We had the good fortune of connecting with Juliana Castro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Juliana, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Just like many other professional artists, I started drawing at a very young age. I remember spending my free time, when I was not outside playing with my sister, sitting at the kitchen table in our house with an HB pencil and a white sheet of paper that I took from the printer. I had never taken a drawing class, but I just loved it. I didn’t know how to come up with a drawing off the top of my head, so I would try and copy drawings that I thought were pretty. But one thing that came easy to me was drawing animals. I had the amazing opportunity of growing up in a farm that was surrounded by the Andes mountains back in Colombia. I got to see dogs, cats, horses, cows, chickens, and rabbits up close, and that I believe is the reason why I love animals so much and why it was easy for me to draw them. Little did I know that my love for animals would become one of the main reasons why I make art.
Living in Colombia, I didn’t think of my art as more than a hobby. In fact, I didn’t know that art could be a career and so I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I was twelve, my life changed completely as I had to leave my life and my dad, to start a new one with my mom and sister in New Jersey. Even though my life changed, and I no longer wanted to be a veterinarian (Instead I wanted to become an engineer because I was good at math), drawing continued to be a big part of me. I used to go back to Colombia every summer while I was in High School in Florida, and my dad enrolled me in oil painting classes. That was the first time I took any type of art class. Although I loved the classes so much, I still didn’t consider art as a viable career. I was stuck with the mindset that being an artist was not worth it because in Colombia a lot of art gets pirated and sold cheaper, and the artists don’t get the credit. I still didn’t understand that art in the US is different, it’s more respected.
It wasn’t until junior year of high school that I realized that I could turn my hobby into a career. SCAD came to Fort Lauderdale, and my mom and I were trying to go to as many college visits, and info sessions as we could to figure out where I wanted to go. I had no idea what SCAD was, or that it was an art school, but I went anyway, and I fell in love! It just felt so right, and it was right then that I changed my mind and decided to pursue a career in graphic design, which was the only art major that I knew of. I realized that it was possible to work doing something I loved, and that brought a lot of happiness to me, way more happiness than thinking about doing math for the rest of my life could bring. I toured the Savannah campus over the summer, and I just knew that this was the place I had to be. For the first time ever, I felt that I could be myself.
During my time at SCAD, I realized that illustration was a better fit for me than graphic design. And I had the best four years of my life where not only I learned more about my passion for drawing, improved my skills by a lot (Remember I hadn’t taken many art classes..), but I grew as a person. I started taking my artistic journey very seriously, and during my junior year at SCAD, I had the biggest Aha moment of my career. I realized my why. Why do I make art? It was a question that my adviser asked me a million times until it came to me. I don’t just do art because it’s fun or because I love it, but I do it because it helps me raise awareness about topics that are important to me like animals, the environment, Hispanic culture, and diversity. Art is my way of teaching, expressing myself, and helping others get inspired and take action!
We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Regarding my art, I focus a lot on children’s books as well as visual development for animation. I have always had an affinity for making things look cute, which is why my style works for these two markets. I try to create pieces that will make other people happy while also raising awareness about diversity, the environment, animals, and Hispanic culture. I think this is what makes me different. One of the projects that I am most proud of is a 4.5 in x 4.5 in accordion book that has one continuous illustration, depicting eight endangered animals that inhabit rainforests across the world. I wanted the illustration to work as one long illustration whenever the book was completely opened, but if it was looked at as a regular book, each page would work on its own. I wrote, illustrated, and built the book. It was hard because I had never printed any of my works and making a book from scratch is not the easiest thing either, but it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience, and I will be making more of these in the future.
