David Laroche : Hello, my friend. I would like to introduce you to an amazing artist. We are in Laguna Beach, it’s an amazing place. I think I will live here. So I would like to introduce you to him, he is Wyland. He will answer my questions. So follow this interview. Hi.
Robert Wyland : Nice to see you. Thanks for coming to my home studio here in Laguna Beach.
David Laroche : I love it.
Robert Wyland : It’s a great spot and I’ll tell you, it’s a dream for me because when I was 14 years old, I grew up actually in Michigan, in Detroit. And my parents were auto workers. And so my aunt lived out here. So we did a roadtrip across all the United States. And we came here to Laguna Beach the first time. I saw this beautiful Pacific Ocean and I had dreamt about the ocean my whole life. So, when I came here, right over here, not too far from where I live now, I ripped off my clothes to my bathing suit and I jumped in the ocean, went under a wave, and I came up and two gray whales spouted right in front of me. And then their tails, their whale tails fluked up. And that literally changed my life and inspired me to be the artist I am today.
David Laroche : It’s great. You know it’s amazing because yesterday we did an interview with someone.
Robert Wyland : Me, too.
David Laroche : Yeah, a Canadian and he said the same thing. He just traveled to Laguna Beach and just loved it and decided to come here.
Robert Wyland : It reminds me of the French Riviera. I mean, it’s so beautiful, look at that. And I’m really fortunate, you know. Against all odds, an artist that grew up in Detroit, far away from the ocean but surrounded by the Great Lakes. So that’s my connection, really. I’m a water sign, I’m a Cancer, crab. And water has influenced everything in my life till this day. But I always wanted to come to California. I felt that my art reflected the kind of new things, new ideas and the environment which I was always passionate about; using my art to bring attention to protecting our oceans, our lakes, rivers, streams. To protect our planet. Because without a healthy planet, we don’t have anything. So, I got that message early. In the early 70s, they had the first Earth Day, Greenpeace. I remember hearing about a lake, a lake in Cleveland that actually caught on fire, or a river. And I went, “My goodness, what are we doing?” So, at that point I just kind of woke up at that moment and I said, “I’m going to do everything I can to use my art to bring attention to protecting our ocean planet.” And I felt very strongly that art could play a very important role. And it turns out it has.
David Laroche : So for you, the art, it is a way to fulfill your mission?
Robert Wyland : Yeah, I’m a pure artist. I’ve been painting since I was three and four years old. I started painting dinosaurs when I was like four years old and Jurassic scenes. But I was really inspired by Jacques Cousteau, one of the great film-makers.
David Laroche : A French one.
Robert Wyland : Oh, a great Frenchman. And I’m French, German, Irish and English. But Jacques Cousteau, when we came to America and his TV series, the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, it really inspired a passion in me to use my art to create awareness and cause action. But Jacques Cousteau was more than a filmmaker, he was an artist. He was a poet and I can really relate to him. I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau but I’m a pure artist so I use what I have to continue what Jacques Cousteau did for me and sharing my art with the world.
David Laroche : So you saw someone doing some things and you feel inspiration from that and you decided to do kind of the same thing in your own life?
Robert Wyland : Exactly. You could see somebody like Jacques Cousteau or Hans Hass or today it’s Dr. Sylvia Earle, the chief scientist for National Geographic. And these people, they have something. They are blessed. They have this gift. And the greatest thing of all, when you have a gift, you need to share it forward. And with the art gift that I was given. I didn’t take it for granted, I worked really hard and I always use my art for causes that were bigger than myself. So, whenever I get an opportunity to support a charity, to do something good with my art, whether it’s painting giant, public murals or whether it’s doing a charity event where I’ll paint and the money is raised to help protect the water or animals, I do it. And I feel very good about that, that I can use my art to help create a better planet, a better world.
David Laroche : Do you think it is… One of the things it helps you to have your success, to help charity?
Robert Wyland : Well, yeah. It goes hand in hand. When I moved to Hawaii early on, the Hawaiian way is you always give back. You may take a fish from the sea but you don’t take them all. And you always try to give something back, the “Aloha.” And that really was instilled in me early. And I decided that the biggest contribution that I would make was to use my art to inspire a generation like Jacques Cousteau did. He inspired a generation to see the ocean in a different way.
David Laroche : How old were you when you decided to do that?
Robert Wyland : Well, it came in little pieces. But eventually I decided that instead of charging to paint murals, that’s how I made a living. I painted murals and I would do paintings on sides of buildings but I would get paid.
David Laroche : From who? The companies or the city?
