Monday, March 2, 2015

Student success: Painting a future through art at Cuyamaca College

Barbara Gonzalez
Even when she was a child coloring with crayons, Barbara Gonzalez knew the difference between forest green and fern, chestnut and copper, or red and razzmatazz. That’s the sort of thing you pay attention to when you have a talent for art at a young age.

“Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been good at drawing,” said Gonzalez, who at 23 is wrapping up her classes at Cuyamaca College before transferring to San Diego State University with four art degrees in hand. “But I never really took it seriously until five or six years ago.”

That was when a high school art teacher pulled Gonzalez aside, praised her technique and encouraged her to devote more time to her talent. “I was actually thinking about joining the Navy until then,” she said.

Good thing she didn’t. Gonzalez instead enrolled at Cuyamaca College and has been impressing art instructors since. A haunting sketch of a starving African boy, “The Innocent,” took the Dean’s Choice Award at the 2012 Cuyamaca College Spring Student Fine Art Exhibition sponsored by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians. Now focusing on Southwestern and Native American themes using scratchboard, Gonzalez donated a portrait of a Native American chief to Cuyamaca College for its first annual pow wow held on Feb. 7.

“The Native American culture just speaks to me and scratchboard is totally conducive to illustrating portraits of Native Americans. A friend asked if I could donate an illustration to the pow wow, and I was only too happy to do so,” she said.

Gonzalez will be studying art and psychology at SDSU next fall en route to a career in art therapy.

“When I draw, I feel better when I’m done, and I want to help others have that same feeling,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a perfect way of combining what I do with a career in helping other people.”

Marie Ramos, chair of the Art Department at Cuyamaca College, said Gonzalez has a promising career ahead of her.

Barbara Gonzalez

“She is very dedicated and she has found herself,” Ramos said. “She has blossomed at Cuyamaca College, her talents have flourished and it definitely shows in her artwork. If I had to rank her skill and her capabilities, she’s definitely at the top.”

Gonzalez said enrolling at Cuyamaca College was one of the best decisions she’s made.
“Cuyamaca College is filled with amazing art teachers,” Gonzalez said. “I learned more than I had expected when I first started taking art classes. The teachers I met are very passionate about art and teaching, which is why I put more emphasis on the skill and history about art.”

Gonzalez flourishes in a range of mediums. A three-dimensional cardboard project utilizing triangles and space is among her favorite pieces. She also is adept in watercolor, and her portraits of John F. Kennedy, Bob Marley, and The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are strikingly realistic.

Her inspiration comes from her emotions.

“Art is not just about pretty pictures or making the best artwork,” Gonzalez said. “To me it’s more about that, it’s about the story behind every painting, the symbolism that marks our history. Art is everything we do and I think that is something special. That is what I learned from my experience in Cuyamaca College.”