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Fishing’s Renaissance Man: Guy Harvey

You’ve probably seen Guy Harvey’s marine artwork and perhaps even worn one of his shirts.  But Harvey’s passions and skill-set extend far beyond his obvious talents as an illustrator.  Harvey could have succeeded brilliantly in any one chosen field but has managed to excel at an impressive list of pursuits. He’s an angler, scientist, diver, photographer, videographer, explorer, conservationist, philanthropist, television host, author, storekeeper, restaurateur, merchandiser and fisherman. 

“I love to fish,” says Harvey, who points out that he is a conservationist but not a preservationist and enjoys a tasty serving of yellow fin tuna or mahi mahi as much as the next person.  “I’m a very keen angler but a responsible fisherman,” he says.  The French/Caribbean menu in his waterfront Grand Cayman Island Grill does not feature threatened or overexploited species, and Harvey is a consistent supporter of “catch and release” fishing. 

“Guy is a unique individual who has the capacity to use both sides of his brain:  science and art,” says Michael Myatt, Chief Operating Officer of the International Game Fish Association (www.igfa.com), an organization that supports catch and release ethics.

Guy Harvey lives with his wife Gillian and their two children, Jessica, age 18 and Alex, 16, on Grand Cayman about two miles from his Georgetown studio and next-door restaurant.  He was born in Germany in 1955 when his father was assigned there with the British Army, but his roots are clearly Caribbean and date back to 1664—he’s a tenth-generation Jamaican of English heritage.

Growing up in Jamaica and fishing the southern coast with his father, Harvey began to draw sea creatures.  He achieved high honors in marine biology at Aberdeen University in Scotland and, in 1982, earned a doctorate in fisheries management from the University of the West Indies.  Today he educates other people about the sea through a television series and other projects.  One is his collaboration with Florida’s oceanographic center at Nova Southeastern University that created the nonprofit Guy Harvey Research Institute in 1999 and the other is his own foundation. 

“Guy has established the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation bringing much-needed funding to fuel research that has a real impact to our aquatic environment,” says IGFA’s Myatt.  “As a member of IGFA Board of Trustees, Guy has been a driving force behind our conservation efforts.”

Dr. Harvey launched his professional art career in 1985 in Jamaica when he displayed his series of 44 ink drawings depicting Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” He began painting full time soon after that.  The demand for his captivating images of undersea creatures has led to his creation of products in every price range from original oils at many thousands of dollars down to affordable clothing, house wares and prints.  He has gallery/gift shops in Key West and Marco Island, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama, and travels to his U.S. office every ten days.

Harvey’s working studio is on the second floor of his flagship gallery in Cayman, and visitors line up on cruise ship days to ask the genial artist to autograph prints and copies of his book, “Portraits of the Deep.”  The strong colors and high-energy action of his artwork have almost universal appeal even for non-anglers.

“As an artist, Guy has shared images that capture the beauty and raw power in a medium that has no peers,” says Myatt.  The painter some refer to as “the John Audubon of marine art” is generous with his talent and often donates original paintings to events such as this year’s IGFA fundraising Auction in January.

Harvey has fished in Cuba’s Hemingway tournament five times, helped restart the Port Antonio, Jamaica tournament and believes that “Sport fishing is a barometer for well-being in a country.”  Since his children became old enough to fish with him, he has done more “fun fishing with them than tournaments.”  But he still manages to participate significantly.  “We donate hundreds of thousands every year in paintings as prizes to tournaments and fundraising events,” Harvey acknowledges. 

To say Dr. Guy Harvey keeps busy is an understatement—he always has a next project on the drawing board, currently a new book and another retail outlet in Florida.  But his priority is always the health of the world’s oceans.

“We are all fortunate that we have Guy championing stewardship of our marine resources,” says IGFA’s Mike Myatt.  “With such like-minded individuals, our marine environment has a chance.”

Chris Goodier is the editorial director of All at Sea and a freelance writer/photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications including Caribbean Travel & Life and Caribbean Meetings & Events.

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