There are all kinds of people that we come across in our lives that drive us, motivate and push us in a certain direction.
Sometimes those people are our own family, friends, colleagues or even people we don’t even know, such as celebrities and athletes. Those that command our attention and admiration can grab us emotionally and that inner drive that no one else had been able to drag out of us can all of a sudden begin to shine through.
Sometimes it comes from those that know us best.
Like Mom, Dad or your high school drafting teacher.
Those are the very special people that have steered Ike Rodriguez in his journey, and it’s what he prides his art studio on.
His mother, Lucy was a driving force behind his motivation and what inspires him in his work today. Lucy worked as a restorative therapist for many years, helping patients recover from sickness or injury.
A tough, dedicated and loving woman and a great compliment to Ike’s father Frank, who had always been a hardworking man himself. Frank was a long time city worker who showed the tenacity and diligence at a young age in the sport of boxing as a Texas Golden Gloves Champion.
As you can imagine, Frank was a very driven, very tough man. He embodied everything you’d expect from a boxer.
Frank was maybe a little extra cagy and grizzled after a tough upbringing as a child who had made it out of reform school.
Frank’s success in the ring as a youngster, was something he wanted to impart on Ike, but with unintended consequences, turned Ike onto something totally unrelated.
“I started drawing out of the books my dad brought home from a class he had taken. I was in love with art since the age of five,” Ike said.
Growing up, Ike had a difficult time convincing his parents that art was going to be something he could pursue not just as a hobby, but as a career.
“The struggle was that my father wanted me to be a boxer and I wanted to be an artist”, Ike said.
To his father, art was something fun for Ike but he didn’t see the value in it.
“The best day for me was when a doctor said I could no longer fight because of a ruptured ear drum. My father didn’t quite share my sentiment, and we grew apart for a while because of that,” Ike said.
Needless to say, after Ike’s boxing career had ended, well before his father would have liked it to, art was not something Ike’s father or mother took as seriously as their son.
It bothered Ike that he hadn’t been given the support and encouragement from his parents growing up. However, he found it from his high school drafting teacher, Mr. Bruysschard.
“He changed me. He saw a lot of value in me. He taught me what it means to be a man. He also taught me that if I could teach people how to do something that I do well, that I’d even get better at it,” Ike recalls.
As a young man, Ike had taken an interest in art, after taking a drafting class in high school from Mr. Bruysschard, who would become one of the most influential people he would come across.
Sometimes in life, inspiration, motivation as well as the acceptance we look for in our ventures comes from an unexpected source.
While, Mr. Bruysschard had begun to guide Ike in the right direction in following his passion, Ike still had a father that was finding it hard to accept his son’s choice for a career, and a mother that hadn’t always seen art as a means of carving out a path in life for her son.
As Ike grew older, he continued to struggle with gaining the support he felt he needed from his parents to fully commit to moving forward with his art career.
He was in a funk, maybe even a little weary as Ike had always tried to change the way his father thought of him.
However, another challenge awaited Ike, and it was the way he needed to change the way he thought about and viewed himself.
Admittedly lazy and interested in doing the things that typical twenty-somethings enjoyed, the work ethic wasn’t there yet.
One day, his mother Lucy wound up in the hospital with liver complications. Her health was struggling, the family was struggling and Ike was struggling emotionally.
While in the hospital, Ike and his mother had plenty of time to talk about things. Important things, such as life.
She of course wanted the best for her son and was worried that Ike, at one point didn’t have direction. She was concerned that he didn’t have a plan, but she saw something in him that she had once seen in herself, and wanted him to do something that he could feel good about.
She wanted him to be happy. She wanted him to follow his passion.
With Lucy’s health failing, Ike recalls a conversation with her during her final days.
“The last time my mom was in the hospital, I was working on a painting of her and my father in front of their first apartment. That’s when the conversation started,” Ike said.
“Yeah, on her death bed, my mom called me lazy,” Ike laughed. “That was my mom. She knew when and what would make the biggest impact. Even with the way things were, she was thinking about me more than herself.”
His mother did give him the assertion he needed. “You know,” Lucy said, “you could be something, you could do something if you worked at it.”
Even the nurses complimented Ike on his latest painting of the two most important people in his life.
“The ICU nurse kept telling her [his mom] it was so beautiful,” Ike said.
“My mom explained to me that her life didn’t always turn out the way she wanted it to and she didn’t want that for me. It was the first time I didn’t feel like a kid anymore, and I was 30 years old.”
That was Lucy’s way of telling him that he needed to do what made him happy and do what they both knew, he was great at.
Ike held her hand as she lost her battle with liver disease and passed away in her hospital room 5 days after their conversation.
