If you or your customers do any kind of art instruction, you’ll find Rick Alonzo’s experience painfully familiar. But don’t lose heart, his story ends with an ingenious solution, plus a tale that inspires.
“I used to teach lots of art classes in public schools, both for afterschool programs and assemblies. The challenges most schools have with large-group painting are these.
• They don’t have enough space, which leads to clutter, and
• given the equipment they have, their setup and cleanup can be slow and inefficient.
“I have tried a host of art tools and supplies to make teaching easier, but I’ve found that each has its own problematic issues. Take the conventional table easel, for instance. It has to be assembled before use and disassembled after. If you’re teaching 30-plus students, it can eat away at your time. Also, easels have a tendency to move around and slide while you’re painting. Using easels with no stability makes painting with students more difficult than it already is. Also, over time and with repeated use, table easels will eventually and unexpectedly break down on you.
“The other issue to contend with is the container-with-water-to wash-your-brushes problem, especially in a class full of kids. They want to play and goof around, so the paper cups of water we use tip over multiple times, interrupting the lesson and creating a mess. Combined with the puddle that forms when used brushes are simply laid down at a work station – because there’s no other place to put them – the mess becomes even bigger.
“Traditionally, painters in most group sessions use paper plates as a painting palette, which, in my experience, leads to several problems. First, it’s not stabilized. It’s so lightweight that if you’re working outside, it blows away. Second, again, is the mess. The palette is either placed right in front or to the side of the painter. Either way, it’s there on the table for kids to accidentally get the paint on their own person: hands, hair, shirts, etc.
“After experiencing all these issues, I invented the GoEasel. It’s compact and portable, stable, and easy and quick to set up and clean up. It accommodates all the elements people need when they paint: the canvas, the palette, brushes, and water.
“If I was inspired by something at this very moment, I could just grab my GoEasel and immediately start painting. It’s great for spontaneous moments like that.”
Resourcefulness, creativity, and faith
Rick is an artist and athlete gifted with highly developed analytical skills and a deep faith in God. He put all of it together in a unique profession of his own invention. As a performance artist, he combines painting with gymnastics, acrobatics, martial arts, and music. He considers his work a calling.
As a teenager, Rick envisioned the way he would eventually create art. “I visualized a martial arts weapon – a long stick or a staff – that had a brush at the very end. I imagined using it to paint, with a choreographed performance that included athletic movements and martial arts. I would imagine spinning the stick with the paint brush at the tip; dipping it into the paint and then scraping and spreading it on the canvas. I imagined that people would come and be curious about what I was doing; that it would be a chance to share my faith with them.”
For more than a quarter-century, Rick has traveled across the U.S. and around the world speaking and performing in public, private, and home schools; in prisons, churches, corporations, camps, hospitals, and movie theaters; on television and at crusades, fairs and festivals. “I don’t just create pretty pictures to hang on a wall, I create art that is relevant to my audiences. It impacts their lives in a positive way. To me, the message I’m trying to convey is more important than the technique and colors in my art.”
Rick’s equipment includes a sound system and UV-A lighting. He applies fluorescent paint and regular acrylic paint with 6-foot paintbrushes he designed, as well as easels he customized to accommodate his large canvasses.
“Making tools is nothing new for me,” he explains. “Growing up in the Philippines, we made hunting weapons, fishing tools and slingshots. I’ve always loved to create things that solve problems and help make life easier.”
His early tools were survival essentials. Rick grew up in abject poverty; one of a dozen children of hardworking parents. He and his siblings often knew hunger. “My parents left for days at a time to work to buy food,” he explains. “I clearly remember my brother Rey and me going through the garbage dump in our village, scrounging for food and looking for tools: plastic containers for carrying water, cans for cooking, and netting for fishing.
“Our parents taught us that to survive, we needed to be practical and constructive; to make things that were useful and not merely for fun,” Rick adds. “That was the way of my parents and the people in my village. Now it is my way also.”
The Alonzo family emigrated to the U.S. when Rick was 12. He says America is the place people in his village dreamed about, where there is plenty of food and no worries about their roof blowing away in a typhoon.
When I asked what his paintings revealed about him as a person, Rick said: “That God is number-one, and that family and friends and people are more valuable than the money you have or the job you