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artist bioRobert Lyn Nelson

Imagine that you are swimming in the turquoise waters of Hawaii. Unencumbered by snorkels or scuba gear, you glide through branches of coral, while all around you darts abundant sea life. Dark shapes slide between shafts of sunlight that pierce the ocean's surface from above. Just as you breach the surface, you are, for an instant, suspended between two different worlds.

The quest to communicate that unique moment led Robert Lyn Nelson to perfect a whole new artistic viewpoint, creating, in the process, the modern marine art movement. At 38, Robert Lyn Nelson is the recognized founder of the "two worlds" school of art and is celebrated internationally for his achievements and innovations in a genre that is widely copied. His journey to the top of his field has been achieved through discipline, devotion, and innate talent.

Nelson began drawing at the age of three. By age four, he was considered a child prodigy, and was already experimenting with the mixed media of chalk and watercolor. At age seven, he discovered the versatility of acrylics. This medium allowed him to control his studies of perspective and light. It was during this period that his work began to evolve into its present unique style.

An equally important event in the artist's life occurred soon after. A native of Southern California, Nelson had always spent weekends and summers at the beach with his family. But when he was eight, he learned to surf. Thus began a lifelong love affair with the ocean.

"In learning to ride the waves, I also learned to respect the ocean...to feel its pulse with all five of my senses, and to feel its spirit at an extra-sensory level. It was a blend of magic and realism that I wanted to communicate in my paintings," says Nelson. And so, young Nelson began a serious self initiated study of old and contemporary masters. He learned the subtleties of oil paints, the mysteries of chiaroscuro, and the intricacies of composition. While still only thirteen years old, his diligence was rewarded with offers of art scholarships from two California colleges.

While still in high school, Nelson pursued his art studies at Chaffey College and Mount San Antonio College. His instructors remember him as a student with a deep and sincere interest in the ocean and a driving obsession with painting. One of his instructors recalls "His talent was immediately apparent. He was sure, fast, and amazingly gifted. He absorbed information almost immediately with a grasp that often surpassed my own. I only had the pleasure of being his teacher for two years, but they were my most rewarding years as a teacher."

In addition to his academic achievements, Nelson also experienced commercial success quite early. At fifteen, he participated in his first public showing and sold nearly everything he exhibited. At seventeen, he held his first one man exhibition.

In the 1970's, Lahaina, Maui was crackling with creative energy. Artists from around the world, attracted by the magnetic lure of warm, blue waters and clear blue skies, were flocking to the island. It was also the Winter home of the humpback whales, fighting valiantly against impending extinction. It was here, drawn by his love of the sea, that Nelson finally settled in 1977, and here that he began to develop his bold new school of fine art.

"I wanted to paint the precise sensation of being in two universes at once. I could see it when I went diving. I wanted to share it with the world. At the time there was nothing like it. Nothing," Nelson says.

In December of 1979, Nelson released his landmark painting, entitled "Two Worlds". So exciting was the concept in both perspective and personal style, that imitators quickly arose. Gallery owner Jim Killett explains "Nelson perfected the two worlds concept, made it popular, and in the course, spawned dozens of mimics including a few who are generally interested in bringing something good to the genre. The difference, of course, is that Nelson is the only artist who didn't have to learn to paint like Robert Lyn Nelson."

Nelson, however, was already racing ahead, expanding his own vision, disregarding artistic convention, and gaining international status as an artist with something important to say. He began to create a "super reality", adding new dimensions to his sub-marine landscapes.

"Two great frontiers remain for earthbound men, the ocean and the mind. The ocean is being systematically destroyed before we've even had a chance to discover its beauty. By going beyond the traditional subjects and incorporating visions, dreams, and personal experiences in my paintings, I could create new realms of perception...a meeting of the two frontiers," Nelson explains.

Always dynamic, Nelson has continued to blaze new trails, but never at the expense of artistic integrity. Expanding on his earlier vision of multi-environmental perspectives, Nelson has incorporated elements of the universe into yet another widely copied body of work which has come to be known as the "three worlds" school. Having explored impressionist techniques for many years, Nelson mounted the extremely successful "Season of Light" landscape exhibition early in 1992, adding yet another group to his already significant list of collectors.

Most recently, Nelson has begun to release innovative non-representational works that, while echoing cubist and futurist sensibilities, are none the less uniquely his own. These extremely colorful works, filled with movement, promise to take the artist's work in ground breaking new directions.

What unifies Nelson's body of work is painstaking perfectionism. He often takes months to complete a single painting, however, "Technique by itself results only in a beautiful but lifeless reflection," Nelson contends, adding that a true work of art is "full of ideas, attitudes, opinions, beliefs, observations, and emotions. It glows with its own inner light. I believe in a magical spark that brings great paintings to life."

A dedicated environmentalist, Nelson believes that the conservation of our land and sea is a major issue of our times. Through his work, he hopes to increase awareness of the dangers facing the environment and all its inhabitants including man. Since the beginning of his career, Nelson has felt compelled to give back something to the source of his inspiration. For nearly fifteen years, scores of environmental organizations and causes have benefited from the artist's philanthropic efforts.

"I am honored when conservationists applaud my work, or when another painter is inspired to support environmental groups. The greatest thrill, however, is when my images change an attitude. Each of us is responsible for the future of our planet." Nelson accepts this responsibility and is an active conservationist and a member of countless organizations such as The Cousteau Society, Greenpeace, Pacific Whale Foundation, Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, Save the Manatee Club, Friends of the Sea Otter Club, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the World Wildlife Fund.

A partial list of beneficiaries for which he has helped to raise or personally donated over one million dollars in funds includes the Waikiki Aquarium, Hawaii Maritime Museum, Seattle Aquarium, Earth Island Institute, The Cousteau Society, Steinhart Aquarium, and Vancouver Aquarium.

His collectors constitute a Who's Who of notable governmental figures, actors, entertainers, and sports figures. The former President Ronald Reagan owns a Nelson painting, as well as King Tupon IV of Tonga. His works can be found in major museums and numerous corporate collections worldwide.

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