A change of artPublished 10:48am Thursday, April 3, 2014
NEW BUFFALO—Having enjoyed multiple careers—as a graphic designer, as the proprietor of a bed and breakfast, as a gallery owner and as a landscape painter, Roger Harvey is looking to the future, excited for whatever may come next.
“I think changes in lifestyle are invigorating. You’re doing the same thing over and over for years, and you get tired, and you just take it for granted that you can do it. It becomes easy after a while,” Harvey said. “But then, when you stop that and go onto something else, it invigorates you, and you want to learn how to do it, and you get into it. Even at 70 years old, it still interests you to go on and do something else.”
It seems that Harvey’s life has been an exercise in change and transformation.
“I was 14 when my family came over from England. My folks settled in Peoria, Ill. After I got out of high school, I went into the army for three years, and when I got back, I moved to Chicago and went to art school,” Harvey recalled. “Then, when I graduated, I went back to Peoria for a year or two, and I met my wife there. Then, we both moved back to Chicago, and we were there for about 35 years. We came over here to New Buffalo about 20 years ago.”
Upon arriving in Michigan in 1993, the Harveys decided to purchase a 1948 Bauhaus-style home at 33 Barton St., transforming it into a bed and breakfast.
“It’s a different style of building,” Harvey said. “Not a lot of people look at this building and understand it.”
Working from the modern style of the home, the Harveys decided to present it as the first 1950s-themed bed and breakfast. However, after seven years in the hospitality industry, they decided that they were again ready for a change. It was then that they opened their gallery, and Harvey began to paint once again in earnest.
“I didn’t do a lot of art while we owned the B&B. It was very demanding,” Harvey explained. “I used to paint when I was in Chicago, but I was always so busy doing graphic design that I never really had the time to do much of it.”
Freed from the demands of his earlier careers, Harvey was able to focus more on his art, reaching back to the training he received while he was a student at Chicago’s American Academy of Art and the School of the Art Institute.
“When I went to art school, we were taught that everything had to be realistic,” Harvey explained. “At the Art Institute, it was a lot more free than at the American Academy of Art, but even at the Art Institute, in the painting classes, they tried to make you learn how to paint before you started abstracting things.”
Harvey chose to apply those techniques to the study of landscapes, for which he found ample inspiration in southwestern Michigan.
“They’re pretty traditional landscapes, maybe a little more colorful than what one would think of in traditional landscapes, but they’re very traditional, and that comes from my training,” Harvey said.
Although Harvey’s large acrylic landscapes are unique, he was both surprised and inspired to learn that another painter had a somewhat similar vision.
“I started painting, and I was just painting without looking at what anyone else was doing, and a friend of mine said to me that I painted like a guy called Wolf Kahn, and I had never heard of him,” Harvey said. “So, I immediately looked him up on the internet and found that he had some books, and I went and searched and got his books.
“I admire his painting a lot. In some ways, I do paint a lot like him,” Harvey said. “They’re more abstract than mine. Mine are perhaps a little more realistic, but his colors have influenced me probably more than anything else.”
While landscapes are a common subject for Harvey, he has branched out into other areas as well.
“I’ve done portraits, and I do other things, like these whimsical little faces, sort of based on African masks. They’re just found-object masks,” Harvey said. “ I also make jewelry out of found objects.”
Although the Roger Harvey ART Gallery remains open and Harvey continues to paint, he and his wife are now looking to the next chapter in their lives. They are putting the 3,500-square foot building on the market, unsure of what the future holds.
“We may move to California, or we may stay in the area,” Harvey said. “We haven’t quite decided yet.”
Wherever the Harveys’ journey takes them next, it seems certain that Roger will find subjects for his art. More can be learned about Harvey’s work and the gallery at www.rogerharveyart.com.