Love, heritage and artistic freedom drive El Cajon artist

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For artist Carlos Castrejón, life truly does imitate art. 

Castrejón believes art is what makes a culture as well as a community.

“I’m not just talking about paintings or painters,” he said. “I’m also talking about music and dance. Art will enhance any community.”

For artist Carlos Castrejón, life truly does imitate art. 

Castrejón believes art is what makes a culture as well as a community.

“I’m not just talking about paintings or painters,” he said. “I’m also talking about music and dance. Art will enhance any community.”

Involved in many forms of the art world such as curating shows, creating art and teaching, Castrejón has experience creating art such as sculptures, mixed media and drawings. His personal favorite is painting. 

“In my case, it’s a lifestyle. Whenever I’m driving, whenever I’m walking, whenever I’m talking to people I’m always thinking, this will look cool in a painting,” he said.  “I’m always thinking about how I can translate something into a painting.”

Castrejón’s range of ability and expertise has opened the door for taking on students of his own to teach.

A friend and student of his, Alan Mersereau praises Castrejón’s technical ability as an artist and his compassion as a teacher. 

“Carlos is a really good teacher,” he said. “He’s very patient and he emphasizes that there’s no mistakes in art.”

Believing there is no wrong way to do art is a value Castrejón takes seriously.

“There’s no mistakes in art and there’s no perfection,” he said. 

Castrejón emphasizes his artwork represents freedom or the lack of it. He also tries to influence his students to paint from the heart and to let themselves go with creating a piece.

“When I teach I try to tell my students that this is a great opportunity for them to be free. Freedom is very important when you’re painting. You don’t want to be held back by fears. If you paint with fear it shows in your painting,” he said.

As an immigrant, his work has been inspired by freedom or the lack of it. 

“I’m from Mexico originally,” he said. “I’m so proud of my roots, so I’ve done some paintings depicting the landscape and the culture.”

With time, he has refined his style of painting because he does not want to be defined by one category as an artist. He still keeps the flavor of his heritage in his art, while broadening his horizons to encompass larger issues.

“I don’t want to be a Mexican artist,” he said. “I want to be an international artist.”

An artist he admires and shares the same trait of trying new mediums is Pablo Picasso.

“I admire Picasso,” he said. “Not just because of the name. I like the fact that he tried it all. He wasn’t afraid. He’s a complete artist.”

Castrejón draws inspiration through his daily life, interactions and the people and sights that surround him.

“There are many things that inspire my artwork. I think it’s basically my connection with people, different societies, and social events such as war and peace,” he said. “Woman, for sure. Woman are the most beautiful creatures so it’s always intriguing to me how a woman carries herself, speaks, acts. I’m always analyzing the lifestyle of a woman.”

He currently operates two studios, one in El Cajon and the other in Point Loma under the name of Studio C. The Point Loma studio is currently exhibiting his show “Credo,” which relies heavily on the female inspiration.

“Sometimes I can work on a concept. For instance, the show that I have up I call “Credo,” which in Latin means believe. My paintings have to do with how I believe spiritually, religiously, politically and socially,” he said. “I introduce the female portrait because women give birth so she is a symbolic representation of how religions are born or how ideas are born.”

When he is gathering inspiration for art, he often chooses black and white photos to observe.

“I tend to pick black and white photographs to work from so the pictures will not dictate the colors I am applying to the painting,” he said.

He tries to finish pieces quickly to ensure the original thought and feeling is still fresh in his memory. He completes projects when he feels they are finished and does not push too hard to make them any one else’s idea of complete.

“There is certain times when I look at a painting and I say that’s enough,” he said. “That’s enough information. It might look empty or unfinished, but to me it’s finished because that’s the way I saw it.”

A piece that is particularly close to his heart is one he created when he found out he was going to be a father for the first time.

“When I became a father for the first time I was thirty years old and I was shocked,” he said. “I painted a small painting and that changed my life forever. That painting, I’m very attached to it. I never show it. It’s only mine.”

Above all, Castrejón believes in the power of love.

“Love is the most beautiful thing that we can create,” he said. “It’s easier to make love than to make hate.”

Castrejón’s current exhibition, “Credo,” is showing at his studio located at 2770 Historic Decatur Road, Barracks 14, Studio 213 until the end of September. 

For appointments with him or to schedule a viewing, he can be contacted by phone at 619-540-5575, emailed at carloscastrejon71@gmail.com or visit www.castrejonart.com.