Robert Wyland : Yeah. Well, like for instance, I did a mural on a restaurant here in Southern California and that’s how I made a living. I painted giant murals. But I felt why don’t I combine the two passions that I have which is art and conservation? So one day I just decided that I should paint whales but I should paint them on big canvases, giant canvases. I should paint them life-size because not everyone’s going to get a chance to swim with whales and see them in the ocean realm. But if I could somehow paint them in public places, people would become more aware. And what I learned along the way was, it wasn’t just about saving whales. If we wanted to save the whales, we had to save the oceans. If we want to save the oceans, we have to save the entire planet. We need to save the forests, we need to protect everything. So, it’s easy for me, as an artist, to look at the big picture and that’s what I do. I paint the big picture so that people can be inspired and look at the environment in a different way. If people see the beauty in nature, they’ll work to preserve it. And art is just such a powerful, powerful medium to do that especially when it’s on a grand scale, if it’s larger than life.
David Laroche : So your job is to show how the planet is beautiful, to inspire people to protect it?
Robert Wyland : Yes. What I do is not far away from the very first art that humans made on the cave walls. I mean, it’s kind of a caveman. I mean, it’s exactly the same. I was inspired but what I saw in the ocean, I’m a diver. I’ve been diving 30 years all over the world. And the cavemen used to paint on these walls of caves. They used to take bone marrow and blow pigments of different animals and figures and tell stories. I tell ocean stories, that’s what I do. I tell the story of, “Hey, today all of us need to be ambassadors for the planet. We all need to do our small part to ensure a healthy world.” Without a healthy world, you don’t have anything, think about it. Because there’s this cause and that cause and all these other great causes, they’re all great. But without clean water and healthy oceans, there’s no life. Without clean water, there’s no plants, there’s no animals, there’s no us. So that’s the spirit of my cause which I think is probably the most important cause of our day. And that is, to protect our water planet for all of us and future generations. And that’s really what I’m doing. It looks on the surface that, “Hey, Wyland just paints beautiful pictures.” If you look a little deeper, you’ll see the messages in my art.
David Laroche : Great. And I love that because a lot of people think they have to choose between, “Oh, I will be an artist or I will help charity.” And you find a way to do both.
Robert Wyland : Sure. Well, I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to be a marine biologist but I was a pure artist from day one. So, I’m glad I stayed with the art.
David Laroche : When you say “pure artist,” what do you mean?
Robert Wyland : I have the gift to paint and create things from what I feel and what I see. When you’re a pure artist, it’s hard to describe it. It’s just in you and it has to come out. It’s like people that create great music. That’s what they do. And I feel really blessed that I’ve had the opportunity to just naturally, through paintings, through sculptures, through music that I write and produce, through films that I make, to basically look at what’s happening today and then communicate that through beautiful art. And I also like collaboration. And I think today, in the last century, it was all about Jacques Cousteau, this individual, this group. Today, we all must be united. We need to build bridges, not walls. We need to all work together to ensure that we have a beautiful planet to live on. This is the only one we got. So if art can play a small role, then that’s the role that I want to play. And then I also want to keep art in all the schools, not only in America, in all the schools because art is the one element that all children need to look at things in a different way. And in America in particular, art is starting to disappear from our schools, from the curriculum. And I’m going to make a film that’s called Saving Art Education in America, but really it’s all the countries of the world. Because in France, they appreciate art. I know when I did the mural in Nice, oh my God, all the artists came out. Everybody came out and thought, “Hey, why are you painting these whales? You’re an artist, you should be painting beautiful women.” I go, “I paint beautiful women but they’re 40 tons and they have baleen.” And they would laugh and everything. Yeah, I just feel I was an artist in the right place at the right time. So as the environmental movement just started in the early 70s with Greenpeace, the first Earth Day, Jacques Cousteau, all my hippies and surfers. Who would have thought that the hippies and surfers were right? We need to protect our ocean. They were exactly right and they’re still right today. So, not that I’m a hippie or a good surfer, but I’m somebody that has seen changes in my life and not positive changes. But the good news is this, according to the top scientists on earth is Dr. Sylvia Earle. She says, “What we do in the next 10 years will impact the next 10,000.” So I look at this as a very positive…
David Laroche : If we change now…
Robert Wyland : Yes, there’s still time. And this is a generation that is not content with just having awareness. They want to take action, they want to be involved. So my foundation, the Wyland Foundation and all our conservation partners, we want to take everything we learn and share it with our youth, with our young people and inspire them to be youth ambassadors for the planet.
David Laroche : So let’s do the question now. Usually, at the end of the interview, I have one question for youths. So what do you want to say to youths and you can speak directly to one camcorder if you want. What do you want to say to the youths?
