Maurice Spector: Self-Taught Painter and Sculptor

Maurice Spector stands outside his sculpture shop and shows off a current work-in-progress. Photo by Adolphus Ames.

By Adolphus Ames –

Pungoteague resident Maurice Spector is one of the most prolific self-taught artists on the Eastern Shore. His work consists primarily of watercolor paintings and sculptures made of cherry, oak, and walnut wood.

“I work every single day,” Spector said. “I get up in the morning and I’m in my wood shop until 11:30. Then I turn on the fans in the house and draw in pen and ink and paint. I’ve got really good discipline. I create sea creatures. I like flowers, vegetables, women, and horses too.“

Spector, born in Philadelphia and raised in various states across the East Coast, has been surrounded by artists all his life. “Most of my friends were artists including my ex-wife,” he said. “I wasn’t an artist back then. When I was young I joined the army. I also used to be a freelance photographer in New York City and once upon a time I was a furniture maker in Florida.”

He didn’t become an artist until he moved back to the Shore. “I was about 50 years old then,” he said. “I was working in a shop on Onancock Creek when a woman came in and saw some of the drawings and sketches I had lying around. She suggested I start painting and shortly afterwards I began finishing my drawings and transforming them into finished paintings.”

Spector is influenced by several renowned artists, including 20th century European sculptors Henry Moore and Marino Marini. “I also like Leonard Baskin,” he said. “He’s had a strong influence on me the last few years. I also admire Saul Strindberg. He created a lot of whimsical drawings for the New Yorker. Strindberg’s imagination was unbelievable.”

Spector’s work doesn’t mimic his influences. It bears his own unique style. “Everything I create is dealt with in a different way,” he said. “Whatever interests me in the moment has an influence on what I create. I don’t just sculpt or paint reality. I’m interested in what my imagination sees and my own personal interpretation of reality. I like to transcend reality.”

He also has a taste for gothic and spiritual phenomena. Spector’s house resides near an old plantation cemetery that dates back several centuries. It has served as a source of inspiration for some of his work.

“I’m interested in death and spirits because it’s part of our existence,” he said. “Pungoteague is one of the oldest English settlements in the country. I’m fascinated by the spirits that live in the cemetery. I speculate about their stories and experiences.”

Spector’s advice for aspiring and beginning artists is to find a way to continue working. “You should complete what you start even if you don’t like it,” he said. “Afterwards, put it away and review it later with a fresh pair of eyes. Your opinion of it could possibly change. Every project is a learning experience.”

Spector’s work can be found at Timothy Smith & Son’s antique shop in Onancock and at Stravitz Sculpture & Fine Arts Gallery in Virginia Beach.

For more information on Maurice Spector and his artwork, visit his website at

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