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The Toronto Portraits - Jeff Garcia

Posted by Robin Sharp / September 12, 2008

Jeff Garcia VineJeff Garcia, 25 years old. Spadina and Richmond.

Is 'art school' an oxymoron?

They're not all bad, of course. You can learn the nuts-and-bolts of a discipline at school, and you can meet and collaborate with like-minded people. If you're lucky, you can find a mentor figure in one of your teachers.

The problems arise with the politics of 'schooling' students; timetables, marks, and academic standards don't always mesh with the creative process.

Jeff Garcia is a screenprint artist, illustrator...and art teacher. He was born and bred in one of our vast Toronto suburbs.

"If you don't drive in Mississauga, you can't get anywhere. I was one of those people stuck at home making collages, drawing, and playing with tape recorders. My parents were both nurses, so I liked looking through their medical textbooks. I found all the layers of human anatomy pretty interesting."

After high school, Jeff decided to pursue a career in the arts. He enrolled at the Sheridan illustration program.

"I was there for a year and a month. It's a great school but it wasn't for me. I tried the OCAD thing for a couple weeks after that and I realized the whole art school thing just wasn't for me. I started working for myself; screenprinting at my studio, doing installations, and commercial illustration."

After his experiences with post secondary institutions Jeff decided to start holding his own classes at his 401 Richmond studio. He teaches the mechanics of screenprinting, illustration and zine-making in an open, collaborative setting. They're popular with OCAD students, art directors and graphic designers; the next round is from September 16th to October 21st.

"I run the class the way I want to; I don't do marking and everyone gets a great product. I think a lot of what teaching is about is putting away your ego and letting the student come through. Some teachers are just hard to get at because they're all about their own work."

Jeff's personal work has been getting noticed recently; the website recently featured one of his collage journal projects. He's also involved in a collective called "Exploding Motor Car", who helped Slim Twig launch his new album last week with a stage projection show.

His idea of art as a social, inclusive exercise draws heavily on his youth in the suburbs.

"People are always making art in their studios, by themselves or whatever. When you're a kid you draw with your friends. That's what I want to regress back to. A lot of my favourite artists are friends of mine."

Jeff Garcia Hair

The Toronto Portraits profiles a young, dynamic Torontonian, each week in a different neighbourhood.

Photos by Robin Sharp



RBeezy / September 12, 2008 at 10:32 am
user-pic that anything like Sheridan's program?
Jerrold / September 12, 2008 at 10:48 am
Spelling error corrected :)
Corina / September 12, 2008 at 11:51 am
I would rather go to the Sheraton. *^^*
amanda / September 12, 2008 at 12:01 pm
This is becoming a "let's bash art schools" column. A bit lame/repetitive perhaps?
isla / September 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm
it's not bashing art school at all. just saying there are different working methods for different people, and that the academic method, especially in an arts school, may not always encourage the very thing it seeks to teach. i'd say this is pretty good vibes territory....DIY, collaborative inspired group work....sounds good to me!
Corina / September 12, 2008 at 12:45 pm
And I just happen to enjoy luxury hotels more than art schools...

they're also more affordable.
Ratpick / September 12, 2008 at 12:56 pm
"People are always making art in their studios, by themselves or whatever. When you're a kid you draw with your friends. That's what I want to regress back to."

I like the cut of your jib, Jeff Garcia.
Gloria / September 12, 2008 at 01:21 pm
I like his hair. It reminds me of (cartoon) Egon from Ghostbusters.

I thought this entry was pretty even-handed in saying that art schools suit many, but aren't for some. Maybe the next interview should be with a happy student at Sheridan or OCAD.
nina_ / September 12, 2008 at 01:34 pm
Ahhh ol' mangoepeeler. Jeff is a great artist, he's been involved with a lot of art projects around 'sauga - I saw a piece he did at Mississauga City Hall at the art gallery there a couple of years ago. I'm glad to see him get a profile on
Elle Driver / September 12, 2008 at 01:59 pm
Having legitimate criticism about your art school experience is hardly "bashing". Many kids go into art school with rose-tinted glasses - some benefit from it, others are left underwhelmed by it (like I was.) I also admire the fact that Jeff is being pro-active and offering courses of his own.

OCAD used to have a more open "no-grades" policy, up until the 1970's or 80's, I believe.

A few of my instructors at OCAD also echoed Jeff's sentiment that a number of teachers at the school (a lot of whom were working professionals, and not trained instructors) were unwilling to put their egos aside and resisted sharing real knowledge and information with these kids, as these teachers saw them as "their competition". (It sounds ridiculous, but it happens.)

I don't know how the school is running these days (I graduated nearly 10 years ago) but it would be interesting to hear thoughts from other students who currently attend.
kerry / September 12, 2008 at 04:05 pm
Yes! Totally couldn't be more excited to be enrolled in November screen printing classes with my soon-to-be favourite instructor. Good vibes tk.
Zack / September 12, 2008 at 08:44 pm
Toronto portraits is such a misnomer for this section, it should be called Toronto sob stories or Toronto profiles of boring hipsters and their mind-numbingly boring life stories combined with a couple of atrocious pictures.

Now wonder this site is going downhill.
agatona p. audar / September 13, 2008 at 05:38 am
couz.....we're so proud of u !!!!! good job....
UGH / September 13, 2008 at 07:16 am
Jesus. Not this douche again: <a href="";><;/a>

I remember reading about him in NOW where he described his style as 'anatomical gestures of invented canaries.' WTF?! needless to say, i was enraged when i read it then and i am enraged when i read it now!! UGH!!!!!!! x 100
aleks bartosik / September 13, 2008 at 02:07 pm
well said jeff. The idea of art as a social and inclusive exercise is what got us to be friends in the first place; by having very similar beliefs of Art being an act of inclusion rather than isolation. I like your thoughts! I share your thoughts!
Bry / September 14, 2008 at 12:09 pm
Actually, he mentions that his friend described his style in that way.

And guys, you're being just as bad as the actually pretentious hipsters who you bash so easily--just because someone has a certain style (and is an artist) doesn't mean they're a "douche." How about acknowledging that the NOW style section is the stupid part and that they want to present a certain image.
Way to judge people by their looks.

(And btw, I don't really know him, but he's come into my work and is really nice.)
(But I agree that this column is getting repetitive.)
Winston Hacking / September 14, 2008 at 06:29 pm
To the person who bravely named themselves "UGH" the fact that you spent your time digging up an old article on the internet is one thing, but getting all hot and bothered over a NOW MY STYLE description which you took seriously is even more laughable. Jeff has a good sense of humour, clearly you do not.
acer / September 14, 2008 at 11:05 pm
Why has no one mentioned that in the 2 photos YOU CAN'T SEE THE GUY'S FACE. Terrible shots. I haven't been here in ages, I thought Robin would get better by now. Nope.
baboom / September 19, 2008 at 06:56 pm
Jeff Garcia is the best!!!!!
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