Pop Culture Artist, Rene Garcia, Jr.
Meet an Artist who will inspire you, make you laugh, share his insights, and help you love every moment of it. Meet Rene Garcia Jr., age 34, of I Love This World. Taking the lead in pop culture creativity, Rene designs his work to be loud, brilliant, and garnering more attention than previously thought possible. Melding family time and work time, Rene thrives in an environment where he can sit in his home-based work station with colors, shapes, and ideas pouring from his fingertips, or run down the street to observe daily on-goings and absorb ideas for future projects. Rene launched ‘I Love This World’ in 2006 after leaving the formal work environment . While admitting the switch-over was difficult at first, there’s ultimately been no turning back since. For more information on Rene and how he’ll inspire you to always make that maximum impact, read more in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
I Love This World
René Garcia, Jr.
San Francisco, California
University of California at Santa Cruz
B.A. in Film
B.A. in Literature
Independent Artist and Creative Consultant
Printing and Design Associate
Hahn Film AG
Animation Production Manager
Wild Brain, Inc.
Animation Production Manager,
What kind of art do you create? What mediums do you work with?
I make pop art, in the most blatant sense of the term. I play around with all sorts of things, but it’s my large format glitter paintings that get the most attention. I make art that is big, bright, sexy and fun.
What does a typical day for you involve?
I start every day making breakfast for my son and getting coffee with my wife. I’ll do a little bit of emailing or blogging early in the day, but I like to shut off my computer as soon as possible so that it doesn’t distract me. And then I go to work. I work from home, and my process of creation is slow and meticulous. I always have a few art projects overlapping, so I’ll just hide in my studio by myself and work on whatever needs my attention.
If I lack motivation or inspiration, I’ll go for a long walk, poke around in a bookstore, or visit one of the many museums I’m a member of. A little field trip plus some extra coffee is usually all it takes to get me back to work. If I have ideas moving around in my head, I don’t like to be anywhere but my studio. I work until my wife and son come home, join them until they go to bed, and then go back to work again. Business hours are usually full of distractions, and I find that most of my actual work gets done between 10pm and 3am. I suspect that a lot of artists work like that.
What are your most notable milestones, personally and professionally?
My biggest professional milestone was in 2002, when I made the decision to dedicate my time to making art instead of returning to work. I had spent several years building a respectable career in animation and film production, but my role was not a creative one and I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the non-creative identity I had established. I was an artist at heart, and even though I was communing with other artists in my work, my own creativity was stifled. Making the choice to pursue art became a question of identity. Presenting myself to the world as an artist, and being recognized as such, changed the course of my life in every way.
What do you think makes your art work stand out?
Everything about my art is shamelessly and deliberately manipulated to gain attention. I exploit different materials, composition and scale for maximum impact. I try to create work that is immediately dazzling, but beyond that initial reaction, I think the thing that really sets my art apart is how positive my pieces are.
Art is reactionary. There’s no shortage of cynicism and anger in art today, because the world is like that right now. My work is overwhelmingly positive. While there’s a certain amount of irony in my work, it’s pretty clear that I’m just trying to have fun. A first glance, my art is whimsical and unpretentious. It appeals to people’s juvenile side and it inspires better moods.
What are some of the challanges you faced as a young artist?
Any artist struggles with fear and insecurity, and financial stress can be paralyzing, especially when you’ve experienced the comforts of regular paycheck. Success in art comes in many forms, most of which are not financial. But as with anything, a little financial security goes a long way. I’ve never had the luxury of financial freedom. As a young artist, it was especially difficult to abandon the security of good paying job in order to chase a few scattered ideas. All the confidence in the world doesn’t make that initial leap of faith any easier. Its been several years since I had a regular job, and I’m still convincing myself that it’s worthwhile.
What’s in store for the future? What projects are you currently working on?
I wish I had a clear idea of what the future holds for me. But a big part of who I am and what I do involves leaving the future open so I can do whatever I want and make things up as I go. I try to keep a few projects going at once so I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow and next week, but I rarely see ahead more than a few months at a time. I have ideas about everything and want to try my hand at everything, so it’s just a matter of what I get to next.
I recently wrote a children’s book that I’m in the process illustrating. And I’m working with a new gallery in Portland to try to get my art out to a few new places. I’m always working on new art pieces, but I also really enjoy collaborative projects and hope to be able contribute more to other peoples projects in the coming year.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Nothing inspires me more than seeing what other creative people are doing. Whenever I see someone else doing something interesting, I get more inspired to raise my own voice. I only need to remind myself that there’s a world of cool art and creative people out there, and I get anxious to be a part of it.
What motivates you to keep creating?
My work is positive. In a small way, I see it as an antidote to all the negative things out there. I know I’m able to impart a small amount of happiness through my work, so whenever I get overwhelmed by bad news or stress, I get motivated to do something contradictory to that.
How do you measure your success?
The greatest measure I have for gauging my success as an artist is witnessing positive reactions to my work. I’ve had a lot of people look at my work and say “fuck yeah.” And several people have told me that I’m their favorite artist. That’s an unbelievable compliment.
Goal yet to be achieved
I’d like to make a film. I’ve worked on a few films, and I love everything about that world. I’ve always lived with the knowledge that I have something personal to contribute to that medium. But film making is a huge enterprise that depends on other peoples money. I don’t want to gamble with anyone else’s money until I’m confidant that I have a winning hand.
Best advice you would give someone young and trying to find their own way?
Share your ambitions. The more you talk about your ideas, the more you have to live up to them. Ideas that you keep to yourself are seldom acted upon. But your friends will hold you accountable for the good ideas. Sometimes just talking about something generates enough momentum to see it through.
