I caught up with Edmonton-based painter Carmen Gonzalez recently.
She might be most memorable due to her bright, vivid, and memorable depictions of candy that remind many of us of our childhoods, but she paints so much more than just candy. I encourage you to visit her new website to check out all of her fantastic pieces.
I really enjoyed our conversation, but it was especially poignant when she shared what changed the course of her life and sent her back down the path of being an artist (Question 05).
[Featured Artwork: “Sylvester Called” by Carmen Gonzalez. Acrylic. 24″ x 24″]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper, of course.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I’ve just started confidently telling people that I’m dyslexic. I think that probably helps me as an artist and that’s probably why I’m an artist. It’s something I’ve hid for many years. I just found out the actual diagnosis about 9 years ago.
B. I’m a huge fanatic of yoga. I practice every morning. It helps my body. Artists’ bodies get a little sore from painting for hours, and it helps.
C. I married a Chilean. That’s where the Gonzalez name comes from. I’m engulfed into the Latino culture, which is fantastic. It gives me a different perspective on life and culture and just loving all people.
03. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
It started as a hobby but it’s full time now. It engulfs my life. It’s something that I want to succeed at earning a decent income, but I also enjoy it.
My goal isn’t to be famous because I’m actually quite reserved. My goal is to just have people hang art on their walls and just to make my art make them happy. But I guess along the way they have to learn my name.
Being an artist is the hardest job I’ve ever had because you have to wear many hats, but you also have to out-do yourself. You create something and then you feel you have to step it up each time. Being an artist is not easy as some people may think.
04. What app do you use most often?
Instagram. I love Instagram.
05. Where did your passion for art start?
My mother was an artist. I grew up with my mom painting and doing portraits for people. She started with a drawing course and then started painting portraits. So I grew up with that and then I stopped for many, many years and went into engineer drafting and design.
That all changed when I got into a car accident 23 years ago. The accident ended my drafting career because you have to sit at a computer all day long, which I couldn’t do. I was injured for eight long years and I had to go off and get rehabilitated. I went to Canmore for five weeks for rehabilitation where I was inspired that I could achieve things that I never thought I could achieve.
My rehabilitation included physical therapy as well as mental therapy. In my therapy, we had to set a goal and post it on the wall for everyone to see. And one of those goals was that I wanted to be an artist. Once I succeeded in my five-week rehabilitation, I enrolled in a watercolor class and the rest is history.
If I didn’t have that car accident, I don’t know if I ever would’ve been an artist. Hard to say.
06. What is the main medium you use in your art?
I work with acrylic. I used to paint with oils but I became allergic to them so I had to go into acrylic. It turns out that I actually love acrylics more than oils. It took awhile to get used to the quick-drying of the acrylics, but now I’m used to it.
07. What fad do you hope comes back?
Most of the clothing fads from the 70s have already come back. My 25-year-old daughter is wearing flary pants like I used to wear. I love Motown music and I’m loving the way Bruno Mars is bringing that style back.
08. What inspires your art?
I love objects. I like objects because I’m captivated by the color, the texture, and the shapes. I’m really drawn to nostalgia and reminiscing.
I’m known for being “The Candy Artist.” To me, the candy is a bit nostalgic. Your inner child always stays within us. My candy paintings always bring out the inner child in people. They are nostalgic.
I always love vintage items too. Objects had so much character back then. They weren’t all black and plastic back then as they are now. I’m just drawn to the essence of objects. For each object, a person will be triggered by different emotions and memories.
09. What is your go-to band or artist?
I really listen to a variety of music. I like Latino, I like pop music, I like country music, I like rap music, and classical. The last few weeks has been Dua Lipa. I like listening to Latino music while I paint — Marc Anthony or Enrique. Enrique is probably my all-time favorite artist.
10. What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
I actually really like BTS. I just became part of the BTS Army. I’m very, very impressed with them. I didn’t really pay attention to them I saw a music video and I’m very impressed with the talent that all of those boys have with singing and dancing. They work hard at what they do. It’s kind of inspiring how hard they work.
11. Creating the art is one thing, but finding clients is another. Have you cracked the business side of art?
No. I haven’t cracked that. I’m still learning the marketing side. That’s probably my weakest point, but I’ve been working really hard to learn more of that. I just have my new e-commerce website, which I’m hoping will do well but I still need to not be as shy with my social media posts.
12. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
It’s actually midday when I’m painting. Morning is the errands and yoga and evening is mother and wife household duties and fun time, entertainment, and relaxing.
13. What are you hilariously bad at?
Playing video games. And sports. I was never an extremely athletic person. I was always the last to be picked.
14. What do you hope people get out of your art?
I have a lot of people tell me that my art is very happy and that is my goal: To make people smile and feel good. I always want to paint something uplifting and fun that brings you to your memories. That’s what I always gear towards.