His iconic artwork and apparel are recognised across the globe, and it all began with an enchantment of Caribbean waters. An innovative steward with both creativity and business savvy, Guy Harvey and his work branch out beyond the canvas into partnerships that support research initiatives, whilst educating and empowering the conservation community.
As a Cayman resident, he holds a deep commitment to seeing the ecology of the Islands thrive. Dr. Harvey shares insight on upcoming collaborations and expeditions, his hope for the next generation of environmental visionaries, and this issue of Skies’ exquisite cover artwork.
What inspired your artwork and steered your educational journey towards marine biology?
The ocean has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. I grew up fishing and diving along the south coast of Jamaica and was captivated by the wildlife around me. This appreciation naturally intersected with my interest in drawing and painting.
I’m a self-taught artist and refined my craft by drawing the animals and plants around Jamaica. I went to England for boarding school at a young age and would draw these tropical scenes whenever I was feeling homesick. I was obsessed with the oceans, especially the big apex predators like marlin and sharks. This obsession led to my focus on marine sciences and earning a PhD in fisheries biology.
How do science and art complement and enhance one another?
Science and art are inseparable in my mind. Authenticity is a cornerstone for me personally, as well as the Guy Harvey brand. This means not only painting the animals in a biologically accurate way, but also capturing their movement and behaviour in a way that is true to nature.
Science and artwork are also inextricably linked on the business side of Guy Harvey. Proceeds from the sale of my artwork and merchandise fund marine conservation, scientific research and educational programmes through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).
The Guy Harvey brand has recently announced an upcoming partnership with Perry Ellis. Can you give us more details?
The global licensing agreement with Perry Ellis takes effect in July of 2019. This is very exciting for the Guy Harvey brand, as Perry Ellis is an industry leader and a globally renowned fashion brand. This partnership will introduce new designs and functional styles to Guy Harvey customers and expand the reach of our brand to new audiences, especially in the international market. As with all Guy Harvey licensees, Perry Ellis will contribute a percentage of revenue from the sale of Guy Harvey apparel to the GHOF.
Your restaurant in George Town, Island Grill, is part of the Sustainable Seafood Program and does not serve species whose populations are overfished. How can diners in the Caribbean be more mindful when making dining selections?
Like almost everyone in the Caribbean, I love seafood. But overfishing and seafood fraud are major threats to global fisheries and overall ocean health. The best way for diners to be more mindful is to educate themselves about which fish are harvested in a sustainable manner. Many organisations, including the GHOF, offer informational websites, mobile apps and pocket guides. It’s also useful to look for the Marine Stewardship Council logo on the menu, or, here in Cayman, patronise restaurants that are part of the Cayman Sea Sense programme run by the Cayman Islands National Trust.
What about the next generation of ocean conservationists excites you?
What excites me most about the next generation of conservationists is their capability. Not only are they interested in learning about environmental issues but, through social media, they now have the means to share their passion and interests with their network of friends. This has been a big part of our Shark Talk programme here in the Cayman Islands. In partnership with the Kenneth B. Dart Foundation (KBDF), we bring Cayman students on expeditions with our research team. We film these students as part of a documentary film series and provide them with the information and content they need to tell their story to their peers.
How would you encourage readers to direct their specific talents and skills towards conservation?
Everybody — big and small, young and old — has the power to affect positive change for conservation. The key is to find out where your interest in conservation lies and how you can help. Local businesses can choose a particular organisation to support through a percentage of sales. Individuals can utilise social media to raise awareness about a particular issue or cause. Everybody can be more aware of how their choices in life, like the activities they participate in and products that they use, affect the natural ecosystem.
You’re always creating new artwork and designs at your studio in Cayman. What specific locations on the Islands keeps the inspiration flowing?
The subjects of my paintings are almost exclusively of personal experiences, and many of these experiences are on and around the Cayman Islands. Stingray City has appeared in many of my paintings, as have reef scenes from Babylon and Bloody Bay Wall.
One of my all-time favourite pieces, Grouper Moon, features the awe-inspiring Nassau grouper spawning aggregation of Little Cayman. For the past eight years, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation has documented the work being done there by the Department of the Environment (DoE), the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and Oregon State University to survey this population. This is one of the last known spawning aggregation sites for this iconic and commercially valuable species. Recent protections instituted by DoE appear to be helping the population recover.
Are there any plans to bring more conservation efforts to the Islands?
Of course! One of the reasons I choose to call the Cayman Islands home is because of the tremendous resources we have access to here. We currently maintain an ongoing survey of the rays at Stingray City, which is now the longest-running research project on a marine interactive programme in the world. The GHOF has also worked on lionfish eradication projects, the Nassau grouper study, and partnered on a project to grow and transplant coral. We currently have plans to expand the KBDF sponsored Shark Talk programme. We also plan to begin tagging silky sharks in Cayman waters, which is a relatively understudied species globally.
Author: Jessie Gilmartin