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Pocono Record article

by Alex Castro

 Pocono Record Article  ” Master of Miniatures”

Alex Castro’s unfinished oil portrait of a couple’s wedding reminds him of a pivotal time in his art career. He had been painting portraits for a living while spending his free time perfecting his own techniques painting miniatures. He put down the oil brush and returned the commission. That was 15 years ago, and he never looked back. “The 3-D aspect allowed me to walk around it and get behind the piece. I couldn’t do that in 2-D,” Castro said. Today, he is a master of the miniatures.  Painting the female figure, a U.S. paratrooper or a pirate with such authenticity that the skin tone invites touching,  just to see how Castro accomplishes the texturing.  A relief wall plaque, based on Boris Vallejo’s “Tattoo” and sculpted by Steve West, is a fine example. Castro’s work — complete with a dragon that emerges from a tattoo on the bicep of the figure — is on the cover of  Modeler’s Resource,which also includes a how-to article.

Many hobbyists take their skills from modeling into miniatures; however, Castro brought his art training and love of the Renaissance and Classical masters. “You can’t paint the face the same way you do the shirt,” he said. “I’m known for the softness and sensitivity I bring to the image.” Model manufacturers now send Castro pieces to paint in order to sell the kits. He has also written a technique book.  Castro noted that art should be concept-driven, not based on a preconceived recipe. He said, “To get those results, you have to look at it as art.”

CASTRO’S ART GAVE HIM direction growing up in Brooklyn while he watched his mother suffer chronic health problems and survive on welfare. On occasions when she was too sick to care for her children, Castro and his two siblings would be split up to live with relatives.

Castro began copying cartoons early on. “Art became my world. I got lost in art.” In fourth grade, other students were drawing comics, and Castro was sketching diagrams of a dissected praying mantis, which were given to the principal because of the quality.  Later, he won an art competition, which allowed him to receive training at The New York Illustrators Club. There he learned from advertising people how the droplets of water appeared on soda bottles, and had some of his own work auctioned off. He even had dinner at a fancy restaurant. “It was very important artistically. It also showed me I was living in two worlds,” Castro said. “One was a poor world where those things didn’t happen to me, and then another world at a restaurant where waiters were tying a lobster bib on me. It’s important for me as a teacher to give that back.” In his culture, people didn’t make a living with art and were expected to find a real job, he said. “Art allowed me to express myself, and I felt it was a gift. I felt it was something I could do well, was comfortable with and people enjoyed,” he said.  He worked security jobs, as a waiter and at a gas station to pay for school. After graduation, he taught art to anyone, from youngsters to senior citizens.

 Castro continued working on his art to advance his technical and artistic skill. “I have a passion for it. It’s not only the passion with the art, but I like reinventing it,” he said. “In the miniature field, I created many techniques because I didn’t like what was being done.”

CASTRO HASN’T DITCHED his interest in oil painting and drawing. Quite the contrary. Castro, who has been living in the Poconos for 13 years, is expanding his teaching to include offerings at the School of Visual and Performing Arts and the studio courses at the PoconoArts Council.  “I can’t receive unless I give. I make space in the creative world. The best way to learn is by teaching,” he said.

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