World-renowned artist Wyland is known for his aquatic murals, sculptures and paintings, all with an underlying meaning of water conservation.

“I grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes in Michigan, I am a Cancer which is a water sign and while growing up my life dream was to be like Jacques Cousteau,” Wyland said.

Wyland is in Key West for Ocean Fest this weekend, painting and auctioning off paintings for MOTE Marine Laboratories to continue its mission of restoring corals and saving the reef. When Wyland speaks of what MOTE is doing, his voice rings with excitement because its mission dovetails with his own.

“The Wyland Foundation is all about water conservation. Water is the source of all life on the planet and there is a limited supply,” said Wyland. “Nearly a million people die every year from water-related illnesses.”

Positive and optimistic, Wyland said he sees his message and others’ about saving and protecting water becoming the dominant way of thinking. And it starts with the kids. At almost every event Wyland attends, he interacts with the kids by inviting them up to the easel to paint alongside him. Over the years, a million-plus kids have learned painting and conservation tips from Wyland, as he travels the globe reaching out to the youth.

“It is always nice to see what kids are painting; it shows what they are thinking,” he said. “I try to encourage them to be ambassadors.”

Wyland’s career as a marine artist started out with the simple intention to paint 100 all murals all over the globe. He finished the last during the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the project took him 27 years to complete. His newest goal is to sculpt 100 statues to be placed in 100 cities — 10 of them underwater. Oh, and he has a small interest, too, in painting underwater.

Recently he completed an underwater portrait of his hero Jacques Cousteau. Being the master diver he is, Wyland is more than comfortable in scuba gear 60 feet below the surface.

“I think I am going to do more painting underwater,” said Wyland.

To find more about Wyland’s non-profit go to Meet the artist at Ocean Fest, Saturday, April 4 at Truman Waterfront in Key West.

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