Envision Art Studio in Visalia
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Catch the VisionJune 2015
Story and Photos by Jen May Pastores
Everyone was once a child, perhaps wild at heart, with a natural curiosity to explore. Rick Alonzo’s quest to define his world began as a small boy living in the Philippines. Not having much, he and his family spent hours outside in their hometown of Mabalacat hunting for food, climbing trees and fishing in nearby streams. Alonzo notes, “We would swim in the rivers even though they were filled with leeches. It’s just different.”
Different made for a unique setting for his childhood, where at age 4, Alonzo began drawing. “Pencils and paper were very expensive, so we couldn’t afford those. I would find charcoal in a bonfire and would take a stick, draw on the ground and learn that way,” says Alonzo.
The world of rice fields, forests of balacat trees and their elevated bamboo home took a change in scenery when Alonzo migrated to San Francisco with his family in 1979. “When we came to America, we were totally culture shocked. We noticed how bright America was. So many lights and so many tall people. Out of all the things that shocked me, it was carpet. I was used to bamboo. And we slept on it. A lot of us slept on the carpet, it was so soft,” Alonzo reflects affectionately.
His love for art progressed at his new school, where his teachers recognized his artistic abilities and encouraged him to enter competitions, which he did, taking first place in all. “Now I had the right type of tools, because they’re there in the classroom. I had so much freedom to learn as much as I can.”
After high school, Alonzo’s passion took him to Long Beach State University and Fresno State University to study art. “I did a lot of going door to door, painting mailboxes just to make extra money. I did drawings for people. Instead of finding a job, you create a job for yourself.”
One of the first jobs Alonzo landed, ironically, was after he landed from a backflip performed in front of an employer at Breaking the Barriers in Fresno, a nonprofit integrating sports and performing arts in classes for students of all abilities. He was hired on the spot to teach art, gymnastics and martial arts. Although the work he performed was rewarding, Alonzo sought out a deeper purpose for his life. “I don’t paint to make pretty pictures. I paint to make a difference and to inspire people,” he says. Alonzo decided to pursue ministry, using his creative talents to connect with people on a spiritual level. “God is the original artist.”
Using the luminescent glow of ultraviolet paint, black lights, music and martial arts, Alonzo creates a rapid and captivating performance. Nunchucks thresh the air, staffs rotate with quick turns of the wrists, both used as painting tools that apply neon paint to a black canvas. Within minutes, splashes of colorful paint quickly become well-known icons like Po the Panda (from Dreamworks Animation) or Jack Sparrow (Walt Disney Pictures). Sometimes it’s not revealed until close to the end, when the painting is flipped right-side up, that it’s a portrait of Jesus Christ. The paintings are often used to raise money for charities, and one raised $20,000 during a Make-a-Wish Foundation auction.
After years of using a positive program to perform his speed-painting act for schools, universities, churches and other venues while also delivering an educational message, Alonzo decided to open an art school in Kingsburg in September 2014. Envision Art Studio and Gallery is a nonprofit organization committed to making a positive difference in the lives of people through the use of art. “People want to do something fun, (especially) if they’ve never really tried art. A professional artist can guide them through. There’s a coach there to guide them,” says Alonzo.
Three-day summer art camp workshops will be offered in June and July for children ages 7 to 12 with a focus on acrylic, ultraviolet paint, and watercolor. A speed-painting course will also be offered for ages 10 and older. Private art lessons can be arranged with Alonzo, and the studio can be reserved for private events like birthday parties. During studio hours, anyone is welcome. “Anyone can come to Envision. Anyone can experience art. We won’t turn anyone away,” says Alonzo.