There’s an energetic shift underway in David Gonzales’ art studio. In a small work space with David’s name on the exterior, the artist taps into a dynamic flow of one kind or another.

The obvious: painting, nearly an aerobic workout in its rhythms. Most often vibrant in its colors. Always exuberant and celebrating life. Creating works such as: a bear running headlong toward the viewer, a skier in flight, a basketball player, runners, a peloton of cyclists. Among other subject matter.

And the quiet: meditation and yoga. David, 48, sits for lengths of time on a low, creaky and worn wooden stool, meditating. He practices asana — the physical movements of yoga — in the diffuse light that washes in through the storefront window. 

It’s a balance of motion and stillness. So when David opened his studio to Humanitou for a conversation, it too was a dynamic flow among topics of movement and solitude.

We talked about a life-changing revelation, loving those we otherwise might hate, and humility. We talked about being present and generating sacredness, and shifting one’s mindset from self to service.

Meet David Gonzales.

David V. Gonzales, Artist | Photo by Adam Williams, Humanitou

Humanitou: You paint a lot of athletes, and collaborate with them for fundraising. I know you’re active, like with basketball, cycling and skiing. What is sport to you and your art?

David: I’ve always done sports. I would do art and, when I would play basketball, well, you know what it’s like to get into that zone. It worked. It clicked in me, “This is what I want my art to feel like.” 

You feel so good when you’re in the zone playing basketball, when you’re doing martial arts, or you’re running or you’re cycling. You reach a certain point where everything falls into place. I wanted that same feeling while I paint.

Sometimes I would take my easel to the basketball court. I would play basketball and then I would go to the easel and paint. When I’m here in the studio, I’m doing a little bit of weightlifting, I’m doing yoga, I’m stretching and doing meditation. I’m moving around. 

Humanitou: How do those practices — e.g. yoga and meditation — serve you?

David: They’re critical. So critical. I find myself spending more time with myself. It’s the one person I really don’t know. When you’re growing up, you’re taught a certain way. You’re programmed a certain way, and then you spit that out in your life.

When I used to play basketball, I played nearly every day and I would play for several hours. I would do yoga and stretching for at least 30 to 45 minutes to prime my mind and my body. When I would go play on the court, everything would flow so much better. It’s the same thing with painting.

I was doing art, but I didn’t have my work outside of Manitou Springs (Colo.). In 2014, I won this competition up in Breckenridge (Colo.). My work started taking off immediately. I could see my future. “Your success is going to grow from here on out.” 

And I’m doing some self-reflection, and thinking I need to really work on myself. Things about me, my thoughts, I need to do something to become a better person. I didn’t want this to go to my head. So I really started to go inside.

In the last year, I’ve been going on YouTube and looking at meditations, yogas, all kinds of different things. I don’t just stick to one thing, and I don’t just listen to one person. I take all the information in, I absorb it and then this is who I am.

David V. Gonzales, Artist | Photo by Adam Williams, Humanitou

At the same time my son is working with Landmark — it’s a personal transformation program — and he’s encouraging my wife and I to do the course. We read about Landmark and I did not want to do that. 

I told Christopher, my son, “I love you. I’m going to do this course, because I love you and I want to be supportive of you.” (laughs) Actually, I don’t think I told him that until after.

It’s a five-day course. I’ve got walls going up. I’m like, I’ve been there, done that. But by the third day, my walls come down. I began having experiences that I cannot explain other than they are universal, ecstatic. 

One experience I had was oneness with everything. When all this information started coming to me, I started releasing a lot of stuff, a lot of things I hated, enemies. At the time, it was Trump. And I had issues with hunters. I’m a vegan. I just had this strong forgiveness in my heart. 

I wept for probably an hour. I wasn’t around anybody. I was driving and had to pull over to the side, because I was crying so much. I just came to this place of forgiveness for them. 

I realized they were my greatest teachers. I went from not liking Trump to loving and revering this man. Not just him but terrorists, murderers, hunters.

Humanitou: It reminds me of something A.J. Muste, the American clergyman and activist, said in the 1940s, “If I can’t love Hitler, I can’t love at all.” It’s about the purity of unconditional love, rather than necessarily supporting what they are about, I think you’re saying.

