Nigel was born on 26th May, 1961 in Cwmbran, South Wales and died on the 8th December 2016 age 55.
Nigel was brought up with classics like Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh and Disney’s Jungle Disney – Nigel’s incredible ability to see human traits in animals has a direct link back to Badger, Piglet and Baloo in these magical tales of the natural world. he could assign human personalities to animals in the simplest of pen strokes. A donkey with a raised eyebrow. A fox with an evil smirk. A horse with a come-hither grin. The themes of Wind in the Willows run a thread through Nigel’s life. The animals’ concern for the Wild Wood. Their strong bond of friendship. Mr Toad’s love of buttered toast.
Nigel always had a vivid imagination and grew up in a world where kids could still play in the fields all day, building dens, lighting fires and only coming home when it got dark. His free spirit meant he bucked against authority. He didn’t enjoy learning at school – far too many boundaries for his liking. Though he did enjoy playing football and was often the one kicking the ball at the windows with inevitable consequences.
Fearful he might run away rather than stay in school, Norma and Arthur took the bold move to send the 15-year old Nigel to art school in Harrogate 40 miles from home. In the days without the internet or even a phone at home, this saw a phase that took Nigel out of the family orbit for 10 years. In tales he told afterwards, we know Nigel drank his way through art school. And though he was busy partying, listening to punk and sometimes stealing traffic bollards, his artistic talent carried him through. At Harrogate he won a prestigious Arts Council Award to study in Germany. But he was far too busy having fun to attend many lectures. And on returning to England – still only 19 –he turned his back on a scholarship to St Martin’s School of Art.
While he didn’t continue his studies, he stayed in student mode frequenting a notorious Australian pub in Soho, sleeping on someone’s floor. But by day, to pay his way, he was spraying weeds for the Council. And the fun was starting to fade.
In 1986 Nigel went to visit his brother Ian in Hastings one weekend and the rest of his life was set. His young and restless soul found a spiritual home by the sea.
He initially worked at the Hastings Observer as a graphic designer, and then at the Hastings Trust as an illustrator, forging the close friendships that lasted well over 20 years.
When he settled in Hastings, he came back to the family, too.
Even though Mum and Dad stayed in the North, then went to Australia, and then to Wales, Nigel never again missed Christmas. He developed skills as a formidable sous chef to help Mum in the kitchen and played silly Santa, starting the tradition of giving small cheap things in unfeasibly large boxes. And amusing us all with drawings of reindeer who’d had too much sherry.
Much to the chagrin of his siblings, he usually won at any game they played, always raking in the money at Monopoly. Or getting the most points at Nintendo, or wiping away the field at tiddlywinks. Even playing marbles as young as four he showed the sporting prowess, strategic skills and creative flair that served him well in chess.
In Hastings, he joined the Chess Club and played competitively, reaching the English Chess Federation Grade of 185 when the average grade is 134. This is well above the grade of County Master level. His opponents’ notes show he was considered a formidable foe.
His philosophical approach and an experimental attitude to risk could make him an unpredictable player. Just as his relaxed personal style and social ease could make it easy to underestimate his intellectual abilities.
On the work front, Nigel’s life took an unexpected turn with jobs at the Castle Museum then the Anne of Cleves Museum in Lewes that qualified him as a curator for the Hussar regimental museum at the Redoubt Fortress, Eastbourne.
For the family, there was the ultimate irony that the Harvey least likely to obey authority was employed by the MOD. In many respects it was the making of him.
Colonel Robert Crichton wrote to the family: “(Nigel) was the perfect curator, artist, draftsman and carpenter with a penchant for rolling up his sleeves and getting on with it. He was also quite brilliant at handling the sometimes difficult politics at the Redoubt – always calm, considered, kind and supportive of his friends and colleagues.”
Nigel especially loved working with the volunteers at the Redoubt. He was greatly humbled by the difficulties they had faced in war and loved the gibing, the jokes and the camaraderie. During his illnesses he took strength from their own trials and experience. “Harvey” is from the old French for ‘battle-worthy’. He showed us all in these last few years how to fight illness yet not be defeated in spirit.
Though Nigel has gone, he stays with us in a treasure trove of creative work. He certainly had natural talent. But he also spent a lifetime studying his heroes: illustrators like Mervyn Peake and Quentin Blake; masters of sea and sky like Turner; impressionists like Monet; the watercolorist Bonington; Japanese woodblock artists, Hiroshige, Hokkusai, Utamaro; maestros of the line drawing like Picasso.
Inspired by them, Nigel didn’t have one style, but many. And he didn’t just draw, paint, design and carve. He expressed himself creatively in murals, oils, caricatures, watercolours, oils, acrylics, etchings. He loved language too, reading classics like Hemingway, P.G. Woodhouse and DylanThomas.
