Artist charts own destiny
Jason Gonzalez (J. Gonzo), illustrator, graphic designer and comic book artist
Background: ¡Hola! My name is J. Gonzo. I am a Chicano artist who resides in Mesa, Arizona, though I was born and raised in Cypress, California. Art-wise, my formative years were shaped by the rigid tradition and Byzantine iconography of the Catholic school I attended juxtaposed with the D.I.Y. aesthetic of the late 1970s, Orange County punk counterculture peppered with the bright, bold, Hispanic hues of my grandparents’ generation.
Education/training: My formal art training began in 1988 when I entered the Orange County High School of the Arts’ Visual Art Program, but the seeds of what would become my art style had already been sown. After high school, I moved to Arizona and attended a trade school receiving a degree in Visual Communications (a fancy, non-university term for graphic design). Commercial art seemed like a good way for me to earn a living being creative without having to be a clichéd starving artist and/or get a straight day job to support my art on the hobby level. So, in the tradition of flaky artists the world over, upon receiving my degree, I promptly did nothing with it. Instead, I began a tattoo apprenticeship, supplementing my income with a host of menial, second jobs. After the birth of my daughter (the first of my two kids – I also have a son), I decided to dust off my graphic design skills and portfolio and quickly found a job in advertising. I vacillated between full-time and freelance work with some of the top agencies in Phoenix and worked in-house as the senior art director for McFarlane Toys/Todd McFarlane Productions. After a brief stint as the creative director for an ad agency, I quit to pursue freelance assignments and focus on art, illustration and the completion of my comic book project – La Mano del Destino. Meandering through such disparate spheres of the art world has led me to an overall art philosophy of believing in the impact of idea over elaborate rendering – I hope viewers enjoy the result!
Influences on your work: I worship at the altar of Jack Kirby (Hulk, Thor, Captain America, X-Men), but also love guys like Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon), Alex Toth (Super Friends, Space Ghost), Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates), and Lou Fine (The Flame, Black Condor). Other influences are fine artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, Van Eyck and Paul Gauguin; animators Ward Kimball and Eyvind Earle; designers Raymond Loewy and Saul Bass; plus traditional Mexican folk art and Byzantine iconography.
When/how did you become interested in visual arts? My father recalls the exact moment when I stated my intent to be an artist – I was four years old. I got serious about comics when I was about 9 years old and my best friend showed me a copy of G.I. Joe no. 13.
Future goals: First I will finish La Mano del Destino, then I have a bunch more comic book tales I want to tell – some in the same “Luchaverse” in which La Mano del Destino lives and others that live in their own worlds.