Robert Wyland : Well, I would say to every human being on the planet and particularly the young people that you have the ability to change the world. So, learn everything you can and then share your knowledge with everyone you know and then take action. You are the generation that can literally protect and save the planet. A lot of the coral reefs are disappearing. Sharks are being hunted to extinction because of Shark Fin soup. These things are unacceptable. So I hope that you kids that are watching this, I hope you take this very seriously that it is your opportunity to change the world. So, you’re going to inherit all the things that we’re doing today. What I always say is this, if you want to protect the environment today, talk to us. If you want to protect it for the future, you’ve got to get the kids on board.
David Laroche : Okay, so what could be their first action? Because they can follow that and say, “Oh, yes. We have to change the world,” but it is a huge responsibility for a young man. What could be the first small action they can do now?
Robert Wyland : Well, here’s the simple action that you can take. Okay, first of all, when I talk to kids and I talk to a lot of them. In my 36 years of Wyland Galleries and painting the hundred murals that I did, public murals from here to China to Japan, to France, I always invite kids to come paint with me. And I’ve painted with over a million kids. I count them now, “million one, million two, million three, ” and then I have an opportunity to engage them through art and science. And some of these kids are better artists than me. But the thing that I see with young people and kids, they’re hopeful and they’re more knowledgeable. They know more than I did. And some of them, by the way, are better artists, so I may be out of a job after this. So, it’s just wonderful to see kids. They’re so innocent. They’re like sponges. But somehow, they get discouraged. I would say to all the children in the world, “Never get discouraged. Believe in your dream. If you want to be a marine biologist like Sylvia Earle or a filmmaker like Jacques Cousteau, do it. Believe in yourself and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it.” Because by doing something that you love, it comes through in your heart, your mind, your soul. And that’s when you can have the biggest impact. But I think the cause of protecting our planet today is at the forefront of an environmental renaissance period. So I would encourage everybody, all the kids in particular, to kind of get your friends together, form your own conservation group. Think of creative ways to protect what’s left of our natural world. There’s a lot left, I mean look at this.
David Laroche : It could be a small thing, but do it.
Robert Wyland : Do it. And one of the great things that the Wyland Foundation does every April, we have Earth Month, we call it Earth Month April, is we encourage all citizens to be water-wise. To simply think about ways that they can conserve water. When you’re brushing your teeth, shut it off, shut off the faucet. Don’t let it run. We have plenty of fresh water on our planet but we need to take care of it because we have eight billion people on earth now. It’s going to be unsustainable unless we take immediate action to ensure that we have fresh water. If we don’t have clean water, we really don’t have any type of good life for anyone. And there’s a water crisis. So one of the cool things you can do is take the water challenge and conserve water. And every year we do the National Mayors Challenge for Water Conservation. Our mayors are using this program to inspire their citizens, their communities to save water. And it really adds up. So far, we’ve saved billions of gallons of water. When you’re saving water, you’re saving energy, water, you’re saving the environment and you’re saving the planet. And that is really, really amazing. Next year, we’re going to have the Wyland Global Water Challenge for 2015. We’re going to encourage every citizen on the planet, all eight billion, become more water-wise, to think about how they can conserve water.
David Laroche : During one day?
Robert Wyland : No, the whole month of April.
David Laroche : Okay, next year?
Robert Wyland : Yes. So the United Nations…
David Laroche : But it’s not now.
Robert Wyland : Oh, it’s right now. It’s going on now. So you can go to mywaterpledge.com and make a water pledge right now. And you could see the numbers added as you make your pledge, the totals. And it’s very empowering.
David Laroche : Okay, what I will do just before to take the plane, we were looking for an action because I want to engage my audience in France to do things, whether for them or for the planet. I will send an email to my French audience to go to your website.
Robert Wyland : Mywaterpledge, go to Wyland.com, go to mywaterpledge.com. Next year I want to encourage every country on the planet to take this great water challenge.
David Laroche : It’s going to be next year?
Robert Wyland : Yes.
David Laroche : Because my audience is in exponential growth so I will be able to reach more people the next year.
Robert Wyland : I’ll tell you, what you’re doing and interviewing people that are on the ground trying to do grassroots things that make a difference, that is critical. We need to get the message out there. And in social media and all the things that we have to not only get the message to people in America, but around the world. That’s why I’m really excited to be positioned as an artist, to use my art to take that message to the whole world. You know artists, we have to think big. I mean, Disney, one of my great hero artists, Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” And I dream of a world where everybody kind of takes care of the place, all of us. And we take care of each other. But we also have to think about not only saving the animals and the environment, we have to save ourselves. We need to help each other so that if you empower people to look at how incredibly important water and the environment is, you’ve empowered them to be good citizens. And that’s really what I’m looking for. I’m looking for people that instead of just dumping plastic into the ocean and not taking care of their trash, I’m looking for a sea change, an environmental renaissance where people decide that, “Hey, I’m going to be one of the protectors of the planet, not one of the people taking but giving.” And that means a lot to me and everybody that I know that we have the ability to share our knowledge and what we do, and try to encourage people to not only do that but maybe find new ways, especially young people. They come up with ideas that you would never even think about. So that’s the investment that we need to make. The greatest, I think, gift that we can give is when we try to share everything we know, our art, our music, whatever we have with young people and encourage them to make a difference, to be ambassadors for the planet. That’s a really strong, beautiful thing to do and it really fills up your soul and your heart.
