I think one of the most dangerous things for an artist is to become satisfied with what you're doing.
CEDARVIEW, Duchesne County — A.D. Shaw has never been to China, but some of the paintings he created in his home studio have.
One of his pieces has also been presented to President George H.W. Bush as a housewarming gift after Bush left office and bought a home in Houston. Another was selected to hang in the office of Elder Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Shaw said.
"The (LDS) Church Museum called me one day and said, 'Of all the general authorities, who would you like to have select your art for their office,'" Shaw recalled. "I immediately said, 'Boyd K. Packer.' They said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because he's an artist and I respect his opinion.'"
Shaw ascended to his place as one of Utah's top painters — he received the Governor's Mansion Art Medallion in 1997 from then-Gov. Michael Leavitt and has taken top honors at a number of prestigious art competitions — from relatively humble beginnings.
Born in Kansas, Shaw moved to the Uintah Basin as a boy and grew up on the family farm in Duchesne County. He initially pursued a career in graphic design, working first for the Utah Education Association and then the Jordan School District.
"At some point, that wasn't enough," Shaw said. "I always wanted to be a gallery painter."
So, in the late 1970s he began to study under renowned Utah painters Kathryn Stats and Ken Baxter.
"And Ken, one night, says, 'Hey, I've taught you all I can teach you; go and do it,' " Shaw said. "And a year later I quit my job and I've been doing this ever since."
"This" has involved painting up to 100 works of art each year that range from vivid depictions of Utah landscapes to scenes from the farm life that Shaw knew as a boy to portraits of early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like Joseph Smith.
"Church scenes are probably my passion" said Shaw, who served a service mission for the LDS Church painting several works of art that now hang inside some of the faith's temples.
Shaw's commercial pieces are on display in Salt Lake City's Southam Gallery and Park City's Coda Gallery, as well as in galleries in Arizona, California and Oregon. Some of his work was also included in the "Out West: The Great American Landscape" exhibit, which toured China in 2007 and featured the work of seven of Utah's best painters.
At age 87, Shaw said he has yet to paint what he would consider his masterpiece, adding that he learns something new every time he picks up a paint brush.
"I think one of the most dangerous things for an artist is to become satisfied with what you're doing," Shaw said. "Once that happens, then your progress is gone."
As for his decision to leave the art-friendly Wasatch Front in 1995 to set up his home and studio on a remote hilltop that was once part of the family farm, Shaw has no regrets.
"I consider myself very blessed that I'm out here," he said. "Instead of hearing the airplanes going over, like it was in West Valley City, I can listen to the meadowlarks. That's a pretty good trade up."
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