacher.
"I pretty much absorbed everything he taught me, and then started experimenting with other techniques I discovered on my own," Shaskan recalled.
But a life as a starving artist would have never suited him. Instead, he went to work in the stock brokerage industry. A couple of years after his retirement in 1996, he and his wife, Karen, moved to Hernando County. He discovered the Spring Hill Art League, a collection of art lovers who promote the visual arts in the county.
Shaskan felt an immediate bond with the club and served 10 years as chairman of its annual Fall Harvest of Art festival.
But while Hernando County may be a haven for talented artists, Shaskan has learned that encouraging community support can be a challenge.
"This is a difficult time for being a working artist," Shaskan said. "There aren't a lot of local galleries, so getting your art shown is a hit-or-miss prospect for the most part."
Which is why Shaskan and others in the league support the idea of a countywide effort to create a centralized multipurpose cultural center to house various art groups and provide meeting space and an art gallery.
"The need definitely exists in our area," Shaskan offered. "I think something like that would increase awareness of art and make it more accessible to the public."
Shaskan also would like to see more than two annual art shows in the county and more sidewalk type events similar to Brooksville's outdoor Art N' Market Walk.
"I think the public wants to and will support more art events if they're offered," Shaskan said. "I know this: There are definitely plenty of people in the Hernando art community that would welcome it."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.