Former Navy Seabee turns to art for creative outlet

Misty Severi, Reporter

Navy veteran and current Bakersfield College student Andrew Perales, 46,  used to draw for fun and used it as a creative outlet as a kid, but as he got older, he put it away to focus on skills he could make a living with.

Perales worked  in construction as a teenager before joining the Navy right after high school where he worked for 12 years as a Seabee, a member of the Navy’s construction battalion.
“I’m just as comfortable now as a disabled veteran with a part time job and going to school part time as I was when I was working in construction,” said Perales.

“I was good as an artist as a kid, but when I joined the Navy, I stopped for a few years.  It wasn’t until I got hurt and broke my leg and was told I had to be off my feet for three months that I picked up the pencil and paper and started drawing again.

“And when I got out of the service, a girlfriend of mine one time bought me a bunch of supplies and I took it back up again, and that was back around 2000, so that’s when I really started it back up.”

Perales would make art pieces for his friends and family before being encouraged to put them out on the market.

“The first time I sold a piece, I sat out on the sidewalk and talked to people, and you know that was a scary night for me,” he said. “But now I love it. And even if I don’t sell, you know, as long as I’m out there doing it, it’s good. And as I tell my daughter, every piece I sell is just bonus money.  Cause you know, I pay for supplies and things, but anything on top of that is just bonus.”

Fallen Leaves, a Facebook group that honors Vietnam veterans, where people can post pictures of veterans and their families or pictures of the Vietnam war, serves as an inspiration to some of Perales’s work, including a sketch of a 19-year-old soldier rescuing a baby.

Perales sells his pieces at First Friday, an art walk in downtown Bakersfield, where he once met a Vietnam veteran. After exchanging stories, Perales saluted the man.

Perales’ artwork, which include a drawing of the poet Edgar Allan Poe, and a drawing of the Native American leader Sitting Bull, will be for sale Feb 5, at the next First Friday event.