David Laroche : Great, I love that. You just said something very interesting. You said that don’t listen to people who tell you that it’s impossible. In your own life, did you have some people say to you, “Oh, Wyland you can’t do that. It’s too huge.”
Robert Wyland : Sure. Absolutely. Well, you’re always going to have…
David Laroche : Can you share it?
Robert Wyland : Oh, absolutely. I remember when I was leaving the nest, we call it. When you’re leaving the family to go out on your own and I was 19. I’d gone to art school in Detroit, Center for Creative Studies. It was founded by Henry Ford. Anyway, I was just leaving to come to California to try to find my dream, to be a successful artist, a professional artist. And I was little scared. But anyway I was taking out the garbage to the curb and one of the neighbors came up and she said, “I hear you’re moving to California.” And I said, “Yeah.” She goes, “Well, you may be a good artist in Detroit but you’ll never make it in California.” Just totally negative, right? And I’m looking at her like…
David Laroche : Thank you.
Robert Wyland : Thank you, that’s a big thank you. So if they tell you you can’t do something, let that be the fuel to fuel your passion, to do it and do it even bigger.
David Laroche : Why did you believe in yourself?
Robert Wyland : I knew I couldn’t fail if I was doing something that I cared about. See, mine is not only art, it’s conservation. And I have a great cause that really keeps me fired up everyday. But for some reason I always knew I was going to be an artist and nothing else. So I remember my mom came to me one time when I was 16 and she says, “You got to start thinking about getting a job.” And I said, “I have a job. I’m an artist.” She said, “Okay.” So your parents are critical too, because your parents they can either support you or they can kind of… “I’m a doctor, you’re going to be a doctor.” I think you have to be true to your heart. You have to be what you want to be.
David Laroche : So you have to be willing to say to your parents, “No, I don’t want to do that.”
Robert Wyland : Yeah, you don’t want to say “no” to your parents but if you feel strongly that you want to be a writer or a filmmaker, then you do that and make your parents proud.
David Laroche : Great. There are a lot of artists. And when you walk in front of the beach for example, I don’t know if you see that in America, but in Europe it’s usual to see artists in front of the beach who are drawing and they struggle a lot to survive with money. And when you talk to them, they have a great talent but they don’t know how to use it to be successful.
Robert Wyland : To market it.
David Laroche : So according to you, what are the keys, I don’t know. The keys, the secrets to become a successful artist?
Robert Wyland : Well, it’s funny you say that because I was talking to Mark Victor Hansen about artists. And I don’t believe in the Bohemian, starving, angry artist. I didn’t sign up for that. I think it’s okay for artists to be successful. And when you’re successful then you can really focus on your art and you can also give back. If you’re not successful, it’s just frustrating. So I talked to Mark about writing a book called, “Don’t be a Starving Artist.” And I’m going to do this little book that just gives you tips. And my tip is this. Just really follow your heart and your dream and just work really hard. Nothing replaces hard work. So work on your art and just keep evolving it, but also go around and see people like me and other artists. I was great friends with LeRoy Neiman, Peter Max, Robert Bateman who’s my favorite wildlife artist. And a lot of these artists still sit down with young artists and they’ll say, “Hey…” or young at heart artists, all artists but they’ll say, “This is how I became successful.” And what is success anyway? The highest level of success you’re ever going to have is not how much money you make. It’s doing things on your terms, following your heart and your love. And when you do what you love in life, you’ve reached the pinnacle of success. It doesn’t get any better than that.
David Laroche : Okay. So one of your advice is to follow your heart, work hard, have a great cause greater than you.
Robert Wyland : Oh, yeah. That can’t be understated. Have a cause that’s bigger than you. Do something for more than yourself. Sometimes you see artists or people, they only want to talk about themselves. You really need to get off that. You need to talk about what other people are doing and you need to share, you need to listen. Because all of us have met people when they’re done talking about themselves, they want to talk about themselves a little more. And that’s a little sad. So, I always say I had my 15 minute of fame. Now I would like to take and put the light on other people, on children in particular. Let’s put some light on them and let’s hear what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking about. And through their art, you can magically see it. If you want to know what kids are thinking, look at their art, look at what they write.
David Laroche : Really?
Robert Wyland : That’s it.
David Laroche : And during your life, did you have some moments that just one little change made a huge change in your success?
