Carey Chen Marine Artist
There are any numbers of ways an artist may learn his trade. One conventional method is to enroll in art school and follow a set of instructions as outlined by one of the organizations that create educational standards, such as the Consortium of National Arts Education Associations which publishes the following: "The arts require regular systematic programs of sequential instruction leading to clearly specified outcomes." That would be called the mechanical approach to art, paint-by-numbers, an approach that has worked for few to none of the best artists. Another way might be to follow the lead of one of the world's most accomplished marine artists, Carey Chen, who has never set foot in an art school and never taken a formal lesson.
Spend a lifetime on the ocean observing the marine environment; attend fishing tournaments all over the world; release 300 blue marlin; spend months on the Florida flats fishing and observing the behaviors of snook, tarpon, stingrays and sharks. And when you've done all that and acquired an eye for magnificent detail, practice incessantly to hone your skills. Experiment with different paints, different colors, different brushes and different canvasses. Keep an eye out for new dimensions in detail, and paint everyday. As in any art form, a successful body of work is small part inspiration, and large part perspiration.
Carey Chen was born in California but grew up in Jamaica until the age of eighteen. When the political turmoil in Kingston of the late 1970s became violent, Carey's father moved the family to Miami. This was good fortune for Carey as the South Florida fishing scene and easy access to great fishing locations in the Caribbean and Central America enabled a lifetime of fishing adventures and experiences that he could translate onto canvass. An avid fisherman all his life, Carey grew to love the beauty and perfection of the creatures that live in the sea. His fine eye for the detail of the dimensions and musculature of juvenile fish, and a talented and steady hand have guided him through a lifetime of artistic productivity. Carey is adept in many artistic media including jewelry, clothing, woodwork, tile, glass, and he even has his own wine label.
With no formal art instruction how is it possible that Carey Chen has climbed to the very top of the marine art field? A near photographic memory of the behaviors of fish is part of the explanation. A fish jumps, Carey captures it in his memory. After four decades of watching the behaviors of different species, Carey has a catalog of fish images stored in his head. He sees the motion, the depth, the color, the light and the action. As he works on a single painting for up to three weeks until completion, these images remain in his head as his hands transpose the image from his brain to the canvas.
Carey's Famous Friends
Whether the scene is inshore or offshore fishing, Carey will be there. With his popularity as an artist, fisherman, and philanthropist, he receives invitations from captains all over the world to spend a day or a few days of fishing. He has fished with such names as Ron Hamlin, Brad Philips, the Fields Brothers, the Dudas Family, Billy Borer, Joe Lopez, Ray Rosher, Ron Schatman, Norm and Daren Isaacs, John Brownlee, George Poveromo, Skip Smith and Rick Ogle. These are a few the great captains who have fished with Carey in the most exotic places,having the most extreme fishing adventures, and exposing Carey to a vast variety of scenes that he can memorialize on canvass.
Carey's works have appeared on the covers of more than 400 magazines, in personal collections and in public places wherever an appreciation of marine animals exists. He has been the featured artist for more tournaments than he can remember including multiple assignments for the Puerto Rico International Billfish Tournament, the Cayman Islands International Tournament, the USVI Open Boy Scout Tournament, the Miami Dolphins Fishing Tournament, the Jeb Bush Florida Classic to Benefit Cystic Fibrosis, and fifteen times the featured artist for the Ocean Reef Club Sailfish Classic.
This works exceptionally well for Carey, as he is himself a tournament fisherman having won many of such events. When asked about his lifetime of tournament participation and his own successes, Carey says that tournaments are almost always fun and memorable, and a great source of ideas for his artwork. A few stand out as exceptional. Fondly he recalls the many times he participated in the Port Antonio Tournament of his native Jamaica where he won first place three years in a row. But one tournament to beat all others, and to never be forgotten, just finished up on January 7, 2012. This was the Silver Sailfish Derby of the West Palm Beach Fishing Club. Over three days of fishing 46 boats released 1,147 sailfish. That translates to more than 8 catches per day per boat, a record for offshore Palm Beach that might never be broken.
When asked about the most important of all the elements that go into a fine piece of artwork, Carey is quick to answer. It's automatic that he will use bright colors to suit the situation, so after that he says, "The most important thing to get right on an art piece is depth and light. With these two elements in place the work will pop and make a big impression. I want the person viewing one of my paintings to feel like he can walk or swim into the scene." Light and depth. When looking at Carey's body of work, this theme becomes pronounced. As the work unfolds Carey's mind recalls perfectly the image of the fish or many fishes. He sees the body movements, the twists, the position of the fins, the angle of the mouth or bill, the intensity in the eyes. He also sees the colors that come alive as the fish changes its position, whether in the air or in the water. Light changes with every movement. Depth is dynamic. Yet Carey's eye photographs that exact image and catalogs it for use in one of his paintings. He will recall visions from a memory bank of experiences and combine them into a single painting, blending large pelagics with smaller baitfish, underwater structures and the angle of the sun. It's a skill, a talent that only the gifted possess.
Carey knows what he likes in others' works and what he does not like. He praises those marine artists who work hard to duplicate reality. The greatest influences on him have been the marine artists Stanley Meltzoff and Don Ray. He admires Christian Reese Lassen for his genius in the use of colors and lighting. Russ Smiley was his first influence, and the artist who encouraged and mentored him early in his career.Carey's Favorite Pieces
When asked about his favorite artwork in his collection his attention is drawn to three specific pieces. The piece entitled "Ambush" is his favorite inshore example. Carey likes its exceptional use of light, detail, and depth, drawing the observer into the scene as if he were snorkeling along with the vibrant sea life it depicts. Bright colors, motion, and light make the work entitled "Intruder" his favorite offshore work. Inspired by the abundant sea life in the area of Bat Island, Costa Rica, Carey created another beautiful piece that combines the beauty and behaviors of black marlin, roosterfish, dolphin, wahoo, and a bait ball. That artwork was commissioned by the famous sportfisherman, Carlos Pelas, and hangs in his home in Nicaragua.
Charities and Volunteer Work
Much of Carey Chen's life is dedicated to volunteer work and charity. He loves teaching the younger generation about ocean conservation and fish identification. At such prestigious tournaments as the Ocean Reef Club Sailfish Classic, the Fisher Island Sailfish Tournament, and the Horizon Fishing Tournament to benefit Hospice of the Palm Beaches, Carey will contribute original works of art and other Carey Chen branded items to raise money for the charities those tournaments support. Some of these original pieces have raised many of thousands of dollars for these charities including a high bid of $27,000 for one of his pieces at a recent event. Favorite charities include TBF (The Billfish Foundation), CCA (Coastal Conservation Association), the Cancer Alliance, Boys and Girls Clubs, Miami Children's Hospital, Make-a-Wish Foundation and the International Game Fish Association. About generously and humbly donating such valuable pieces Carey says, "What it costs me is not much, but what it gives to the charities is a lot."
Carey has received many awards and much recognition for his lifetime of good works and charitable giving. He is proud of having been awarded the State of Florida award for artwork and wildlife conservation and education by the Florida Wildlife Commission.
Carey's work can be viewed at www.careychen.com and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org