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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Sikeston man rekindles passion for painting

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paul Ledbetter airbrushes a portrait.
SIKESTON -- Some prefer fishing or hunting, but for Paul Ledbetter, the best way to relax is by airbrush painting portraits.

The 60-year-old Sikeston man said his work with airbrushing began about five years.

"I've always been interested in portrait painting and oil painting and then I got into taxidermy, which required some airbrushing," Ledbetter recalled about how he picked up the hobby.

Ledbetter said he picked up painting in the seventh grade. He ended up in a program to attend art school, but he went into the service instead. When he completed that, he gradually got back into his art.

Ledbetter would work on projects as they appealed to him, he said.

"It's kind of when you've got the time and you've got the motivation to do it," Ledbetter said.

Most recently -- throughout the summer and winter when he's more likely to paint -- Ledbetter said he can be found in his shed where he has an easel set up with airbrushes, paints and compressors.

"I don't know what it is that draws me to it," Ledbetter said about airbrushing portraits.

Ledbetter estimated it takes him about five hours to complete a portrait. "I like to take my own pictures and go to somebody and talk to them about it first," Ledbetter said. "And if they let me (take their picture), I decide which one I like best."

Once Ledbetter has the photo, he will project it and scratch in on the poster board or canvas. Then he'll follow through with the paint, he said. Over the years, Ledbetter said he's painted small-scale portraits of about six of his co-workers in addition to other people in the community. The feedback has been positive, he said.

"A lot of times I don't get the reaction until they see it," Ledbetter said. "You can tell by their reaction what they think of it. That's what makes it worthwhile painting something. That makes your day."

Stan Pace is a co-worker of Ledbetter whose had his portrait made.

"He's fantastic," Pace said. "I've had him do a couple of personal items for me that I have at home."

Pace called Ledbetter's portraits of his co-workers, which hang in the workplace shop, "exact replicas. Hundreds visit the shop each year and many will comment on the great work Ledbetter does, Pace said.

"His work is a typical display of his character," Pace said. "Everything he does is on time, very honest. He's a likable guy and will do anything in the world for you. He's a 110 percent guy anytime you need him."

Ledbetter said he's not had requests from the public to airbrush portraits, but it's something he would consider -- maybe take it by a case-by-case basis.

For Ledbetter, his talent is just a hobby -- and a challenging one at that.

"You can sit there and think in your mind and sketch on board -- and there's a lot of challenges to it," Ledbetter said. "It's not something that comes easy. You just have to hack away at it."