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Rafael Gonzales Jr.
Local artist Rafael Gonzales Jr. was born and raised in San Antonio, TX. He graduated from the University of the Incarnate Word. He was then accepted to Harvard University and pursued degrees in Theology, Public Health, and Medicine. He currently works as a lab manager atthe Feik School of Pharmacy at UIW. Learn more about Rafael and shop his products below!
When did you begin creating?
I started playing around with the adobe suite about 2 to 3 years ago. Loved it and started watching endless youtube tutorials on different techniques, paintbrushes and customizations I could use for some of my illustrations.
Do you find it hard to balance your lab work and your art?
Work/life balance is always a struggle for any working parent. I try and notch out some time for creative space, but the truth is when i get home from work I try to spend as much time with my wife and daughter. They bring me joy. Art sometimes seems like a selfish endeavor, but it's very therapeutic. I am able to use a different side of my brain and creatively and some sometimes frustratingly get out some of the ideas in my head.
Where did your passion for Science & Theology come from?
I think I have always been inquisitive. I like learning and knowing how things work. That was a big part of my pursuit of science. Fundamentally, I wanted to understand what I saw around me and how it interacted or interconnected. Religion or spirituality was also a big part of my growing up. Theology, therefore, was something I wanted to learn more about as well. I went to grad school at the Harvard Divinity School and focused my study on the ethics of science and healthcare.
What first sparked the idea for Pandemic Loteria?
In all honesty, Pandemic Loteria was not intended to be a whole game. The series started with the LaCabrona card, which depicts a microscopic image of the virus. A now iconic image with the distinctive spiked protein structure that we all were inundated with at the beginning of its discovery. Such a small virus having such a large impact on all of our lives. That image was central to that first card and it helped me to express my emotions of fear, frustration, and unknowing by calling it "cabrona."
How do you feel about the reaction towards Pandemic Loteria?
It is so humbling that people find joy and humor in my work. I am extremely introverted and talking about myself or something I have done is not something I love doing, but I find that with Pandemic Loteria I am able to connect with others through laughs and community of love for the original game. That has been the best part of all of this.
Has Pandemic Loteria created any new ideas/opportunities that you are looking forward to in the future?
Pandemic Loteria has opened so many opportunities for me this year. I have worked with some great companies and people and I can't say much now, but hopefully will be able to share some projects soon that I am excited about.
You and your wife also have Chicano Cocoa, when did this begin?
Chicano Cocoa was started about 2 years ago. My wife and I planned to do a one time concession booth at the Fideo Loco Festival here in town serving hot cocoa. In order to prepare for that event we started doing small local pop ups to test our recipes. My wife and I wanted to share the cocoas we grew up with in chicano households that were richer in flavor and not your average fair. We also wanted to add some toppings that would be familiar to other Chicanos and Mexicanos, but delicious for all. Our initial customers loved our hot cocoa and we loved seeing them enjoy it and telling others about it. We took hiatus from it this season due to Covid, but we hope to continue to pop up locally and share our unique cocoa again soon.
You have done amazing things for the community from bringing humor & a sense of connection with your art, the work you do at UIW, and the goodies you create through Chicano Cocoa. Do you have any advice for artist in the SA community that are just starting out?
My advice would be to do it. Do that art piece that has been in your head. Do what makes you happy and do it for you. When I posted my first work I was almost paralyzed by what others would think of what I had created. Was my work good enough to even share? Ultimately, I had to share for me. It was a part of me that I wanted to share with others.