You started drawing sea life as a child. When did you realize you could make a living as an artist?
I first realized I could sell my art at the age of 13 or 14, when at boarding school we would have shows at School Fetes, etc., and I would sell sketches and small oil paintings for a couple of pounds. During the marlin tournament season in Jamaica, I would hold a small exhibition in the clubhouse at Port Antonio and sell quite a lot of art. I met a number of people who wanted to represent my art in the early 1980s, and finally hooked up with sport fishing journalist Barbara Currie and tackle store owner Scott Boyd from Ft. Lauderdale. Having done very well locally at my first one-man art show in a Kingston gallery, Scott encouraged me to exhibit at the 1986 Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, which I did, and that was the first time I truly realized the potential of what I had.
What did you paint in your early years?
I painted all sorts of subject matter in my early years—the nature I saw around me in Jamaica, planes, tanks, ships of WWII, fish, all sorts of things.
Did art come naturally or did you hone your craft in school?
The ability was a natural gift, but I spent a lot of time observing nature in the field, both above and below the surface. At boarding school I would paint a lot of West Indian subject matter because I was home sick often. Once I got over that I just painted a lot because I enjoyed it and was good at doing illustrations for reports, essays, etc.
Your family immigrated to Jamaica in 1644. What compelled them to leave Mother England and make the treacherous sail all the way to the Caribbean?
My mother’s family, the Williams, was originally from Wales. They were given land in Jamaica in return for favors done for Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. They went there to start tobacco farms.
After 10 generations of Harveys in Jamaica, what drew you to Grand Cayman as your home?
Returning to Jamaica in 1978 to start my PhD at the University of the West Indies, I stayed at the university for 10 years, becoming a professor after obtaining my doctorate. In 1987 the art was beginning to do well under the new license I had with T-shirts of Florida and by 1988 I was strung out with all sorts of commitments at University of West Indies (UWI) and in Florida. I resigned from UWI and went into the marine wildlife art business full time. I got married to Gillian in Kingston in 1989, and raised my family there, and successfully carried out all my obligations in building the business from there. But by 1997 the advantages of living in Jamaica were overtaken by the disadvantages, and I made the necessary preparations to move to Grand Cayman which we did in August 1999. Grand Cayman is British Caribbean, close to Florida and offers a similar lifestyle to that experienced in Jamaica, and was much more peaceful. In addition, the ocean is on my doorstep.
Do you return to Jamaica often?
We go back to Jamaica at least twice per year to visit family and friends, and for a vacation.
What’s a typical day like for Guy Harvey when you are at home on Grand Cayman? Are you on or in the water every day?
A typical day before I opened the waterfront gallery was to work in my studio from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Since I now have the gallery I work at home in my studio from 7-11 a.m., then go to the gallery for three or four hours, before spending the rest of the afternoon at the home studio. In the evenings I play squash or go exercising almost every day. Diving and fishing are done at weekends unless I have guests who need to dive, or I’m shooting a TV show or something similar.
Your children are still in school but have traveled extensively on your fishing and research trips. Will they follow your lead or do they have their own career ambitions?
Jessica is 19 and attending her second year at Edinburgh University, Scotland, studying biology, but would like to move into vet science. Alexander is 16, finishing high school in Victoria B.C., where he is captain of the First XI soccer team, and plays fly half for the First XV rugby team. He would like to study architecture. While they have their own career ambitions it would be great if one of them could become involved in my business at some point down the road.