The sign outside Sergio Garzón’s door says, in yellow and blue, that this is The Fish Market. It’s not actually a place that sells fish, just an affectionate term he uses to refer to his Chinatown Artist Loft, a nod to the job he worked at for six years in Georgia—where he also went to art school—before receiving a scholarship that allowed him to quit his job, focus on his art, and eventually open up a studio of the same name.
Dozens of yellow and blue fish dangle from his ceiling upon entering—another play on The Fish Market, and just one of many details within his artist residency that speak to his eccentric life. Near the entrance hangs experimental art made of different scraps of materials. In one corner is a desk with a nearly completed ink drawing of land animals. On another wall hang sketches of what will become a mural. At the center of it all is Garzón himself, sketching an outline of a dolphin with Sharpie on a large piece of wood that will be used for printing.
“I have a condition,” he says, pointing around the room. “I’m scatterbrained.” With so many interests, it explains the different projects he has in progress. There’s a similar story going on in the back room, which is barely unrecognizable as his bedroom since it began getting taken over by his art. Watercolor palettes and pens are scattered around his desk. Most recently, he has taken up the hobby of building ships in old Carlos Rossi wine bottles, a talent that has its own designated desk that is covered with pieces of wood, an X-acto knife, and other tools.
One of Garzón’s most compelling pieces is mounted right behind him and is so large that only one-third of the 58-foot-long wood carving can fit on his wall. It’s of Kanaloa (a Hawaiian god symbolized by a squid). “I actually literally duct-taped the grinder to my hand and I would sleep right here on top of the wood with Red Bulls or whatever I needed for energy, and I would not leave the house,” he recalls, looking at the section of carving.
While he dabbles in different mediums, for Garzón, it all begins with drawing. He has dozens of sketchbooks and composition books dating back to 1995. The year before, in Columbia (where he is from), he and his parents lost everything. “There was a flood of 1994 and I lived in the basement, and that wasn’t good. But I was not home. It was the sinkhole, and it was gone. Everything was gone,” he says. Photos, childhood toys, and everything he had up to the 16 years he was alive were gone.
So, for Garzón, his sketchbooks serve as a diary that he can flip back to and remember people and places. “You ever seen that butterfly effect?” he asks. “It’s like that. I feel like you go back to these things, and I remember what was happening. It’s a way I can keep my memories, like a way to recall.” Garzón is constantly sketching and drawing and does so swiftly and accurately, having developed a near photographic memory. It is those memories that he translates onto paper.
Right now, Garzón is offering to draw anyone around the world anything for just $5 through fiverr. So far, Garzón has hiked into backyards of expensive houses at Diamond Head, as requested by one client, to draw a hidden spot that famous graffiti artists have tagged. He searched the island looking for one specific person to sketch because another client wanted to see how this person was doing. He’s sketched different monuments, events, and landscapes. “I ask people to send me to places and sometimes I have to find people,” he says. “It’s like detective work, and at the same time, it’s artist work, because I said I’ll find anybody and draw anything. Just send me the GPS coordinates and I’ll go there.”
For an artist like Garzón, who has sold portraits, drawings, and artwork for $20, $50, hundreds or even thousands of dollars, his $5 is generous. “You have to be able to make [your art] available for people—for everyone—not just the super rich. … I just want to share,” he says. It’s an offer he’ll keep around for a long time.