A Peek at the Creative Space of Lauren Castillo

Today we welcome illustrator Lauren Castillo to Creative Spaces! Lauren studied Illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and earned her master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts’s Illustration as Visual Essay program in NYC. Her debut picture book, What Happens on Wednesdays written by Emily Jenkins, was published in 2007. What Happens on Wednesdays received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly. Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Radiant mixed-media art by a debut illustrator captures the warmth and candor in Jenkins’s sparkling slice-of-life tale.” 

What Happens on Wednesdays, Lauren went on to illustrate The Pig and Miss Prudence by Linda Stanek; Buffalo Music by Tracey E. Fern; That’s Papa’s Way by Kate Banks; and Big Cat Pepper by Elizabeth Partridge. Published earlier this year was Alfie Runs Away, a sweet story written by Kenneth M. Cadow about a boy who runs away to his backyard when his mother decides to give away his favorite too-small pair of shoes. I’m looking forward to seeing her next book, which will be published in October, and has received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. It’s titled Christmas is Here and is a story about the true meaning of Christmas told through Lauren’s illustrations and words from the King James Bible.

If you would like to learn more about Lauren Castillo, visit her website or blog. And if you’re in the mood to treat yourself (either visually or tangibly) visit her Etsy site where she sells prints of her work.

And now let’s step inside Lauren Castillo’s Brooklyn workspace. . .

Describe your workspace.

I live in a railroad style apartment in Brooklyn, NY, and the front half is my studio space. It’s newly renovated, and pretty spacious and tidy (right now). The best part is that it gets great light during the day! (My last space had absolutely NO natural light.)


Describe a typical workday.

After an early trip to the gym (usually) and breakfast, I spend the beginning of my workday browsing some of my favorite blogs/websites. I’ll also do the bulk of my catch-up emailing then. The rest of the day is spent either sketching or working on final art for a picture book, depending on which stage of the project I am in.  I do take several short breaks throughout the day though, for lunch and housework, or to run an errand, etc. Lately I’ve been trying to stop work by 7 or 8 PM. I find it nice to have a “real person” work schedule! (I used to work late into the night.)

What media do you use and which is your favorite?

My work is always a mixture of mediums, but my favorite result comes from transferring photocopied drawings with acetone (solvent). I’ve used this technique in just about all of my children’s books. But it is highly toxic, and I’ve recently been trying to find a safer method that produces a similar result. Any suggestions???

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

A wooden card catalog box that my dad refurbished for me, which holds a bunch of old family photographs.

A shelf full of awesome art from some of my (very talented) illustrator friends. (Artists on the shelf are Shadra Strickland, Jonathan Bean, Julia Denos, Paul Hoppe, and Taeeun Yoo).

3. A poster by French designer Eva Juliet which hangs above my computer desk reminding me each day to keep my attitude in check.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

Hmm, well this summer I started taking reading breaks to catch up on all the great chapter books and YA novels out there, so it’s sort of become part of my routine. I usually break in the mid-afternoon to read for a while, and afterward I feel rejuvenated and ready to dive back into work. Plus, it’s been so hot here in NY, it’s a great excuse to curl up on the couch for a little!

What do you listen to while you work?

I listen to a bit of everything. From television shows playing in the background, to podcasts, to Pandora (internet radio) and my iTunes collection. My taste in music is vast, and what I listen to really depends on my mood at the time. Right now it’s Jónsi and The Postal Service, because I’m feeling bouncy 🙂

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee throughout the morning hours! I’ll sometimes snack on pretzels or almonds, but when I’m in a good work groove I can easily forget to eat!

What keeps you focused while you’re working?

If I’m working on final art I usually get lost in the fun and challenge of it, and that keeps me going the entire day—sometimes WAY into the night! But when I’m working on sketches for a project, I find that music helps me stay on track. If I’m on the computer though, it can be so easy to get sucked into the Internet!

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging and why?

Creating the first few pieces of final art for a book is certainly the most challenging part of the bookmaking process for me. It’s nerve-racking to have to figure out and commit to materials and technique, which I’ll then have to keep consistent for the entire rest of the project (20-25 illustrations).  But after making it to the halfway point, I start to (hopefully!) feel much more confident about the overall outcome of the art and book.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Well, until recently I was sharing my studio space with my then roommate and friend, Shadra Strickland. She is also a children’s book illustrator, and it was really nice to have a buddy to “show and tell” art and stories with. I miss having her around!

What is the best piece of illustrating advice you’ve heard or received?

I’ve been very fortunate to have several wonderful teachers and mentors throughout school, so there’s been a ton of great advice shared with me. One thing that I think is important to keep in mind as a newcomer to the field is: Create the kind of art and stories that interest YOU. Don’t try to create what you think will please others (the market). In the end, your most honest work will be your best work.

3 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Lauren Castillo”

  1. Portia Pennington

    Great interview with terrific pictures! Love her illustrations…and love that apartment. Couldn't be more different from my own Kentucky life (and therefore seems so very romantic!)

    Portia Pennington