Robert Wyland : Yeah. I’ll tell you what, that mentoring. People having heroes like Jacques Cousteau, icons, yeah. So when Robert Bateman, the greatest wildlife artist on the planet. He lives in British Columbia now. I actually met him at one of his book signings and he wrote the forward to my book. He’s always been encouraging and supportive. When he believed in me, I knew that I had a chance to be a professional artist. So he inspired me to do 22 books now. He’s got like three.
David Laroche : How did you meet him?
Robert Wyland : I went to one of his book signings. He had an art show and I watched…
David Laroche : What did you say?
Robert Wyland : Well, he’s one of my art heroes for wildlife. So he was just down to earth and that’s what I am, too. I’m a normal person. The ego is something that you can really trip on. So I’d say lose all that, don’t be pretentious, be a nice person. And that’s what Robert Bateman is. He knows who he is, believe me. He’s very confident. But he would always, before he did a book signing or before Robert Bateman did a big art show, he would talk to everybody and he would talk to them about conservation and why he does the art he does. So, Bateman and I, we have this agreement, he does above the water and I do below. And what’s really crazy is I did a mural and I dedicated it to him in British Columbia. And he flew in on a sea plane to dedicate the mural and as he walked up to this mural that I’d painted of orca whales above and below the water, he noticed that I had painted a bald eagle and he kind of gets me over the side. He said, “Hey, I thought we had an agreement. You do below the water and I do above. I see a Bald Eagle, you’re going into my territory.” And he started laughing. And then he painted a whale for the first time.
David Laroche : Did you paint together?
Robert Wyland : We haven’t painted together, that’s my dream.
David Laroche : You have to do that.
Robert Wyland : I have to do this with Robert Bateman, yeah. And he’s like 80 years old now. But he’s still going strong. He has this wonderful program called “Get To Know” in Canada and now it’s in America.
David Laroche : Okay. So how can you do that? I would love to follow your dream.
Robert Wyland : Well, the most beautiful thing with Robert Bateman would be if we did one canvas where he did above and I painted below. The best of two worlds and then we’d give all the money to charity. So if Bateman’s watching this… Robert, if you’re watching this interview, you’re in France, whatever. You’re over in Nice… Text me, I don’t care. Email, yes, whatever. He’s my hero. I’d mentioned to him and he started laughing. But those are the seeds that we plant. We plant those seeds of incredible opportunity. So I’ve been watering it and hopefully I can catch him at the right moment and we can do our first collaboration.
David Laroche : Can I send him this video?
Robert Wyland : Because he inspired all my collaborations. I’ve collaborated with probably 25 artists after that but not the original artist which is Robert Bateman.
David Laroche : Can I send to him this video?
Robert Wyland : Yes, send him this film, yes. He would love it.
David Laroche : It’s amazing. I would love to participate to your dream.
Robert Wyland : Well, thank you. And this is our collaboration, right?
David Laroche : Yeah.
Robert Wyland : Your documentary, your story. So, collaboration is a mastermind theory which is two ideas make more than two, two people together make more than two. And I’d like to see more of that. I’d like to see eight billion people collaborate on protecting our land, our air, our sea. And then, that’s the world that I’m shooting for. I’m thinking as big as I can to make that happen. I’m going to do my part, I hope everyone will do theirs.
David Laroche : Okay, great. And during your journey, did you have some times you were struggling, you felt duped about your success? And how did you shift it?
Robert Wyland : Well, the whole thing… Yeah, there’s challenges but the challenges are where you really grow. So, against all odds…
David Laroche : Can you share one of your struggles? I love stories.
Robert Wyland : Well, my odds are when I came out here, I didn’t want any help. I didn’t want anybody sending me any money or helping me. I just wanted to see if by just sheer work ethic, by working hard, by making my art twice as good every year, by being smart, doing art festivals in Laguna, that’s where I really excelled, when I did the art festival. I would paint and people love to watch artists create.
David Laroche : So you are painting…
Robert Wyland : So I’m painting, people love it. They’re buying the paintings. I’m paying my rent. And it just kept getting bigger and bigger and now I have 150,000 collectors, all 50 states in America, over 110 countries collecting my art. So it’s crazy. It’s now kind of a brand which is really amazing. I didn’t even know what a brand was. But pretty much, Wyland is a brand now. And I hope it’s a brand that is making positive, good things happen in my community, around the US and I see it as a global brand that really is embracing all the good ideas of conservation and taking those ideas. And through my art and through everybody I know, we’re focused on being world-changers. We do need to change the world. It’s going in the wrong direction. We’ve been taking and not giving. So now it’s time to do a 180 turn and once and for all decide that we’re going to protect the water planet for all of us. And that’s the greatest gift of all.
