Artist Andy Castillo Showing Work Hugely Influenced by Pint-Sized Collaborator — His Son, Daniel

Some artists are inspired by the Renaissance masters, some by Picasso, some by Chagall. Jersey City painter Andy Castillo, however, has recently been most influenced by an artist not even old enough to pay full fare on an NJ Transit bus — his five-year-old son, Daniel.

Whenever the two get a chance to see each other (Daniel usually lives with his mother near the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas), they bond over charcoal, pastels, acrylics and watercolors. Castillo leaves out empty canvases and blank paper for his son, and lets the kid loose.

“He really likes it,” says Castillo, who believes his son will follow in his footsteps and become an artist. “He spends so much time doing it…sometimes I’m doing something on my computer and he’s there painting for hours. That’s not something normal. Kids usually draw a couple of pages and that’s it.”

Castillo first noticed his son’s creative drive when Daniel was only two, drawing in his crib. While Daniel doesn’t have the same careful control as his father (who trained at la Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo in his homeland, Dominican Republic), he has a strong sense of color and expression. Castillo notes that his son is able to switch easily between palettes of grey and bright, poppy hues to convey sadness, happiness or a range of other emotions.

After Daniel’s colors and lines conquer the white space to the boy’s satisfaction, he sits down with his father and they find shapes and forms hiding in the paint.

“I try to look for shapes and forms…it can be a fish, a head, can be an elephant, or whatever I feel more comfortable with whatever things he put on canvas or paper,” says Castillo. “Then I go through it and make something, discover something there.” He goes into the work with charcoal, acrylic or pastel to add value and emphasize shape. Sometimes the result is a face (above), other times it’s an animal or a scene.

Castillo’s upcoming show, “Paternhijidad” at the Rotunda Gallery at City Hall, will feature these double-Castillo works as well as Castillo’s personal pieces.

“You’ll see the things I have been doing and the influence (Daniel) has been doing to me…when I see his drawings and whatever he does, I learn from him,” says Castillo, who says he only wishes he could fully imitate his son’s free expression and intuitive style. “I saw what he does with acrylic on canvas or watercolor on paper, I took those things into my own work and have good results.”

Castillo says Daniel’s influence isn’t just about lines or colors, it’s also about love. He maintains that their bond as father and son is what makes their art — independently and together — as strong as it is.

“This show is a tribute to him in one way,” says Castillo, adding that his son will unfortunately not be in town for the show. “Also in one way, I wanted to show that sometimes when you don’t have son or daughter close to you, there are a lot of things you can do. If you’re a painter, you can create something. If you’re a musician, you can create songs pertaining to your son or daughter. Even if you don’t have whatever you love, you can do something better.”

“Paternhijidad” opens tomorrow with a reception from 6 pm to 8 pm at City Hall, located at 280 Grove St.

Check out a video of Andy and Daniel Castillo at work.

Photos courtesy of Andy Castillo

Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.