Culture

Meet the man behind the art

By Alix Farr

The chances are good that you’ve seen his work, but who is Renzo Gonzalez, the young Peruvian artist behind many popular graphic design projects in Lima and the United States?

Meet the man behind the art

Renzo Gonzalez at his desk in his Miraflores studio. (Photo by Alix Farr)

You’ve probably seen his work but you most likely don’t know who he is.  Maybe you’ve come across a post card of one of his Paper Doll designs in any number of cafes in Lima.  Or you may have stumbled upon websites he has created, like one for a popular coffee business.  And if not that, surely you have seen his work in one of Living in Peru’s own creations: “101 Reasons to be Proud of Peru.”  Renzo Gonzalez is a Peruvian graphic designer whose work can be found all over Lima and even around the globe.  But who is he?  Who is the man behind the art?


 


The Beginning


Renzo Gonzalez, 32, has related to the world through art “since birth,” he says. From a very young age, he began to interpret his own reality by expressing it through art, and, luckily for him, he was good at it.


Recognizing the talent, his parents put him in art classes from the age of six.  Not long after he began to win awards through his school and in citywide competitions in Lima.  


He got his inspiration from children’s books and comics and found that art helped him to cope with some of the challenges of growing up.  One of his projects that garnered him popularity among his peers was a comic that featured the school bully, always with his hands in his pockets, encountering a new misfortune in every episode.


His first paying job was creating copies of famous works by artists like Kandinsky, Miro and Picasso.  But he knew that illustration and painting would be a tough way to make a living, so after finishing high school, Gonzalez enrolled in art school to study graphic design, a career path he considered more lucrative. 


He took a few years off after graduating to concentrate on a brief career in a rock band, but soon returned to art full time.  Gonzalez taught himself how to make web pages and many of his first clients were friends from the music business who wanted their own Internet presence. 


His career has since sky rocketed.  He now specializes in three areas: web design, graphic design and illustration.


It didn’t take long for the web design portion of his business to make him well-known in the design community.  He has designed the Internet portals for such major companies and organizations as Brahma beer, Peugeot Peru, Save the Children, Gloria Jean’s Coffees and Head Hunters Peru.  He is now a consultant for web design projects while he focuses on the other two areas of his art career.


 


Graphic Design


We know Gonzalez from his work on “101 Reasons to be Proud of Peru,” the book created by Living in Peru to celebrate all that Peru has to offer.  Gonzalez said that he loves work of this nature because it allows the designer to exercise creative freedom. 



(All images copyright and courtesy of Renzo Gonzalez)


“No one is blocking your creativity,” he said. “It’s difficult because ultimately they are dependent on the designer.”  But Gonzalez loves the pressure, and his work always impresses.


And we are not the only ones that have been pleased with the final product. 


Some of his other projects have included:


-Two album covers for “Theremyn 4



-A complete package for the restaurant Tr3z, which included a logo, a menu and even the creative signs for the bathroom doors



-The Subaru Autocross Cup



-The logo for a San Francisco bike project “Viva la Bici



 


Illustration


Gonzalez began his love for art in illustration, and to this day it is obvious that this is where his heart still lies. 


“Illustration,” in the modern sense, is art that Gonzalez makes by drawing, both by hand and on his computer.  His projects vary; many are commercial but some are also just art— plain and simple.


When the band NOFX came to town, it was Gonzalez who drew the art for a promotional post card. 



When Lima celebrated “La Gran Semana de Lima” in 2006, his drawings plastered the sides of phone booths throughout the city. 



When thousands of American children play with Leap Frog and read the story of the Bug Wranglers, guess who’s drawings are lighting up their eyes?  That’s right – those of Renzo Gonzalez. 



Gonzalez was contacted recently to illustrate a series of children’s books about Peruvian history.  He loved the challenge.  He thought, “How can I make a kid feel like the history of Machu Picchu is his own?”  He did so by creating animal spirits to tell the story.



Gonzalez’ favorite project is Paper Dolls.  He usually takes requests for these drawings and they take him a few months to complete.  He begins with a photo of the subject, sketches her by hand, and then scans the image to digitize it.  Gonzalez says that his method differs substantially from that of others who create similar projects because most will skip the sketching step.  He believes that this step is actually the most important; it allows him to interpret the subject and give the final project nuance and detail beyond what is contained in the original photo. 



 


The Future


Gonzalez has already begun his quest to bring up the next generation of artists.  He teaches classes at his art school and wants to help open doors for upcoming artists to make it into the ever-competitive art world.


Gonzalez also wants to reach the top of his game.  Though he has been offered lucrative jobs in the United States, he says he still feels as though he has room to grow in Peru.


“When I don’t have anywhere else to go, I’ll think about expanding,” he said. 


That and he still thinks Lima is the best place to keep a balanced lifestyle.  All work and no play, Gonzalez thinks, is no way to live.   


“If it’s 4 a.m. and I want a whiskey, I know it will be easy to find somewhere to go,” Gonzalez said.  “You always need somewhere to relax.  I don’t know how I’d do that elsewhere.”