17 June 2015


Justin Garcia

There is no way to forecast creative synergy, no way of knowing whether each person’s ideas will mesh or collide, or if opinions can be communicated without clashing too much or too often. All you can do is jump in, and see what happens.
In my first conversation with Justin - a two-hour phone call between Los Angeles and Houston - I quickly recognized what he was about. I had no idea if we’d be a good creative fit, but I knew I wanted to read his manuscript. After we spoke, I returned to my work on another project...but I couldn’t stop thinking about the unexpectedly remarkable conversation we’d had, replete with fresh ideas and noble objectives.

He was talking about creativity - the art that comes of it, and the science within it. He spoke about the “mechanics of creation,” the methodology that he believes sustains humanity. He was speaking a language I love, with sincerity, humor, candor, and accountability.

I’d met a kindred spirit: an artist with purpose.

After I read Justin’s story, I had a deeper understanding of his passion for the work. I wanted to help him craft the message, so others could have easy access to the source of his inspiration and claim it for themselves. A thoughtful, complex, evocative manuscript like his would require intensive work...and I looked forward to digging in.

I must admit, there was another motivation: a delightfully irritating thought that this book has the potential to be an instrument of change. To be part of that movement would be an honor for me.

Everything I initially thought of Justin and his work after our first connection continued to be true for the several months we worked together on his manuscript. 98% of our exchanges were as positive and productive as one could hope. (The remaining 2%? Well, that’s just a little proof that nothing in this world is perfect!)

What force conspired to connect an editor in California with a painter in Texas? At first glance, it seemed an inconvenient pairing - but we should never dismiss the powers of creativity when they call out to be explored. We have only to be amenable to the possibilities. When we are open vessels, with a true desire to make a positive difference in the world, we are more likely to receive extraordinary gifts of wisdom and understanding.

It often comes in unexpected ways from unlikely sources. It appears in the middle of a crowded coffee house, in the midst of freeway traffic, after a random conversation with a stranger about nothing in particular, at the end of a dream. In a flash, or a snap, or a breeze, we receive a thought, completely unrelated to the moment, but inextricably connected to a higher purpose. And we would do well to pay attention.

We live in an era that gives us every opportunity, any device with which to create. Still, the true purpose behind the creation eludes.

Some are born to the breed. Others must escape their origins to seek and find their tribe. I am a member of the former, the daughter of a musician father and a poet mother. I grew up in New York City, surrounded by professional creators of all kinds, masters of their chosen craft whose lives were driven entirely by the creative process. I was one of them from my first lucky breath.

Justin, on the other hand, made his own luck. He had to drop almost everything he’d been given to receive everything he needed. And when he began to explore that experience, using his insatiable curiosity as his compass, he made exceptional discoveries along the way...about his work, about himself, and about the world.

Regardless of background or circumstance, we find each other when the time is right.

I’d seen much of Justin’s collection online; though it’s not the same as standing in front of an original painting, I could see his work was world-class. His Focal Point Series and Creation Series contain pieces I’d love to live with. His paintings are layered and nuanced, suggesting a thought or feeling, allowing the viewer to make his or her own evaluation, never forcing the idea, letting it take form within the individual’s frame of reference, so they can tell their own story.

Like his visual art, Justin’s writing is personal, heartfelt, uncompromising, practical, witty...and his intention is infused with the authentic passion of a true artist. This book contains subject matter for artists and connoisseurs, to be sure - but also for the spiritual and the scientific, the lay person and the scholar. He bridges those seemingly disparate worlds with an intimate comprehension of the creative process, accessing each angle and connecting each point in a manner I’ve yet to see in other analyses. I envision it on bookshelves around the world, in high schools and universities, for sale in museums and music shops, finding its way into the home of anyone who longs to create, and is looking for practical inspiration.

Regardless of where we are on our journey, we’re all eager to be inspired.

Two people occasionally joined us in our process...both of them formidable, accomplished women (I believe Justin’s appreciation of strong women speaks highly of his character!). They fortified our efforts with unwavering encouragement and valuable insight.
Kim Jessup appears throughout this book, and provided a clear, straightforward perspective, especially when a particularly sensitive piece of the puzzle was missing. As she is in Justin’s life, Kim was the critical counterweight in this undertaking; you’ll understand her immeasurable importance the moment you “meet” her.

Whenever I work on a piece of writing - mine, or that of another author - I often consult with my mother, Evelyn Barnes. I’ll read sections of the work to her, and we’ll bounce a few ideas between us. Our brainstorming invariably reaps a reward. In the case of this book, her contributions go beyond language; she came up with the idea of giving the reader an entire page, completely unmarked on both sides. A place to sketch, to make notes, to respond to the previous chapter with their own drawings and thoughts. “It becomes their book, too,” she said. She called them “palette pages” - and Justin embraced her suggestion without hesitation. That term instantly became part of our lexicon.

OneTonGoldfish: In Search of the Tangible Dream is a whimsically intriguing title, perfect for the irresistible expedition of discovery on which Justin takes us. Even if I hadn’t worked on it, I’d love this book, infused as it is with Justin’s creative passion and scientific vision. They belong together. They explain each other. When combined, they make sense of this preposterous life in a way that allows me to identify and pursue my passion with a vibrant understanding of its source.

I trust this book will do at least as much for you.

Alexandra Barnes Leh
Los Angeles, California