But perhaps Nigel’s greatest inspiration was the natural world. He saw colour and wonder in everything. The shapes of clouds. The wind in the trees. The dewdrops on cobwebs. Most of all, he was inspired by the sea. He loved the rugged coast of Cornwall. And he relished his commute on the coast train from Hastings to Eastbourne. It gave him a chance every day to watch the endless shift of greens, blues, greys; to observe how the horizon could fade away in a white mist; to see the flashes of red, gold and yellow in the sunset.
Look at the natural world with Nigel’s eyes and you will see beauty every day. And you will be thankful for every day, just as he was.
Nigel has left us many legacies. Not least are the hundreds of drawings and paintings. And the decade’s worth of illustrated diaries that document his travels and the daily travails and titters at the Redoubt. Few people escaped his sharp eye and swift pen for a caricature.
His other great legacy is the love and affection his family and friends hold for him.
At his Funeral on December 28th two of his close friends paid tribute to him. And the family chose this passage to be read out. It’s an ode to friendship from Antoine St Exupéry, one of Nigel’s favourite authors; from a book called Wind, Sand and
“Nothing, in truth, can ever replace a lost companion. Old comrades cannot be manufactured. There is nothing that can equal the treasure of so many shared memories, so many bad times endured together, so many quarrels, reconciliations, heartfelt impulses. Friendships like that cannot be reconstructed.
If you plant an oak, you will hope in vain to sit soon under its shade.
For such is life. We grow rich as we plant through the early years, but then come the years when time undoes our work and cuts down our trees. One by one our comrades deprive us of their shade, and within our mourning we always feel now the secret grief of growing old.
If I search among my memories for those whose taste is lasting, if I write the balance sheet of the moments that truly counted, I surely find those that no fortune could have bought me. You cannot buy the friendship of a companion bound to you forever by experiences shared.”
Also at his Funeral, Nigel’s cousin Christine read from Dylan Thomas, another of Nigel’s favourites. The Prologue to Under Milk Wood has Nigel’s spirit woven through it. For not only does it evoke images of the Old Town in Hastings where Nigel painted the beach and boats for over 25 years, it is stuffed to its fishy gills with playful language, “sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing
In 1994 Nigel wrote to Lisa, “I am sitting on Hastings beach again… the pages of my Sunday newspaper plop into the waves and swim out to sea. I have always loved the sea and the beaches. Someday, when my time comes, when the sands of my time run out, I hope to be laid to rest on a beach somewhere.”
On February 4th, Nigel’s family and friends will meet to celebrate his life and work at the Jerwood Gallery which is right there on the beach in Hastings. By then, we will have scattered his ashes and he will indeed be there; forever in the blue-green of waves, in the shifting clouds, and always in the cool blue of the
Here is the last game Nigel Harvey played for the club, in the traditional friendly match against Insurance, on 5th April 2014, with light notes from Nigel’s long-standing friend Bernard Cafferty.
Nigel Harvey – David Sedgwick (grade 164 at the time)
QGD, Tarrasch Defence
1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 c5 3 c4 e6 4 cxd5 exd5 5 Nc3 cxd4
An early deviation from Tarrasch’s maintenance of the tension by 5…Nf6 6 g3 Nc6 7 Bg2 Be7 etc.
6 Nxd4 Nc6 7 g3 Bc5 8 Nb3 Bb4 9 Bg2 Be6 10 0-0 Bxc3
A double-edged decision as the diagonal a3-f8 soon becomes a gaping gash in Black’s position.
11 bxc3 Nf6 (11…Nge7 to get castled is better) 12 Ba3! Na5 13 Nxa5 Qxa5 14 Qb3 b5 15 Rab1 Rb8 16 Bb4 Qb6
This is too ambitious, as …a5 fails to shake the grip on the diagonal.
16…Qa6 is better.
17 Qa3! a5 18 Bc5 Qa6 19 Bd4 Bf5 20 Rb2
Nigel builds up the piece pressure, quite in the style of Rubinstein,
whose games Nigel knew well.
20…b4 21 cxb4 0-0 22 Qxa5 Qe6 23 b5 Rfc8 24 b6
The passed pawn, well backed up by the pieces, forces an early decision.
24…Rc4 25 Qa7 Nd7 26 Rd1 Qc6 27 Be3 Be6 28 Rbd2! Ra4 29 Qc7 Qa8 30 Bxd5 Bxd5 31 Rxd5 Rb7 32 Rxd7
1-0 as the resulting passed pawn on c7 in conjunction with the threat Rd8+ forces home the victory