Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Alexxa Gonzalez

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.


Alexxa Gonzalez is an Illustrator from Puerto Rico who mostly does digital art, ink drawings and acrylic paintings which she calls her “favorite mediums.”



What got you into visual arts?

At first, I wanted to study something my parents would be proud of. But shortly after my first semester, I realized that what I was studying was really hard for me to understand. I felt like I wasn’t smart or enough. Every other student was so passionate about science and already knew so much. I, on the on other hand, couldn't get a single chapter in my head. I was constantly failing my classes. Once I got a bonus assignment from gym class, which was to attend a zumba class with a costume. Even though I had done costumes since I was 14 years old, I had nothing on my apartment I could wear. So I decided to take some scissors and recycled paper to make Minnie Mouse ears. It only took me 15 minutes to make, but they were the most relaxing minutes I had in a while. That's when I realized I needed to make some changes and follow what I knew I did best. So I changed to arts and never looked back.


How did you develop your style?

I’ve always been into cute stuff but, how could I make something cute and still be taken seriously by the audience? I wanted my job to be taken seriously, but still draw and create stuff I really liked and enjoyed doing. So I decided to establish a color palette I could incorporate in my work that way I could make a piece that had serious subject matter, but still had colors that went easy on the eye and were appealing to the audience.



How has it evolved through the years?

I've learned a lot of different techniques over time, especially now that I own a shop and I’m constantly making new designs, which I can turn into products. I’ve managed to learn digital drawing, which makes everything easier and faster to make. Now I lean more into making portraits of women in different shapes. I’ve always loved fashion and incorporating cultures with it is really fun.


What are some of your influences and inspirations?

One of my biggest influences is Happy D. Artist, she is an amazing oil painter that paints alien-looking women in the most magical environment while maintaining realism. I also love Laura Annunaki, a tattoo artist who makes cute and colorful art inspired from anime and other Japanese brands. She plays with the sparkles and other elements in her pieces while not making it look like too much and it’s pleasant to the eye. Lastly, I am very fond of 80’s and 90’s art and toys. Brands like Lisa Frank, My Little Pony, Lady Lovely Locks and Sanrio are my favorite things in the world! If you were to compare the complexity of their designs with those found today, there is a huge difference. Before photography took over, everything was illustrated and they would mix media to do so. They are so beautiful to look at, even to this day.



I’ve noticed you’re also into anime. How does that culture influence your work?

Who doesn’t love anime. There’s something about it that forms such a big part of pop culture. I think anime disproportions the human body and makes certain changes, which don’t necessarily look bad. I think a lot of artists have taken that trait and incorporated it into their works. I like the idea of making the face the center of attention and making the eyes a little bit bigger than usual. So that’s what I add to my work. I also add the simplicity of the shapes and volume. How they take patterns to make hair or clothing is something I really like too. That is more cartoonish than anime, but it’s still worth mentioning.


Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

I want to work on making my illustrations more realistic. For example, learn about shades and highlights to add volume to the hair and skin. I want to improve on this while still keeping my style. I also want to learn how to use Photoshop. For some reason, everyone says it is too complicated for me to use. But, to be honest, I don't care how complicated it is. I just want to begin! I feel like my art would improve a lot if I get to work with this program.



What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

I feel like Puerto Rico has so much to give! And, sadly, at the same time, we are not allowed to. There is a lot of people who tend to think that what we create has to be done in one way and that's it. Therefore, people with innovative ideas are pushed down and forced to work on the same thing like everybody else. Today, you see the same thing over and over, “que si el flamboyan, que si el bambú, que si los santos” [be it the Flamboyan, the bamboo or the saints]. I remember when I first attended as a vendor in a festival. My content was so different from others. I even got comments like “you should do more Puerto Rican stuff” and “you should do what other people are doing.” And for a moment, I was about to do it. I started painting coquis on wood. However, I wasn't happy. I wanted to be an illustrator and make cute stuff, so I stopped listening and focused on what I wanted to do and hoped for the best. The thing is I got better at what I was doing because I put my heart in it. So my advice for everybody would be “focus on what YOU want to do.”


What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

I’m not going to lie, it is difficult. Sometimes you reach your goal of money for the month, sometimes you don’t make money at all. In Puerto Rico, art is not as admired as I would want it to be, but we are slowly getting there. I notice the people who appreciate what I do the most are young. I also notice that in gallery openings you are most likely to see young people. I’ve never had to argue the price of my artwork with them. They truly understand the hard work put into a piece and I find it interesting. I’m really proud of what we are going to become as a generation. I believe major changes are ahead of us.



If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

It’s funny because I’ve had the opportunity to speak to young girls who aspire to be an artist and the first thing they say to me is that they will never draw like me. It hurts me because they haven't even started their journey and they’ve already given up. I like to tell them that I didn’t start to get serious with art until very recently and I have managed to learn a lot in a few years. Imagine what you can achieve if you start now. I like to tell them that there are artists who have been doing this for 60 years and that's truly amazing. All they did was not give up. Women are constantly put down because they already need to reach certain standards like finding a boyfriend, so they can marry and have kids and others like staying pretty, doing your hair and makeup. All of this stuff really makes you waste your time over stuff that matters like reaching your goals, becoming the best at what you do and learning new things. If I could gave back all the time I wasted on my appearance I would get years in time back. So, in theory, I like to tell them to focus on what really matters and to not give up just yet.


What is your biggest goal right now?

My biggest goal is to be able to support myself with my art. I’ve failed so much at trying to maintain a normal job without losing my sanity. There is something about people’s unkindness that gets the best of me. However, I am very responsible and work hard to get the job done. If I need to work extra time to make it happen I will, which is kind of a curse since I can be a little of a workaholic. So being able to work from home, be my own boss and be on my pjs all day fascinates me. Therefore, if I can pay the bills with what I do, that’s enough for me.



What do you seek to achieve with work?

I remember when I sold my first print ever. I was so intrigued that somebody liked my art so much they wanted to put it on their wall or give it as a gift to their family members or a friend. Some people have told me that my art give them peace; they feel relaxed. In a world where there is so much going on, everything goes so fast and there is no time to relax, so I want to be able to bring happiness to people and a smile. I want my art to be part of a home or a style; give something to people to look at and stare peacefully at. I want to bring inclusiveness and something my audience can relate to. In a world where there’s so much hate, I want to bring a little ray of sunshine.


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All of the pictures in this article were provided by Alexxa Gonzalez