Amanda Julina Gonzalez is an animator, comic artist, and voice over artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is currently based in California, having recently graduated from college. Gonzalez’s artistic background ties dance and music into her artistic career, “I was lucky enough to grow up studying dance and music – it’s a big part of my artistic background – and I think that was what pushed me in a foundational sense towards being most passionate about animation because all three art forms are really about movement in time and I think they inform each other.” While Gonzalez has many things she focuses on as an artist, she is currently focusing her time on dance, where she will continue on to do ballet at her community college.
Gonzalez started drawing when she a child, however, she didn’t start keeping a sketchbook until she was in high school, “I was always the drawing kid, to a point where I can’t really remember not being the drawing kid. I drew on everything all the time…”. Drawing shaped Gonzalez’s life and impacted her choices on her career path, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else…”. She jumped quickly on the idea of being an animator and felt that her art pushed her towards it naturally. Dance, of course, played a role in this as well, where Gonzalez felt that movement translated not only into a form of inspiration for her but also pushed her into a very specific direction, “I grew up dancing and did ballet for about eight to nine years along with a handful of other types of dance – jazz, tap, hip hop, tango, and then a bit of flamenco, and folklorico. I think my dance background pushed me to pursue animation in a very straightforward sense because it’s the love of movement that translated to the direction I wanted to go in…”.
Gonzalez went to school for traditional 2D animation, where she learned animation on paper. Gonzalez had actually gone to two other schools before her final one, “I started at a state university, took three semesters of hen ed courses, then dropped out to work to save up for an art program. After a year, I attended a for-profit art college for two semesters that was pretty terrible, and then saved up another year and a half to move to California where I attended Laguna College of Art and Design.” Gonzalez feels that because she has seen higher education from many perspectives, she advises others to think of what “necessary” means because it depends on the person’s goals for seeking higher education and will help lead them toward whether or not to pursue a high education degree in art. “There are so many courses and workshops available online to anyone who wants to learn to draw, to paint, to animate…There are so many artists who have done exactly that, which I think goes to show art school is never ‘necessary’.” Gonzalez points. She adds, “But in a personal sense, I couldn’t have done it fully on my own in New Mexico. I hadn’t met anyone who made enough money drawing to support themselves until I moved to California, so in that way I didn’t believe it was a real possibility for me. Everyone was telling me to just learn to animate on my own in my spare time and just get a ‘throwaway’ degree in English or Philosophy, and it was so horribly daunting because I needed to learn how to learn art in the first place…”. Gonzalez adds that the biggest takeaway aside from the skills you learn to put into your portfolio is the community you become a part of when you go to school, “…your peers are your collaborators and your support system and where so much of the learning comes from in the first place…”. In the end, Gonzalez believes that it’s about finding what works for one, which can be completely different depending on the artist.
Like any artist, Gonzalez has also had many challenges in art, “Actually getting to study art was the challenge for me, I think the biggest challenge I would still list myself as having overcome. I moved to California when I was 23 to study animation…dropped out of my state university when I was 19 and worked two jobs for a few years to save up to study animation.” Gonzalez also went to a for-profit art school, but it didn’t turn out well. Her family had different ideas for her, however, after seeing that her dreams weren’t going away, her family helped her get to California. After leaving New Mexico, Gonzalez found herself drawing about New Mexico, “…suddenly that was all I could make art about, but it required me leaving to be able to get to that point. I’ve moved form Laguna Beach to Long Beach and that I’m away from that sleepy beach town into a more urban space, I’m processing that movement in the same sort of way where I’m parsing out what I felt that space and time taught me…”. Gonzalez also makes art about her life in order to teach her what she needs to take with her, “…I’m always processing segments of myself in that sense because I am always creating art that stems from different experiences. A lot of the stories I develop tend to be about young Latinx women dealing with their coming of age issues and they’re Latinx coincidentally…it’s important to me that there’s art about me, that I’m making art about me, that isn’t centered solely on being Hispanic/Mexican-American/Latinx/Chicana/Burqueño but has a story where that can be foundational without necessarily having to be the center stage because that can be exhausting.”
Gonzalez connects strongly with her family being rooted in Albuquerque because they are both Mexican and Spanish roots there, “…kind of messily entangled the same way my family is – with my dad’s family being Mexican and my mom’s family being from New Mexico and all that entails, historically – so I connect with the art that grows from there as a result.” Gonzalez’s grandmother was a pianist and a dancer, and her sister is also a dancer, so she feels like she can’t have one without the other as her family has ties to different kinds of arts. “My strongest sense of identity comes from those connections in the arts, I think specifically within dance. In that sense I think I feel the least connected to Latinx culture in terms of being very badly travelled – I’ve never gone to Mexico – and then of course the biggest strike, not speaking Spanish, which my parents didn’t want for us growing up.”
The first comic Gonzalez penciled is titled Jalisco, which came out this past September, “It’s a superhero story about a young Mexican woman who becomes a crime-fighting folklorico dancer, and is the first installment in a universe of different Latinx superhero women.” Right now, Gonzalez is working on her next comic, Ruca, which takes place in the same universe as her first comic book Jalisco, both written by writer/director Kayden Phoenix. Gonzalez states, “I’d love to work as a character designer and a visual development artist, and I’d love to work on projects run by Latinx folks that tell Latinx stories. I wasn’t to get my foot in the door because I’ve got projects I want to pitch. I’m going to keep animating – it used to be a big dream of mine to be paid to animate traditionally, but I’m going to do it on my own regardless because at the end of the day, that’s what I’m most passionate about.” As for what advice she gives new and up-coming artists, “Art is communication so figure out what you want to say and what you care about, is the first thing that comes to mind. There are a lot of resources out there to learn the technical skills but that’s only one half of it. I feel like my art became stronger when I learned how to focus it as a means to communicate myself.”
You can find more of Gonzalez’s work on Instagram (@amandajulina) and on Twitter (@amandajulina) and on www.amandajulina.com. You can find more info on Jalisco on the website www.jaliscosuperhero.com.