By Ellen Zoe Golden Photos Photos courtesy: Junior Rodríguez
Junior Rodríguez has found the secret to his life: set up successful businesses in order to have means and free time to do the things he really wants to do. Those things include spending time with his lovely girlfriend Cheryl King, his 11-year-old son Matias, and surfing, playing golf, and painting. Painting, as a matter of fact, has been his passion since he was a child and just recently he’s amassed enough work to open his own spot, Art Gallery Café/Junior Rodriguez located in Pacific Park. He still operates his popular bar/restaurant Wild Panda, his tourist information spot, and the soon-to-open fried chicken place, in the same food court as his bar, to be called Pollos Los Hermanos, a tribute to the restaurant in the “Breaking Bad” television show.
THE Tamarindo News wondered where we’d be able to find this Costa Rican talent to talk, but at the gallery it was.
THE Tamarindo News: How old are you and where did you grow up?
Junior Rodriguez: I’m 40, and I grew up in Heredia.
TTN: Did you have any formal art training?
JR: No, no formal art training. As a kid, I always liked plastic and glass artwork and I was very good at it. When I was about 14, in high school, an art contest came out and I wanted to be a part of it. We could use different techniques like water colors, chalk, etc., but I chose Chinese ink and made a 60×80 centimeter Chinese ink drawing. I was 1st place. Since that moment, I started painting.
TTN: What then?
JR: After high school, I moved to New York/New Jersey. There I did landscaping, worked for a moving company, did renovations, I just wanted to be in the States. While I was there I sold 17 paintings. I was around 22 or 23. Then I came back to San Jose because I missed Costa Rica, and spent 3 months setting up my next move to Tamarindo. In Tamarindo, I started working a lot because people needed someone who could speak English. I went to work for Chad Gaston (Iguana Surf) and I learned a lot from him. I did surf lessons, worked in the surf shop. He taught me the situation here in Tamarindo, how to run the shop, structure business.
TNN: So you were always mixing business with your time doing your art?
JR: I was always painting in my house. I had a bunch of paintings behind the couch. I was not too much into it, but it was always there. Next I bought the Info Center for bus tickets where the food court was only the hamburger place. Then I made Wild Panda, which was 10 years ago. I’ve always been good at using my time. I don’t party, go out at night, and drink no alcohol. I don’t like to party, but I like to hang out, sell drinks for people and to have food for them. So with Wild Panda I could hang out, be well fed, and be home early. I expanded the Info Center and sell tours as well as bus tickets.
TNN: Did you think, when you decided to open a gallery that Tamarindo would support art?
JR: I had this idea to open a gallery about 6 years ago. I could see if you have the right vision it would work. Since I opened, I’ve been selling paintings. That makes me think that I will sell more. Just last week, two paintings were sold to someone going back to Dubai. I was super happy. One has gone to Germany, and some to the States. There was this lady who bought four paintings to put in Playa Dante, for the new section being built on the beach.
TNN: What is your style of painting?
JR: My style is abstract. I try to mix elements of fire, water, air, the structure of life. All of my paintings have those elements. The structure is alive, it has movement. And there’s a surfboard in all my paintings. I use acrylic and oil on canvas. Sometimes I mix colors and textures, some colors have shine, others are matt. It took 10 years to fill this place. I paint for me, and I fulfill special orders too. I want people to really have the art they like. I don’t want to be greedy on my prices.
TNN: Why are you doing this?
JR: I love to paint. I love to put my ideas on canvas, and love, more than anything, when people take my art.
TNN: Does your son Matias have any artistic tendencies?
JR: Yes, he has artistic talent, and he has made a few of these paintings.
TNN: How do you have Wild Panda, the Info Center and now the gallery and chicken place and still find time for your son, girlfriend and leisure like surfing and golfing?
JR: When I opened the bar and Info Center, I did it all myself. When I started bringing in money, little by little I hired people to work for me. I used the money from the bar to pay my bills and paychecks. This then gave me time to do many things like play golf and surf. 24/7 with a busy life wasn’t the idea. I want to be stable, surf, golf, have my son and paint. I created all the businesses to have free time to enjoy myself and do whatever I want.