A man as straightforward, cryptic as his paintings

Introducing: Made in Maine minis. A place for me to feature people I’m not able to get full posts out of — for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re shy, video-opposed and private. Maybe they’re from regular assignments that I wish I’d scooped my coworkers on. (Think behind-the-scenes and shots left on the cutting room floor). Maybe they’re people I bumped into while far away from my camera gear. It’s a catch all for all those times I have photos, videos and/or interviews of people who make things but don’t feel like it’s enough for a full-fledged Thursday feature.

It’s a place for artists like David Shepard.

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David, looking supremely uncomfortable as I manage to secure permission to take one photo with him in it. “For size comparison!” I pleaded, and he obliged.

I met David when I went to his house to do a story on his partner, Tamara Duff, who makes beautiful stained glass creations in a small room at the front of their Ellsworth home. When I initially reached out, Tamara suggested that I might also want to do a piece on David. A kind of two-for-one trip. I was game, but David was skeptical. (I believe he’ll find this a fair assessment.)

When I saw David’s paintings online I thought they were really nice — but there’s something about seeing them in person, in their full-fledged MASSIVE glory, that makes them gorgeous. The photographs on his website also don’t do much justice to the texture of the pieces. I got out my gear and asked David if he was ready to do a post; he balked. No, no thank you. No video. No photos.

Some artists want to remove themselves from the portrayal of their works. They are private about what inspires them and the idea of having somebody photograph them while they work is… uncomfortable. I can completely understand this; I completely remove myself from my photo and video content. Plus, I often joke with my subjects, “It’s not every day you have paparazzi following you around!” But I loved his stuff, so after a bit of back and forth we both agreed that I should still do something to share it. Hence, mini-posts.

“Why so BIG?” I asked him, a grin plastered across my face and my arms spread out wide in the middle of his sunny studio.

“Bigness is fun,” he said simply. And then he paused, smiled slyly and looked away. “But it’s kind of a pain in the ass.”

I laughed. He smiled again. “Then why keep doing it?” I pressed.

“I tried to go back to small. It didn’t work.”

Mostly David paints seascapes, waves and other things inspired by years of sailing. But he also paints flowers, abstracts, deserts, mountains — anything he wants. Anywhere the canvas takes him. He paints for himself and if it sells, it sells. Often times he and Tamara will keep things for their home; his paintings cycle through empty spaces (although almost every wall has something.) Tamara took me on a little tour and you could tell when a painting had recently made it’s way out because of the emptiness it left behind.

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When I asked him why he paints, David shrugged and said, “This is what I do. I’ve always done this.”

Straightforward — yet still a bit cryptic. A mystery. That’s David. And in a way, I think, that’s reflected in his paintings.

 

Micky Bedell

About Micky Bedell

I love listening to people talk about their outlets for creativity. I love watching them work. When you meet someone who has a real, undeniable passion for something, and they put their heart and soul into it, it's easy to show that in photos and videos. I've worked in Vermont, Upstate New York, Western Massachusetts and now Maine. Rural New England holds my heart and soul.