The drawings of Ani Castillo make life seem less dark. It's as if she's whispering in your ear: "You are not the only one who feels lost".
Tell us a bit about your life. When did you begin to paint, what made you decide to do illustration?
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and I'm now living in Toronto with my little family. My whole life I planned to learn painting at Art School but quite shortly after I started I ended up doing a bachelor on communications and I'm very happy I did! There I learned a lot of different media like photography, video, audio, and even Photoshop, which opened my world to many different possibilities.
Since I was 3 years old it became obvious to my parents that my favorite thing was to draw, so they kindly encouraged me to spend my free time drawing and painting.
There was one day in particular that made them take my young little career seriously: when I was growing up in Mexico, it was normal for kids to spend time at home by themselves while their parents worked. When I turned six and was home with my brother for my first summer day, my mom bought me a set of watercolors and a big package of paper. When my parents came back from work, they found the entire floor covered by paintings. I did nothing but paint the whole day! That day, my dad decided to start taking me to oil painting classes, which made my little life super exciting.
What kind of illustrations do you do? Would you like to share with us a unique experience you had when illustrating a book?
I've done a lot of different projects. What I do most is my own artwork, but I've illustrated for books, clothes, fabric, notebooks, ads, murals, packaging etc.
Is there a text, a book, a fairy tale, a song you would like to illustrate but haven't yet?
There is a song by Schubert in the "Barry Lyndon" movie, called "trio Op. 100". I listen to it a lot and use it for so many different projects. It brings so many images in my mind! I'm not sure if I would illustrate the song, but the song has helped me illustrate many many things. Also a band called "Amiina". If you need to concentrate and imagine, their record "Puzzle" is a great listen.
What materials do you usually use?
Lately, I use mostly my technical pen and inks, along with copic markers. But I like to try every technique I can get my hands on! Trying different art supplies is one of the bigest pleasures from this line of work.
Are you currently working on something?
Right now I'm mostly working on work for clients and my own cartoon "Imaginary Friend" (miamigo. ca).
Is illustration a profession for you or a hobby? Is it possible to make a living through illustration in your country?
You know, I feel like people who do art do it from a place deeper than even the word profession or hobby could explain. It's kind of a desperate need! I've been lucky to be able to work as an illustrator and get paid for it! But I know that I would probably be drawing even if I was working on a completely different field.
My income comes from different things. My husband and I have a communications firm called Miniature Massive (miniaturemassive.com) where I do everything from creative, strategy, copywriting, photography etc.
Which illustrators (classical or contemporary) have inspired you?
Leonora Carrington, Masazaku Katsura and Argentinian cartoonist Quino have been big influences in my life. As well as cartoonists from my city, who tend to become fine artists, authors and media communicators. I always wanted to be as multifaceted as they are!
Tell us something about you “Imaginary Friend”.
I began doing "Imaginary Friend" after a couple of months of doing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The biggest thing taught to me during those years was that we don't have to cling to our thoughts as if they were reality. They are not. Thoughts are thougths, and when I was finally able to recognize them as such, I began drawing some of them!
Images form imagination. When you paint do you think that images will come alive in the imagination of children?
Not really!... I think my responsibility is to paint from my imagination and then it becomes the childrens' responsibility to add their own wonderful imagination to whatever they see.
What in an illustrator's relationship with childhood? How much do your childhood memories define your work?
I think doing art is keeping an everlasting connection with being a child. Art is a place where you can be safe and free. Putting art on the internet changes that a little bit, because it's scary to have the possibility to be judged and/or rejected. But same thing, children are brave and do what feels best. If you want to do good art, you have to be ultra strong and connected to the inner Child. You gotta respect her and defend her from the influences and all at the same time.
Quite often, in of your paintings you do not use colors. In many of them black dominates the picture. Why is that?
I often wonder why, but I'm not too sure what the answer would be. I adore colorful paintings, but sometimes I have the feeling that the emotion I'm trying to convey just doesn't contain color...
Being an illustrator gives you the opportunity to talk about social issues in a different way. Your illustrations touch subjects such as self-acceptance, bulling, social racism, peace, love, friendship. When you paint, do you have in mind that you could influence a young audience to a certain direction?
You know, I want to share as much as I can from my human experience, from as deep as I can, with my fellow humans. My hope is that I can connect from that deep place with whomever is looking at my artwork.
I've felt very lonely for a large part of my life. I'm familiar with being the outcast, the weird one, the ostracized child. And I hate it! It's painful and I wouldn't wish it to anyone. I guess my soul is trying to speak to those ostracized children of the world. My hugest hope is that I can help them feel less alone.
I don't think the answer is to adapt so you can "fit in". If, wherever you are people don't like you too much, there is some place in the world where someone is similar to you an would understand you.
Most of the artists use social media in order to advertise their work. It is easy today to get to know talented people from all over the world. What is your opinion on social media? How do you use them? Do they have the role of a “shelter” for those who are not being accepted in their real life?
I think the internet is the most unbelievable miracle that has happened to shy and awkward people.
When I found it, I finally had a little window to see and speak to the real world! It comes with its challenges, of course. I feel one of the problems is that it can waste a lot of time and leads to comparison. But if we focus on the positive, I could even say that there has no been a better time to be alive! We all have a voice. The big and the small. We 've all been given the microphone and it's up to us to figure out how to use it.