What supportive words from a family member or friend did you receive that helped you out?
I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t have the enthusiastic support of my family and friends. My wife is the greatest supporter I have. She genuinely believes in what I do and sacrifices a great deal in support of my work. She brings me lunch, buys me flowers and leaves me alone when I need it. My mother buys me energy drinks by the case.
What motivated you to get started?
I grew tired of being the person who looks at something in a museum and thinks “I could have done that.” Most art isn’t rocket science, and the only difference between me and the person who made the thing in the museum was that they actually made the thing. I was either going to be the person who thinks he can do things but never does, or the person who actually does the things he knows he can do.
What do you like best about what you do?
I like being known and recognized as an artist. I take such pride in that title. But unlike a doctor or an astronaut, an artist has a completely arbitrary set of credentials. I work very hard to empower that title so that it means more than just someone who makes paintings. There’s a conscientious philosophy and broader perspective that comes with being an artist. When I’m introduced as an artist, or recognized as such, I’m able to to take great pride in that role.
What do you like least about what you do?
I miss working with people. So much of what I do involves me sitting alone in my studio hunched over a table. I sometimes get nostalgic for office jobs when I see commercials with coworkers gossiping around the water cooler. I have no water cooler.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At age 10 I wanted to be a film maker. I was obsessed with movies, especially historical epics. I wanted to direct large crowds. I don’t want to do that so much anymore.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a graphic designer. My best friend hired me despite my lack of qualifications. I prepared a lot of people’s resumes at a time when not everyone had a home computer, let alone a printer. I charged by the hour, which was unfortunate because I couldn’t type very well and people would pay way too much to have me type their resumes for them.
Biggest pastime outside of your work (hobbies, community involvement, etc.)
I like exploring. Northern California has so many interesting back roads, scenic and historical points of interest, roadside attractions, haunted motels and small town restaurants with good soup. I love weekend trips with my wife and son that don’t involve maps.
What was the first piece of art that you were most proud of?
I made a small sculpture of Gandhi in my high school ceramics class. He was very stylized and cartoony, sort of like a Gandhi action figure. I was proud that I managed to create something that was both poignant and whimsical. That type of juxtaposition is central to the kind of pop art I make today.
Who would you be most interested in meeting?
Sadly my real heroes have passed. I would have liked to meet Jim Henson, Stanley Kubrick and Walt Disney. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the quality of their work, the scope of their vision, and the depth of their influence.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- From what I hear most of my paintings hang over people’s beds.
- I’ve castrated bulls in the jungles of Colombia.
- I collect Turkish porn posters.
Three characteristics that describe you
- I’m a nice mess.
- I’m usually late but worth the wait.
- I’m full of good ideas.
Three greatest passions
Favorite book and album
My favorite book is “Crash” by J.G. Ballard. It’s so audacious and ridiculous, but so deeply rooted in our disturbed reality that it’s both hilarious and frightening at the same time.
My favorite album is “Stardust” by Willie Nelson. The way his sweet voice crackles through American popular standards cuts right to my soul.
You’ve gained popularity for your work with glitter. What drew you to the medium, and why do you think it’s appropriate for your subject matter?
The first glitter I piece I ever created was a 6ft tall portrait of Carmen Miranda in black glitter on pink vinyl. I made it as a present for my wife, who was just a friend at the time, and the materials, scale and design of the piece just seemed appropriate for her. The piece looked a lot cooler than I had imagined it, and I knew I was on to something. Whenever I have an idea for a piece, I immediately start thinking of ways to make it bigger, brighter and flashier. Glitter is perfect tool because it makes things sparkle. If I can figure out a way to make my paintings spit fireballs or shoot lasers, rest assured I’ll add that to my repertoire.
Who or what do you believe has influenced your work?
I learned a lot from my experience with traditional animation. Traditional animation depends on layering different elements such as backgrounds, characters and effects. Visualizing separate elements allows me to play around with depth and adds a lot dimension to my compositions. But perhaps the greatest lesson I drew from my experience in animation is to do my homework and collect reference. I obsessively research the things that interest me and have an extensive reference library.
My work is obviously influenced by exploitation and action movie poster design. But its equally inspired by impressionist painting, pointillism and surrealism. There are lessons everywhere, and my education is ongoing.
Can you name some artists that you think are really pushing the creative envelope and doing their own thing?
Obviously Andy Warhol opened a lot of eyes and covered most of the bases for how we communicate through pop art, but Jeff Koons made it much more personal. His art reflects the most primitive and juvenile interests in our society, but more importantly his art is primarily about fun. Christo’s legacy highlights the art of the process. Chris Ware is revolutionizing the graphic novel right now. But I think the biggest changes are happening in music right now. We’re at a point where every musical genre is overlapping, and artists are creating a new language from all the various parts. I like to think I’m doing a little of that genre blending in my own work.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
I’ve had a lot of fun developing unique and unconventional marketing and promotional strategies for large corporations and businesses that are willing to try something new. I’m fascinated by the relationship between art and business, and hope to continue exploring that as an independent creative consultant. I’d like to be the elephant in the boardroom, throwing out ideas that don’t originate in the business world. I think I have a lot to offer in that capacity.
I also have a strong social conscience and I like to contribute whatever I can to magnanimous causes. Art is a powerful and essential form of philanthropy. If my work can benefit a noble charity, it’s the easiest thing I have to give.
Interview by Victor Corral
Introduction by Sara Ortega
Edited by Valerie Enriquez