Artist Walfrido Garcia finds inspiration everywhere in the islands.
The wind is bitterly cold and threatening clouds hover over the Kalaeloa plain one afternoon in early 2014. However, one step inside the Kapolei home of artist
WALFRIDO GARCIA and the gloom of the outside is replaced with an overall feeling of warmth that radiates from all corners of the family abode he shares with wife Patti and daughters Rose, 11, and Sonja, 9.
Here, paintings of frothy Hawaiian seascapes and fiery-red sunsets rest in all diﬀerent phases of completion. They are stacked precariously in the corners of the family living room and along the walls in the hallway leading into Garcia’s in-home studio.
The liveliness and vibrancy that is Garcia’s signature style can best be described as “Romantic Realism.” It begins with a loose impressionistic idea but then, as layer upon layer of paint is added, more and more detail surfaces until the canvas begins to glow with light reminiscent of the masters of old.
“My father was doing the ‘Old Masters’ style,’ which was very luminous and really showed light and nature and was just really fantastic,” says Garcia, who is the son of renowned artist Edgardo F. Garcia.
That early exposure is evident in Garcia’s works, as each painting is a study of light and the way the ethereal component of nature plays with its subjects in order to capture the viewer’s imagination. Be it a romantic moonlit beach scene, the sea caves of Kaua‘i or the awe-inspiring glow of his signature “Lavascapes,” Garcia utilizes light in such a way that the painting takes on a life of its own.
“Hawai‘i is rich with natural beauty and sunlight and natural wonders, and that became my muse,” says Garcia. “Living in California, I used to paint Hawaiian waterfalls and sea caves and volcanoes from my parents’ garage, and I would used to have to imagine these things, but living here is a different story.”
Garcia was born in the Philippines in 1966, but by 1973, the family had moved to the San Francisco Bay area to pursue a better life and the “American Dream.” His father found success as a marine life artist and teacher, but it wasn’t until the age of 14 that Garcia decided he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I sat in the back of the class and watched my father teach art, and it seemed so simple that I thought art was just something everyone could do, you just had to take a class,” says Garcia.
He proved to be a quick study and by the time he was 17, the budding artist was enrolled in art courses as well as teaching a few of his own at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif., and later at San Jose University.
“Some of my students were well-to-do and they traveled quite a bit, and they said, ‘You should go to Hawai‘i, your work would do well there,’” says Garcia.
He eventually would make his way to the islands in 1987 to visit his brother and friends who were stationed at Hickam. After a surf session one afternoon, Garcia walked into the Livingston Galleries and began chatting with an art dealer who worked there.
“I told her what I did, and she said, ‘Hey, we don’t have a seascape artist,’ and asked me for my portfolio,” says Garcia. “I happened to have one in my hotel room, so I went and grabbed it and she asked if she could give it to her manager. That evening I got a phone call saying that they had a commission for me, so I picked up my first commission and started my relationship with the Hawaiian galleries.”
From there his work attracted the attention of local as well as international art buyers, eventually catching the eye of Bill Wyland, founder of the world-famous Wyland Galleries. At age 23, Garcia became the youngest artist to display his art in the major gallery chain.
“That was 23 years ago, and here I am, 23 years later,” says Garcia. “I’ve been fortunate enough to tour the world on cruise ships doing art shows, I’ve been over to Japan to do shows as well, and I am currently on tour still.”
Today, Garcia’s works are on display at about 20 art galleries and in collectors’ homes throughout the United States and the world. Among his best-known series are his Traditional Seascapes, Cave Scenes and Fire and Fantasy and mixed-media collection of paintings created with material such as koa wood, guitars, ‘ukulele, surfboards, koa paddles, gold leaf and more.
Garcia also has working collaborations with other artists (including his brother Edgardo II, who also calls Kapolei home) as well as contracts with major companies such as Princess Cruises and Disney, which allow him to use its iconic characters and show in its galleries.
Though he is a full-time painter who is admittedly “quite busy” supplying orders for his clients, Garcia still carries a soft spot for teaching and sharing art with the greater community.
In 1998 (the same year he moved to Kapolei), he created the television show Art Made Easy to serve as an inspiration for those who may not have access or opportunity to be exposed directly to artists and galleries.
“I don’t think that art should be kept to an elite set of individuals; people should be able to look at it and view it and enjoy it at whatever level of society they’re at,” says Garcia, who stars in and produces the award-winning art show, which airs locally on ‘Olelo Community Media public access stations.
“My idea is that if I can influence or entertain or make somebody learn, then I would have given back rather than just taken from the art world,” says Garcia. “And, if anything else, it’s for my own posterity so I can look back at the end of my life and go, wow, look at all these cool things I’ve painted and all these cool places I’ve been. And if other people can say, ‘I really enjoyed watching you make all these things,’ then it makes it all worth it.”
His vast collections can be viewed online at www.walfrido.com, where you also can check out upcoming show dates, watch episodes from his TV show and purchase merchandise, such as matted prints, koa prints, iPhone/iPad covers and more.