Featured Art Student: Eric Castleman

It is time for our next Featured Student! For May we are going to feature:

Eric Castleman

Art by Eric Castleman

Art by Eric Castleman

Below is a awesome Q&A that Kathryn Adebayo (@KATHRYNADEBAYO) conducted with Eric:

Here's a chance to get to know the work and insights of Eric Castleman, whose talent lies not only in the quality of his rendering, but also in the emotion he effortlessly creates through his digital paintings. 

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure! I grew up in Southern California, in a small city in Los Angeles county. I am very happily married, and we have a five year old son named Gregory.

How long ago did you become "an artist"? And what does that mean to you: to be an artist?

I've always done creative things, and drawing has been the most constant part of my life since I can remember. I have always surrounded myself with artists, and that includes my wife. We met in a music store, and a few months later I purchased a painting of hers at a church auction, which I liked, but it was more a way for me to break the ice than anything. So the arts have always been in my life. 

I don't know what it means to be an artist. I remember my brother shooting a basketball for hours in our backyard when I was younger, and asking him why he liked it so much. He said he liked how the basket made a swoosh sound when it went in. I thought that sort of simplicity in justifying ones interest in something was nice, and I do the same with the label "artist". I don't think it means anything to me, and I worry that the label can be more attractive than the practice of it. I do it because it makes me feel good, and to me, being an artist just comes with the territory of doing what feels right. I love images, and would rather people understand me through my art than tangled words. I tend to over explain everything, and being able to just show it in an image makes more sense to me. 

It seems like you've been really putting in the hours over the last year or two to build your illustration portfolio. I personally think it looks awesome and showcases your really amazing textured digital style. What goals are you working towards, and how close are you to reaching them?

Thank you very much! Yea, these last couple of years I really turned on the jets when it came to put in the hours that I needed to. I knew when I started at SVS I was going to have to hold myself accountable and make sure I was drawing every day. One way I did this was to reach out to other SVS students, which helped me feel part of the circle. 

My goals for the future are to get a literary agent, and hopefully be able to both write and illustrate. I have always wanted to write my own stories, and am now in a couple different writing classes as well as two writing critique groups. It's quite a bit of work, and I am definitely burning the candle at both ends right now, but it has been worth it. 

What has been your biggest ah-ha moment in regards to your art or art career?

When I first started at SVS I thought my only limitation was perspective, and then I quickly realized I was bad at just about everything. I remember that being a real kick in the butt moment, but I decided to treat my time at SVS as though I was just learning to draw and paint, and so even if I thought I knew something, I went through the courses, and did the exercises.

My other big ah-ha moment was letting go of trying to find my own style, and just drawing and painting the way I liked. I have always drawn characters like Nickelodeon cartoon characters, and have painted like a gallery painter, because my brother was a realist painter, so that trickled down to me. I just stopped trying to change what I like, and only changed what I wasn't good at.

Could you share three pieces of your art that mean something to you?

This is a hard one for me, because each piece I feel I learn something knew, so looking back all I see are all the things I would change. However, each of these pieces were big parts of the last two or so years here at SVS, and so they mean something too me more than just what is seen by the viewer.

Giraffe Painting: This one was the first image that I felt I could use my art as a conduit to express emotion without it being in your face with character reactions, or zanny perspective. It was a drawing I did early on at SVS but didn't think much of it so I put it in my drawings vault, and forgot about it. For some reason I found it sometime later and decided to paint it. I was very overwhelmed at the time, and that really comes through in the way I didn't use a ton color I guess. I can look at this image and remember exactly what was going on in my life at the time. It was the first piece that felt not designed, or thought out, just painted.

Art by Eric Castleman

Art by Eric Castleman

Lake Monster: All I remember about doing this one, was for a good few days I wasn't enjoying myself. I remember telling my wife as I painted "I really am not enjoying myself". I don't know what it was, but the weird thing is that I look back on it with fond memories. I tried a very different color scheme here, and in the end I wish I paid better attention to how I chose these colors because they worked out so well. Because I felt so detached while painting this one, it doesn't feel like my own work, so in some ways, I can appreciate it without being critical of myself. Good job Eric!

Art by Eric Castleman

Art by Eric Castleman

Mouse Knight: Now the total opposite happened with this one. I really loved every minute of this. It is also the most comfortable I have felt with what I am doing artistically since I started getting serious about my art work. I really felt when doing this one that I had control over what I saw in my mind and being able to transfer that on the screen. Mind you, I tend to feel this about my most recent pieces, so maybe in a few months I won’t like this one as much, but for now, I like it.

Art by Eric Castleman

Art by Eric Castleman

What advice do you have for other artists who have the intention of finding work as an illustrator?

Put your art up in places where art directors are trying to fish for illustrators. I landed a full page in Highlights last December by simply participating in the Thursday (I think it’s Thursday) #kidlit trend. Art directors know about these little parties, and you should want to be at the party and be cutting a rug in the middle of the dance floor.

Enter contests! It doesn’t always matter if you win. Runner ups gets their art pushed as well, and agents and art directors are not committed to liking the person in 1st place. I was a runner up in the Kidlit411 banner competition last year, and it shifted my year by having a couple literary agents interested in me. I didn’t win, but the agents got to see my work.

You should also be sending out postcards, because after getting to meet some Highlight vets, it was very rare for anyone to get asked to be in Highlights. It usually is a job you get by asking them via their submission process which is laid out in the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book which shows who is looking for illustrators or not in that calendar year. Get that book and start submitting to different magazines.

Finally, don’t quit!

At this point, in a few words, what's your ultimate dream as an artist?

I want to write and illustrate my own stories. It is something I have always wanted to do, and am pushing myself as hard as I possibly can to get to that place. As for right now, I am really just enjoying my time moving forward, and I hope to keep that going.

Thanks a ton, Eric, for taking the time for these questions!

Thanks for having me do this!

If you would be interested in sharing your work for a chance to be featured for June head over to the SVS Learn Forum and post your best work by May 10th.