DERBY — Jason Jewett was one of those kids who grew up drawing all the time, sometimes letting it interfere with his schoolwork and being told he’d never make a living as an artist.
It turns out, he has, in the field of airbrushing. Jewett started RedHouse Custom Paint in Derby in 2005, earning a name here and elsewhere for his designs. This weekend, he’s adding another element to his business – classes for people who want to learn or improve airbrushing skills.
“People said, ‘You’re going to have like five or six students to start,’ ” he said. “We’ve signed up 20 students, and we have people coming from Vancouver, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Lincoln, Neb.; Hutchinson; Wellington; Chanute; Derby and Wichita.”
Jewett credits a Derby high school teacher, Roger Scovell, for putting him on the road to success.
“I took as many airbrushing classes (from Scovell) as I could, starting in my freshman year,” he said.
He got a job in the graphics department of Big Dog Motorcycles, and airbrushed other motorcycles in his spare time.
“I started out in the middle of the chopper craze. I was painting bikes like crazy,” he said. “It got to be where I was working 90 hours a week.”
The chopper demand cooled after he started RedHouse Custom Paint, but Jewett still does plenty of motorcycles (he just finished one for Biker’s Edge that featured the likenesses of Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen), murals and “just about anything that’ll sit still.”
Thanks to an aunt’s connection, Jewett has twice been hired to airbrush costumes for shows in Las Vegas.
He’s made connections at the annual Specialized Equipment Marketing Association convention held in that city, too. The gathering, which attracts the nation’s top airbrushers, inspired Jewett to develop his specialty, which is working without templates or reference materials such as photographs (although he will if, say, someone wants a portrait of a loved one).
“If someone comes in and says, ‘I want a pinup girl with a skull next to her,’ I can do that with no reference material whatsoever,” he said.
That’s one of the things Jewett will be teaching in his advanced airbrushing classes.
“It’s really a confidence-building thing,” he said.
Jewett will also teach beginning classes.
“The mechanical skills are the biggest hurdle,” he said. “I’ve had lot of people say, ‘My son is a great drawer.’ You may be, and you can carry those skills over, but once you pick up an airbrush it’s a totally different animal.”
The introductory four-hour class costs $100. The two-day, 16-hour advanced session is $350. Jewett is holding the classes in his shop, helped in part by sponsorships from manufacturers of airbrushing equipment. Students will practice on aluminum panels.
One of his students is Scovell, who is taking the master class.
“He’s a great guy; we’ve been friends for 20 years,” Jewett said.