Diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after his birth, Keplinger lacks fine motor control over his limbs and so he uses his head to paint.
Growing up in Parkville and attending Parkville High School before heading to Towson University, he's had his share of naysayers. But he's overcome the odds to become a nationally renowned artist.
It all started when he made the transition to Parkville High School—at the time, Keplinger said, Parkville was the only mainstream school that would have him. It also employed an art teacher who believed in him.
"I was always into art," Keplinger said. But, in his own words, it was a Parkville High School art teacher, Mr. Swerts, who introduced him to fine art and helped him expand his ability.
"I've always had the head stick," Keplinger said, referring to the tool he uses to create his art. "But [Swerts] helped me figure out how to use it to do different mediums."
Coming back to the school where he got his start after nearly 20 years, Keplinger said, was like a homecoming.
"My first year here, I only had one art class. By my senior year, I'd spend five periods in the art room and painting in the hallway," Keplinger said. "I wonder if under these new floors you'd find some of my paint."
His journey hasn't always been easy—Tricia Lane, a current Parkville High School art teacher, went to Towson University and was in classes with Keplinger. Lane said that the Drawing 101 professor she and Keplinger shared didn't have faith in either one of them as artists.
Keplinger told students Thursday morning that that professor actually told him not to come back to class on the first day—naturally, he disobeyed and now holds two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree from the school.
Now, after years of living in Towson, Keplinger and his wife Dena are planning a move back to the neighborhood where he grew up.
"We're actually going to open a vintage thrift store on Joppa Road," Dena said. "It's going to be a step up from Goodwill—it's about encouraging creative thinking, high quality, a sense of humor and fun for everyday life."
"I'll also have a place for my artwork there," Dan said.
The store, which the couple plans to call Flock, is expected to open at 1826 E. Joppa Road in the near future.
On a tour of the school, guided by Lane and sophomore class advisor Lexa Newman, Keplinger stopped by art classrooms to chat with students who were eager to show him their work.
His advice to them?
"Just enjoy the serenity of making art."