If it weren't for Vincent Van Gogh, award winning figure artist Dennis Hare of Redlands may never have realized what he wanted to do in life.

One week ago, Scott Shields, the curator of the Crocker Art Museum chose one of Hare's pieces out of a pool of submissions by several figure artists.

Figure art is created out of paint and scavenged items.

Hare's art will be recognized as a part of contemporary Californian art.

In two weeks, the Yucaipa High School alumnus will have his painting hung in a permanent gallery that exhibits contemporary Bay Area figurative paintings at the museum in Sacramento.

"It's such a great honor because I consider figure artists that are featured there to be my heroes," said Hare.

The Crocker Art Museum houses one of the state's premier collections of Californian art, offering the most comprehensive collection of art from the Gold Rush to the present, according to the museum's website.

Art was not always in the cards for Hare. About 40 years ago, he was an aspiring athlete who was a member of Yucaipa's CIF winning basketball team, a school Hall of Famer, and an All-American star.

He traded a basketball for a volleyball in the `70s, and with his volleyball partner Fred Zuelich, won the first commercially sponsored tournament held in San Diego in 1974. He was later inducted into the Beach Volleyball Hall of Fame.

"I always run into him at 24 Hour Fitness," said Evelyn Ifft,

who knows the artist from the Redlands Art Association. "I've been a friend of Dennis' for a long time and took art classes from him. His artwork with figures is unique, and it's an honor for him to be represented in the same gallery with other famous California artists."

It was his success in athletics that veered him onto the road of abstract and figure art.

"It gave me a drive to stick with something," said Hare. "It taught me discipline and to see my work through till the end."

Writing and illustrating for his first book "Art of Beach Volleyball," led him to find this new passion.

"I've never had any lessons," said Hare. "I just started drawing and I just thought `Hey, this is really cool' and it just went on from there."

The pastime of conjuring up volleyball illustrations led him to the de Young Museum in San Francisco where Van Gogh's "Entrance to Public Gardens in Arles" changed the athlete's life.

"That was it," said Hare. "In that one instant did I realize that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life."

For 33 years Hare has created artwork involving watercolor, oil, items from Home Depot and pieces of garbage to give his work weight and texture.

"Today I believe we live in a society where art has become a slick, saccharin corporate style of beauty that is desensitizing American society," said Hare in his artist statement on his website. "I create pieces that are a direct contrast to this style."

Hare's artwork is featured at galleries in Laguna Beach, San Rafael and Carmel.

"I don't have a message or a statement," said Hare. "It's all about feeling. I paint for myself first but I still hope to inspire those who aren't sure of what their path is yet. Mine wasn't set. Art changed my life and maybe people can find their own niche in the world, whether it be art, or anything else that they just enjoy doing."

Nicole Vasquez is a summer intern at the Redlands Daily Facts. She will be a senior in the fall at Redlands East Valley High School, where she will be an editor of the Audeeis, the campus newspaper. She can be reached at nikkimouse2318@gmail.com or 909-793-3221.