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Artist delighted to show off talent

When family members urged Jeff Cason to try to sell his paintings, he was reluctant. The self-taught painter says he is his own worst critic.

"They seem to like everything, so I've got to kind of watch what they say," he said Wednesday.

His family persuaded him to rent a booth about two and a half years ago at an art show in Williston. He didn't make any sales but, to his surprise and delight, he received an honorable mention ribbon.

Later, his confidence got a boost with his first sale. The painting had been displayed at Little Jo's Arts and Crafts in Crystal River, an artists' cooperative where his sister is a volunteer.

"For somebody to say, "I want to put that in my home,' that makes me feel real good," he said.

This week, Cason is the artist of the week at Little Jo's, which recently moved to a strip shopping center just south of Scotty's on U.S. 19. Cason plans to be at the store on Friday and Saturday. The shop will continue to sell his paintings after this week.

For Cason, painting can be physically difficult and tiring, because he has muscular dystrophy. He has used a wheelchair since age 13 and has limited arm movement. His reward is in the finished product.

"When you see something finished, you think, "Man, now that looks good,' and you don't think about (the work) so much anymore," he said.

Since his teen-age years, Cason has been a doodler, drawingaliens or a panicky cat falling into a pen of dogs and such. The 27-year-old from Ocala took up painting three years ago to fill his time, he said.

His only lessons were watching a couple of episodes of a PBS series on painting that provided tips on such techniques as creating shadows or reflections in water.

His paintings are landscapes, such as snow-capped mountain ranges or saw grass and palmetto marshes. Most are done in oil. None depict actual places. They range in price from $90 to $200.

"That's what I like a lot," he said, "doing landscapes, and snow and stuff that I've never seen the way I would think it would be, or hope it would be."

Cason said he would like to improve his technique so it is less exhausting for him to paint. Because of the muscular dystrophy, he almost cannot paint as large a canvas as he could a year ago, he said.

Completing a painting takes a little longer now, "which is fine with me," he said. "I ain't going anywhere." Working off and on, he spends about two days on a painting.

The artist also wants to develop his ability. "I'd like to see something of mine hanging in a museum someday," he said, "with people gawking and looking."