Leo Alvarez is a Chicano artist based in Wasco, who has been cultivating his gift since the age of seven. He was raised here but is originally from a small town called Llano Grande in Jalisco, Mexico. He came here at the age of 4.
Recently, he completed a mural for the City of Wasco at the 15th Street Playground Park. "It was my first mural in Wasco, but I've done a lot of murals in McFarland and Bakersfield."
He started as an artist by drawing cartoon characters, then artwork from "lowrider" magazines and later portraits. "I kept at it until I realized one of my dreams, which was to be featured in magazines."
He draws his inspiration from life, he said. "By what you live through, by what I see around me, by even music, by the struggle is what makes me create art."
His art has particular themes and messages he aims to convey.
"I do Mexican art to inspire others, especially young kids on the same road as me. To help them do something with themselves and to keep off the street and away from drugs."
With his murals, he draws his inspiration in a unique manner. "I look at the wall, and it speaks to me. I think, 'What would flow and what would look good?' I do a sketch, and it goes on from there."
His spiritual foundation helps him get into the right mindset for creating his murals. "I thank God and do a little prayer so everything will go well."
What he finds most rewarding is the end process. "When people see it and their reaction to how, in a couple of days, I can completely transform a blank wall into something amazing. There's nothing like painting on walls. I love the challenge."
Doing his first mural in Wasco is particularly meaningful for him because this is his hometown. "It makes me proud that I can leave my imprint on the city I love for all my family and friends to see."
He said that with this mural, he hopes to impact the community positively.
"The mural is for the kids, and the focus is a tribute to Wasco's rich history and agricultural past. I'm using brushes, spray cans and airbrush. It's a little mix of everything."
He said his aspirations and goals for the future are to keep doing murals around town and other towns as well.
Alvarez has advice for other artists. "Just go for it, and don't hold back. If you have a vision, go and do it."
The lessons and insights he has gained in his career as an artist and would like to share with other emerging artists are invaluable.
"Art can take you anywhere you want; don't give up and keep at it. Whatever you desire, you can make happen."