Age: 56 | Title/Occupation: Creative Director/CEO of Jacinto Enterprises
Art has been a part of your life since your earliest memories. Tell us about your dad and what you learned from him growing up.
My dad was awesome! He had the gifts of humor, love, imagination and art. I can remember being in his studio as young as 3 years old. I had a table where I would try to imitate his paintings, utilizing line and shape. At age 5 or 6 I understood perspective and composition, and by age 10 I began to understand color theory.
My dad was extremely gifted. He painted in oils, painted murals, developed logos, and created ads for local businesses. He gave me advice that I never forgot. He said, “Never, ever, ever let anyone place you in a box. You paint, draw, create, express, and illustrate what your heart and God tells you, not where people want to place you. They will tell you that you are either a fine artist or commercial artist or illustrator. Don’t conform to their demands.”
Because of what he told me, when asked what kind of artist I would consider myself, I say, “An artist that creates.”
What was school like for you as a child and teenager?
I loved school until I hit the 4th grade. During the ’60s, the educational system in California was structured in such a way that my learning style did not match the teaching methods. I was labeled as a “slow learner” and was placed in a “special class.” What was not taken into account was that I was not an analytical learner but a global visual learner. Compound that with my dyslexia and auditory processing disorder and instructions and explanations were just words. I was bullied not only by my classmates but teachers as well.
Eventually my reading suffered and studies were impossible. The only thing I thought I could do was art, music and swimming. In 1975, I met Paul Royle, who was the head coach of our city swimming team who also became my high school teacher (and is still a friend of over 40 years). He painstakingly peeled all the garbage away. I was learning physics through swimming, math through music, and my art was teaching me about history, anthropology, geometry, architecture, and even astronomy. Art and art history connected the subjects in school. I was learning and did not even know it. This led to self-confidence and eventually I began to excel not only in art but also in sports, including setting records and state championships for swimming and becoming a national champion and Olympic paddler for sprint kayaking. Still, through all these accomplishments, I doubted my intelligence and knowledge, even after being accepted to the University of Southern California’s Roski School of Art and Design.
Moving on to college, you met someone special. But didn’t know it at the time?
Before I was accepted to USC I had to go back to Ventura Community College to repeat some classes that were hurting my GPA. It was there I met my college sweetheart Alisa Ontiveros. She was a soccer player at the time and had graduated with honors—she helped me pinpoint the areas in Algebra in which I was struggling. We dated that year and fell in love. The plan was that while I was at USC she was going to transfer to Pepperdine in Malibu and play soccer, but that changed when she received an athletic scholarship to Liberty University. We thought we would make the long-distance relationship work but later broke up.
What type of work did you do after college?
Throughout my life I have been in and around the arts. I designed t-shirts for high schools and organizations in Ventura County and worked on advertising for businesses, signs and murals for homes and business. Once I graduated I thought I would be teaching high school art and coaching; however, things went in a whole different direction. Right after graduation I worked on the set of How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey. Then, I was selected as the national junior development coach for Olympic sprint kayaking. I accepted and was working at both Olympic Training Centers in Lake Placid and Chula Vista while also building my own sprint kayak team in Ventura County. I later began working for a billboard company as the airbrush supervisor and developed my own art studio. I worked on movie billboards for corporations such as Disney, Universal, and Warner Brothers and movies such as Armageddon, Mask of Zorro, and Godzilla.
And while in California, you also added teaching to your resume.
Yes! Paul, who I spoke of earlier, told me I would be a great teacher because of what I went through as a child. I began teaching art and art history at Christian high schools in California. I found that the arts really took a back seat in education as many school systems today feel the arts are a waste of time and money. In my opinion, the problem is not the arts, but rather how they are taught, at least in California, where there is no curriculum. I teach my art classes using a very structured curriculum that I have developed. Not only do the students learn about the fundamentals of the arts such as materials, tools of the trade, and theories in composition and color but also art history and how it connects to other subjects. I also teach critical thinking of art history, not just regurgitated information.
When did you and your wife move to Lynchburg and why?
Now, remember I said Alisa and I broke up back in ’93? Well, we didn’t see each other for 18 years and neither of us married. In January 2010, we reunited via Facebook, and on December 10, 2011 we tied the knot. At this point I was rebuilding my life; I had a business that fell hard. When we got married I was teaching, but even with both of our incomes, we knew we would never be able to afford a house in California. Her sister and her family decided they were going to move back to Virginia, so that was when I made an executive decision for us to move back as well in June 2014. It also gave me the chance to pursue my master’s degrees at Liberty. I am currently pursuing a Master of Art in Teaching-Secondary and Master of Fine Arts, both of which I should complete by the end of next year.
What do you think of the Hill City?
I feel that Lynchburg is America’s best-kept secret. The beach is only three hours away, there is snow skiing here, and the one thing we have here that Southern California does not is four regular seasons. Also, the people are extremely friendly, social, and very, very polite. Another thing that is here is talent. The amount of talent in music, dance, and theater is amazing, from the kids of the elementary schools to the college and professional levels. There is also a lot of talent in the visual arts as well; however, my wife and I were extremely surprised with the lack of set designers and painters in the technique of airbrush. Much of the set work for the bigger performances are brought in from other states as far as Illinois, which opened the door for us.
What types of projects are you working on in the community?
When we arrived here in 2014 the plan was for me to fully concentrate on my master’s degrees, while my wife would be the breadwinner. But that plan went out the window—in a great way. In 2015 when I was cast in the Thomas Road Baptist Church Christmas Spectacular, the directors found out that I had worked on sets back in California and asked if I could do some airbrushing. This is where everything took off like a rocket. The next set I worked on was for Masterworx’s performance of Oklahoma. Once word of my work got out, I recruited my wife to help out with the sets and organize my schedule.
Today we are designing and painting sets in and around the Lynchburg area for high schools and other community theaters including the Academy Center of the Arts and Opera on the James. Last year my wife and I produced 29 sets throughout the area, and this year promises to be even bigger. My work is now expanding even further in commissions for children’s book illustrations as well as paintings and portraits. I’m also working on my cartoon characters called Rollerbots and the Elite 7; they will be featured this summer at my art show at the Academy Center of the Arts.
If there is one thing you wish you had known as an aspiring artist, what would that be?
Oh boy where do I start? Well, let me say this to young artists: There is money in the arts, and you can make a great living working in the arts. However, it requires more than just talent. You have to be willing to work hard, meet deadlines, and know where you want to go.
I would also want to tell teachers, parents, and friends of those who have artistic talent, do not tell these individuals, “Wow, you’re so talented you should become an artist!” That statement is equivalent to telling a child who is great in math, “Wow, you’re so gifted, you should become a mathematician!” Direct that artistic student into an area where their strengths are because once they laser into that field, they can expand into other areas beyond their dreams.
How can readers get in touch with you?
For theater set designs: email@example.com
For fine art, portraits, murals, etc: