IVAN CASTRO

CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?

IC: I do calligraphy and lettering. I always work by hand, which gives my work a natural warmth and human feeling.

CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

IC: My main inspiration sources are on one side classic, historic handwriting, and on the other popular culture. Anyway, I always try to take what I need from them and pass them through my filter.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?

IC: I come from a graphic design background and, even though I don’t do graphic design anymore, I keep the process of working. Most of my work is commercial, so there’s a client that asks for a project, then comes a meeting, a brief, and then the design process itself: investigation, development and finish, with some agreements in the middle with the client. Depending on the kind of client, the work can be more or less creative. If it’s for an agency, usually the art director has a clear picture of what they want. However, sometimes they just hire me because they like what I do and let me be a bit more free. But being commercial work, there’s always a clear focus.

CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?

IC: There’s a very important background idea: everything I do has to look natural and comfortable. I think of letters as alive beings that have certain behaviors and wills. I always try to respect them, letting them do as they please. If they feel comfortable, everything is going to work.

CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?

IC: I work at home, because it’s a place where I feel comfortable and inspired. I feel lucky of being able to do that. The bad thing about it is that sometimes you’re working when you think you’re not, because you’re relaxed in your sofa doing some social networking, or sketching ideas for a new project, or watching a documentary on sign painting, and having a good time. But in the end, all this is work. I think I work a lot of hours. But I usually love what I do. Anyway, if I weigh the pros and cons, I’m definitely a lucky guy.

CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?

IC: Well, since most of the work I do is commercial, I always have a clear target. And when I do personal work, I try to be my own client and set an objective anyway. In any case, I’m not sure that trying things just to see what happens is a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, of course being free during the creative process and letting the doors open to accidents and unexpected solutions is a good thing. But we definitely need a strategy, a plan.

CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?

IC: Mostly practical stuff about managing the workflow. Like how to deal with clients, both in a creative and economical way. Probably this doesn’t sound very inspiring, but getting this kind of stuff clear in the beginning is what allows you later on to focus on the work without worrying about other things.

CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?

IC: Yes and no. For me, the priority is getting the project done in the best possible way, whether it fits my personal taste or not. Actually, I claim to not have a personal style. Anyway, when you work in a creative field, this is something you can’t avoid. And sometimes you get commissions from fields you’re interested in. For example, if you’re into rock’n’roll, you will easily be asked for record covers and gig posters.

CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?

IC: I think that it’s easy to get stuck. You have to make an effort to evolve, setting new goals and achieving them.

CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?

IC: Well, any art should be vocational, you’re supposed to like and enjoy it. I’m able to make a living out of drawing letters, which is something I love to do, so I feel incredibly lucky for that. It’s not that I don’t feel it like a job, because it can be hard and a pain in the ass sometimes: demanding clients, tight deadlines, you name it. But then I think that there is people cleaning sewerage or working in the kitchen on a transatlantic ship, so I kiss my work tools and keep working. In other words, just the fact of getting paid for doing something you like is a reason to like being an artist. But maybe I’m being too materialistic here. I love making stuff that people enjoy. I know of people that have bought a record or a bottle of wine that I’ve designed just because they like my work. And I feel good about making these people happy.

CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?

IC: Um, I’m not a “my favorite” guy. I’d say that the artists that have influenced me more are the army of anonymous commercial artists and sign painters that configure the aesthetics of the second half of the 20th century.

CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?

IC: Of course, I’m all in favor of using technology to expand our horizons. The thing is, we should control the tools and take them towards our field and not in the opposite way. There are certain moments, when a new tool or software pops up, when everyone does the same, because there’s a specific technique associated to it. It takes time for people to get used to this new device, control it and take the most of it.

CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?

IC: Not exactly. In my opinion, it’s not about being an artist, it has more to do with being creative. It’s not the same. There’s very creative people that don’t do art because they don’t have the skills or the specific formation, but creativity has nothing to do with this. And paradoxically, there are artists, designers, musicians, etc. that are not creative at all, just repeat formulas. The thing is, creative people tend to see beyond what they have in front of them, imagining alternative ways of solving the problems.

CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?

IC: I love traveling! Specially to huge cities, like Tokyo, Mexico City or Los Angeles. There’s something about having a few cities in one.

CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?

IC: Nope. But I would recommend Art Chantry Speaks, by Art Chantry. It should be a mandatory reading in any design degree.

CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?

IC: I’d like to work more for the entertainment industry, like cinema and TV. Also, I’d love to travel abroad doing workshops. I’m going this autumn to Oslo and Copenhagen for calligraphy courses, and a private lettering workshop in London. Draw letters, will travel.

CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?

IC: Somehow, being an artist is a way of joining your creative concerns and your job. Anyway, I try not to be too passionate about it, to avoid that work goes over your personal life. Get hobbies, have friends that are not artists, consume mainstream cultural products. It’ll be fine.

CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?

IC: Love-A-Rama, by Southern Culture on the Skids.

CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?

IC: Well, what I try to do is take our cultural heritage from the 20th century and take it to a more contemporary field. I feel specially attracted to that period because back then, calligraphy and lettering were used in a natural way, because it was the easiest, fastest, cheapest way of having attractive, expressive headlines done.

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