Carey Chen tells how to become the best at fishing, painting

BY ANDREW GREEN

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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CAREY Chen was a video store operator when he started his transformation into one of the leading marine wildlife artists in the world.

The son of businessman and boxing promoter, the late Lucien Chen, Carey grew up in Kingston before emigrating to the United States of America as a young man. It was in Miami, Florida, that the then 30-year-old consolidated his enthusiasm both for sport fishing and painting.

“I became involved in sport fishing first,” he said. “I started coming back to Jamaica each year to participate in the Port Antonio International Marlin Tournament. I was hooked as an angler.”

Chen was speaking at the start of the JN General Insurance Company-sponsored Royal Jamaica Yacht Club's (RJYC) 16th Annual Fishing Tournament, at the RJYC Marina, Palisadoes Park, Kingston, recently. He was the featured artist for the event, with his paintings offered as prizes, and providing the competition t-shirts.

“I used to fish with the late Byron Lee in the Port Antonio tournament,” he related. “It is important to be with friends because fishing is boring most of the time until a marlin bites your hook, and then you get a massive adrenaline rush. Fishermen always remember when a marlin strikes, as that is the most exciting moment.”

Chen's career in art started with an interest in photography before he became interested in putting his passion for sport fishing on canvas, as he became aware of the possibilities of marine wildlife art.

“I have a vivid memory and I started drawing the fish,” he said. The budding artist then began experimenting with painting them.

“The colours of marlins are extraordinary… the combination of purple, yellow and blue are fascinating,” he said. “I wanted to capture the drama of that moment when the fish strikes and you get that explosion of colours.

“What I did was very primitive at first, but, as I went on, I got better and better,” he explained. “I am a self-taught artist, and I was not aware that I had that talent until later in life.”

He began donating his paintings as prizes at the tournaments he attended, and got a positive reception. Interest in his art grew to the point where he was asked to be the featured artist for the Miami Billfish Tournament; and later, The Cayman Islands' Million Dollar Month competition.

“I now receive invitations to more than 60 tournaments around the world, annually, as their featured artist,” he stated. “And, I actually fish at about 40 per year, which is a lot.”

With a growing reputation as one of the leading marine wildlife artists in the world, Chen said that a part of his success was due to the fact that, “there are only a handful of us doing what I do.

“You have to be a hardcore sport fisherman to experience the power and majesty of a big marlin; and added to that, you need to be an artist to be able to depict the experience,” he stated. “That combination of interests is uncommon.”

The other element of his success is based on the fact that the sport is an expensive one; therefore, his acceptance as an angler and as an artist within the community provides him with a good client base.

And, he maintains that “having a solid client base means that when I go to sport fishing tournaments, the boat owners are willing to pay well for the artwork they want”.

To leverage the value of his talent, he said, “I have merchandise associated with the art; therefore, if someone wants their boat depicting a fish jumping, I will paint it for them. I also have prints of my paintings for those who don't want to take on the cost of the original artwork.”

His merchandising has expanded to include a clothing line, wines and beers, as well as other goods. Chen related, “this a very good business”.

General manager, JN General Insurance Company, Chris Hind, whose organisation provided Carey Chen shirts to the participants in the RJYC 2017 Annual Fishing Tournament, vouched for the appeal of the items.

“The anglers simply loved them,” Hind said.

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