David Shields

David Shields was born in Florida, but grew up in California. He served in the United States Air Force for twenty-two years before retiring in 2006.

Shields has been a doodler since the eighth grade, but when a teacher told him he had a good eye, that was all the motivation he needed. He began taking art classes in junior high. During his freshman year of high school, he took a graphics arts class of which photography was an integral part and photography quickly became his passion. Shields says that while his peers were saving for cars, he was saving for a view camera system. He spent $1,000 on his first view camera system, a system he still owns. By his senior year Shields says, “It was all about art. I was even the art teacher’s assistant!”

In 1990, Shields was deployed to Saudi Arabia as a medical technician. He started drawing while in country. Therapy for him began there. “People would send over books and magazines and I would draw from them,” he says. “When the war started, I found relaxation in art.” Shields was stationed in Germany after Saudi Arabia and it was while he was there that he had a dream of a finished painting. He awoke determined to make that happen.

In 2007, Shields returned to school to become a social worker. He moved to Johnson City to finish his Master’s Degree at East Tennessee State University. In August 2013, he met Jason Sabbides at a Veteran’s Center Art Show in downtown Johnson City; Jason was a juror and David was a participant. This chance meeting would lead to their collaboration and by December of that year the Warrior’s Canvas was ready for their inaugural art show. In the summer of 2014, the gallery was opened with the idea to one day expand and offer art classes for veterans and their families. This too has come to fruition in the form of a variety of workshops offered by talented and eager volunteers.

When speaking of the Warrior’s Canvas and the apprehension that often comes with first steps in art, Shields says, “It doesn’t matter if you can draw a straight line or really don’t ever pursue anything with art, it’s about the process. Just come in and activate the other side of your brain and let the weary side rest. Let the worries and troubles go away for a bit. This is a chance to relax and solve some problems by seeing a different perspective. So, no matter your skill level, just come out and give it a try.”