In Houston, Texas, Stephanie Gonzalez spends night and day creating. From painting colorful, emotion-ridden murals to designing Pride shirts to playing guitar, she works for a variety of clients as a freelance artist and is now also obtaining her MFA at Houston Baptist University.
Here, Stephanie talks to me about living in layers, making a virtue of necessity, and the power of trusting your struggles.
Where are you from?
I was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
What does your current work life consist of?
My current work life consists of layers. I paint in layers, I peel back layers. I try to paint a couple hours a day, five days a week. I listen to inspiration and its calling; the time doesn’t matter. And in between painting sessions, I also keep up with my inventory, sales, and tending to my website. The hardest part of working for myself is the accounting- although it terrifies me, I spend some time each day keeping up with my finances.
No matter what I am working on when I am at the studio, my number one rule is to not ignore the itch to create and to attend to it if it calls me. Whatever work I have piled up, it can wait.
I know you work with a variety of unconventional mediums and techniques when it comes to creating your paintings. How are you inspired to include a certain material or style into your work?
I started working with unconventional mediums around the time I was in college at the Art Institute. This was a time when I was working and going to school full time so it left me virtually no money for supplies. I made do with my surrounding materials, and this allowed me to really challenge myself.
I enjoy incorporating things that are important or significant to me at the moment. For instance, clothing patterns or a torn loteria card have been intriguing lately. When I am creating, I don’t really envision “style” per se. I paint my emotional thought process.
If I am feeling texture, I will build it with caulking and if I am feeling fluidity and serenity, I will reach for clothing dye and water. If I had to pin a style that encapsulates my work, it tends to be abstract.
Do you have a favorite medium or technique?
My favorite medium right now is alcohol ink. There was a long time when I was obsessed with graphite and before that it was coffee. I go through phases where I will use one medium on everything I am working on to see how many different ways I can create with it. My favorite technique is the “wet technique” which you can achieve by using a tool called fluid medium, it’s made by Liquitex and it allows liquid paints to dry with the appearance of wetness.
What makes you feel strong?
Boxing for an hour and going to see live music.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Put your passions first and trust your struggles. Your struggles toughen you for experiences you might repeat. Also, don’t get stuck in routine because that is how you become disconnected from yourself. Enjoy solitude when it appears and pay attention to where your time and energy is going. Most importantly, if you don’t like something, change it. Just follow your gut.
What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing the Latinx community?
I personally believe the biggest issue facing the Latinx community, and this stems from my experience, would be discrimination. It’s hard to talk about but it needs to be understood that there are issues communities of color battle daily. I hope through my work I can bring my culture to the spotlight and transform and eventually discuss ideas about the prejudice.
Why do you think it’s important to give a voice to the Latina experience of being a Southern woman?
Because if we share these issues and experiences, then a conversation will begin and it shines light on a group of people that exist in this world, that contribute to the economy and wellbeing of this country. Latina women are culturally ingrained to be hardworking and strong. If a young, undocumented, and scared Latina woman who is living in the South could read a story by someone similar that experienced hardship and overcame it, then that can encourage her and give her a sense of self and an “I can” attitude.
Human beings thrive off relationships and human interactions; it is a predisposition to participate in cultural exchange. If there are other Latina women living in the South that show their presence and have a voice and share their stories, it gives others a way to relate to something and learn to grow.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
*Keep up with Stephanie on social media!
*This is a part of an ongoing series featuring Latinas and Latinx in the South by Isabella Gomez.
Isabella Gomez is a third-year Journalism student at Georgia State University. She is also pursuing a double minor in Film & Video and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. A native of Venezuela, she will probably speak faster than you can understand in either English or Spanish, but will happily oblige if you ask her to slow down. Apart from going to school, Isabella enjoys fighting the stigmas surrounding menstruation, binge-watching movies and TV shows, awkwardly dancing at concerts, and hula-hooping. Follow her on twitter @isabellephant