Hawaii Artist Wyland at Work
A native of Madison Heights, Michigan, Wyland began painting as a child and attended Detroit's Center for Creative Studies in the 1970s. Wyland's connection with whales began when he was 14 on a visit with his family to Laguna Beach, California where he saw the ocean for the first time and witnessed several gray whales migrating down the California coast towards Mexico. In 1977 he moved to Laguna Beach and in 1981 painted the first of his 100 Whaling Walls at a Laguna Beach parking lot. By 1997, his commercial work (sold through 25 Wyland galleries) and licensed merchandise sold at zoos and other outlets had become a multimillion-dollar business. His artwork has been used on specialty license plates in California and Florida and for a series of four United nations stamps issued in 2010 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. In 1993, he founded the non-profit Wyland Foundation "to help children rediscover the wonder of the ocean through art" (according to Steve Creech, the foundation's Executive Director) and to finance his Whaling Wall murals. Wyland's 100th and final Whaling Wall was painted in Beijing in 2008. His foundation has since expanded its work to include other environmental initiatives such as sponsorship of the National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation.