Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Chiseling dreams

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Capturing daily life...a carving on Cedar by Devon Garcia
Three girls sitting on a bench brought to life by Devon Garcia, a carving on Cedar
Party time, two girls caught in a Dancehall move...a carving on Cedar by Devon Garcia
Another market scene, inspired by Coronation Market, downtown Kingston, a carving on Cedarby Devon Garcia
Market Scene by Devon Garcia, carved on Cedar
National Heroes, a 3D creation in Paper Mache by Devon Garcia
Capturing daily life...a carving on Cedar by Devon Garcia

What does a young man with a screwdriver do? The obvious answer is that he, or anyone, would tighten or loosen screws ... but to create a statement, carve a wooden plank to make a sculpture, which might be a rare scenario.

Devon Garcia is one of them.

"It was a natural thing," Garcia said. "I could draw, and somewhere in high school, I found a piece of board and tried to carve it with a screwdriver."

It was better to create something from the piece of board than throwing it away, he said, and started to work on it.

This was in the 1960s. Garcia has come a long way since then. Fuelled by his passion, belief, and the love of the arts, he chose to carve out his career as an artist.

"I used to cut out things on the tree bark and make things from matchsticks," he said. "They looked good and I was told I could make a living.

"I wasn't too bright with the books, so I sought my expertise in wood carving," Garcia added, with a tinge of humour.

He recalls when he went to a gift store in downtown Kingston to sell his carving. "I was so nervous when I went to the store," he said "I was surrounded by wonderful work, large pieces, so intricately carved and here I was with my little piece in a little bag ... I was shy and afraid."

He turned around and started walking out, but the owner of the shop noticed this introverted boy, and called him.

The owner bought the piece from Garcia and encouraged him to continue his endeavours. He also gave him some advice on how he should carve and perfect his skills.

"He was my teacher and tell me what's wrong ... and I was a quick learner, which is a lifetime thing," Garcia said.

For this multi-award winning artist, the world was his training ground, giving him inspiration, his subjects, his themes, and his learning processes.

"Whatever I have learnt is from the people," the self-taught artist said. "These were those who I sold pieces to and the people who would see my work and give me feedback."

Garcia carved pieces and sold to Things Jamaican, and was later introduced to Mutual Life Gallery where he showcased his work, but he said he always encountered a barrier.

"A lot of people said they didn't see me as an artist as I was self-taught," Garcia said. It is then he decided to enter the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competitions and he won numerous medals and accolades.

"I got encouragement (from winning the competitions) and I haven't looked back since," he said.

After his career as an artist working on wood, Garcia discovered papier mâché. "I was encouraged to work on this medium, though I didn't have much time at hand, I made the effort to learn."

It was a workshop that was organised for inner-city youth in downtown Kingston, Garcia attended the classes there and ended up fixing up the work done by other students.

"I ended up repairing the pieces that were spoilt," he said. "I was told I could do the impossible."

Garcia, a master learner, began making miniature houses from papier mâché, which have, over the years, become popular.

"I make cardboard templates, cut them to size, and then cut out the different pieces, 50 or 100 at once. I will complete the mould, pasting paper pulp to make the verandah and paste the remainder of the pulp to the cardboard shell to complete the house," he said.

Cedar is his first love, as he finds the medium brings out his expressions more than any other.

"The love of people and wonderful things that God has created always inspires me," Garcia says. Though, he confesses that he is most comfortable with nature and solitude.

"I am a shy person, and it was easy to work with plants and flowers, but I realised that people bring more life to the work," he said.

He would be out on the road, sketching and photographing people, to form the basis of his carvings.

But, putting expressions on the face of the carving was a challenge. "The face was the hardest, I usually put them sideways, cover them with a cap, it is sometimes still a challenge, at the end of the day, I don't want the faces of my subjects to look like (those) of puppets," he says.

A humble soul, Garcia says money is not a key driver. He is exuberant when his art is appreciated.

"The looks on the face of those who appreciate my work is inspiration enough for me," he said. "I want my work to sell itself ... each one is very special and that's what I want, the love from the people."

Along this journey of creative expression, Garcia has found a lot of affection, which makes him to push on.

"An artist never sleeps or relaxes," he said. "There is always something going in your mind."

Perfection is a state of mind, and humility in the face of it is paramount.

"Never think you are good because that is when you stop learning ... we have to learn every step of life," he said.