David Laroche : Yeah, I think so. I’m every time impressed by how artists find inspiration. Do you have some ritual to find inspiration?
Robert Wyland : Yes. I have a ritual right there. That is my inspiration, right here, yes. And that’s how I justify this. If I’m going to paint the ocean realm, I need to see it. Plus, I kind of feel like I’m the custodian, like the mayor here. I kind of look over there and make sure the kelps are healthy. I put on my diving gear, ScubaPro. I dive under the kelp and say hi to all the beautiful whales and the dolphins, the sea lions that live here, the garibaldi. And I take all that beauty that I see when I’m diving the ocean and then I just come right up here in my studio and paint it. It just kind of comes through me. And really, I don’t consider what I do a job, it’s more of a hobby that got out of control.
David Laroche : Yeah, passion.
Robert Wyland : And now it’s way out of control. I employ a lot of people. I live in three beautiful places, Hawaii on the North Shore, I live in Laguna, right here, and I also live in the Florida Keys. And I kind of balance between work and play. And I’ve never had to get a job so this has got to be the greatest gig on earth. Absolutely the best job on earth. And everybody can have that type of job, you just have to decide that that’s what you want to do. You want to have fun. Do we need to make a living? Yes. So I don’t want you to be stupid about it. I want you to find a balance between work and life. And that’s the greatest job on earth if you can find those two. If you can find the thing that you love and a way to be successful. And then take all that and be able to give it back. That’s when you’re really fired up. You see these people, they look stoked all the time and they’re happy. They got that grin on their face. That’s because they’re doing that.
David Laroche : Great.
Robert Wyland : I mean, I get up everyday, I look out there and I go, “Wow.” The pelicans kind of fly by. And even if I’m not diving…
David Laroche : It’s very interesting what you’re saying. A lot of people and myself sometimes, I can be in front of an amazing thing of nature and don’t be present to be able to have gratitude.
Robert Wyland : Well, I see that you do. I can see that you’re present, you’re kind of enjoying this, our talk. Also, I see you kind of looking out there going, “This is nice. Maybe I should live in Laguna Beach.” Well, you should. We need more cool artists here in Laguna Beach. And Laguna Beach is an art colony, it’s an art colony.
David Laroche : How do you center yourself to be able to embrace?
Robert Wyland : Well, if you want to realign your DNA, if you want to center yourself, jump in the ocean. It recharges your whole being. See, I am a true water sign. I’m more comfortable in the water than I am on land. I’m a fish, okay? A good deal of our body is water. But water is the one element that can recharge you and it’s like being reborn. So when I’m in water, I’m reborn. I don’t take it lightly how important water is. So water is the one element that no animal, plant, human can live without. So water is the key. We need to really decide once and for all that we need to protect every drop. Every drop counts and every drop’s connected. Think about this. Water connects all the people on the planet and that’s our connection. So you can’t look at just protecting, say, Laguna Beach or the Pacific Ocean. If you want to protect water, you have to protect it all. So as an artist, I’m able to look at the big picture that the planet is blue, the blue planet. And if we have a chance to protect our ocean and our water planet, it’s going to include all of us as ambassadors to accomplish that dream, that goal. The greatest thing about being an artist like myself is, scientists have to follow rules. Artists get paid to break the rules, that’s what we do, that’s what we live for. But see, I kind of consider myself an artist and a scientist and a teacher. So what I do is I bring science and art together. In nature, art is everywhere. They may go in separate directions but in nature, art and science always come together. So I have the ability to do both. Generally you’re a scientist or an artist. But I get to use both of these great things to create an idea that, “Hey, look at the big picture here. If we’re serious about protecting our environment, we need to protect it all, not just one area.” Not just your community, but you need to understand the connection. What happens in China impacts our water here and vice versa. So now, this is the greatest time in history to be alive because you can make a difference, you can change the world. That’s what I really want to be. I want to be a world-changer for the good.
David Laroche : Great. I would love also to know what you are painting. What it’s like to have a task to do. And when do you know when it’s finished?
Robert Wyland : Yeah, everybody says that, “How do you know when a painting or a mural or a sculpture is finished?” Well, it’s finished when it’s done. “And how do you know when it’s done?” When it’s finished. You just know. I know. To me art has never been hard, it’s like breathing. So I just instinctively know when something is finished because you can overwork it. You know, you can work a painting so hard that you can actually take the soul out of it. You just know, it’s a feeling, okay? And same thing with music. When I’m writing music and blues, I feel it. And when I’m writing songs, I’m painting pictures. It’s exactly the same.
David Laroche : So you feel it.
Robert Wyland : Yeah, you feel it deeply.
David Laroche : You feel it.
