Jake Garcia never meant for any of this to happen.
The “NBC Nightly News” segment, the 1,000-plus Twitter followers, the Instagram love, the smiles.
But when you paint landscapes of Boston — good paintings, no less— and leave them for the taking around Boston? Well, people tend to notice. And they clearly think it’s awesome.
Garcia, 34, a nursing student and self-taught artist, paints en plein air and has taken to leaving his work in plain sight, mostly around South Boston. On the back of each, the Dorchester resident writes: “I painted this painting for YOU.” Finally, he snaps a photo and posts it to social media along with a clue to the piece’s location.
People have scooped them up in minutes. For example, on April 23, @jakescapes tweeted a tease to the location for Plein Air #6 at 10:58 a.m.: “Located in South Boston. Similar location to Plein air 2.”
“Couldn’t believe it was there when I showed up!! Thanks so much for doing this for the community!” another happy seeker tweeted after scoring Plein Air #7.
Plein air #5 was left in East Boston on April 22 at 10:01 a.m. By 10:29, it was gone. An empty-handed treasure hunter tweeted he wasn’t the only one. “I ran into another treasure hunter coming off the train as I was leaving.”
All this joy started with one man’s struggle.
After painting outside in early April, Garcia didn’t want to deal with carrying wet artwork. So he left it.
He thought people would think: “That’s really weird — there’s a picture of that scene right there,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what was going through my head. I didn’t think anyone would care.”
Then a “buddy” suggested Garcia join Twitter to share the art. “I’ve never done social media,” Garcia said. So that buddy (who happens to be Boston Globe reporter Steve Annear) helped Garcia set up an account.
Garcia ran with his new social media legs and started an Instagram: @jakescapes.
But he never expected what happened next.
The Internet worked its magic. Soon local TV stations wanted segments. “NBC Nightly News” with Lester Holt got in touch about doing a story.
Garcia did not plan it this way. He sees himself as just a regular dude who happens to love painting and making people happy — and if he can do both at once? All the better.
“That was something I didn’t expect — when someone finds one and they’re smiling and so happy. I like to help people. That’s kinda what my deal is with wanting to be a nurse,” said the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science student. “If I can make somebody’s day, that’s worth it.”
He started painting regularly only a few months ago, after his brother gifted him with some art supplies.
After nursing school, he plans to take painting classes. Right now he’s teaching himself through YouTube tutorials — and lots of practice.
“I paint a lot. I’m kind of obsessed. I wouldn’t suggest an obsession, but if you’re going to have one, this is one I don’t mind,” he deadpanned.
Just don’t look for him in the wild. Nobody yet has caught @jakescapes in the act of leaving a painting.
“And that’s a fear,” he said. “I don’t know why I think that’s embarrassing, but it would be embarrassing. I’ve got to get out of the area. Immediately.”