Manabu Saito was born in Tokyo, Japan. In 1957 he received a degree of Bachelor of Industrial Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In the late 1960s Manabu began painting plants and flowers wherever he lived and traveled, but especially in the Sonoran Desert around Tucson, Arizona, and the American tropics in Surinam, Trinidad and Costa Rica.
In 1970 he put aside his career in industrial design to become a full-time botanical artist and illustrator. He joined the Frame House Gallery of Louisville, Kentucky, where his botanical watercolors were reproduced in a large series of limited edition prints, a few of which may still be found in galleries throughout the United States.
During the '70s and '80s he illustrated three books for Golden Books: Cacti (1973), What is a Tree (1976) and a field guide, Wild Flowers of North America (1984). This guide is the only guide to American wildflowers in which all 1553 illustrations are printed in color.
Dr. Shirley Sherwood, a major world collector of botanical art, has included two color plates of Manabu's work in her exquisite volume, A Passion for Plants: Contemporary Botanical Masterworks, published in 2001.
Manabu's illustrations have been published in National Geographic and Horticulture magazines. In 1972, Audubon featured eight of his cactus paintings, and later issues included his paintings of endangered American plants.
In 1984, the United States Postal Service asked him to paint four native American orchids that were issued as a set of commemorative stamps.
From 1980 to 2000 he was invited to present annual one-man shows at the Zyt Gallery in Los Altos, California. His paintings have been honored in one-man exhibitions at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York Horticultural Society, Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, Arizona, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, and the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and his work has been in the biennial "Focus on Nature" exhibitions at the New York State Museum in Albany, NY.
Manabu now resides in Tucson, Arizona, where he is happily surrounded by the native flora of southern Arizona as well as his cultivated house and garden plants. He sketches and paints at least four hours each day. In this way he is constantly adding to his vast collection of original watercolors that he began in the 1960s.