An avid scuba diver and ocean lover, Robert Young worked on his magnum opus for decades adding colorful fish, pristine reef, coral and other sea life onto the canvas of his piece The Big One. The painting was displayed at Sea World, but eventually came back to Laguna Beach in 2013. Young was an artist / painter extraordinaire who lived, loved, and worked in Laguna Beach for most of his life and was one of the founders of the beloved Laguna Beach Sawdust Art Festival. It was his love for the sea that inspired much of his work as an artist. Young connected with the ocean as a young boy while playing in the surf near his family’s seaside trailer at El Moro. He spent time there as a lifeguard at Scotchman’s Cove and as luck would have it, he served his tour of duty as a marine in Hawaii where his interest with the ocean and its inhabitants continued to grow. As a young man, he logged hundreds of hours under the water exploring countless coves along the coast, diving for dinner at day’s end, or just observing the wonders that lived beneath the surface.
Robert Young was active in the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts beginning in 1959.
He also helped to found the Sawdust Festival in 1968. The Big One is different
from the work Young created not only in scale, but also in complexity. Perhaps
more than anything, The Big One is unique because it is a very private painting: a
refuge for the artist while on land and a meditative exploration into the boundless
limits of the creative mind. In 1978, a storm ripped through Laguna Canyon falling
25 massive eucalyptus trees totally destroying Young’s car and home. The Big One,
purported to be the largest canvas painting ever made in Laguna Beach and
certainly Young’s greatest artistic achievement, was spared due in part to the solid
structure he had built to protect the large canvas which was supported by huge
telephone poles. Fortunately, the structure held strong through the storm.
Nevertheless, it was a turning point in Young’s life and attention to making any
more moves on the painting ceased.
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