“It’s not exactly an impulse buy,” Harvey told me with a chuckle, when describing his new book, Kayaks of Alaska. I admit that it’s heavy and that maybe the average person wouldn’t buy a copy, but it’s well worth perusing and I’m not just saying that because Harvey is my friend. A big part of the appeal is visual.
He refuses to admit it, but Harvey is an artist. Asked directly, if he makes art, he will deflect the question.
You’re the artist, he’ll say, noting the sketch book I tote everywhere.
But really, Harvey is one too. His latest book is filled with hundreds of drawings of lashings, ribs, and paddles make the pages come alive in a way that the fascinating old postcards and photos don’t. His pen work draws out details that can’t be captured by a camera without lots of arrows and other distractions.
What separates Harvey’s drawings from mere technical illustrations is twofold. First the drawings are often abstract. Although he’s intending to show a specific detail, for the non-specialist the lines hold beauty and shapes that make the eye appreciate the shape more than the purpose.
Second, the lines aren’t clinical. Although some of the hull profiles are decidedly (and appropriately) technical, other drawings have warmth and accuracy. Black and white drawings of the coaming from a 1938 kayak cockpit have enough sketchy lines to make the sinew lashings feel life-like. The wooden knees have just a touch of roughness thanks to Harvey’s pen strokes.
If all that isn’t enough to make you read the book, go to Harvey’s museum where you can see his three dimensional art in the form of flying models and beautiful recreations of skin on frame kayaks. While all are built to scale, even down to the camp stove on the cockpit of Harvey’s latest dream boat, the level of creativity and imagination it takes to build and display them makes them art to me.
With Harvey perched behind his desk in the back of the museum, there’s a real sense of motion in the air overhead. A fleet of tiny proas fly through a three dimensional realm, better than Star Wars or Buck Rodgers, better than the charming old pictures gathered beneath the desk. Why? Because they are both a study in beauty and grace, as well as plain old art that is a joy to behold.