A daily, hour-long commute by bus doesn't stop 31-year-old husband and father Ivan Godinez from pursuing his art. From the time he steps on the bus to the time he hops off, Godinez sketches his fellow passengers and stays with touch with a professional local artist who says he sees much potential in Godinez. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on July 10, 2012.
Days in the life of a budding LA artist begin before dawn, boarding a bus to the factory day job that supports a wife and child. For Ivan Godinez, it’s not a distraction from his pursuit of art, but an opportunity he embraces.
As soon as Godinez finds a seat, he pulls out his sketchbook and begins surveying the bus for passengers to draw. Pen goes to paper, and -- except for having to change buses -- he does not stop until he arrives at his job more than an hour later.
Godinez, 31, cannot imagine a day without art.
"It's a way of expression, how you see the world," he said.
He has to work quickly. Sometimes a passenger he chooses will be exiting at the next stop. Or someone will move and block his view.
"Ten to 12 sketches -- that's a good day for me," Godinez said.
The stops and starts and the bouncing over potholes only add to the challenge for a man determined to refine his skill to the point he can make a career of art.
Among his role models is the Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor Victor Hugo Zayas, a fellow immigrant from Mexico from whom Godinez once took class and periodically reconnects.
On a recent Suday afternoon, Zayas invited Godinez and other former students to his studio that is almost hidden in a warehouse just east of downtown.
"This is great!" said Zayas as he leafed through Godinez's sketchbook. "I think this exercise is probably one of the best things you can do."
Zayas knows from personal experience how much a budding artist can benefit from advice and encouragement. He came to California at age 16 and remains grateful for a scholarship to
Pasadena's renowned Art Center College of Design – it provided a key step in launching a career that now spans three decades.
Zayas is widely collected and has pieces in the permanent collections of the Laguna Beach Art Museum, among others.
Recently, LAPD entrusted him with a ton of deactivated firearms collected as part of the buyback program to get guns off the street. With a welder's torch, Zayas transformed weapons into abstract art.
"Sometimes, we have the opportunity to give back," Zayas said.
For him, opportunity arose in 2006 to partner with the Art Center in offering the Maestro's Fine Arts Program, a series of weekend classes offered in South Los Angeles for young people with promise but who otherwise might never have the opportunity to study with a pro.
When Godinez heard about the Maestro program, he was taking classes at East LA College. He was interested but concerned about the cost. When he learned full scholarships were available, he applied and was accepted.
"Going to Victor's classes was a new starting point," Godinez said.
For his part, Zayas remembers the rapid progress Godinez made.
"When you see the transformation, it is amazing," Zayas said.
Godinez also paints and showed Zayas two still-lifes of marionettes, the models being toys he had bought for his child.
Zayas offered encouragement: "I see a lot of exciting things happening for you."
Amy Stewart also visited Zayas's studio that Sunday. Stewart took his classes at Loyola Marymount University and discovered an affinity for painting portraits. She remembers his encouraging his students to be authentic, "to bring out your own message."
Stewart became a kindergarten teacher and has found it fulfilling, she said, but feels drawn back to the self-expression of painting.
She hopes Zayas will teach again.
The Maestro's Fine Arts Program ran its course four years ago. Zayas wants to revive it and carry it to the next level. Funding is being finalized, he said, and he's getting commitments from other artists and academics to join the effort.
"It's exciting to me," Zayas said.
For now, Stewart takes on more portraits and Godinez unfailingly takes his sketchbook to another bus commute, finding encouragement in the words of Zayas: "You can't stop. You have to keep going."