By Patti Rasmussen
You’ve probably noticed some new bears in town. These are not your typical California bears but life-size fiberglass bears painted by artists depicting events and history of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Two of the most recently dedicated bears were designed and painted by local artist Frank Rock. The Cycling Bear, near the intersection of Valencia Boulevard and Bouquet Canyon Road, was inspired by the Amgen Bicycle Tour and the History Bear, at the Old Town Newhall Library, depicts various aspects of the valley’s past.
Raised in Santa Clarita, Rock has had several jobs since graduating from Hart High School in 1968 and San Jose State in 1973. After a short stint as a deputy sheriff in Idaho, Rock returned to California with his bride Carol and signed on with a temp agency. This led him to everything from testing taco shells to handing out tickets to the Tonight Show for NBC. He also coached college and high school level track and field teams while selling shoes and managing stores for Foot Locker.
Those jobs gave him an opportunity to take a few art classes while raising a family.
“I was always drawing,” Rock said. “Sometimes it was profiles and other times, various objects. The classes I took gave me a better understanding of color and blending.”
Soon the entire Rock family – Frank, Carol and their three children, Sarah, Kerry, and Casey – became involved with a local children’s theater. At the time, Frank didn’t find acting his thing, but volunteered to paint backdrops and signage, something he came to enjoy and continues to do for the Canyon Theatre Guild. Eventually, the acting bug bit him and over the last 24 years, he’s acted, sung and danced his way though more than 45 shows with the Guild and the Repertory East Playhouse.
But drawing is his passion and he said it soothes him.
“I look forward to the end (of a project),” Rock said with a smile. “I like to look back and
say, “That’s beautiful. I did that”.”
Those same feelings recently got him through a very scary time in his life. A few months ago, Rock underwent open-heart surgery. An athlete and healthy man his entire life, the diagnosis set him back. The good news was the surgery went well and Rock is currently doing physical therapy.
Rock was openly emotional when speaking of his recent surgery. “I have a surge of gratitude for the nurses and doctors who took care of me,” he said. “They are the inspiration for my newest art pieces of hearts. I just zone out when I’m painting these.”
Rock and several other artists will be displaying their work in downtown Newhall on August 9 during Art Walk and again in September when the downtown Newhall Association hosts the Chalk Festival. You can also find Rock’s work on display at Valencia High School, in the administrative offices and the halls of the gymnasium; in downtown Newhall (the Southern Hotel mural); and at Newhall Library (the Howdy mural in the children’s section).
Both Frank and Carol Rock are very supportive of each other’s passion (Carol Rock is a journalist and blogger). Married for 43 years now, the Rocks are grateful they have been able to have jobs that allow them to support their family while pursuing their passions.
“Over the years, I’ve seen Frank grow and evolve as an artist and see how expressing himself on walls and canvas feeds his soul,” Carol said. “We’re the perfect balance – I do the words and he does the pictures. It makes for a pretty wonderful life.”