Born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia of Acadian parents, Nelson Surette developed an interest in painting at a young age. He learned to paint with colors that his mother prepared for him using her ancestors' methods. This self-taught painter's paintings started finding a place in the Canadian art scene when he was nearly fifty. Surette had long been a fisherman with his father, so his paintings often reflect this theme. The majority of his paintings portray the Acadians of yesteryear, those who were around when he was a child. Many of his painting are also inspired by the Deportation. In 2002, Surette received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal from the Premier of Nova Scotia and in 2003; the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia awarded him the Queen's Golden Crown Award in recognition of his exceptional contribution to his province.