Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dr. Guy Harvey, World-Renowned Marine Artist, Conservationist, Scientist and Author, about his career, what motivates him, and the work that has gone into his new book, Guy Harvey’s Underwater World.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am known as an artist, scientist, conservationist and entrepreneur. But I also am an avid angler, diver, explorer, photographer and author. I have published five books, including my most recent, Guy Harvey’s Underwater World.
I grew up in Jamaica, a 10th generation Jamaican of English heritage, and at an early age developed a love for the ocean. I earned a First Class Honours Degree in marine biology at Aberdeen University in Scotland and a doctorate in Fisheries Biology from the University of the West Indies. An avid SCUBA diver for more than 50 years and a skilled underwater photographer, we pioneered a technique for diving with and photographing free-swimming billfish.
I am a self-taught artist, using five different media and my work, including his large-scale murals, is exhibited in major galleries, universities, airports, cruise lines and Sea World parks. Our iconic t- shirts are worn throughout the world. I am devoted to my family and my passion is for the ocean and the preservation of its inhabitants.
I have been inducted into the International Fishing, Swimming, and SCUBA Diving Halls of Fame and was a trustee of the IGFA for 28 years. My conservation work and scientific research are furthered through the Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, Nova Southeastern University which we also support with scholarships. I am also a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and the Artists for Conservation and an award-winner of the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I have always wanted to chronicle my expeditions and research. From the moment I discovered Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, I was hooked. His work really inspired me and, in the mid-70s, I depicted the book through a series of original pen and ink drawings, which were displayed at my first one man art exhibition in Jamaica in 1985. Following this show I realized there was a possible career in art. My hobby became my profession.
I took the same exhibit to the U.S. at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in 1986 and sold the entire collection. By 1988, I was painting full-time and this is how my career as a professional artist took off and signed licensing agreements for use of my art on apparel. Having the library of artwork and photography for the books, I then added in the narrative, telling of my experiences in the oceans that went with it.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I began traveling around the world for my research of the oceans and marine wildlife. That not only gave me the inspiration to paint, but also to write about the expeditions and what we learned along the way. My first autobiography, Portraits from the Deep, was published in 2002.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Your first book is always the most difficult as you get your sea legs, so to speak. Because I was always a storyteller through my art and research, the idea came about organically. I also wanted something that would inspire readers to take a look at our oceans, what they mean to us and how we can help inhabitants thrive. My first book took approximately three months to write and another six to complete the design, layout and printing. It was self-published.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Prior to the pandemic, I had spent a significant amount of time traveling. When the pandemic hit, and we were grounded, as most of us were, I realized that I could put that time to good use by writing and chronicling our research adventures. Since the writing of Portraits from the Deep and Panama Paradise, ten years had passed by brimming with open ocean encounters.
I made good use of the 4 months or so in lockdown focusing on writing Guy Harvey’s Underwater World. This time I went through the Bonnier Corporation to do editing, layout and design and the book was published by Stackpole Books.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Guy Harvey’s Underwater World?
At the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), we are committed to supporting marine research, marine science education and ocean conservation initiatives. A non-profit organization dedicated to saving the seas, the GHOF supports groundbreaking research and helps foster the next generation of ocean conservationists. As part of that, we are developing and implementing a new K-12 marine science educational curriculum and much of the inspiration for that is my books, including my newest one.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Guy Harvey’s Underwater World?
Probably the biggest challenge in writing Guy Harvey’s Underwater World, was deciding what to include in the book. The editor cut the script from 120,000 words to 55,000, and limited the pages to 350.The amount of research and the photography was enough to fill several books. So the process continues.
What was your research process for Guy Harvey’s Underwater World?
I have always kept meticulous notes in a daily journal, of my scientific discoveries and insights on into the oceans and its inhabitants. For Guy Harvey’s Underwater World, I wanted to share not only the magnificent visual displays of my time on and in the water, but also the fascinating stories surrounding the behavior of dozens of gamefish species from expeditions around the world.
With the focus by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation on educational initiatives for students, I also incorporated stories, film content and research that can be used in the curricula we continue to develop.
How did you plan the structure of Guy Harvey’s Underwater World?
My books follow a similar pattern. It’s a deep dive into research, but also weaving in the fascinating stories about our oceans and the marine species that live there.
With Guy Harvey’s Underwater World, we chronicled incredible fishing and diving adventures throughout the Bahamas, Caribbean, Belize, Cuba, the Caymans, Bermuda, the Yucatan and Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Costa Rica, Australia and the Galapagos. During each expedition there were truly “experiences of a lifetime” which I am so thrilled to share with readers.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Guy Harvey’s Underwater World need?
I work with a very talented team of editors and researchers. Because it was my fifth book, and I was trying to cover twenty years’ worth of my life with photography and narrative I got carried away in recounting some experiences. A good editor can keep the script economical while delivering the same excitement, the atmosphere, the feeling of discovery and pioneering new observations, inspiring new art from every dive.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
First of all, if they are inspired to write a book, that is the first step. I would also advise them to write about something they are passionate about. Take the time to formulate a plan for the book. The creative process shouldn’t never be rushed. Write to the answer to what you want your readers to take away from your book.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I can tell you that whenever I am on an expedition, I am chronicling not only my research but also the beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants with photography and videography which constantly inspires new artwork as well.
I hope there will be time for many more books so I can educate, inspire and entertain readers by sharing the wonders of the sea with them. I have started researching more content from the recent four year research expedition in Panama and am looking at options of a more historical nature based on my parent’s fishing experiences in Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s.
This is because my mother, Josephine, kept good diaries of their fishing trips and life on a cattle ranch generally in pre independent Jamaica. Her photographs and notes will form the basis of an interesting historical perspective and the birth of tournament sport fishing in Jamaica.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am proud of my accomplishments, but I could not have done what I’ve accomplished without the support of my family and my team. Together we have built a global lifestyle brand featuring books, apparel, footwear, accessories, home, and merchandise designed with marine wildlife art that is unmatched in authenticity and visual appeal.
As with every Guy Harvey-licensed merchandise, a portion of the proceeds benefit ocean conservation through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the seas by supporting groundbreaking scientific research and helping foster the next generation of ocean conservationists through education initiatives.
The Foundation helps ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from a properly balanced ocean ecosystem and supports the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University. The mission of NSU’s GHRI is to provide the scientific information necessary to understand, conserve, and effectively manage the world’s marine fishes and their ecosystems. The institute is one of only a handful of private organizations dedicated exclusively to the science-based conservation of marine fish populations and biodiversity.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
All Guy Harvey Books: https://guyharvey.com/collections/books
Guy Harvey’s Underwater World (Book, Bundle, and Special Edition): https://guyharvey.com/pages/underwater-world
Social Media Links:
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