For local artists Ryan Holdcraft and Jesus Rodriguez, art is about more than just self-expression, it’s using their gifts to create a better community.

Rodriguez was born in Mexico and raised by his grandmother, who adopted him when he was 8 months old. It was her dying wish for him to come to America, so in 2004, at the age of 21, he moved to California to live with his aunt and uncle in Oxnard. They moved to Bakersfield a few years later.

Although he finished high school in Mexico, when he came to the States he had to start over. While taking classes at Bakersfield Adult School, a teacher noticed him drawing a lot and encouraged him to enroll in an art class. He learned to paint with watercolor first, but says he prefers acrylic and oil because they’re easier to work with.

He draws inspiration from his faith and primarily paints things from nature – animals, plants and landscapes. He’s often inspired by scripture from the Bible.

“(Historically), most art comes from the church. God is the creator. I feel like my mission is to bring arts back to the church,” said Rodriguez.

One way he’s doing that is by painting during worship, creating an original piece in 20 to 30 minutes. Sometimes he has an idea ahead of time, other times he just lets the moment inspire him. Rodriguez feels like art belongs alongside music, poetry and dance in the church.

He also finds joy in sharing his talent with others, teaching paint nights at various venues around town. His goal is to organize the biggest paint night event with hundreds of participants.

“I love watching people try something new and discover their gifts. (They) come and realize they have talent they didn’t know they had,” said Rodriguez.

Artist Ryan Holdcraft remembers drawing a lot as a kid, but it wasn’t until he was stationed in Iraq that he sort of stumbled upon the path that led him to where he is today. He started out drawing tattoos for his fellow Marines and it grew from there.

“When I got out, I decided to do tattooing – that was pretty much my first entry into art as a career,” said Holdcraft, who was just doing it as a side gig until about a year ago, when he decided to make art his full-time job.

Inspired by his wife’s grandfather, a WWII veteran, he began teaching art classes to seniors twice a week at the Brookdale senior community and it evolved from there.

“It helps to bring it into these communities; it gives them something to look forward to,” said Holdcraft. “They know I’m going to show up and it will be fun.”

He is currently working with David Gordon of the Bakersfield Art Association to obtain a grant that would provide a free space for artists to create on a large scale. Holdcraft envisions something like the public art walls in Venice Beach.

“I kind of started as a street artist when I was growing up,” Holdcraft said. “Over the years, I’ve gained more of an appreciation for (all mediums). I’ve always had a love for sculpting.”

One of his dreams is to start a nonprofit organization for veterans who suffer from PTSD.

“I want to take vets somewhere to paint, like the Grand Canyon, (where we can) hike and paint for a couple days – get some reprieve for whatever they’ve got going on in their lives,” said Holdcraft.

A veteran himself, he understands firsthand what they’ve gone through. He still has a lot of friends who are active military so it’s a cause close to his heart.

For both Rodriguez and Holdcraft, art is a gift that was meant to be shared. They recognize that it has the power to offer hope and healing, and enrich the lives of both the teacher and the student.

Look for Rodriguez’s upcoming art show “Soar” in early 2020 at the Bakersfield Art Association Gallery. In the meantime, you can find upcoming paint nights at

You can find Ryan’s art at First Friday, Farmer’s Market or check out his website 

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