Robert LeMar grew up in Chicago, where he suffered poverty and a difficult family life. When he was ten, his stepmother, having discovered his artistic talent, drafted him to sketch portraits on the beaches of the Chicago lakefront to help support the family. He charged 50 cents for each portrait and averaged between 5 and 8 dollars a day. Although he had to contribute all of the money to the family, he benefited greatly from this experience at that early age. He was eleven when he won the Golden Key Award for Art, a citywide competition throughout Chicago Public Schools. At about that time he also won a scholarship to attend a series of lectures at The Art Institute of Chicago.
After being discharged from the Army in 1970, LeMar attended The Maryland School of Art and Design in Silver Spring. To help finance his career he sketched portraits in the summer on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. He perfected his skill as a portrait artist during the ten years he spent doing that; portraiture became an important part of his art career.
While attending art school he began to appreciate abstract art and studied the works of Rothko, Rauschenberg, Johns, Indiana, and Thiebaud, and others. This appreciation led to several series of non-representational and abstract paintings. It also had a deep and lasting effect on his approach to realism. He is currently working on blending abstract elements with realism while maintaining the importance and necessity of both.