“The Art Alley was a rejuvenation project initiated by the Downtown Association after it was vandalized. The restoration effort was led by Art in Uncommon Places, a local non-profit. They organized a new theme inviting local and regional artists to donate their time and talents to recreating the Art Alley. More than 50 artists contributed by painting small and large murals,” he explained.
The gallery hosted drawing classes taught by local artist Crystal Goodman. Alejandro started sketching in class, and she said that he, “had a little bit of talent that could be nurtured.” “I painted my first painting in 2012, and she just kind of guided me. I did a lot of trial and error, self-taught and watching a lot of YouTube videos. I just didn’t give up. I kept going and started getting better, and I started selling my art and finding new opportunities,” Alejandro said.
“I started taking it seriously, and in 2014 I became a full-time artist. I quit my day job, as an executive sales account manager, to focus on dedicating all my time to creating art. When I first started, I didn’t know what I was doing so I immediately started looking toward artists I admired. Leroy Nieman is definitely one of my most influential artists. We have a very similar style,” Alejandro said. Nieman’s style is very fluid with a lot of movement and pulsating colors. Other influences are Evelyn Boren and Sara Stieber.
Alejandro Castanon participates in action painting, a technique and style of abstract painting in which paint is randomly splashed, thrown, or poured on the canvas.
One of his mentors is Warren Taylor, a famous watercolorist. “He is one of my biggest mentors and a phenomenal artist. I met him at an art show in my gallery way back when I first started it. We connected, and he shared a lot of his career insights with me. He pushed me as an artist in directions that I was afraid to go, and he helped me and continues to do that. He is a wonderful friend,” he said with a smile.
“I kept the gallery when I started painting full-time, but I gave it up in April, mostly because I wanted to focus on my personal artwork and not having to worry about running a business,” he said. “It was a wonderful eight years and it flew by.”
Alejandro, an only child, grew up in Europe because his father was in the Air Force on an extended tour. “It was great. I had the opportunity to take some really unique trips from seven to eight years old, up to my late teens. My parents would take me on fun trips to Switzerland, England and France. It was such a great way to grow up,” he said nostalgically. “I think it influenced how I see the world and the community.”
Alejandro paints still lifes, landscapes, and portraits. He does not limit himself to a singular subject matter. In this painting he captures Willie Nelson in a contemplative pose holding his guitar.
“I see the big picture a little bit clearer because I have seen a lot of different kinds of cultures and different languages. I try not to limit my scope to just what is right in front of me. My upbringing opened those doors for me to reach out a little further and take risks. That is part of my character. I take a lot of risks, and I think my childhood did that for me. It was a beautiful childhood. We lived mostly in West Germany. My parents still live there, and I call it home. I think about it a lot and plan on going home eventually,” Alejandro shared.
He is the only artist in his family and can’t remember one piece of art from his house growing up, but he remembers all the art museums and the beautiful architecture that he was exposed to. While his parents are very supportive of his choice to be an artist, they aren’t musicians or writers. However, “there is tons of art at their house now,” because of Alejandro’s choices and how he has “influenced their taste.”
Alejandro’s bright colored paintings are “his style.” He likes to put colors together that most artists would not.
He describes his art as “emotional,” and he is fearless with color. “That is the first thing I would say, and you will find that it is going to be uplifting because of the brilliance of the colors. I think most people will find that it just makes you take a second look. Those colors are so bright, and they are mixed a certain way,” so that they complement each other. “You wouldn’t think that green, purple, red and orange could mix together well on canvas, but that’s my style. I am able to do different things with color and do it with different types of subject matter, whether it is a landscape or a building or an apple or a portrait; I can move those colors around to make your normal thing, like a basket of fruit, look and feel emotional in a positive way. That’s how I would describe my art,” Alejandro said with pride.
“I am a very passionate person, and I love helping people. Every time I have had an artist ask me for help, I have never turned them away. I am really interested in helping other artists or individuals get to where they want to be. If they want to be a full-time artist, then I will show them how I did it. I am very passionate about the things I love doing,” he stressed, “My art is one of those things, along with spending time with my family, and my health. I have a very focused circle of beliefs that I hang on to, and it is a very small circle. I am very interested in helping others and improving the quality of life for people through art, and that is what I want to do as an individual.”
The direction he wants his art to go is global. “My goal has always been to paint internationally, meaning I would love to get to a point where I could pick a country or a city and go explore and paint there. That is my five-year goal.”
Alejandro used to teach art lessons. He taught his style of artwork and the basics of drawing. He now uses that time to spend with his family, which includes daughter, Juliana, who is 14 years old, and son, Joaquin, who is two years old.
“There are a lot of local artists that have inspired me. I think I should name them, but the list would be pretty long. I will say that the art community in San Angelo has been very supportive, so I must give them a lot of credit. And not just the artists, but the patrons. They were all very open and welcoming to me as an artist with no formal training that jumped in with both feet,” he said with a chuckle. And while he jumped into the deep end, he has learned to navigate the waters like a pro. †