Robert Wyland : Your heart, your mind, your hand, everything kind of comes together at that moment. But you know when it’s done. The moment you finish, you know it.
David Laroche : Great, I love that. And I would love to know, sometimes I have artists in my clients and some of them struggle to show their work to the world because they’re not sure…
Robert Wyland : Well, let me tell you. I know where you’re going. This is the greatest time in history to be an artist. Why? Because people are interested in art. People have always been been kind of interested in art, but it seems like the best time to be alive and be an artist is today because so many more people have access through social media, through the internet, to see your art. It isn’t just a handful of people saying, “That’s art and that’s crap.” So, if you’re an artist, I would say use social media, develop your website, your virtual gallery. And let the whole world see your art. It isn’t just a few high-brow people now. And for me, I don’t create art for art critics, okay? I create art for the people and there’s a lot of them. If you’re painting to just kind of appease an art critic…
David Laroche : Yes, it’s like the movie with the Oscar.
Robert Wyland : Right. It’s the very same. So, paint for you, first. Paint something that you’re passionate about, that you feel. And then worry about that. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking, what critics are saying. Again, I will never paint for art critics. I don’t care if they don’t like me, they do like me. As long as they spell my name right, I’m happy. I’m painting for me. And then fortunately, my art is collected worldwide. And I’m the type of artist that art critics generally don’t like. But you know what’s funny? Is they actually like me now because they see the conservation things I do and their kids like me. So, it’s all good. But yeah, don’t ever worry about that. Don’t worry about what the trend is. Worry about what you’re doing, what you see, what you feel and then put that on canvas, put that in a sculpture. Put it on the sides of buildings like I do.
David Laroche : If you like it there will be people…
Robert Wyland : If you like it, they will come, and there’s a lot of people interested in art. So it’s the greatest time to be an artist today.
David Laroche : So you don’t have to create what the people want?
Robert Wyland : Never. Don’t every create what the people want. Create what you want. If you do that, you’re faking it. Never fake it. Art can’t be faked and especially when you see… Children can see right through a fake. See, I relate to kids because I have a kid’s job. I’m an artist, that’s not a real job. They look at me and go, “Hey, you guys are painting on the wall.” So, I guess that’s why I relate to kids so much. But the best art there is is kids art. It’s so pure, it’s so innocent. I know Picasso spent his entire life trying to paint like a kid, like a child. And I see that and it’s actually when I’m painting murals or I’m painting with kids, I look over there and go, “Whoa! Why didn’t I think of that?” So, sometimes you’ve got to kind of look over there and steal from a kid. I think Picasso did and I know I’ve certainly learned as much as the kids have learned from me, I’ve learned from them.
David Laroche : Yeah. I have a lot of questions because you are my second artist.
Robert Wyland : All right, good. Who was the first artist?
David Laroche : Conni Gordon.
Robert Wyland : Good.
David Laroche : Do you know her?
Robert Wyland : Yeah.
David Laroche : She was amazing also in Miami.
Robert Wyland : Yeah. Art is cool. And you know what’s cool about art? People love to see artists create things.
David Laroche : Yeah.
Robert Wyland : You know? And I have a show on PBS called Wyland’s Art Studio. And it’s gonna go to France and we’ve got an international distributor now. But where I take a blank canvas and in 22 minutes, I paint an entire painting.
David Laroche : Twenty minutes?
Robert Wyland : Yeah, 22 minutes. So it’s kind of cool and it’s real loose and fast. How I paint is similar to a polaroid photograph. Remember when they had polaroid photographs, cameras? You see a big white canvas turn into a massive color and then slowly come into sharp focus. And then you add the final details.
David Laroche : So you do the background first?
Robert Wyland : Yeah. I actually shoot my film, my TV series, Wyland’s Art Studio, here. Yeah, I cover the whole canvas with the background and then I just sharpen the detail. And then once I…
David Laroche : Okay, you don’t draw the… For example, if you have a fish to draw.
Robert Wyland : I don’t draw anything. No, I just start blocking in masses of colors. This is why I want to share kind of my technique with all artists. And so I’ll paint the ocean for instance. And then I’ll imagine the marine life in it. Maybe a dolphin would swim here or a shark or a sea turtle. Maybe there’s a little coral reef or sandy bottom. So that’s what I think about is just cover the canvas quickly, do your background, your habitat in my case, your landscape. And then think about what animals might be there. Or, go the other direction, take detail away. Maybe go more abstract expressionist. I really work in a lot of different mediums, in a lot of different styles. I really get up every day and just try to be creative. I mean, that’s really the true essence of the artist’s mind. You go in the studio and you create. I also majored in sculpture. So now that I’ve done my 100 Whaling Walls, ocean murals. It took 27 years but I painted my dream to do a hundred. Now, I’m doing a hundred monumental sculptures of all the great whales and various marine life, freshwater animals and saltwater. And the animals that I chose are part of the red list for the UN, which is endangered and threatened animals. But I may paint a catfish and then I may do a sculpture of it that’s like eight stories high. And 10 of the 100 monumental sculptures that I’m creating right now for 100 cities in the world, 10 of them will be underwater. You have to dive or snorkel to see them. But that’s my next big project, is to do in the next 25 years, 100 monumental sculptures, public art sculptures, larger than life, in 100 official cities in the world. So you’ll hear more about that. I did the first one actually the day after I painted my final Whaling Wall, number 100 in Beijing.
