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.


Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! Thank you for posting this great tribute. It really means a lot to those of us who knew John our whole lives. He was a very special, very nice guy. Joe Garcia, his little brother.

My Painting Studio said...

It is so nice to hear from you Joe.

I only met you once (at his wedding) but have heard many many stories from John about you and the rest of his wonderful family.

I got a note from Jill in Fairbanks who found this post and wanted to be remembered to Tess. I gave her Ceil's address so that she can get in touch.

I hope it happens. Also, is anyone checking his old email accounts?

John was the nicest and most decent man I've ever had the good fortune to know well. He had a great big loving heart - and I miss him every day.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying such wonderful things about such a wonderful man. I and my whole family truly do miss him. John's loving cousin Christina Garcia

My Painting Studio said...

John was my idea of a verrrry successful man. He married the girl of his dreams and followed his passion wherever it led.

He lived gently and loved well, and the world is a better place because he was in it.

He's not someone I'll ever forget.

Anonymous said...

John grew up in a military family so they moved around a lot, but I have many memories of the times we spent together. Once he took my wife Lucille and I on a tour of Boston and I saw the compassion and generosity he had towards the homeless and less fortunate. It is because of people like you and his many other friends who have shared stories of John's life with us that I now know my nephew better than I ever did. Thank You,
His Uncle and friend, Mike Garcia

My Painting Studio said...

And thank you for posting your comments Mike. I cherish hearing from John's friends and family.

John was one of a kind - everything about him was unique and original. He was all heart and I miss him.

Adrienne said...

One of my fave memories of John is when he and his wife (my sister!) would visit us in California, and he would draw pictures of dinosaurs for my girls to color. They are still framed in my daughter's room. He is such a generous man. Thanks for creating this tribute to him. He is missed.
-Adrienne E. (sister-in-law)

Sus said...

Hi Karin,
Thanks for a wonderful tribute. John was my cousin and while I hadn't seen him in quite a few years we still talked on the phone off-and-on. He and I were kindrid spirits in the Garcia family in that we are both artists and so I often would look to him for support.
Thanks again!


My Painting Studio said...

I'm sorry that you lost your kindred spirit, but I'm glad to hear that the Garcia family still has an artist.

John was a walking encyclopedia of everything there was to know about art. And he was most generous about sharing information. John would have been a great professor (had he been so inclined).