Richmond Art Center Richmond Art Center

Meet an Instructor: Dawn Gonzales

About the interviews: The Richmond Art Center is fortunate and proud to work with a diverse and growing number of artists and teachers who work with our students at the Art Center as well as in our local communities. We want to share some of these wonderful people with you, to inspire your own artistic path, take a class, or learn more. See all of our interviews here.

drg_studioIn this interview, meet Dawn Gonzales, who’s teaching our upcoming Story Book Cigar Box Diorama Class in March (and you can still register for it here online).

Dawn Gonzales is a Richmond based artist specializing in surface design, illustration and mixed media. She received her BFA from the University of Arizona. After many years working in Marketing and Design for apparel companies including Gap Inc and lucy Activewear, she’s returned to her passion for art and good ol’ fashioned analog sketching. She is a collector of “stuff” and delights in re-purposing gently loved items into treasured new art objects.  These days she loves the work of late collage artist Rex Ray, hand drawn typography, duct tape and pom-poms. A lover of all animals, she also enjoys creating custom embroidered pet portraits for friends and family.

Q. What do you find most inspiring about teaching art?

I believe that art saves lives. Not only visual art, but music, theatre, and performance. When I was a child in elementary school, our art teacher, Mrs. Spearo, would wheel her “art cart” full of glue sticks and tempera paint into the classroom on Wednesdays and all the kids would start clapping. We went crazy! That’s how much we loved it! So, it’s very concerning to me that the first programs cut from school curriculae is usually art. It makes me very sad. After a dry spell of many years, I am recapturing that joy I once had in making art as a child, and I want to share it with others. I want to help others, especially adults, find their joy in “creating” and when I see people get excited about it, being compelled to make art… well, that inspires me!

Q. How did you become involved with the Richmond Art Center?

I have lived in Richmond Annex for over 10 years and always knew about the center. But since I spent the last two decades deeply entrenched in corporate America, I felt that I never “had time” to explore, visit or learn more about RAC’S offerings. When I started freelancing two years ago, my friend suggested that I try teaching at the center. I had led creative workshops in my previous life, but teaching in a formal capacity really wasn’t on my radar at the time. The more I thought about it and the more I created my own art, the more the idea appealed to me. So in 2015, I pitched some class ideas to Erin and here I am! My introduction to teaching at RAC was my Pom-Pom booth at Skeletonfest 2015. What a blast! (Click on the images below to enlarge.)

Q. What was your path to becoming an artist? 

I have always been artistic. As a child, my sister and I would busy ourselves for hours just drawing, and making things with any materials that we could find. I remember I even made a pair of high heeled shoes out of cardboard once. Eventually, I studied art in college and received my BFA from the University of Arizona. After school, I moved to San Francisco to “become an artist” and promptly took a job in retail, of course. But that led to many other creative opportunities for me, career wise. I discovered the world of Visual Merchandising and environmental design which is a genre that encompasses all sorts of mediums, especially if you are working on a shoestring budget! It was a very hands on job, and I found myself splattering paint, hammering nails and chopping up astroturf to make my ideas come alive.  It was innovative work for a retail environment, and, even though I was not drawing or sketching,  it kept my creative juices flowing and I learned a lot technology wise. So, I guess you could say that I took the long way around!

Q. Who are your inspirations?

Of course, I am inspired by the late David Bowie who was a true artist in every aspect and showed us all that being different is okay. That being unique is, in fact, quite special. I admire people who are true to themselves, kind, and hard workers. I’m really inspired by the talent, work ethic and attitude of illustrator, Lisa Congdon. She’s worked very heard to pursue her heart’s desire and she’s a very nice person. She also didn’t hit her prime until her 30’s. I’m also really inspired by other “late bloomers” like David Sedaris and Julia Child who didn’t begin their careers until mid-life. And who can forget Grandma Moses, an embroiderer whose arthritis inspired her to take up painting at age 78 because it was “easier for her hands.” Grandma Moses is my spirit animal! Ha ha.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?

I’m either working on pattern designs for clients, art journaling, building up my own accessory design business, or doing something fitness oriented. I also spend a lot of time at home with our 12 year old Bulldog, Cookie. She is the light of my life.

Q. What’s on your bucket list?

I  have never been to Europe! I would definitely love to go one day. I would also like to run a marathon. I did a half marathon a few years ago, and it felt great. I love challenging myself. If I won the lottery, I would build my own English Bulldog sanctuary and care for all the wayward pups.

Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?

I would love to meet painter, Martha Rich. She’s wacky. I think she would be a fun friend. I love her talent and her incredible sense of humor.


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Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804-1600


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