Jason Care is a contemporary artist living in Shepherdstown (WV). He creates original and commissioned medium- to large-sized acrylic canvas paintings. If you’re familiar with Shepherdstown, then there’s a good chance you’ve seen Care’s work either hanging in a local business, restaurant, or within a larger show. He often captures the essence of a local moment, group, or landscape in a way that simply gives a viewer pause, and then takes them on a friendly interpretive adventure of sorts.

Currently celebrating the long-awaited launch of his website, and in many ways, the official designation of a career as a working artist, Care’s path to the present, as well as his work, has been shaped by more than just passion.

His interest in the arts began at an early age. “I can remember the smells and textures from the art supplies as a young person, and the thrill it still gives me today to smell oil pastels—and to feel the coarseness of newsprint,” he emphasized. “After my first year of grade school in the rural town of Brunswick (MD), I had the good fortune of being educated by a very observant young teacher named Linda Pruitt.”

Under Pruitt’s guidance, Care was able to explore a wide variety of techniques and methods—and at the age of just five, began painting at a summer camp in the basement of the local Episcopal church. But his parents differed in opinion on his future.

“My love for the arts has always been a quiet affair—as it did not fit my father’s hopes and dreams for an ideal career path,” he said. “Thankfully, my mother had different ideas, and intended on having me fulfill my destiny in the arts from the very onset.”

In so many ways, Care’s mother saw the arts as a way out (of the small town) for him, and a possible means to an education beyond what anyone in their family had ever achieved. “She sensed my natural abilities, and was also forced to nurture this gift in secret against my father’s will,” he added. “It was, in fact, my mother’s belief in my talents at that young, impressionable age of five, and her infinite encouragement, that inspired me to embrace the craft—and it continues to be the driving force that motivates me to this day.”

Care continued on his path, studying photography, drawing, painting, and any other media he could get his hands on throughout high school. And at the advice of his art teacher (a lifelong friend of his parents), Theresa Blickenstaff, he enrolled at her alma mater, Shepherd College, to pursue a BFA in photography in the early nineties.

A Twist of Fate

But shortly after beginning his college journey in pursuit of a career in the arts, Care lost his biggest supporter. “At thirty-nine, my mother’s life tragically ended in a car accident—in which I also suffered extensive injuries and numerous setbacks,” he explained. “After missing nearly two months of the fall semester, I chose to stay the course, and went back to school to try and salvage what was left. I eventually failed every course except for one that semester, and was held accountable by Shepherd, who refused to give me academic relief—instead opting to put me on probation, and eventually suspension.”

Without a doubt, it became clear to Care that the road to becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college would be extremely complex. “Never mind pursuing a career in the arts; after having lost it all at age nineteen, my life seemed to be over.”

But fortunately for Care, painting was more than just a talent. It ultimately became his savior. “Having lost the financial backing and support of my family, and after being stripped of any student loan or financial aid options due to this horrific event that seemed to split my life in two, I was forced to take matters into my own hands,” he described. “After serving my suspension, I was able to afford one class in the fall of 1997. It turned out to be a life-saving affirmation. The Painting I class taught by Sonya Evanisko truly saved my life, my college career, and eventually, my artistic future.”

At Evanisko’s urging, Care quickly changed from a concentration in photography to painting. “Taking a few classes a semester for several years, I was able to chip away at what seemed like a very daunting task,” he said. “And while working full-time in various dead-end restaurant jobs, I was able to toil away at night to create what has become my style of painting—but more importantly, my saving grace. Without painting in my life, I fear for where I’d be or what I would have become.”

Until recently, Care explained that his work has maintained a secretive, underground feel—likely a result of always taking a back seat to some uninspiring job that left him feeling empty inside, while struggling to make the mortgage payment. But he managed to keep his eyes on the horizon, and he’s finally beginning to see a productive path forward.

“I always believed that my artwork would make a change, and now I have the chance to make that happen,” he noted. “With some recent Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing treatments to help process the scene of the accident from over twenty years ago, as well as some well-needed physical therapy for numerous untreated injuries, I’ve begun to move past the panic-stricken anxiety attacks that have prevented me from fulfilling my destiny for two decades.

“And through the continued support of a wonderful cast of townspeople, I’ve been able to move forward in my life with a much greater understanding of the importance of community. Life being what it is, through my own unique experiences, I’ve branded a style of work that falls into line with the rest of art history, and echoes Picasso, van Gogh, and Matisse.”

Remaining true to the local subject matter has allowed Care to include what he describes as the wonderful people of an amazing community. “It’s a narrative woven into every J. Care Original painting.

“The work itself has been well received by the community—just as I was many years ago … even when I found myself up against a wall with nowhere left to hide. With the unveiling of this new website, I want to extend my deepest thanks to the people of Shepherdstown for always being there for me. I plan on continuing the series for as long as I am able to create.”

— Find Jason Care’s original work at the above links, as well as on Facebook.  

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