About Charles H. Shaw

Charles Shaw grew up in the Boston area and went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1968 to study art. He sold a half dozen paintings as an undergraduate and had his work in a couple of shows. One of his professors even told him, “You’re a painter.”

But Shaw did not continue painting. “It’s not something I pursued hard enough. I had to go earn a living.”

In the late 1980s he purchased a wooden school built in 1830 in Northfield; in 2001 he and his wife, Virginia Toole, moved to Southern California when the youngest of their six children went to graduate school. They returned in 2009, and he began his “Old School” clothing line, named for the old school he lives in again.

But several years ago Shaw—who told his story wearing a green “Old School” T-shirt and camouflage shorts—decided to put the clothing line on hold and focus on his art. “It was a lot of lugging,” he said of the clothing business, explaining that he has had two hip replacements.

A member of the Northfield Kiwanis Club, Shaw uses the cafeteria-kitchen area in the old school building as his studio. American painter and printmaker Jasper Johns, African art and “native type of art” inspire him, and he enjoys visits to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.

A former operations manager for a chain of surf shops and clothing outlets, Shaw is a landlord and a Meals on Wheels driver who sports a grey beard. Asked how he defines himself—and if “Old School” defines him—he replied, “I don’t know. I’ve got long hair and stuff. I’m still working on it.”