A man and his spray can: A profile on Riverside City College art instructor Jeff Soto

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By Elaina Kleven

Jeff Soto found his inspirations in his early life through many niche interests. His earliest inspirations started with being fascinated by the covers of ’80s science fiction novels his parents religiously read, the alternative music curated from the MTV era but especially in politics of that time.

The alternative culture of the time was centered around anarchy and the anti-government criticisms were spread across multiple genres. This movement also inspired Soto to start creating art.

“I was painting and drawing what made me angry and what I felt wasn’t fair,” Soto said.
After graduating high school,  he attended Riverside City College, and then transferred to CSU Fullerton.

Soto then spent years traveling the world selling his artwork in galleries and doing plenty of commission work.
Not drifting too far from his original muses, he continued making politically charged pieces during this time. His daughter had just been born while there were devastating events happening in America such as living in a post 9/11 world, the Iranian war and the recession.

Soto played with childlike symbols and made them into a dystopian art piece. Toys, stuffed animals, smiley faces and other innocent objects were often reconstructed to have a grungy meaning.

With age and time, Soto’s art still carries the same emotionally charged meanings he started his career with.

“I’m still painting about the same angst I have and how unjust the world is,” Soto said. “But it’s more subtle in how it manifests into my art visually.”

He came back to RCC to teach art classes and help students start their art career just like he did years ago. 

Teaching led Soto to meet artists who are in all walks of their career. In class he greatly encourages a comfortable environment with self expression by letting students play their own music and to exchange mediums.
“He is very understanding and very chill, and I feel like that combination is very helpful in the art class setting.” Agatha McIntyre, an art student at RCC said. 

The meaningful connections he makes with his students gives him and his students knowledge and experience that could not be learned through years of being an artist. 

“I’m working with these wonderful young artists that are following different artists than me,” Soto said. “I’m 46 and I follow a different artist than an 18-year-old follows.”

The way he teaches has impacted all walks of students, not just those planning to make a career in art.

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