About Dick Nelson

The Early Years

Dick came to Hawaii when he was five years old. He showed his early bent for art as noted when his teachers exclaimed, “If only he’d pay attention in class instead of doodling and drawing!”

During the Honolulu years Dick was active in the art community exhibiting paintings, serving on related committees and the State Foundation for Culture and Art task forces. He was art consultant for Alexander & Baldwin for 10 years.

The Artist and His Work

Dick NelsonHawaii has inspired the ideas while his professional training on the mainland has given him the tools, techniques and aesthetic options to create his works. Certainly one of the most influential years in his career was spent studying at Yale with Josef Albers, the famous Bauhaus artist and colorist. While there he began to recognize the color relationships and phenomena that create the illusions of veils, transparencies, surface textures, light, and most especially the luminosity evident in his work. From this he developed a visual grammar that is the basis for his paintings. Visual qualities of the land, sea, and sky have given rise to abstraction in his work.

While working with a printer, Dick realized the three colors of ink used would also yield an unlimited palette of colors in watercolor. This discovery led to his trademarked Tri-Hue Method of painting, which uses only cyan (a vivid blue), magenta (a bright, deep pink), and yellow.

Professional Career

  • Marine Lieutenant, Korea, 2 years
  • Chairman, Punahou Art Department, 22 years
  • Sabbatical, Yale University
  • Sabbatical, Ohio State University
  • Designer and director for new Wailea Art Center on Maui
  • Independent teacher and painter, Kula, since 1978


  • Punahou School, Honolulu
  • California College of Arts and Crafts, BA
  • Postgraduate year at Yale University, studying with Josef Albers
  • Ohio State University, Masters Degree, Art Education

Awards, Honors & Recognition

  • Who’s Who in American Art
  • Annual Men and Women of Hawaii
  • “Outstanding Educators of America”
  • Featured in bicentennial film Artists of Hawaii
  • Invited artist, Honolulu Art Academy’s annual exhibit
  • Recipient, Hawaii’ Alliance of Arts Education’s annual award
  • Artwork selected for the 1992 Kapalua Music Festival poster
  • Lincoln/Mercury Golf Tournament Kapalua 1996
  • Art Maui 2002 publicity poster using Nelson’s Art Maui 2001 painting
  • Featured artist, August/September 2001 issue of International Artist
  • Maui Arts & Cultural Center publication Centerpiece for his contribution to the arts

Works Included In:

  • Annual exhibit from the collection of the Honolulu Contemporary Art Center
  • City and County of Honolulu Office on Culture and the Arts
  • Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts
  • Inaugural exhibit of the Hawaii State Art Museum November 2002
  • Lahaina Arts Society-sponsored exhibit of 56 Tri-hue painters (all of them Dick’s students), November 1992
  • His paintings are in collections throughout the United States and foreign countries. His works are among those of the City and County of Honolulu, the State Foundation for the Culture and the Arts, and the Honolulu Academy of Art