Robert Wyland

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Wyland in 2019
Wyland painting a mural on a former military barracks now part of the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge
Wyland's signature on a mural at the Long Beach Arena

Wyland (born July 9, 1956) is an American artist and conservationist best known for his more than 100 Whaling Walls, large outdoor murals featuring images of life-size whales and other sea life to call attention to the plight of whales throughout the world.

Life and career[edit]

A native of Madison Heights, Michigan, Wyland began painting as a child and attended Detroit's Center for Creative Studies in the 1970s.[1] His 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.[2] In 1977 he moved to Laguna Beach and in 1981 painted his first The Whaling Wall mural on the large wall of a Laguna Beach hotel parking lot. This original 1981 mural was obliterated in 1996 when it was painted over in a property ownership dispute. Wyland re-created the mural at nearly the same location with painted ceramic tile in 1996, followed by a wall-mounted canvas addition in 2019 when he included the additional title Gray Whale and Calf.[3][4]

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 President) and to finance his Whaling Wall murals.[5][6] Wyland's largest ocean mural sets an international record of over three acres in area, on the exterior of the Long Beach Convention Center.[7][8] Wyland's 100th Whaling Wall was painted in Beijing in 2008.[9] His foundation has since expanded its work to include other environmental initiatives such as sponsorship of the National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation.[10][11]

By 1997, his commercial work (sold through Wyland Galleries LLC) and licensed merchandise sold at zoos and other outlets had become a multimillion-dollar business supporting both his galleries and his non-profit endeavors for the conservation of coasts and waterways.[12][13][14] His artwork has been featured on California and Florida specialty license plates as well as on a series of four United Nations stamps issued in 2010 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.[15][16]

In 2018, Norwegian Cruise Line launched their newest cruise ship, Norwegian Bliss. Wyland designed and painted a massive mural on the hull of the over 1,000-foot-long ship, featuring his trademark images of life-sized whales.[17][non-primary source needed]

Wyland lives in the Florida Keys, California, and Hawaii.[18]

Conservation and outreach[edit]

After spending the first half of his career focused on drawing attention to marine mammal conservation, Wyland, along with co-author and frequent environmental collaborator Steve Creech expanded the focus of the Wyland Foundation to raise awareness about issues affecting U.S. waterways, including urban runoff, nutrient pollution, and marine debris issues.[19] Among their work was the creation of a 1,000 square traveling clean water science center, featuring a 40-person onboard interactive movie theater, computer model simulations of region's affected by water pollution, and onboard running rivers.[20] "You can't protect one area of water without thinking about how we protect all of it, because it's all connected," Wyland said. "If you want to think about protecting our ocean, you have to think about what we're doing to our freshwater habitats. The lakes, the rivers, the streams, the ponds, the wetlands. It's all connected."


Wyland's pioneering efforts to create monumental artworks dedicated to marine life conservation pre-dated today's world of super graphics. At the height of his popularity, it was estimated that Wyland's artworks in cities around the world were seen by up to 1 billion people a year.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arrellano, Christopher (24 April 1993). "Artist In Town To Check Out His 'canvas'", pp. A1, A8. The Day. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  2. ^ Pinho, Faith E. (July 20, 2019). "Wyland returns his 'whaling wall' to its original spot in Laguna Beach". Los Angeles Times | Daily Pilot. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  3. ^ Benningfield, Damond. "Whaling Walls". Science and the Sea. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  4. ^ "Wyland Whaling Walls". Wyland Foundation. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  5. ^ Creech, Steve (June 2013). "Wyland: Artist and Conservationist"[dead link]. Arts and Activities.
  6. ^ Tobias, Lucy (25 October 2000). "Crowds Gather To Watch Artist At Work In Homosassa", pp. 1B and 6B. Ocala Star-Banner.
  7. ^ Boxall, Bettina (December 12, 1991). "Project: Art: City officials and renowned artist paint a deal to create the world's largest mural". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  8. ^ Connelly, Laylan (November 8, 2018). "Where's Wyland? Iconic, massive, marine." Orange County Register. Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  9. ^ ENS (27 June 2008). "Wyland to Paint 100th Whaling Wall Mural in Beijing". NBC New York. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  10. ^ City of Tucson (2014). "National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation". Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Sacramento aiming to win national water conservation challenge". KCRA. 2021-04-22. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  12. ^ Reese, Joel (30 September 1997). "Worshiping at the Whaling Wall His New Mural in Downtown Chicago Thrills His Fans, but Critics Say Wyland Is a Better Self-Promoter Than an Artist"[dead link] Daily Herald (Arlington Heights).
  13. ^ Pfister, Darlene (5 September 1997). "Artist Wyland creates whale of a mural". Star-Tribune.
  14. ^ "Wyland Foundation". Wyland Foundation. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  15. ^ Skirble, Rosanne (6 June 2010). "Marine Artist Receives Stamp of Approval". Voice of America. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  16. ^ Rosenblatt, Susannah (25 June 2008). "Artist's whale request causes a flap". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  17. ^ "Norwegian Cruise Line Reveals Wyland's Visionary Hull Artwork for Norwegian Bliss". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  18. ^ Connelly, Laylan (January 25, 2015). "Wyland offering art lessons for kids". The Orange County Register. p. Sports 11.
  19. ^ "January Marine Committee Meeting: Steve Creech, Executive Director, Wyland Foundation". Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  20. ^ "Interactive Wyland Clean Water Mobile Learning Center at Kissimmee lakefront today". Osceola News Gazette. Retrieved 2021-07-04.
  21. ^ "The Artist Who Challenges City Mayors to be Water-wise". Real Leaders. 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-07-04.

External links[edit]