Colin Garland was born on April 12, 1935 to a working class family in Sydney, Australia, during the period of the Great Depression. Garland described his family as poor but artistic and creative, coming up with ingenious ways of survival. As a youngster, Garland developed a love for exploring the outdoors and collecting the objects and small creatures he found. Additionally, his aptitude and noticeable talent for drawing, painting and modelling was encouraged particularly by his mother who allowed him to enter art competitions and use his prize money to buy more art materials. Eventually, he made the decision to study at the National School of Art in Sydney with the intention of studying theatre art. However, theatre art was not offered and he studied the fine arts instead. Theatre was a life-long interest of Garland, however, and he worked part-time as a performer and later designed and made costumes and sets for various theatrical groups. After five years at the National School of Art, Garland decided to go to England to continue his studies.
It was through his Caribbean theatre contacts in England that Garland first arrived in Jamaica briefly in 1962 – the year of Jamaica’s independence. Later that year, he decided to return to the Island permanently having secured a teaching job at the Jamaica School of Art (now part of the Edna Manley College). He eventually remained at the school for almost two decades. Initially living in Oracabessa, St Mary, Garland eventually relocated to nearby Boscobel where he spent the rest of his life. He also continued to work with theatre community in Jamaica. Notable among his contributions is the set design for the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) production entitled Court of Jah held in 1975.