Arts

Artist Ronald Rocha breathes new life into Hollister’s Whiskey Creek mural

Veterans and biker legends among those depicted.

Artist Ronald Rocha got his creative start the way many artists do. His teacher put art supplies in his hands when he was eight years old, and the rest is history—our history. 

While working on the revival of the Whiskey Creek Saloon mural, Rocha, 79, didn’t have to look far when seeking help from another artist. His nine-year-old great-granddaughter, Eeleah, worked on “The Wild One” portion of the mural.

Rocha said the mural “is mainly dedicated to honoring the veterans. That was the whole theme behind this—and tie in the motorcycle theme with it.”

The mural also features a portrait of owner Carol Beaver’s late husband, per her request. Rocha was happy to oblige.

Enlisting help from family members is nothing new for Rocha. His son, Saul, helped him touch up the Hollister Super mural just before Rocha began work on the Whiskey Creek mural.

His late brother Pedro ‘Pete’ Rocha was “the jelly bean king. He’s the guy that did the jelly bean portraits.”

Rocha also painted the mural on the side of Johnny’s Bar in downtown Hollister.

His murals’ vivid colors and textures, iconic images and hidden symbolism are hard to miss. The likenesses in his work are easily recognizable, including Marlon Brando and the characters from “Easy Rider.” Rocha bases other faces featured in his murals on friends and acquaintances, or biker legends such as Daniel “Boo Boo” Cazares. 

Rocha was a part of the biker scene in San Francisco during the 1960s and he’s got the stories to go with it. For instance, he partied with Janis Joplin and the Gypsy Jokers in Haight-Ashbury. 

Before entering the biker scene, he began a career in broadcasting in 1959, working for the first Spanish language radio and television stations in the U.S., KCOR radio and television channel 41. He recalls asking for a job, any job, and was hired as an artist. 

“You know how a turtle crosses the road?”  Rocha asked. “He sticks his neck out there.”  

Rocha lives in San Antonio, Texas, but is often in Bay Area to be with his sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He said that he would gladly move back to the Bay Area if he could find a way to get involved with beautification projects and art programs in Hollister, particularly ones that include Hollister youth. 

 

Heather Graham

I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I moved to California at the age of 18. Now, age 31, I have been happily married to my high school sweetheart seven years, we have one son together. In addition to being a wife and mother, I am also a college student. My interests include writing, photography, books, and films.