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Mary Planding, Ocean Artist and Artivist

"If we all do our part, we can leave the world a better place than we found it."

I was born in New York to a fine artist father and computer expert mother. I began my “auspicious” painting career at the age of three helping my beloved Papa gesso his canvases. (As you can imagine, I got more gesso on me than on his canvases. But I was hooked.)  Papa was a gentle and clever teacher, tricking me into "helping" him with different tasks that taught me perspective, life drawing, shapes, and values without my realizing it. Eventually, with his support, at the age of 12 I began studying art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, taking drawing, illustration, painting, and art appreciation classes throughout my youth. 

At the same time, I became fascinated by Jacques Cousteau and his underwater expeditions. I would be glued to the TV watching him and his team of divers as they showed us what life was like under the sea. Color TV was new technology back then, so was being able to film underwater! And in color! For the first time we could see dolphins, whales, sharks, octopus, seahorses, moray eels, sea fans, coral reefs, and the millions of different species of colorful fish. I could not get enough of watching National Geographic's specials! (I still can't.)

Finding art again

I became captivated by life abroad in my teens and early 20s and led a nomadic life. Along the way, I got my open water scuba certification and began doing underwater photography. I've gone diving all over the world falling in love with all the creatures of the sea, the plant life, and the surprising and ingenious ways they have adapted to living underwater. As time passed, I became more and more distressed about how the health of our oceans was declining. Everywhere I turned, I was watching sea life die before my eyes.

This made me want to find a way to inspire people and show them how beautiful life is under the sea. Most people relate to the mammals — dolphins and whales, seals, sea lions, sea turtles and otters, polar bears, sharks, and walruses because we can see them. Yet it's the smaller creatures, such as corals (yes, those are critters that create those structures they live in), squid, octopus, puffer fish, tiny jellies, plankton, sea urchins, nudibranchs, and the myriad fish that live below at depths few people will ever see, that are essential to the health of not just our oceans, but to all life on this blue planet.

Eventually, I found my way. I rediscovered my love of creating art. I immersed myself in exploring the masters and the beauty they created. I became obsessed with the masters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. From Sargent, Sorolla, Monet and Van Gogh, to O'Keeffe, Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani, and Klimt. They all explored nature, society, the magnificent and the mundane. 

I began to ponder what was this driving need I had to paint. As I began my inner search, I uncovered what had been obvious to everyone but me. 

Compassion for other species

I am passionate about helping to restore our oceans' health and protecting the life that dwells within it, to preserve the Earth's beauty, and prevent cruelty to animals. Every year I donate 10% of my art work sales to marine conservation and animal protection non-profits.

I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. 

I hope you'll join me on this mission, whether that's enjoying my art, becoming a collector, or advocating on your own for helping to restore the oceans. When we  take positive, peaceful action, we make a difference. 

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Surfaces used in original art works are all archival material (neutral PH) as certified by their manufacturers. See: for more details. Pastels, oil paints, and watercolors are certified by the various manufacturers as to their lightfastness ratings. These manufacturers include: Sennelier, Charvin, Jack Richeson, Terry Ludwig, Schmincke, Winsor & Newton, Royal Talens, NuPastel, CretaColor, Blue Earth, Girault, Art Spectrum, Unison, Mount Vision, Diane Townsend, Bruynzeel, and Mungyo. For art print reproductions, my partner, Bay Photo ( provides information on the various surfaces and materials that they use.


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This Site supports Augmented Reality to Live Preview Art

Use your mobile device's camera to superimpose any piece of art from my site onto a wall in your home or business.

To use this feature, look for the "Live Preview AR" button below each piece of art on its dedicated page. Questions? Get in touch.

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