Douglass Ewell Parshall was born in New York City on November 19, 1899. As a child he began to draw under the guidance of his father, Dewitt. By age ten he was painting landscapes, and at fifteen he had one of his works exhibited at the National Academy of Design. He later studied briefly at the Art Students League in New York City, Académie Julian in Paris, the Boston Museum School, and with Frank M. Fletcher.
In 1917 he settled in Santa Barbara, California with his family and established a studio in Alexander Harmer's old adobe. Parshall traveled extensively seeking subject matter in the remote corners of the world. Using mixed media, his subject matter is very diverse including landscapes with figures, portraits, and horses.