As with many of the artists profiled in these pages, Santa Cruz–based artist and illustrator Allison Marie Garcia has been loving and creating art as far back as her memory will take her. A native of Hollister, Garcia found her life’s obsession early, and as she puts it, “it has never really stopped.” As an adolescent, Garcia found that her love of art and its visual manifestations helped her define herself as well as draw people in. “It was a way for me to make friends and fit in somewhere once I got into high school, which is where I think it really started to feel like more of an identity that I was stuck with, in a way,” Garcia recalls.
So, naturally, when it came time for applying to college, Garcia gravitated towards schools that could help her fully develop as an artist. First she took a “few years’ break at a local junior college.” Fortunately for her (and us), from there Garcia chose to attend San Jose State University, which has a distinguished and broadly applicable arts program.
And as with her early obsession with art, it followed that her talent would be noticed earlier, too. Although Garcia is still a student pursuing her BFA at SJSU, her work has the restraint, technique, and confidence of a veteran artist.
Working in a variety of mediums (digital, pen and ink, acrylic, and oil) and composing in a range of styles, Garcia imbues her work with dueling senses of harmony and dissonance, a combined rawness and poise that gives the viewer an intimate perception of what Garcia puts into each piece of art emotionally, and, admittedly, it’s often powerful and dark. Thematically, Garcia’s work uses a lot of faces, outer spaces, and imagery with a nihilistic, or at least, alienated touch. Much of her work shows an incredible sense of composition, tonal subtlety, and restraint, as well as confident linework that is playfully austere in its ability to careen in and out of sharpness without ever losing Garcia’s unique aesthetic touch.
While her work manifests itself wonderfully in seemingly whatever medium and with an organization and (there it is again) restraint that suggest singular focus in her creative process, Garcia prefers to work in bunches and mostly in acrylics. “My process for painting is usually working on four to five pieces at once, and I prefer acrylic, usually, because I work fast and frantically most of the time,” she says, adding, “Once I am done designing/thinking, I get to work and sometimes hours go by before I realize it’s time to step back.”
Garcia credits her influences in art to a broad range of expressionist painters, illustrators, and musicians, noting everyone from the mother of abstract art, Hilma af Klint, to another early shapeshifter, Paul Klee, as well as more contemporary purveyors of expressionist concepts like Margaret Kilgallen. She also credits music with being a heavy influence, if not catalyst, for her work. “I derive a lot of inspiration from music and use it to spark the beginnings of work—often,” Garcia says.
“I think regardless of who I want to speak to, certain people will always connect or understand. I think my work deals with some darkness and heavier ideas, but I am optimistic.”
A recurring theme is Garcia’s natural love of art, almost as if imbibed at birth. Her life, if not career, as an artist is something she never questioned and still doesn’t. This speaks to another huge influence on her work: her family. “I was lucky enough to have a family that has always supported my dreams of making a career out of art,” Garcia says.
“I think, regardless of who I want to speak to, certain people will always connect or understand,” Garcia says about what she wants viewers to take away from her work. “I think my work deals with some darkness and heavier ideas, but I am optimistic.”
People are certainly getting something out of it. Though still technically a “student” of art, Garcia boasts over 25,000 Instagram followers, a level of exposure that she is nothing but thankful for. “The illustrative side of my work seems to do okay, business-wise, especially my tarot card deck, so I’m just grateful for it and hope to do more commissioned illustrative freelance work down the road,” Garcia says, adding for hopeful clients: “I love designing shirts, beer labels, packaging art, and things like that.”
As for the future, Garcia just hopes to keep making art.
This article originally appeared in Issue 11.2 “Device”