The eye-catching works submitted by artists for this year's Eye Gallery art series have been admired and scrutinized by thousands of newspaper readers.
But no one has pored over them more closely than Byron Rhodes, this week's featured artist and author of Chapter Six of our story.
"I began by really working out a concept based on the narrative provided, " said the artist, 31. "This came by reading and re-reading the previous artists writings and studying their artworks."
Rhodes' stunning piece features the protagonist introduced in last week's chapter and the mysterious figure referred to since Chapter One.
"The goal of my image was to create an allegory of the journey the character chose to make, which she believes will change her life in a positive direction."
Rhodes was born and raised in Bakersfield, graduating from North High in 1999 and earning a bachelor of fine arts in studio art from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2004.
The artist enjoys cycling and other athetic pursuits, as well as studying the Bible, reading, movies and studying science when he's not working his day job at Banks Pest Control. He spends much of his spare time with girlfriend Jill Kochendorfer.
Rhodes took some time out of his busy schedule to answer our Eye Gallery questionnaire:
How long have you been an artist?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember and haven't stopped. I typcially work in acrylic, graphite, pen and ink, colored pencil, watercolor.
Explain your process/technique on this piece:
Once I finalized a concept, I began the work of sketching out the image and making all the elements fit compositionally. This process was aided by some reference images, but the majority of the sketch was from my imagination or visual memory.
Once I had the composition laid out and I was happy with all the aspects of the preliminary sketch, I transferred the image to the final surface that I had already gessoed. At this point the painting process could begin.
I started with a base color, which may not be close to the final color but it helps jump-start the piece. In this case, I worked out the colors as I went, only having a vague idea of what they would be.
I wanted to include some color from the previous artworks in the narrative to create some unity for the whole show. If I was not happy with a color, I would rework that area. This process would continue until the piece worked as a whole. A final clear gloss coat was applied to make the sheen uniform and to protect the final image.
What kind of art speaks to you?
I enjoy art that is rendered somewhat realistically but the images in the work don't really exist in reality; or they may, but are not portrayed that way. This would be why I am drawn to Surrealism.
Recently I have really enjoyed the works of Todd Schorr. Two artists that I have followed since around 2002 are Joe Sorren and Tim Cantor.
When/how I knew art would be my passion:
I have been drawing and creating art since I can remember. Art is something that I have enjoyed success in, whether it is private or public.
Do you get many commissions?
Yes, I do, but recently I have chosen not to accept them because of my busy schedule. There are rare exceptions.
How hard is it to find a place to show your work publicly?
It is not hard at all. There are many opportunities to show work through shows with the Arts Council of Kern or other shows they advertise.
The Bakersfield Museum of Art also organizes the Visual Arts festival annually. There are other venues around Bakersfield that are looking for artists to become involved in presenting work.
Most supportive mentor:
My dad. He has given me many opportunities to create artwork for projects.
I talk to him more than anyone about art philosophy, many times we actually argue about it, which I enjoy. On several occasions he has helped me articulate my artistic vision.