Donovan Nelson was born in Manchester, Jamaica, WI. In 1995, he received a B.F.A in illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Donovan studied portraiture and figure painting at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He received a M.F.A. from the New York Academy where he studied with Martha Erlebacher, Vincent Desiderio, Jack Beal, Alfred Lesley, and Juan Cardenas.
Nelson lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.