John Garcia, Friend & Artist Extraordinaire

In Memoriam

John L. Garcia, Jr.
June 25, 1954 - November 30, 2007

John was all heart. I was fortunate to have known him for over thirty years. 

He was a man of regal spirit and tremendous breadth of mind. He was not only a master of his craft, he sustained the passion necessary to live a full and productive creative life.

I'd say that John understood that it is not what you take in this life, it is what you leave behind that will be your legacy.

He was a Boston-area commercial artist, graphic-novel illustrator & historical cartoonist. 

His last major work was to illustrate a history of the Vietnam War and dedicate it to his father. 

John Garcia was one of the good guys. 

I remember one night long ago when I was a sign painter. I had a job with a ticking deadline and I was in a heap of trouble.

Nearing midnight I panicked and called my old friend John (a fellow night owl) who hopped in his car and drove the 30 miles between us just to help me out.

I was trying to paint a 3 foot high corned beef sandwich on a bulky roll (I'm not kidding) for the side of a “Roach Wagon.”

I just couldn’t make that darn corned beef look “real” - no matter how hard I tried.

 Ever taken a close look at a slab of corned beef? There are two kinds – red and grey. Both varieties are tinged with a sheen of “greenish” metallic color with little rainbows. The closer I got to reality the more disgusting it looked.

So John walks in, grabs my brush and starts mixing paint in an old coffee cup. In about a minute he hands me a pinkish purplish color and it was exactly what I needed to make that uber-sandwich look “real” and amazingly edible.

He told me that “you don’t have to paint what you see, you need to paint what you “know” (or think you know).” 

Recently I painted a baby with an open mouth – I painted the inside of that mouth “pink.” Of course I didn’t see “pink” – but because of John Garcia, I just knew that the viewer would think it “ought” to look like that.

John Garcia was awesome. He drew all the time.

I’ve seen him sit down and draw a herd of thundering wild horses charging across a plain with cowboys in hot pursuit. He could pull this stuff right out of his head. 

He was a stickler for detail and always did the research to be authentic. He loved and illustrated historical subjects; graphic novels, comic books, civil war battles, cowboys and “injuns."

As you can see, he was crazy about all that “guy” stuff.

John knew everything about classical art too – but it wasn’t his particular thing to do in this lifetime.

Beyond this gigantic art talent, John seemed to have been born with more empathy and compassion than most. 

He always chose to see the better angels of our nature. He saw our flaws,  mistakes and pettiness - and just loved us anyway. 

Dear God how I miss this kind and gentle man. I shall never forget him nor the last time we spoke.

To the many readers of this blog, I assure you that "John Garcia was probably the nicest man you (n)ever met." 

And without John, the world has a little less color.

"High Flight"
-by P/O John Gillespie Magee RCAF

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew -
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

And a final note:

For a bunch of reasons, I didn't know until recently that John had died so it's been a delayed shock and sadly I wasn't able to go to his funeral.

I went to another man's funeral on Saturday and the entire town was there. 

During the funeral it really hit me that I would never hear John's voice again...and I began to cry. The harder I tried to stop, the harder I sobbed until I was gasping for air.  I left as soon as I could stagger out the door.

It's a small town and I just got my first phone call asking what was going on that I was so visibly upset over a man I didn't know at all well....or did I...?

Dang, John is up there somewhere laughing that even though he's been dead over a year, he still managed to create a small town scandal. 

And he'd have gotten a huge kick out of that for sure.

Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity...

March is  Colon Cancer Awareness Month. 

And since this really is an art blog, I have included a note at the end of this post about the work and waste of the late great Italian conceptual artist, Piero Manzoni.

Read this, cross your fingers, have a coffee-spewing-out-your-nose belly laugh and schedule one now.

The following has been excerpted from Dave Barry's * Colonoscopy Journal:

"I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis . 

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner. I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, "he's going to stick a tube 17,000 feet up your behind!”

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven. 

I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America 's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous. Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. 

In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor. 

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-literplastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons.) 

Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser - with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, “a loose, watery bowel movement may result.” This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: Have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. 

There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. 

You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep

The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous... Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. 

I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. 

Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down.

 Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. 

At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. 

I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point. 

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand. 

There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me. 'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. 

If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. 

One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood. 

Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that It was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. 

I have never been prouder of an internal organ."

In case you missed the sixties Pop Art Movement, Manzoni canned his solid excretory material to collectors at peak poop prices – some as high as $75,000.

As recently as June of 2002, the respected Tate Gallery in London excitedly announced it had purchased tin No. 004 for about $38,000. 

I can only assume that the current price was somewhat lower because earlier tins of his arthave been known to explode.

John Singer Sargent's "Chronic Wertheimerism"

From October 1999 through February 2000, The Jewish Museum exhibited a group of twelve  portraits of the London art dealer Asher Wertheimer and his family for the first time since they hung privately in the family's home nearly a century ago.

And drat, I missed it! So here's a little post-view (just in case you missed it too):

Asher Wertheimer, 1898

In 1898, John Singer Sargent would embark on his largest private portrait commission that would, when it was finally finished, span ten years and include twelve oil portraits. 

Mrs Asher B. Wertheimer, 1898

Asher was a highly respected art dealer and his wife Flora was the daughter of an art dealer.

Ena and Betty, Daughters, 1901

This suite of paintings would be unmatched by anything outside of Sargent's mural work. 

Alfred, Son, 1901

It started simple enough. Asher Wertheimer had hired John to paint his wife and himself in two pendent portraits which would celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. 

Hylda, Daughter, 1901

Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children, 1902

As so many had before them, the Wertheimers fell in love with the charming artist. Unlike others though, they were utterly insatiable for his work in depicting their family. 

Edward, Son, 1902

Mrs Wertheimer, 1904

Hylda, Almina and Conway, Children, 1905

With one portrait done, Asher and his wife would want another, and then another, and then yet another after that. 

Portrait of Ena Wertheimer: "A Vele Gonfie" 1905

Sargent would joke that he felt he was in a state of "chronic Wertheimerism." 

Betty Wertheimer 1908

Almina, Daughter, 1908

The bond between them would become so strong that the family held a chair at their dinner table in reserve for whenever he wanted to drop in -- and he would.

Eva Wertheimer & Antonio Mancini, 1904 Watercolor

The Wertheimer dining room, which housed eight of the twelve portraits, was affectionately dubbed "Sargent's Mess."

Betty Wertheimer Salaman 1910-1912 Watercolor

How I Manage Time - Sometimes

Sometimes I get really really "stuck."

I've been working on a portrait and am not quite sure that I am ready to pick up my brush and find that "elusive" likeness today.

So I switch gears - it's almost like a mini-vacation.

I usually have a stack of unfinished landscape "sketches" laying around the studio - just waiting for me to "pull it all together." Today is cold and snowy and I originally made this oil sketch on a delightfully warm day. When this happens in hot weather, I tend to grab a Fall or Winter scene - go figure.

This is why you're seeing me post landscapes just now:

Ferry Beach, Maine
12" x 16" Oil on Canvas

So I finished this little beach scene I began 2+ years ago and framed it. I like a wide gold, old-fashioned frame for most of my works...they work for me.

"It is never too late to do what you might have done."
(My version of a quote from George Elliot)

A note about my frames:

Since I tend to buy or stretch my canvasses to standard sizes, I find that I can use ready-made frames. I have had good luck with JFM Frames.