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Donovan Nelson was born in Manchester, Jamaica, WI.. He relocated to the U.S. in 1982 where he discovered that he had an ability to draw. Even in the early years of study Donovan always gravitated towards subject matters of historical content. He continued to draw and paint throughout high school, where art was his major. After graduating from Overbrook High School he began his study at the University of the Art in Philadelphia, PA, where he majored in illustration. In addition, he studied portraiture and figure painting at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

During his studies at the University of the Arts, he had the opportunity to meet Bo Bartlett, a fine artist whom he befriended. In 1995 he received a B.F.A. in Illustration and then continued his studies at the New York Academy of Art in New York. There he had the chance to study with established artists such as Martha Erlebacher, Vincent Desiderio, Jack Beal, Alfred Lesley, and Juan Cardenas. Furthermore, he became employed at Forum Gallery where he was able to study closely the works of exhibiting artist such as Max Webber, Raphael Soyer, Picasso, Odd Nerdrum, David Lavine, and William Beckman. After receiving an M.F.A. from the New York Academy, he became an employee of Midworks Inc, a mural company based in New York, from whom he received commissions to paint murals in Europe.

Donovan continued to work at Modeworks for the next two years and shortly thereafter, he decided to share his talent and skill with others; He began to teach art in the New York Public School system. Although Donovan now had a full time job, his desire to learn more and curiosity never ceased; He started studying with Nelson Shanks and Ron Sherr at the Art Students League in New York City. Donovan recently exhibited his work at MoCADA Museum  located in Brooklyn, NY. Donovan lives in Brooklyn and he currently teaches at New York City College of Technology.