I just recently graduated from SCAD, and so my professional journey has just started. And even though it hasn’t been easy, not just because of COVID but also because I am not a very known artist yet, I have been working really hard and freelancing for two different companies, one here in Florida and the other one in Germany. I know that the road to success is not going to be easy, there will be a lot of challenges because I am aware that freelancing is not exactly the most stable job at the beginning, but I am willing to put in all the work needed to get to where I want to be. So far, the challenges that I have overcome I’ have done it with the help of my support system, my mom, my sister, and my boyfriend. I have learned a lot about standing up for my work, and knowing its value, and learning how to interact with different clients and how to get a thicker skin and not take things too personally. I think there are two big lessons I have learned so far:
1) Be kind and professional. If you are nice and respectful and you deliver what you promised your clients will want to continue to work with you.
2) Don’t stop believing in yourself, because if you don’t who will? This one is hard sometimes, with impostor syndrome and all, but it is up to you if you want to succeed and I want to succeed, regardless of how uncertain the road may be.
With my brand, I want the world to know that Juliana Castro cares deeply about everything she puts her mind to. I want people to look at my work and not only be inspired but also learn something new.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my friend was visiting Savannah, I would show them around the historic district on a walking tour, because that way they can appreciate the beauty of the Spanish moss hanging in the trees, and the pretty squares that make up most of downtown. Walking down the streets of downtown Savannah, was my favorite thing to do because I will always see something new. No two houses looked alike, with different doors, and historic architecture, you will enjoy the walk. While downtown, I would recommend walking down Broughton St, where shopping is always fun, from thrift stores to department stores, and little boutiques, you are sure to find something unique. If you are an ice cream lover, you should try Leopold’s, but if the line is too long and the weather too hot, Ben and Jerry’s is always a great choice.
If you want to do something a bit more touristy, you should check out the ghost tours. Since Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the US, it is understandable that it would be haunted. There are plenty of ghost tours ranging from trolleys, to hearses, to walking tours during the day and night. If you want to do a bit more sightseeing you could do a historic tour in a trolley or in a segway. I always wanted to try the segway tour.
If you are like me, and you enjoy nature, you should check out Forsyth park. It is a great place to have a picnic, play some soccer and see a lot of dogs. If you come during the spring, for the Sidewalk Arts Festival that SCAD organizes, you will see the entire park covered in art, it is amazing. Another place for nature lovers is Wormsloe, it is a bit farther out so it’s great if you have a car. Here you will see a beautiful avenue full of really old trees, it’s breathtaking.
As for places to eat and drink, Savannah has a ton. For breakfast the Little Duck Diner is my all-time favorite, the french toast there is to die for. For Lunch, you can’t go wrong with Collings Quarter. For dinner, you might want to enjoy a restaurant by Riverstreet, where you will see the beautiful sunsets that happen in Savannah. If you are in the mood to party, Savannah has a lot of bars and rooftops, and a couple of clubs that are fun, especially on Thursdays because they had Latin Night. And don’t forget to check ou Mcdonoughs for the best Karaoke in town.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Throughout my journey to become an artist, I faced a lot of challenges including family members telling me that I should change my major, that art is not stable, or friends asking me if I wanted to be poor. But I am beyond grateful that I wasn’t alone during this journey and that my mom and my sister supported me regardless. My mom is my number one fan, and she was there from the beginning helping me with my anatomy (She is a doctor) when my characters looked a little off. And my sister, with her strong personality, always encouraged me to keep going, to not listen to the haters, and keep doing what I love.
Besides my mom and sister, I also want to give a shoutout to my professors at SCAD, specifically my business professor and my Pro portfolio professor. Throughout my last two years at SCAD, they became my mentors and provided me with a lot of helpful advice. This advice ranged from feedback on my projects, which allowed me to explore different ways to challenge myself, to how to be a businesswoman, how to contact clients, and share my work. It is because of them that I am confident that my journey as an artist will be successful and that I won’t be a starving artist. I believe they helped me become the person and the artist I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful.
My last shoutout would have to be to SCAD itself. I am grateful I came across SCAD when I did because it pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue my dreams. It also allowed me to meet so many talented people that I can now call my friends. These friends and the creative environment I was in have inspired me to become the best version of myself I can be, and in the process make impactful art that one day will inspire others as well.