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Arch D. Shaw

Arch D. Shaw was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1933. He is essentially a realist-figurative genre painter who also paints plein-air and studio landscapes. He lives in Duchesne, Utah.

Shaw studied art with Ken and Dan Baxter and with Earl Jones and associated with the Plein-Air Painters of Utah. He worked as a graphic designer, photographer, and cartoonist with the Jordan School District (1966–84).

Shaw has been a People's Choice Winner at a local art show, The Deseret News Art Show. His works are in numerous private collections, including that of former president George Bush.  Twice Told Tales (1993) and Ego Trip: Self-Portrait (1986) are part of the permanent collection of the Springville Museum of Art.

Biography adapted from Christy Karras' Salt Lake Tribune article. 

A. D. Shaw was born October 8, 1933, in Hutchinson, Kansas. He was raised on a farm in Montwell, Duchesne County, Utah. Although he moved to Salt Lake City in 1966 to work for the Utah Education Association and for the Jordan School District in the graphic arts department, his ties to Montwell have always remained strong. His rural upbringing has greatly influenced his work, giving much of his work a western bias.

From 1966 to 1984, part of A. D. Shaw's responsibilities included doing illustrations, cartooning, and photography. During these years, he was able to pursue painting only on a part-time basis. Finally in 1984, after working 20 years in the field of graphic design, Arch Shaw left Jordan School District to pursue a full-time career in the fine arts.

Today, no single subject dominates Shaw's paintings. He is a plein-air painter of western landscapes, a genre painter of today's western people, a studio painter of period subjects, and a cartoonist. He has enjoyed success as an artist and has shown his work in galleries throughout the western United States. (Plein air means painted outdoors. Plein air artworks are usually more immediate and impressionistic than studio-painted pieces. Genre paintings show normal people doing typical day-to-day activities.)

Arch Shaw has as wonderful sense of humor. He often shows his puckish nature in his paintings. In fact, this is readily seen in his painting Ego Trip: Self Portrait. (See the SMA web site) According to the author Steve Hale, “When members of Utah's art colony were asked to paint self-portraits for a show, Shaw obliged with one that portrays a rear view of himself at work. A mirror showing his profile painted with near photographic fidelity, and a full view of his 'self-portrait' on the easel.” The self-portrait is a cartoon. Shaw says he still is basically “ a cartoonist gone straight."

Shaw has a compulsion to paint, and keeps a tight schedule, starting work at his studio by 4 a.m. every morning. He keeps this demanding schedule because he loves the work although he also learned that kind of work habit growing up on a farm. “To be a decent artist, he believes, you need two things: a knowledge of the craft and the ability to paint from the heart. “ (Karras)

I have a little saying: If the painting is going well, you're having fun, and if you're having fun, the painting is going well. I think you have to maintain the emotion throughout the piece or else you lose it. (Karras)

Shaw's paintings of rural scenes are popular, probably because they remind viewers of quieter times and give them a sense of peace. "I used to think that people bought my farm scenes because they had a rural upbringing or had spent summers with grandparents, but I found out that wasn't always the case," Shaw said. "I found that a lot of people who've never had a lot of experience with it buy that particular genre because it represents some slowness, some peace in their life, an escape from the everyday hustle-bustle of city life."(Karras)

In Twice Told Tales, Shaw depicts three men, farmers, chatting during a break in their work day. The posture of the men tells viewers these men are old friends, comfortable with each other. The title, “Twice Told Tales” is more evidence of Shaw's humor, his understanding of rural life, and of people in general. This is the durable friendship of men with similar backgrounds, consecrated by the repetition of the stories of their everyday lives.

The composition of the painting contributes to the painting's sense of stability and peace. The three men form a triangle, two of the men facing each other while the third looks on. The farm equipment, the landscape, and the men's clothes place them in a typical Western scene. The lack of detail both allows viewers to generalize the scene to familiar territory and to experience the painting as a portrait of a way of life, not of specific people or places. The bare pathway and the gesture of the men create a strong visual interest and a sense of immediacy—viewers can place themselves in the middle of the stories.

Karras, Christy. “Shaw Paints Fastto Freeze a Vanishing West.“  Salt Lake Tribune, December 8, 2002.

Newspaper Article

"Zions Banks on Sporty Checks to Help Sell S.L. Olympics Bid." The Deseret News, April 4, 1991.


Dunbier, Roger, ed. North American Artists: The Artists Bluebook. Scottsdale, AZ: AskART.com, 2000.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Southwest Art. Southwest Art's Red Book Price Guide to Western American Art. Houston, TX: Cowles Enthusiast Media, 1990.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Paintings and Sculpture. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 1991.


Southwest Art. "Art Events." Southwest Art, February, 2001.


 Last Modified 4/1/20