Liberty Studios & the Aviation Art of John D. Shaw

Liberty Studios, the primary publisher of the aviation & military art of John D. Shaw, was established in 1994 in the central California town of Clovis, an hour south of spectacular Yosemite National Park. John’s career in commercial illustration & graphic design took a major turn in the early ‘90s, as his interest in World War II aviation began growing. Inspired by the work of artists such as William S. Phillips and Robert Taylor, he volunteered to create aviation artwork to promote various WWII aviation events in the area.

When a local Military Museum located at a former wartime primary trainer base just outside Fresno, CA planned to host the legendary Doolittle Raiders in 1993, John volunteered to create what was to become his first major WWII aviation piece.  He painted The Hornet’s Nest, to honor the Raiders and raise funds for the museum. Following this 1994 release, the enjoyment of working with these legendary veterans to create his painting, and the success achieved by the print, motivated John and his wife Keli to continue the Aviation Art endeavor by starting their own small publishing company. Thus was born Liberty Studios.

The love of this part of history and appreciation of those who made it, impelled John to research details of other great WWII units…legendary groups such as the AVG Flying Tigers, Black Sheep Squadron, Tuskegee Airmen, and 101st Airborne “Band of Brothers”, just to name a few, and establish relationships with many of its great representatives. People such as “Tex” Hill, Guenther Rall, Don Blakeslee, Richard Winters and many others, would be instrumental in assuring historical accuracy of Shaw’s scenes as they’d develop from concept sketches to final brushstrokes. The resulting paintings, many of which would become quickly sold-out lithograph editions, have enjoyed worldwide acclaim, and now sell for very desirable prices on the collectors’ Secondary Market.

In addition to his titles published through Liberty Studios, John has also created commissioned work for other publishers, organizations and individuals, involving historical personalities ranging from the original Mercury Astronauts to both Presidents George H.W. and George W.Bush. In the year 2000, the Shaws and Liberty Studios relocated to central Florida, continuing to publish not only multi-signature lithographs, but also a line of beautiful canvas giclee reproductions of many of John’s paintings, which are hand-retouched in oils by the artist himself, closely resembling the originals.

John Shaw’s work may be ordered directly from Liberty Studios, and is also available through many fine dealers throughout the U.S. and overseas.

About the Artist

John D. Shaw was born in 1961, and was raised in the wild west town of Carson City, Nevada. From as far back as he can remember, he was interested in creating visually exciting artwork. By the early ‘80s, Shaw had moved to central California, where he began his career in Illustration & graphic design. During this time, he created a wide variety of commercial artwork for numerous clients, among them Lucasfilms, Major League Baseball, Kellogg’s, and many others. In 1986, he married a pretty blonde Floridian named Keli, and the Shaws were soon on their way to starting a family. He now found himself creating a vast array of illustration and creative work in the now-booming entertainment software industry. While busily designing of all sorts of fictional characters, backgrounds, vehicles, spaceships, weaponry, military designs, etc, as well as the storyboarding, packaging and marketing art for these products, Shaw began longing to take his work in a more serious and personal direction…highlighting America’s great veterans, with a special interest in World War II Aviation Art.

Shaw: “It was around 1992 that this (WWII Aviation) interest, which had been kind of lying dormant for years, just couldn’t be ignored any longer! My Dad had been just a bit too young to see combat in World War II and had joined the Navy shortly before it ended, with the hopes of being a naval aviator. His enthusiasm about the romance and adventure of those days (and those great planes!) had always stuck with me. I had recently seen for the first time the beautiful paintings of artists like William S. Phillips, R.G. Smith, Robert Taylor and a few others, and was absolutely inspired. I feel as if a “Still, Small Voice” was urging me to pursue this type of art myself, not only because of the images, but also for a chance to meet some of the amazing guys who made this history and maybe even help to continue their legacy in some small way. I had little knowledge of the world of Aviation Art, let alone how to market it, but that was okay…at this point it was just a labor of love, and I had no idea where it might lead.

I’ve considered it one of the greatest privileges of my life to have had the chance to work first-hand with guys who have become some of my greatest heros…Before starting a painting, I particularly love getting their input after showing them rough pencil sketches. Often, if you just ask them questions about their experiences, what you hear is pretty helpful, but when they have an actual visual sketch to look at, you really get some great things; stuff you’d never know just by reading a history book! The best part of all for me is showing them the finished painting. So often, it’s as if you can see a movie playing behind their eyes, as they relive those days, and they’re 20 years old again…What a blessing it is when they tear-up, amazed that people decades younger than them actually care and appreciate what they did all those years ago. Sad part is that so many of them are leaving us now so quickly. As long as the Lord allows me, I want to keep their stories alive as best I can, and art is such a great vehicle to do it!”

Over the years, many of Shaw’s historical aviation and military scenes have become some of the industry’s most sought-after and valuable lithograph titles. They’ve found their way into homes, offices and museums throughout all 50 states and a considerable number of foreign lands (one of the most remote of which is historic Wake Island!) Though most of his scenes are ones that he was personally inspired and motivated to paint, he also occasionally accepts commissioned pieces for individuals or other publishers. Since 2000, the Shaws and their 3 children have resided in North and Central Florida, next to some of the Atlantic’s greatest beaches, where John considers the tropical clouds, ocean, “big weather”, and close proximity to some great aviation history, to be ongoing inspiration for many great scenes to come.

About the Website

In addition to making artwork available for ordering, with the launch of this website we’ll be featuring changing articles on John’s work, both past and upcoming, personal comments about the paintings with behind-the-scenes info on their research and creation, info on the people they feature, as well as Artwork Specials and opportunities to give your own comments and input… So stay tuned!