2012-01-26 / Community

Modern Michelangelo creates masterpiece at library

By Sylvie Belmond


ARTIST AT WORK—Ricardo Alvarez of North Hollywood applies proper shading to a portion of the mural he is painting inside the Calabasas Library. Alvarez’s original artwork also adorns the walls of homes and other public spaces. The artist painted his first mural at age 7. 
SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers ARTIST AT WORK—Ricardo Alvarez of North Hollywood applies proper shading to a portion of the mural he is painting inside the Calabasas Library. Alvarez’s original artwork also adorns the walls of homes and other public spaces. The artist painted his first mural at age 7. SYLVIE BELMOND/Acorn Newspapers Bit by bit, the ceiling of the children’s reading room at the Calabasas Library is coming to life.

Muralist Ricardo Alvarez stands high on a ladder, perched above the entrance to the library’s small circular room. He listens to Latin music on his headset while carefully shading the outline of an adobe building he wants to paint next.

Two children peek inside to watch the artist at work.

The Calabasas City Council hired the North Hollywood artist in November to paint an exploration-themed mural inside the library.

Once completed, the mural will show the ocean, the mountains and a blue sky populated by clouds. A red-tailed hawk, pumpkin wagon and oak trees will be depicted, and a dome at the center of the room will showcase an astronaut and planets next to a sprinkling of stars pinned to the deep of space.

All in all, it’s an ambitious undertaking by this highly creative, yet down-to-earth 39-year-old artist.

“ Murals can transform a room,” said Alvarez, who grew up in Colombia and Mexico. “My job is to create something that goes with the architectural design of a building.”

He said his final product will enkindle creativity and imagination inside the minds of the young library patrons who stop by to view the work.

Alvarez began painting murals at age 7. When he was in his early 20s he moved to Southern California to try his hand in animation. He was commissioned by a special effects company to create concept designs for movie studios such as Disney and DreamWorks.

“The United States is the best place to become an animator,” Alvarez said. “I was successful, but most of the work eventually went overseas.”

When local animation jobs became scarce, the artist reverted to his work as a full-time muralist, tailoring decorative paintings and wall art for homes, hotels, restaurants and public facilities throughout the Los Angeles region.

Becoming a fine artist has been a lifelong pursuit, and each project he undertakes brings new challenges and enjoyment.

“It takes a lot of time to study perspective, composition, color theory and anatomy,” he said.

Alvarez was one of five artists who bid on the $10,000 library mural, which is paid for by the city’s Arts in Public Places fund. Themoneycomesfroma1percent fee that local builders must pay if they don’t include public art in their developments.

City Councilmember Fred Gaines encourages members of the public to visit the library and watch the artist ply his trade. When it’s convenient, visitors can talk to him while he’s painting.

“To see the art take shape on that ceiling is incredible. . . . I think it looks spectacular. It’s not done yet, but it’s already beyond my expectations,” said Gaines, who hopes to organize a public question-and-answer session with Alvarez when his masterpiece is completed.

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