David Laroche : Can we see it in Laguna?
Robert Wyland : No, it’s in Beijing at the International Sculpture Park. It’s the first sculpture that you see. Very prestigious. But it was the sculpture that I did for the Olympics called Faster, Higher, Stronger. And it’s three dolphins kind of competing on a wave, life size.
David Laroche : Great. I would like to see it.
Robert Wyland : Good stuff, only 99 more to go.
David Laroche : I have an important question for me and for the artists who are following us. How do you know the price of something you do? Because it’s very subjective.
Robert Wyland : Yeah, it is.
David Laroche : If I pay you about the [inaudible 00:45:52], it’s not the value.
Robert Wyland : Well, the whole thing about pricing your art, you have to find out what the market is, basically. And I’ve been doing my art, I’m 57. I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. I used to have art shows in high school in the lobby of the school and the parents and teachers would come and buy my art. And at that time, my original paintings were $35. Now, they’re $35,000. I wish I had some of those early ones.
David Laroche : A little bit growth.
Robert Wyland : Yeah. So what I do is, my art generally, my fine art originals will go up 10% a year, 10% a year basically.
David Laroche : But why not 20%?
Robert Wyland : Well, because you don’t want to price yourself out of the market. I basically know my collectors and what they collect. And you want to be reasonable. You don’t want to be cheap either.
David Laroche : If we take Picasso, his growth was exponential.
Robert Wyland : Right. Well, Picasso was the most prolific artist of all times. In fact, in the Guinness Book of World Records, it had Picasso was the most prolific and I painted the largest mural in history. And I was on opposite page.
David Laroche : Wow, you’re just next to Picasso.
Robert Wyland : Oh, yeah. In the Guinness Book of World Records.
David Laroche : Congrats.
Robert Wyland : Yeah, I like Picasso. In fact, it’s really funny because Henri Matisse, another artist that I admired, his grandson, Pierre H. Matisse, the grandson of Matisse and I painted two collaborations just recently, two months ago.
David Laroche : Wow. Because for the longest… how long did you take to do that?
Robert Wyland : We did two in one day. And he was very tired. He’s a great French guy, a French artist. He lives in Florida now. Pierre Matisse wrote me a letter saying that I was his favorite artist. So I wanted to meet him. So I live in Florida now in the Keys. So I made a road trip up there and I told him that I loved to paint with other artists and he was excited. So he’s 86 years old and he paints with a palette knife, right? I’ve never painted with a palette knife. But I said, “What the heck, let’s do it.” So we did one called Neptune, King of the Sea. He did Neptune with a trident and I did a… I had just been diving with a great hammerhead, so I did a Hammerhead, Protectors of the Sea. And then we did a mermaid angel with wings. And I did my angels.
David Laroche : So when you say together, you painted the same…
Robert Wyland : We painted the same canvas together, same time.
David Laroche : That’s a very interesting collaboration.
Robert Wyland : Phenomenal.
David Laroche : How do you feel when, for example, he’s doing something that you don’t like?
Robert Wyland : Well, you got to kind of trust. The reason you collaborate is you like their art. So you’ve got to set him free. You can’t tell him what to paint and he can’t tell me what to paint.
David Laroche : Let’s imagine that you are quicker than him, you can take more of the canvas. How do you…
Robert Wyland : Oh, he’s pretty quick. I mean, this guy can paint. No, you try to pick artists that are compatible. And I felt strongly that it would be a very unique collaboration. But I didn’t even ask him to paint anything. He had an idea for the angels of the sea, the mermaids with wings. So he sent me… he cut out, out of paper and he made this beautiful painting, original, out of cut-out paper, white paper, on a blue. And he gave that to me. So I said, “Well, why don’t we just kind of go with that theme?” And he started in and then I jumped in and we painted back and forth. And at the end of the day, we had two big, beautiful, original acrylic paintings with palette knife. I bought both of them and I’m not selling them. They’re for me. They were that good.
David Laroche : Wow.
Robert Wyland : Yeah.
David Laroche : This was awesome. A lot of answers and I would like to thank you very much.
Robert Wyland : Well, I’d like to thank you.