A large black canvas takes center stage surrounded by a dozen paint cans in various colors, glowing vibrantly beneath black lighting.
The canvas towers over the stocky, athletic 5-foot 2-inch man as he walks on stage. Then, Rick Alonzo, a 51-year-old speed painter, begins his performance by ferociously spinning paint-splattered nunchucks, backflipping across the stage and executing a variety of martial arts kicks and punches.
The Kingsburg man slowly dips his hands in the glowing paint before bursting into a frenzy of scrapes, brushes and splatters, filling the black canvas with color. After five or six minutes, Alonzo flips the canvas and the portrait emerges.
“The upside down Jesus is the very first painting that the Lord told me to paint,” Alonzo said. “It symbolizes my life.”
The black canvas represents sin, and the colorful paints symbolize the spiritual fruit of love, joy, and kindness, Alonzo explained.
“The reason I paint it upside down is because apart from Him, my life was upside down,” Alonzo said. “It’s very symbolic”
Alonzo, charismatic and upbeat, talks happily about the faith that led him to create the nonprofit Rick Alonzo Ministries and later the Envision Art Studio in downtown Kingsburg.
Raised as a devout Christian, Alonzo said he became dedicated to spreading the Gospel and inspiring others with his artistic and athletic abilities on March 9, 1992.
That was the day he witnessed a group of teenagers spray painting on a wall and he began to pray about his purpose in life. “It’s just one of those moments where you are questioning where is your life heading,” Alonzo said. “I wanted to tell them there is a better way.”
Soon after, Alonzo quit his job teaching art and gymnastics at the nonprofit Break the Barriers in Fresno and began experimenting with different forms of artistic expression.
“I’ve always known I was going to be an artist ever since I was 4 years old,” said Alonzo, who was born in the Philippines. “It’s a passion of mine. It’s a calling of mine but I didn’t want to do just your regular, normal art.”
Alonzo studied art at California State University, Long Beach and Fresno State, taking classes in architecture, fine arts, cartooning and graphic design. “I went to college, not to get my degree, I went to college to learn as much art as I could possibly learn,” Alonzo said.
After finding success with his colorful portraits of famous and spiritual figures he became bored with the tradition of showing completed art pieces in a gallery setting.
With this in mind, Alonzo developed a form of speed painting that demonstrates the creation of an art piece from start to finish and immerses the audience in an exciting blur of martial arts and acrobatics.
“Everything is choreography. Everything is practice,” Alonzo said. “They see 10 percent only of what I’ve done and the 90 percent they never see.”
Alonzo’s unique style of art has led to a successful career as a performance artist. He has traveled near and far sharing his message of faith and positivity through artistic expression in small intimate settings as well as large venues.
However, finding professional success has not taken away from Alonzo’s Christian faith. “It’s the root of why I do what I do,” Alonzo said.
He continues to be devoted to his religious beliefs and committed to serving God and his community.
Alonzo lent his talents to Selma’s Valley Life Community Church for a fundraising event on Nov. 5.
Delfina Vazquez, outreach coordinator and children’s ministry pastor at Valley Life Community Church, said many people were happy to pay $25 a ticket for dinner and a chance to watch him paint live.
“We had a very successful fundraiser because of his willingness to help and donate his time,” Vazquez said. Ticket sales helped raise money for the church to install showers for the homeless.
“He has amazing work. If you get to see his show you’re amazed at the gift that the Lord has given him,” Vazquez said. “He puts so much into it, so much passion. To paint a whole portrait within the time of a song and to put a story to it and bring that painting to life, it’s pretty awesome.”
Vazquez said Alonzo was to perform at Valley Life Community Church again for a Christmas service Dec. 24.
Alonzo participates in other church outreach programs as well. Those include, Bringing Broken Neighborhoods Back to Life a community and police partnership aimed at spreading a message of hope, safety and healing for Selma residents.
“I always liked this quote: ‘It’s not what you do, but it’s how you do it,’” Alonzo said. “I want to work with people, I want to work with churches. Whenever I can, I’m in.”
Alonzo also performs at secular venues, and frequently works with local after-school programs teaching art classes and promoting respect, kindness, anti-bullying and anti-drug messages. Alonzo can also be hired to perform or teach art classes for children or adults at birthday parties, private homes, and events.
In fact, Alonzo said his busy schedule was a major factor in his decision to close the Envision Art Studio at 1333 Draper St. in downtown Kingsburg.
The studio, which opened Nov. 13, 2014, offered a range of art classes for children and adults in the community. The studio also served as a spiritual and artistic gathering place for Alonzo to share the word of God.
Although he closed the Envision Art Studio after the building was sold to new owners, Alonzo has big plans for the studio’s future.
“Now I’m actually taking Envision online,” Alonzo said. He hopes to create an online art academy, to continue teaching and sharing art without limitations.
“There are a lot of artists out there who are wanting to use their God-given talent but they don’t know how,” Alonzo said.
Alonzo hopes that an online platform will allow him to reach those artists and provide live classes for them to learn from his experiences and get feedback in real time.
Whatever the future holds for Rick Alonzo Ministries and Alonzo himself, followers can stay up to date with upcoming performances and classes on his Facebook page or website at www.rickalonzo.org.