Three artists with three stories share one passion: expressing their true selves through color, form and texture.


"I had been doodling," said artist Martha Bailey-Chavers, who formally picked up the brush about four years ago. "I started with water color and then acrylic at home, but oil was something I never ventured into."


Soon, however, she discovered mixed media. On one piece, she cut out pieces of African print fabric and mixed glitter with glue to artistically express her heritage.


"I call it 'Cultural Connection,'" she said of a colorful piece featuring women from different regions of Africa.


Another mixed-media piece features an African elephant.


Along the way, Bailey-Chavers joined the Hesperia Art Club, whose facility is located near Kmart on Main Street.


"And here I am."


Bailey-Chavers, who was a travel agent after working for Los Angeles County for 30 years, became interested in art after realizing she had too much idle time on her hands.


"I needed to do something personal. I needed to something to explore."


Getting support from her husband, musician Elliott Chavers, the native Angeleno began her artistic journey.


Illness leads to art


Steve Fraijo was a typical San Gabriel valley adolescent when he was struck by Rheumatic fever, a fate which would change the course of his life.


"I spent a year in the library."


While he was there, he became fascinated with fine art. Later, during high school, he entered a piece in a Safety Week contest.


"I took first place."


But art took a backseat when Fraijo joined the Marine Corps and was sent on two tours of Vietnam. After serving as a Marine for nine years, he became a police officer, retiring 27 years later. Then he and his wife Sandra moved to Hesperia.


"But I had too much time on my hands."


He picked up a paint brush and rediscovered his passion. He started in oils and then went into acrylics.


"It's something I regret not picking up sooner."


In 2005 Fraijo joined the Artists of the High Desert, which changed their name back to the Hesperia Art Club a few years later. In 2008 he joined the Victor Valley Artisans.


Recently, Fraijo has started painting portraits from Vietnam-era photos.


One piece shows two Marines, one American flag and five helmets and boots from the 3rd Battalion1st Marines.


"That one I'm spending day and night. The numbers three and five have to be in there."


The artwork is striking a chord, both within the artist and others who served in the military.


"I'm able to cry with these guys now," Fraijo said. "It's good to release these tears."


Never to late to paint


"I think I'm like Grandma Moses," said Joanne Panicko. "I started to paint at 65."


For decades, Panicko would admire the high desert scenery especially the sky, clouds and mountains as she and her husband Don would drive up and down the Cajon Pass.


"I said, 'I wish I could draw that.'"


So she joined a class at the Hesperia Art Club. Panicko knew she was in the right place when she got there.


"Sit down, we've got a place for you," she remembers club members telling her. "You're in the right place."


Soon, Panicko's art was getting attention. Teachers Sandy Howard and Terry Horton helped bring out her talent, and she won several competition ribbons to show for it.


"They both were so very helpful."


The result of Panicko's passion is evident the moment guests enter her home. Paintings of all shapes and sizes many in artistic frames are on several walls. In her studio, she is working on a series of paintings of Jesus Christ.


Immersed in art


Today, Panicko, Fraijo and Bailey-Chavers are immersed in their art.


"It's just so relaxing to me. I really love it," Panicko said.


"We want to get rich and famous some day," Fraijo said with a smile. "We're trying to get ourselves out there. We're trying to get exposure."


Art for them touches their heart and projects their inner soul.


"It becomes personal," Bailey-Chavers said. "It's part of my culture I'd like to explore."


But often the artists get especially attached to their creations, which creates a dilemma.


"To me it becomes difficult to give it away," Fraijo said.


Joanne Panicko, Steve Fraijo and Martha Bailey-Chavers will be showing their art at Bodacious Bundts in Hesperia on Aug. 17. Bodacious Bundts Bakery & Gallery is located at 17051 Main St., Hesperia. For more information, call (760) 956-5530.