“It took a couple of years to get over the depression. After some therapy and serious soul searching, I decided it was time to be the man my mother wanted me to be,” Ike recalls.
“She was a hard worker and I wanted to be the worker that she was. She was, is and will always be one of the greatest people I’ve known.”
Shortly after rebounding from the loss of his mom, Ike really began to concentrate on his art work, painting portraits for friends and family.
The night life and regular partying with the boys had come to a screeching halt. He stayed home many nights and just painted. He decided that he was going to direct all of his energy and inspiration into doing what made him happy.
Ike decided he would apply the same strategies he learned from his father in boxing and use them in his art.
Understanding the discipline, work ethic and patience one needed to succeed in the ring. He wanted to show his dad that his passion for boxing hadn’t been totally lost on his son after all. Just as his mother Lucy’s message to her son on her death bed didn’t go ignored.
A lot of things Ike does now, even aside from his artwork, is inspired by her.
Ike enjoys working with various charities around town, such as the Special Olympics and Shriner’s. He donates paintings to them, whether it is an original or just a print for silent auctions.
“I like knowing that something I do can help others. I know it’s something that my mom would’ve wanted me to do and it’s a way of honoring her and the great person she was,” Ike says.
Ike has also gained the validation from his father now too, which means the world to him.
“My father finds more value in what I’m doing now, especially since I also have a nephew doing art too,” Ike says with a humble grin. “He says ‘my sons a pro, he’s a professional,’ and that makes me feel good.”
While he’d love nothing more than to be able to paint for a living, Ike still works as a G.I.S. technician.
“It’s just a fancy way of saying I draw maps for a living,” Ike laughs.
He enjoys his work, which allows him to have the time and flexibility to sneak home during lunch where he might prep a painting before hustling back to his job.
Ike’s talents and visions are certainly unique, but one element of what makes his art so incredible is how quickly he can take a vision and turn it into a work of art.
“I tell everybody I have a two week turnaround, but I usually get them done in a week. I give myself extra time in case I mess up,” he says.
As an artist, he’s his own worst critic. Aren’t we all?
“I don’t like giving people a painting if I don’t like it. In order for me to be the professional I want to be, I hold myself to a very high standard,” Ike explains.
Ike has done paintings for the Astros, Texans, Rockets, Dynamo and has worked for many star athletes like Reggie Wayne, Jamaal Charles, Nate Washington, DeAndre Hopkins, Brian Cushing, George Springer and more.
“I like painting athletes because I like to capture a moment in time. It’s more than the play. It’s the work behind it. It’s the collaboration of so many things in one raw beautiful moment,” Ike says.
Ike has formed some close-knit relationships with some of the athletes he’s done work for, but maybe none more special than the kinship he’s formed with former Houston Cougar and 7 year NFL veteran wide receiver, Donnie Avery.
They’ve grown close after hitting it off at a Tristar Sports Collectors show in Houston.
“I think because he and I grew up with similar upbringings, experienced some real hardships and instead of letting them bring us down, we used our gifts to build a better life. I want him to succeed as much as he wants me to succeed, and that’s what you want in your friends,” Ike says.
“We enjoy a lot of the same things. Donnie likes to try to stay positive and he loves life, which is important,” Ike says.
The people we meet in our lives, whether the experiences are positive or negative, have an impact on us.
Ike believes that it is what we choose to do with those encounters that can help shape us.
He remembers driving with Donnie a day or two after a Colts and Dolphins game. Donnie had suffered a concussion during the game and they were headed to a doctor’s office to get him checked out.
Ike asked Donnie about his injury and what had happened in the game, and recalled Donnie being a little stressed out about, not just his health but his contract. He and the Colts were in the middle of negotiations, and Donnie was concerned about how his health would impact the discussions.
Ike, looking to offer some words of encouragement during a difficult time, told Donnie, “Yeah your time is coming man.”
Donnie turned to him, slapped him on the back and said to Ike, “you too man, you too.”
Donnie says he is one of the reasons that Ike started painting athletes. “I took a chance on him because he was hungry and I wanted to give him a chance, so I did,” he said.
Sometimes we need validation from others in times of struggle or self-doubt.
“When he first started, it was almost like a hobby but after getting feedback and a lot more work, it’s turned into a job.” Donnie says.
As Ike continues the journey to achieve his ultimate vision, his works are becoming more of a career and his passion for it continues to grow along with its popularity.
Whether it is his mom or dad, his high school drafting teacher or friend Donnie, several people have had a special impact on Ike’s life and they have all helped shape him into the hardworking, diligent and driven artist he is today and they continue to help him along his journey.