If you happen to be cruising the Caribbean, and find yourself on the island of Grand Cayman, be sure to visit Guy Harvey’s Gallery and Shoppe. Located right on the Georgetown waterfront, in a colorful strip of buildings in the style of the British West Indies, you’ll find the shop filled with all the latest merchandise bearing Guy Harvey’s marine life artwork: t-shirts, hats, mugs, housewares, towels and even golf balls. The upstairs gallery is where you will find original artwork by Guy and other wildlife artists, and also where the art, quite literally, comes to life.
As you climb the gallery stairs, you’ll see a life-size diorama depicting Guy’s painting, “The Old Man and The Sea,” inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous story. The painting began as a series of 44 pen and ink drawings that were exhibited in Jamaica in 1985. The tremendous response to the Jamaica exhibit propelled Guy to begin travelling the world to study marine life. He became an expert diver and underwater photographer, which helped him capture the details he brings to life in his artwork.
Some of those original drawings now hang at the Marion County home of his good friend, Charlie Forman. Guy and Charlie became friends after meeting at a South Florida bait and tackle shop Charlie owned. Charlie put a prototype t-shirt bearing Guy’s artwork on sale at the shop expecting to sell a few. They sold several thousand, which led to a licensing agreement. Charlie was also instrumental in teaming Guy’s artwork with the International Game Fish Association, an organization committed to promoting conservation and ethical fishing practices. Guy credits the Ocala attorney and business guru with helping him to launch Guy Harvey, Incorporated.
Once you reach the gallery at the top of the stairs, you may be lucky enough to find Guy working on his latest painting. He will be happy to exchange his brush for one of the Sharpie markers lying among the tubes of paint to sign your shirt or hat with his distinctive trademark signature. Bring your camera, as he’ll invite you to come around the table with him to have your picture taken. When he is not touring to promote his work in both art and conservation, Guy lives on Grand Cayman with his wife, Gillian, and their two children, Jessica and Alex, for whom he adds the two dots to his signature.
Guy Harvey grew up in Jamaica, spending his childhood fishing and diving with his father. His love of the sea inspired him to begin drawing the many fish he saw, and later led him to obtain a degree in marine biology from Aberdeen University in Scotland. Eventually earning a doctorate in fisheries management from the University of West Indies, Dr. Guy Harvey is a pas- sionate advocate for conservation.
In 1992, Guy Harvey became the first recipient of the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) Lifetime Achievement Award. Guy went on to establish The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation to provide funding for research necessary for fish conservation. The Guy Har- vey Research Institute, located at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida, conducts problem-solving research to promote biodiversity, conservation, and restoration of fish species. Guy’s vision is for future generations to enjoy a naturally balanced ecosystem where marine life can flourish. Conservation and restoration efforts are critical to the health of the undersea world. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization, over 70 percent of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. In the North Atlantic, the number of commercial fish, including cod, haddock and flounder, have been reduced by an astounding 95 percent. The Guy Harvey Foundation and the Guy Harvey Research Institute works diligently to raise both awareness and funds for research to help restore fish populations.
In conjunction with these efforts, Guy was also inducted into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame in October 2009, an applause to his extensive marine wildlife contributions and influence. He has also filmed several videos and television programs that promote ethical fishing practices. His 2004 television series, “Guy Harvey’s Portraits from the Deep,” which aired on the Outdoor Life Network, and is available on DVD, followed him around the world on fishing adventures. His PBS documentary, “Billfish: A Challenge for Survival,” highlighted the fishing methods that are depleting this species. These shows, along with videos, like the “Underwater Realm” fishing series, bring the ocean world, and its issues, to the general public. Add filmmaker to self-taught artist, entrepreneur, scientist, diver, angler, and conservationist, and it’s easy to see that Guy Harvey is not your average guy.
Q and A with Guy Harvey
Question: You were a professor of marine biology prior to your art career. Do you ever miss teaching?
Answer: In the classroom, yes, but as an entrepreneur, with the lifestyle I have, I am still engaged and interacting with people constantly. I am able to teach through my videos and tele- vision documentaries and through the Guy Harvey Foundation.
Question: Painting and drawing marine life is a wonderful way to bring the ocean world, and its issues, to people who can’t experience those themselves. Has this always been your goal in painting the underwater world?
Answer: Absolutely. One problem with conservation is the public has an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude. People are more concerned with something when they can see and relate to the issue. Through the art and television work we are able to bring these issues to people’s minds.
Question: What are the main conservation issues the Guy Harvey Foundation is currently addressing?
Answer: There are several basic research projects on sharks; their habitat, migration patterns, genetics, and discovering new species. Next year, we’ll be sponsoring a symposium on great white sharks. We are also working on shark forensics. When shark products reach the market- place, they are dismembered and unidentifiable. Our research institute has developed a kit for identifying shark parts. There is relevance for the restaurant business. Sometimes restaurants cannot get what they say they are selling and sell fish that is not what they say it is. This is not acceptable.
Question: The Guy Harvey brand is internationally recognized for donating artwork, time and funds for numerous institutions and conservation groups. What can the general public do to help support these causes?
Answer: The financial aspect is key. I like to say, “It takes cash to care.” In Florida, where you are surrounded by coastland, everyone should be a member of a conservation organization, either locally or internationally. With the Internet and YouTube, it is easier to get information about what is happening in the world, what resources are being exploited, and then put yourself in a position to do something.
Question: Do you have any new videos or television programs coming out soon?
Answer: We have a documentary on tiger sharks in the works. We’ve shot once in Bermuda and twice in the Bahamas. It should air in April or May of next year.
Question: Your merchandise, t-shirts in particular, have been popular for years, but are especially trendy with teenagers right now. Was this a conscious marketing effort to reach this population?
Answer: A bit of everything. I’ve had a good client base for 25 years, so some of it is simply the next generation coming up. When I do a signing, 50 to 60 percent of the people are young people. They love fishing and they love the artwork. The colors have more to do with it than anything else.
Question: Do you see this as an opportunity to involve young people in conservation issues?
Answer: Absolutely. It is primarily why we direct marketing efforts through medium such as TV and YouTube. When I look back on my life, as a teenager, I never knew about these issues. We can use the artwork and the media to raise awareness.
Question: You grew up in Jamaica, but now live on Grand Cayman. What was it about the Cayman Islands that made you settle there?
Answer: I ran the business from Jamaica at first, but I decided the advantages of Jamaica were outweighed by the disadvantages. There were security issues and traveling was more difficult. You have been to my studio, and know that I can go from painting there, to a 100-foot wall dive, or hooking a Marlin, in a matter of minutes. Grand Cayman has peace and quiet, and it is geographically well suited for traveling to Florida.
Question: Your Cayman Island restaurant, Guy Harvey’s Island Grill, is one of our favorite eateries on the island. (There are also locations in Key West, Panama City, Marco Island, Orange Beach, Alabama, and a new location coming soon to Ocala.) How does the restaurant aid your conservation efforts?
Answer: We don’t serve any seafood products that are exploited or overfished. That includes shark, grouper, swordfish, or any billfish species. People see that and it reminds them that these species are being exploited.
Question: Any idea how many different species of underwater life you have painted to date?
Answer: A lot! The big ocean animals are fun to do; the sharks, billfish, Wahoo, dolphin fish. Tuna has radiant colors. The reef fish are meticulous but have magnificent color. I try to satisfy people on a regional basis, painting what interests them. I just finished a whole series for the restaurants. I never get tired of painting!
Ocala Magazine, November 2009