Dirty Art Work

A California trucker is turning heads with his truck using dirt instead of chrome.

August-September 2019

Tyson Fisher

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Even for veteran drivers, trucking wasn’t necessarily the path they had in mind. One trucker never gave up his true passion and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Many people who drive in the Los Angeles area probably do not know who OOIDA member Arnulfo Gonzalez is, but they will certainly know his truck if they see it.

No, Gonzalez isn’t driving a tricked out show truck. Quite the opposite, actually. His truck is extremely dirty. However, there is beauty in everything – even a trailer caked in muck.

From art school to trucking

Gonzalez moved to California from Mexico when he was 16 years old. After he graduated from high school, he attended East Los Angeles College, where he planned on becoming a math teacher. Although he speaks fluent English today, there was a major language barrier for him back then, making it difficult to communicate and become a teacher.

When Gonzalez was in high school, he took a ceramics class and found that he was really good at it. Art came easy to him, so while studying math in college he also took several art classes. Advisers noticed how effortless art was for Gonzalez, and suggested he pursue art instead.

Taking that advice, Gonzalez graduated from East Los Angeles College with an art degree, with a focus in ceramics. After college, Gonzalez was engaged and ready to get married and settle down. He realized that he needed a steady income, something that art rarely brings.

In 2000, a friend introduced Gonzalez to trucking. It was an honest, steady, good paycheck. He started driving and has been doing so ever since, nearly two decades behind the wheel.

Turning a truck into a canvas

Trucking was what provided Gonzalez a decent living. However, he never abandoned his passion of art. Gonzalez made a few bucks here and there making sugar skulls for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead holiday celebrated in Mexico.

Then he started drawing more and wanted to create something on a larger medium. There was no wall or anything of the sort to paint on. Gonzalez began to take notice of people writing on dirty trucks. Everyone has seen the “Wash me” scribble on a dirty vehicle.

“So when I noticed that my truck was getting dirty, I go, ‘Maybe I could try it there,’” Gonzalez said. “So I started trying making little sketches.”

Gonzalez’s first drawing was a portrait of woman in 2016. He kept it there for a week before washing it off for the second drawing.

The second time around, the drawings starting getting noticed.

“It was making reactions with people,” Gonzalez recalls. “They felt something. They tell me, ‘I really like it. It made my day.’ It made my day too.”

People started encouraging Gonzalez to put his artwork on the internet.

Gonzalez took that advice and started posting pictures on his personal Facebook page. Eventually, he dedicated a Facebook page (ARTrucking) exclusively for his art.  He also opened an Instagram page with the same name featuring his art.

From there, his work drew in more attention. Two years in, a portrait of Jesus went viral and caught the attention of The Los Angeles Times.

The process

All it takes is a quick glance at Gonzalez’s artwork to realize this isn’t something anyone can do. However, the materials needed for the pieces are minimal: a truck, towels, cleaner and dirt/grime.

Starting with a clean truck, Gonzalez said it can take two to three weeks for it to get grimy enough. To expedite the process, Gonzalez will add some dirty water or oil to the back of the trailer. That way, the muck will accumulate on the trailer faster. After the dirt has collected, all Gonzalez needs are some heavy-duty towels, a strong cleaner, cotton swabs for finer lines and inspiration.

A drawing does not happen in one sitting. Gonzalez will have the basic outline done during one stop and add to it over the next few days. Once completed, he leaves the artwork up for about a week. Literally rinse and repeat.

Gonzalez hasn’t needed to worry much about the rain washing away his creations. Southern California has been going through a drought for several years. The area is starting to get more rain now, but it doesn’t affect the drawing as much as one would think.

Gonzalez doesn’t have a favorite piece. Like a true artist, he is attached to every artwork he completes. Unlike most artists, his art will not withstand the test of time. In fact, they will be around for about a week or two before they perish, only to be immortalized via social media.

“When you’re parting from a loved one, you know that you will still keep in touch,” Gonzalez said. “That’s how I see it. It’s already been documented in my pictures.”

What motivates this driver is knowing that once he washes away one masterpiece, he is left with a blank canvas to create another.

’We all have a talent’

Gonzalez said many people have come up to him at the loading dock to tell him that he should be an artist.

“‘That guy shouldn’t be a trucker.’ That’s what they keep saying. I gotta do what I gotta do,” Gonzalez said.

There is one message that Gonzalez wants to send to others: Believe in yourself and your abilities.

“People say ‘You’re so good. I wish I had something like that,’” he said. “We all have something. We all have a talent. It’s just a matter of recognizing them and starting to work on them.” LL

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.

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