It wasn't always fun and play for Lopez, aka Big Al, who majored in drawing at the California College of Arts, from which he earned a B.A. in Fine Arts. He also worked as a restaurant cook for nine years. When the new owners ran it down, Lopez thought about making a living as an artist. He went to a caricature convention in Las Vegas in 1994 and met several theme-park artists. When he came back to California, he joined Marine World in Vallejo as a caricature artist.
Lopez bagged the Caricature Silver Nosey Award in 1996 in Texas. He has also won several Awards of Merit from local art shows. He just finished his exhibit at the Kazem Gallery and Music Store in Brentwood. His most recent display was at the "Pin-ups and Pinstripes" at the Worthington Galley West in Pleasant Hill.
Lopez has two children - Matt, 21, and Madalyn, 16 - and says he's doing "fairly well financially" now. "To do art for a living, you have to have perseverance and you can't give up. There were many times when I thought of giving up and getting a 'real job.'"
But he did persevere, and last June was his busiest month ever. He participated in 25 events, including graduation nights, local parties, salon and tattoo parlor sittings, and summer after-school programs in San Ramon.
"I need to do those (after-school and community programs) here in Brentwood," he says, mulling over a busy schedule that includes a "Bombshell Betty's Dance" show and the Reno International Caricature Convention, both in October.
Lopez has collected a lot of caricatures of himself during these conventions, hinting at the self-awareness that these drawings bring out in him. "I'm amazed at the different things people see in me and what they choose to exaggerate," he said, noting the gap between his teeth, his eyebrows and his cheeks.
"Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself," he said.
According to Lopez, the hardest thing about his work is "when I'm set up for free in events, there are some kids that want to do it but their parents are too busy. Or else, there are some parents who force the kids to sit and the kids are grumpy.
"The best thing, though, is that after 22 years in the business, I have done almost every event in town. And so I meet people I have drawn at one time or another. It's like my name is out there now," he said.
For more information, call Big Al at 634-6484 or visit his Web site, www.bigalart.com.