It's that time again. You know what I'm talking about...our featured members Spotlight! This month, we are very honored to be featuring Jo Castillo, who uses her real name; therefore, that's how you've all come to know her. No "AKAs" necessary! Jo frequents the Art From Life forum, and you will find her work there pretty regularly. It's unique and very formidable. Personally, I feel connected to the work she posts there. In this interview, we are spotlighting some of her more refined pieces that are impressive on another level and will be sure to inspire.
Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy our interview with Jo!
Where are you from, and where do you live and work now?
I grew up in a small ranching community, Magdalena, New Mexico. We now live in Bastrop, Texas, about 40 miles from Austin.
How did you begin making art in your life? (Did you study in school?) How old were you?
I drew and made paper dolls, if anyone remembers those! My mother drew on envelopes and calendars. Her sister was a professional western artist in the 40s and 50s and drew for a livestock company making their monthly calendars. It didn’t enter my mind that she sold paintings. When I was about 19, I saw Bill Alexander painting at a mall in Albuquerque and selling his 30-minute paintings for $100. I had never thought about buying or selling a painting. Hmmm.
We did not have art in school after about the 6th grade. I took a painting-by-mail course in my twenties and didn’t finish, as I was working and raising a family. We went to Bolivia in 1973, and I took my first “in-person” art/painting lessons there.
How did you discover your favorite media to work in, and what is it?
We retired to Austin, Texas, in 1994, and I went to a workshop in Montana. I was painting in oils. I met a friend who talked me into going to the International Association of Pastel Societies convention in Albuquerque in 1999. What? I knew zip about pastels. It was amazing to be there with 600 or so artists all working and some making a living painting with soft pastels. Daniel Green was the main artist. The demonstrators were so good, and such a variety of work to see. The convention had an amazing group of vendors, and I bought a large set of Downey Pastels and a variety of papers. I was immediately addicted.
Is your work planned, or is it emotionally spontaneous?
Most of my work is unplanned but not very spontaneous. It comes from something I’ve seen or been thinking about. I like painting from life. I love the high desert in New Mexico and the southwest. We lived in South America for 16 years, which influences my work as well.
View attachment 31776 Bolivia Market, Street scene, La Paz, Bolivia, Pastel on Pastelbord, 16 x 20 inches.
Do you have specific artistic influences? (Can you give us some examples and why?)
I never studied art history, so my influences have been more from artists I’ve met or seen at workshops and the conventions. I really love the work of Richard McKinley and other current artists. I’ve been to the international pastel convention a few more times, where I got to know and admire quite a few pastelists. Bill Creevy was there and showed how versatile and durable pastels can be.
What are some of your favorite subject matter to create?
I like painting from life much more than photos. This makes my favorite subjects to be landscapes and still life. Plein air is a great way to learn to speed up your abilities, and I love it. With age creeping up on me, my plein air outings are limited by what I can carry and how far I can walk. I like to be comfortable, so usually look for shade or use the tailgate of a vehicle for said shade.
Would you describe your current studio or workspace? We want to picture it!
I have a great studio in our home. Lots of windows. There is a corner desk where I can leave my pastels out. I have two easels up; I like to stand to paint. The opposite end of the room has a desk for my large iMac computer and printer. My husband, Gene, put up shelves made of plastic rain gutters. They hold framed and unframed work, bottles, and so much more. There is a drafting worktable in the center for framing or projects. It has storage for paper and miscellaneous tools. There is a closet for storage with shelves. (My studio has full walls now and is very cluttered. It needs to be straightened for a newer photo) More photos of my home studio and my old gallery downtown are on my blog under the tab “Jo’s Studio.”
I have artwork from several other artists on the wall to inspire. I like to listen to music when I paint, all kinds. iTunes has been my favorite, as I can play all my music rotated and at random. Favorites are country western, Andean, and Native American. I do have jazz, classical, pop, old rock and roll, big band, and more included.
What are the tools you most often use? (You can be specific about brands, etc. and why you like these.)
My favorite pastels are Ludwig, Sennelier, Unison, and Rembrandt. Oh, gosh, Downey and Holbein are great, too. Any pastels, really. My favorite surface is Ampersand Pastelbord. I like all the sanded papers, probably Colourfix the best (lots of colors). Mi-Teintes paper is great for practice and sketching. It makes one plan strokes because it doesn’t hold many layers but comes in lots of colors, too.
Other than pastels, I use mostly Liquitex acrylics, Windsor Newton watercolors, and M. Graham oil paints. I’m allergic to linseed oil. The Graham oil paints have a walnut oil base. For sketching, I like Micron, Zig Millennium, and Lamy pens. Canson and Oahu mix media sketchbooks are a favorite at the moment, so I can add watercolor to the ink sketches.
For the majority of your time, do you primarily make art? If not, what do you do (for a living or otherwise)?
I try to sketch every day, mostly with pen and ink, direct with no under-drawing in pencil. I do sketch with pastels and am trying to get better with watercolors. I try to do something in art every day.
Gene and I are both over 80 and have been retired since 1994. My most prolific artistic years were here in Texas from 1994 - 2011. I had a studio/gallery on Main Street downtown where I sold most of my work. I had work in our hometown in New Mexico and sold there and at art events when we traveled. I’ve been involved in the local art group. Six of us started the Bastrop Fine Arts Guild, which evolved into the Lost Pines Art Center. There are usually over 100 members, which is great for our size community. I still show work there.
What is a typical weekend like for you, and who are the people you'd most likely see/spend time with?
Our outings at this age are mostly to the doctor ... joking. We eat out a lot and try to go to live music. Our daughter supplies us with season tickets to the University of Texas Longhorn baseball games. We traveled every summer to get out of the Texas heat. The first 10 years or so of retirement, we traveled all over Canada. We golfed, and Gene rode his bike, and I painted.
The last few years we spent in Angel Fire, New Mexico, in the cool mountains. We have visited all 50 States and most of South America and Mexico.
Lastly, do you have a website or any social media you'd like to share?
My sketchbooks have been my journals, and my blog has acted as a record of my art since 2006. I’ve had a website since we retired in 1994 and have enjoyed meeting friends and artists online. I met many people through my blog, WetCanvas, and now CreativeSpark. Some are lifelong friends now. I’m not sure which I like more — painting or talking about it!