David Marshall

 

See David Marshall Art Website

After earning a degree in computer science from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1984, I began work in the artificial intelligence unit of Martin Marietta in Denver, Colorado. I soon discovered painting, and did watercolors and pastels as a hobby. I spent almost all my free time copying paintings from library books. Soon, I felt that I needed to move back to the east coast to be closer to art museums, and accepted a software development position in Boston.

 

As I became serious about art, I took continuing education courses in pastels, oils, watercolors, and drawing, and eventually began studying painting at Massachusetts College of Art. I took figure drawing and painting classes with Paul Rahilly and graduate students of George Nick. Rahilly was especially helpful because he too had been an engineer and had left his career to become a painter. I began painting the urban/industrial landscape that surrounded my South Boston studio.

 

In 1991 I quit my software job, moved to New York City, and took up full-time study at the Art Students League. After a year, I was encouraged by painters I knew to seek an M.F.A. at Brooklyn College where I could study with Lennart Anderson. At Brooklyn College Lennart Anderson taught life painting and drawing with high artistic ideals. He helped me understand and appreciate the many varieties of visual experience that come from observation of nature. After many years of painting under other instructors, art seemed a little like a secret science which required the acquisition of knowledge such as naming all the muscles and knowing how they functioned, knowing how to glaze and scumble or using strange tools and techniques to achieve effects. Anderson brought painting back to something very natural. It came strictly from ones visual perception with a search for the beauty and poetry found in very simple things. In addition to this we looked at the paintings of the masters with a critical eye (rather than one of constant reverence). Andersons paintings in museums and galleries also set a very high standard of artistic achievement that I strive for to this day.

 

At both the Art Students League and Brooklyn College I received scholarships to help pay tuition, and I also worked part-time at various Wall Street investment banks as a software consultant. Two days a week I commuted to such firms as Lehman Brothers, Salomon Brothers, and Dillon Reed, all in beautiful high-rise office buildings with views over New York. In winter, I painted still lifes and portraits in my Brooklyn studio. In summer, I packed my lunch pail and went off to paint in Red Hook, where I had discovered an area rich in the industrial subject matter I loved. I painted underneath the Gowanus expressway, along crumbling docks overlooking defunct sugar refineries, and other vistas of urban blight.

 

In 1995, I moved to western Massachusetts where I sought a more pastoral landscape to paint. It was also my hope that I could teach art at one of the many colleges and universities in the area. I found, however, that faculty openings at these institutions were rare and required a level of teaching experience than I did not have. Rather than pursuing

a teaching job, I decided to focus on developing my own work. So I painted, and tried not to worry about how to make money doing art.

 

Over the years, I have held a few small art teaching jobs, including some private painting lessons, teaching life painting at a local art guild and filling in for a teacher at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. But to support myself Ive worked as a carpenter, gardener, and most of the time utilizing my skills as a software engineer. This has allowed me the time to make art without the burden of commercial concerns.

 

Eight years ago I began building intelligent tutoring systems within the computer science department at the University of Massachusetts. The software I design and build at UMass is used in classrooms to aid in instruction of many subject areas, including art history (see http://catnip.cs.umass.edu/rashi/giorgione-tempest for an overview of an inquiry-based learning module I built for a Renaissance art history course), biology, medicine, geology, forestry, 4th grade arithmetic, chemistry, and high school geometry. I oversee the work of both graduate and undergraduate students (from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds) who contribute to projects I lead. I enjoy teaching them the craft of designing and building software. Software design is not unlike design in other fields; it is a craft based on principles and involves a certain amount of aesthetics.

 

Over the eight years Ive been at UMass I have maintained a productive painting routine. Ive had several solo shows, and have been in many group shows in galleries in New York City, Philadelphia, and throughout New England. In Northampton, I have also helped to create The Oxbow Gallery, a venue for both local and nationally-renowned painters. I continue my own art education at UMass by auditing courses in art history.

 

My painting has progressed, and I have enjoyed my work at UMass, but I feel that I am in a job that is not my true calling. I would much rather instruct students in a studio than in a lab. Id rather be standing in front of an easel than sitting in front of a computer. Id rather talk about art than software. Although my own learning as a painter will never end, I now believe I have much to offer as a teacher of painting. I have begun, in earnest, to seek the opportunity to do so.