Jul 12, 2010

CNN Interview – Portrait of a Self-Taught Artist and the Sea

by admin

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (CNN) — Whether he’s out on the ocean monitoring stingrays in the Caribbean, or back on land painting in his studio, Guy Harvey spends all his time surrounded by fish.

Raised in Jamaica and educated in Scotland, Harvey is one of the world’s leading conservationists with a first class degree in marine biology and a PhD in fisheries management.

His love of the sea and ecology inspired Harvey to found the Guy Harvey Research Institute in 1999 which provides scientific information about fish protection and biodiversity.

But this is only half of Harvey’s remarkable story. He is a highly successful businessman with a chain of seafood restaurants and a self-taught artist whose depictions of game fish have become world famous.

“I didn’t go to art class or art school, never took a lesson in my life. I learned everything from trial and error and it’s this persistence, I suppose, with the illustrative content which got me to where I am,” Harvey told CNN.

Ernest Hemmingway’s novella, “The Old Man and the Sea” inspired Harvey’s obsession with game fish and moved him to depict the famous fishing story in a series of pen and ink drawings a quarter of a century ago.

He paints every day and 10 percent of the proceeds of all the paintings he sells goes straight back into his eco-organizations.

Harvey also created a TV series, “Portraits of the Deep,” to showcase game fish and their importance to the environment.

“To see them underwater in their glowing, feeding and moving colors, their aggression colors are probably one of the most exciting things you can do as a diver,” Harvey said.

These videos play constantly in his stores and his restaurants where Harvey’s art is also on the walls, and only sustainable fish species are on the menu.

Harvey’s marine expertise has also helped to pioneer techniques of recording billfish underwater and a tagging system to monitor them over long distances.

More recently, he’s taken on the plight of sharks. Hunted for their fins, the loss of these predators could affect the oceans’ fragile balance.

Harvey’s recent Ultimate Shark Challenge was a catch-and-release fishing tournament held off the Southwest Florida coast. Endangered sharks were tagged for study and not a single one was strung up in the dock.

Sharks are also in danger in the Gulf of Mexico because of the BP oil leak. Harvey fears other fish are at risk too. He’s planning a new line of t-shirts to raise funds for research.

“We have no idea when this is going to stop or how far it’s going to reach and what the life span of this disaster is going to be,” Harvey said.

From the study of stingrays, to the most pressing conservation issues in global fisheries, the diver, artist, scientist, and businessman is always promoting the preservation of marine ecology.

“Fish are just stinking fish to most people. They have their filet that comes on the plate or you buy it in the fish mongers and it comes in a cellophane bag and it’s dead and cold and smelly. These are beautiful graceful ocean predators that need our respect.

“I want to leave people feeling that, you know, we really need to think more about how we use the ocean and everything that’s in it and if I’ve achieved that, then that will do it for me.”

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