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Meet Jenica Rose Garcia

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenica Rose Garcia.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenica Rose. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I always say that my art journey began when I would watch Saturday morning cartoons with my mom as a kid. She would laugh so hard watching silly cartoons with me, and that experience as a kid made me realize the possibilities within art and animation. The idea that I could use art to make someone smile and laugh really stuck with me, and it’s been something that has shaped my goals and interests to this day.

I was raised by my Filipino immigrant parents in the East Bay area, where my two older siblings and I grew up. My big brother and sister introduced me to anime, stuff like Gundam and Sailor Moon, and the art styles really inspired me. As kids, I think we always tend to copy the things our older siblings do, and I was definitely no exception. I remember my sister had this huge binder of anime drawings she would make, and she would win these art contests at our old middle school. I was so proud having such a talented sister, and I wanted to be just like her. I consumed as much animation as I could growing up, and I would draw as much as humanly possible.

But I didn’t really consider my art hobbies as a career until high school. You know, for a while I was even considering an entirely different field – I originally wanted to work as a forensics investigator. But I decided that a career in animation was more in line with my passion for bringing happiness to others. So, the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I took art way more seriously and attended a pre-college program at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I think that experience is what really solidified my passion for art and animation. There was this end of summer student art gallery that I invited a bunch of my high school friends to, and we had this whole excursion to San Francisco together on the BART. I never thought that so many people would want to come see my art and support me like that before. I felt so uplifted in my artistic pursuits, and that day was extremely formative to my motivations in becoming an animator.

When I eventually got accepted into the Animation program at LMU, I remember crying showing my mom the acceptance letter. It was so validating to be given the opportunity to study and focus on something I was so passionate about. Since college began, I’ve had a wide array of different creative experiences. I’ve done freelance work, creating art and animation on commission. I’ve had various and unique internship experiences, being a Guest Services intern at Skywalker Ranch and a Digital Media and Animation intern at Expanding Identities Development. Now a few years have passed, and I’m almost ready to graduate. I’m a senior with just my spring semester left to complete. And I’m working on my senior thesis, which is a passion project I’m so excited to bring to life.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
A lot of people seem to be impressed by how much I am able to do. I get constant remarks from friends or classmates about how I’m so busy or how hard-working I am. But really, I have struggled for a very long time in my relationship with my labor and productivity. I still do.

Growing up Filipino American, I really internalized these ideals of always having to work hard or be the best in everything. Wanting to succeed in what you do is not a bad goal by any means, but I have spent a lot of my adolescence relying on super unrealistic standards of productivity to determine my own worth and value. Being an artist, these kinds of feelings always led me to compare myself or be upset for not being “good enough”. I’m sure other artists can relate.

I remember before attending Academy of Art, I applied to CSSSA (California State Summer School for the Arts), this super rigorous summer program at Cal Arts, a few times. I was rejected each time I applied, and I remember feeling so shitty for so long about it. Cal Arts seemed like the place all the successful animators went to (I know better now). At some point, though, I decided to pave my own way to “success” by applying to Academy of Art.

But, I would be lying if I said I have completely resolved my own feelings towards productivity. It’s definitely an ongoing thing. In America, Asian labor is glorified, and we are taught to hold work as a priority. And, I feel like when you’re good at art, there’s some conditioned need to capitalize off of it and make sure every piece of art you make is some masterpiece. But I think part of dismantling this mindset is allowing yourself to make silly art and let go of this idea of perfection.

I’ve realized in recent years that these kinds of productivity centered processes are nothing but harmful to my mental health. I’ve been trying to unlearn a lot of this stuff. Usually, my first thought when I’m behind on work is to scold myself, but recently I’ve been learning to be kinder to myself first and foremost. I’m letting go of the need to be hyper-efficient, and I’m starting to unlink my own value from capitalism or perfectionism.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
Currently, I’m still a student, so the biggest thing I’m focusing on right now is my senior thesis which, again, I’m super excited about. I won’t say too much about it, but it’s a big love letter to my parents and the anime influences my siblings and I grew up with. Other than that, right now I’m developing various animated projects, working on films with friends, trying to open up an online shop, and doing freelance art and commissions. I’m also an aspiring character designer, so I’ve been trying to really focus in and hone my skills in that this past year.

In terms of what my art is like, I’d say one of my specialties is creating these really cute small animated characters. You can see two of them in my photo, but I really love creating animated characters out of shapes or inanimate objects. They might be a little silly, but I’m sort of known for it amongst my friends, and I love how it always brings a smile to people’s faces. So much so I was given the opportunity to animate one of these characters for my friends’ band Hear in Color for their music video The Way I Say Your Name. I love drawing these characters so much I even have the heart-shaped happy face tattooed on my arm!

Something else I’m passionate about is representing Filipinos and Filipino culture. In designing characters and developing projects, I try to tell a unique story that comes from my experience as a Filipino American. Filipinos have been historically excluded from the mainstream narrative, and I want to change that with my art. Growing up, the only Filipino I really saw on TV was Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical. I cannot stress how important it is to see people who look like you in cartoons. As a Filipino, I grew up never learning about myself in history books or seeing myself in media. I had to actively look for my own history and culture. Eventually, I want to make a kid’s TV show where the main character is Filipino, just like me. Then, maybe other Filipino kids can feel seen and grow up loving themselves just a little bit more.

I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. It was only a little bit more than five years ago I began taking my art seriously. I definitely have lots of room to improve and I’m learning everyday, but when I look back at how much I already have improved, I am so appreciative of the journey. I remember when I was striving to be like my sister when I was younger… I was super shy and embarrassed about my art because it didn’t feel good enough. Now, I’m so excited to share my art and show it to others and continue developing my ideas. My concern right now isn’t exactly setting myself apart from others, but rather being better than the artist I was yesterday (while making sure to prioritize my self-care).

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a lot more shy than how I am now. It was kind of hard to put myself out there when I was really young, and I feel like a lot of my insecurities bled into my interests. I remember sometimes feeling embarrassed to like anime in front of others or show my art to my family. Despite my insecurities, I was always somehow attracted to the performing arts. I practically begged my parents to let me do the drama program in middle school, and I continued doing it in high school. Even if I wasn’t cast in a show, I happily took part in props or run crew.

Sometimes though, I forget theater was pretty formative to my personality because I don’t participate in it at all in college. Theater really pushed me to experiment and try new things! I think taking improv classes for a semester and being able to perform in improv shows every year at my high school really built up my self-esteem and confidence.

And I also think a large part of why theater was so formative was because of the supportive nature of all the people there. After all, a lot of the friends that came to see my Academy of Art student gallery show were my friends from theater. These friends validated my interests, supported my art, and genuinely wanted to see me happy. I feel very lucky to have had the friends I did growing up because I think a lot of them helped push me to become the person I am today, who I very much love.

Pricing:

  • Happy Face Commissions $10 + $5 per additional person
  • Simple Cartoony Style Commissions $20 + $10 per additional person
  • Painted Cartoony Style Commissions $30
  • Painted Portrait Commissions $40

Contact Info:

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