A Broad, Colored Landscape for Enfield-Based Artist

  • David Tibbetts

Special to the Valley News
Published: 12/16/2017 10:56:32 PM
Modified: 12/16/2017 10:56:33 PM

 Outdoor artist David Tibbetts, 80, can't recall a time when he wasn't drawing. Growing up in Holliston, Mass., Tibbetts always had a pencil or a brush in hand. After he graduated from high school in the 1950s, his interest in art led him to enroll in in Boston’s Vesper George Art School, where he studied fine arts and graphic design.

While he was studying, Tibbetts did freelance work for an advertising agency. When he graduated, he was offered a full-time job but he turned it down.

That’s because he wanted to open his own design business in the burgeoning industry of advertising.

Like most aspiring artists, Tibbetts found the early going to be difficult. During the day he would pound the pavement, trying to hustle up clients. At night, he worked busing tables and washing dishes at a steakhouse. He needed the income to support his wife, Julie, whom he had met in school, and their new baby.

Tibbetts had an interesting approach to cold calling potential advertising clients. Along with his portfolio, he took with him small pots of violets that he gifted to the receptionist on duty. He would then request five minutes of the boss's time. The strategy worked and eventually he had enough clients to give up his night job.

His studio took off, producing designs for catalogs and company logos. When he decided to retire, he handed the reins to his son. The business is still going strong today under the name Tibbetts and Tibbetts.

In the late ‘60s, Tibbetts decided that Massachusetts was getting too crowded. He made up his mind to move the family to a less populated area somewhere in northern New England. But he didn't want to relocate until he was sure he could make a living in the north country.

So he came up with an idea to advertise himself.

“I sent out a direct mailer that pitched my business to potential clients,” he recalls. “The strongest response came from within a fifty mile radius of Hanover.”

Soon after he had moved to the Upper Valley, Tibbetts landed his first account. At the time Joy Manufacturing was a large business located in Claremont. After one interview, Joy hired him to handle its advertising.

He also went on to found State Puzzle with his friend Steve Richardson, a business that he left in the late ‘90s. State Puzzle is still in business and paying royalties to Tibbetts.

So how did Tibbetts make the transition from advertising to painting outdoor scenes of fishermen wading in trout streams?

“I've always painted and always fished, so to me it was a natural direction to go,” Tibbetts said.

Of course, it helped that he came from a family steeped in a tradition of outdoor sports. In the late 19th century, his great grandfather was a fishing guide in Maine. His father and his grandfather were also among the first to establish sporting camps in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine, at least until the Great Depression forced them to move back to Massachusetts to find work.

Though Tibbetts had studied fine arts, he considers himself to be self-taught when it comes to his watercolors of the scenic outdoors. His “fishingscapes” of New England show anglers in every imaginable setting. He captures the magic of fly fishing on regional ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. His impressionistic characters wade in brooks or fish from canoes and drift boats.

Tibbetts has also published four books: Tight Lines, a 128 page collection of his watercolors, A Journey on the End of a Fly Rod and two books for children, What Use is a Moose? and A Bear With No Hair. His paintings have appeared in Fly Fishing magazine, Maine Fish and Wildlife and The Hatch Guide for New England Streams by Thomas Ames, Jr.

In addition to the books and watercolors Tibbetts has developed greeting cards and prints of his original paintings. His work has been featured all over the country in shows that include the Trout Unlimited National Convention and the L.L. Bean Fall Art Festival. His paintings hang in the American Museum of Fly Fishing, Rangeley Region Heritage Trust and the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum.

With such an impressive resume, one might expect Tibbetts to affect an aura of self importance that is often displayed by pretentious artistic types. In person, however, he is cordial, humble and soft spoken. He seems content to simply let the work stand on its own.

Tibbetts lives in New London and maintains a gallery and office in Enfield, located in a building behind the Great Stone Dwelling at the Shaker Museum.

He welcomes visitors in the morning but requests that interested parties call first to make an appointment.

Tibbetts can be reached at 603-632-7575 or his work can be viewed at his website, www.dbtwatercolors.com.

Coleman Stokes can be reached at stokescoles@gmail.com.



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