David: I don’t love their acts. I certainly don’t agree with what Trump is doing. I don’t agree with terrorists going out and murdering people. 

I love and accept them for where they’re at in their lives. When you’re in that place of love, it covers the full spectrum.

So all this stuff is going on at Landmark. The next day — and I’d never seen people release — it was like a light went off in their heads. Person after person after person would go up. 

There was this recognition I had that I created this story that’s been going on in my mind. And the story has been snags in my life from moving forward. 

When you change that perspective of that story, you realize that doesn’t pull any weight anymore in your life, and you’re ready to let it go. 

I really didn’t want to go up. I didn’t want to share or talk, or anything like that. The person that was doing the course, we had a conversation. I said, I really don’t want to, but I’m going to go up and do it. I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen.

We’re all co-creators. We’re all creating our lives. I’m going about my daily life and what is it I am creating? I’m paying more attention to that. It does have a ripple effect on what’s going on.

They give you an exercise: What is something in your childhood that you feel like is your hang-up or has been problematic? What are you hanging onto?

What kept coming to me was this hunting incident with my dad. We would go to the shooting range, and I loved the target practice. I loved spending time with my dad.

I got my hunting license and when it actually came down to shooting a deer, I just couldn’t do it. We were up in these hills and there was a deer. I had a perfect shot. 

I was about 10 feet in front of my dad. I picked the gun up. I had the deer in my scope. It was a perfect shot, and I looked into that deer’s eyes and I could not shoot it. Of course, my dad is going nuts. He’s like, “What the heck?” 

My experience of that situation, for years, was that that deer never got shot, that it ran and escaped. 

Maybe like three years ago, my dad and I were having this same conversation about this deer and he said, “No, David. I killed that deer.” 

I just lost it. I didn’t lose it with him. It didn’t have anything to do with him. I was just sad.

So when I went up there at Landmark, I said I had witnessed a murder. I said this is what I’ve been hanging onto. I collapsed. 

I realized what had happened, that we are all one. Because I am so close to my dad, it was as if I had pulled the trigger on that deer. 

When I was starting to stand up, I had all this energy moving through my entire body. This felt like every cell in my being was opening up. I was trembling and sweating.

When I looked up, everybody, about 200 people in the room, is standing up. For the first time ever, I really connected with people.

When you sign up for a Landmark course, they ask you what you want. Some people come for money. Some people to repair their marriage. Some people to have more fun in their life. Everybody comes for different reasons. I put down to be fully present.

But it doesn’t matter what you put down, because you’re going to get it all. And they promise you that. I had no idea. I wasn’t planning on that. 

David Gonzales, Artist | Humanitou

All my thoughts dropped off. I was in a pure, ecstatic, blissful state for a very long time. When I would lock eyes with somebody, there was just pure love there. I can’t describe it any other way. It was pure, ecstatic, bliss with that one person. 

What I realized was that everything’s a lie. I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I mean there is nothing more real than that love, there is nothing more real than that love.

That love is in everybody. Every single person has the tools to access that love. When I was in that place, I made an intention that every single person on this planet has what I have right now.

I literally thought that when I went out to the world everybody was going to have that. And then when I didn’t see that, I was confused. I was so confused, like, how come?

After all that happened, I go back to being normal David again and the search really begins. All the time, I’m questioning if this is what I should be doing.

Humanitou: Are you referring to your art, to your life in general … ?

David: Art. Painting. There’s no better thing in life than to serve others. Am I serving others through my painting? 

And I think that, before I took the Landmark course, I really wasn’t fully present with people. I’d come in here to the studio, lock the door and work, because I’m swamped. I’m busy. 

I’ve got this art career that’s going well and I’ve got work I’ve got to do. In the meantime, I’m not really fully engaged with people. That whole human connection I was really bypassing. So I feel like I’m coming back to that again.

Supporting and being more a part of that is where I see my life moving. I’m always checking myself: Is painting something I should be doing? 

And when I say that, I realize that even me being here in this studio, locked away from people, I can still create that energy. 

So my intention is to become even more potent in that when I’m painting something, and whoever ends up with this painting, that love and that intelligence that we all are, is radiating out into their lives.

And I don’t want it to be just in their lives. I want it to be in everybody’s life. So whatever I’m doing, that love, that intention pours energy into every fiber of every being on this planet, not just the people who buy my paintings.

Humanitou: The late artist Charles H. Rockey told a story of a woman once telling him she could feel the love in his painting. He said to her, “Of course you do, because I put love into it.”

And the love comes back to you. You experience what a lot of artists surely would define as success. You even meet and collaborate with well-known athletes — Olympians — for example. 

How do you balance your spiritual practices and service to the world with this success?

David Gonzales, Artist | Humanitou

David: One of the things that I realize when I’m in that place is I’m just like everybody else. I’m nobody special. I have this drive to do what I do, and if I’m going to sink my energies in it, it’s going to be a hundred percent.

When my success really started to take off and I started to sell work exponentially, the price is going up and I’m getting to work with all these people, I just knew, “Yeah, that’s all great, but I realize I can do anything. Anything is possible.”

I get up in the morning and I’m grateful, just in gratitude for this life and this planet and the abundance all around me. 

I just have to re-center myself. I know how quickly I can manifest things. I surprised myself. It was more a feeling of this success more than anything else that got me there. You never really arrive. I’m always checking just to make sure where I’m at. 

What’s really hitting me hard right now is being of service not only to what I’m doing but also to other people. My heart goes out to people. I just feel like my time here in the studio is critical, making art, and also spending that time with people is so critical. 

We’re all co-creators. We’re all creating our lives. I’m going about my daily life and what is it I am creating? I’m paying more attention to that. It does have a ripple effect on what’s going on. 

When I set out to do Landmark, I wrote down that I want to be fully present with people. When you’re in that place, it’s just that blissful, nirvana state and there’s nothing else. I can’t describe it. It’s beyond words.

More sacredness is coming in. I’m generating more sacredness in my environment and also more awareness. It’s so easy for me to get lost in this world and lose my grip.

It’s not just like coming into my studio and now I’m in a sacred place. No, it’s like no matter where I go, I need to be actively involved in creating that sacredness with my environment and with people, and with nature. Wherever I’m at.

Humanitou: And you’re active in creating that in the community now, with your wife, Deborah.

David: We’re finding that, in doing these meditations, more and more people are part of it. It’s great to see people coming together and creating that coherence. 

People need tools. There are so many people out there that are struggling. They need community. We need each other. 

You also need to know that you have the power and the ability to transform whatever it is, whatever you may be dealing with. 

I think more and more people are waking up to that and are seeing they do have the tools inside themselves.

David Gonzales, Artist | Humanitou

Humanitou: There is a yogic mantra that says the one true teacher is the teacher within. That says we all have the capacity to know and guide ourselves.

David: You hit it right on the nail. I think more and more people are becoming more self-aware. 

They’re seeing these atrocities that are going on in the world, not like it’s something happening to them or happening to the world, but that we are actively creating the chaos, the hurt, the pain. 

And through suffering and pain, we also realize love through those experiences.

The other day, when I was meditating, I was practicing the one where you picture a ball of light coming in through the top of your head. I was thinking of this light and this voice in me said, “You have the light within you.” And that hit me really hard.

We think that it’s something outside of us, but it’s not something outside of us. Everything is within us. We can activate that light. 

We can activate those things within ourselves to create the universe that we want to live in within ourselves, and expand it out.

We’re essentially all one. We’re having conversations with ourselves right now. That’s with anybody who you come in contact with. We come across who we judge as an idiot, but that’s us in another body.

Humanitou: Ram Dass suggests we see everyone as God in drag, as that divine energy that is all connected, all one, all worthy of love and recognition.

David: When I had that experience at Landmark, I was just infused with the oneness, that we’re all one. It brought me to tears. 

All the people that I’d labeled as enemies, all the people that really push my buttons, they are serving us in a great way.

You can choose to hate that person or you can choose to say, “What is it that I really need to learn here?”


David V. Gonzales is represented by

Fare Bella Studio & Art Gallery | Manitou Springs, CO

InArt Gallery | Santa Fe

Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery | South Lake Tahoe

Thomas Anthony Gallery | Park City

Raitman Art Galleries | Breckenridge + Vail