The college contacted him a year ago about staging an exhibit, and the Cuban-born Castellanos suggested Hispanic Heritage Month would be a perfect fit. Baldo is the first comic strip in syndication that deals specifically with growing up Latino and the balancing act that living simultaneously in two cultures requires. The strip is published daily in more than 250 newspapers, including The Palm Beach Post.
“It’s always been challenging drawing the strip,” Castellanos said from his home studio in West Palm Beach, where he has lived for 18 years. “I still enjoy working with Hector, the collaboration. The challenge has always been drawing the same characters over and over. Before, I was freelancing as a commercial artist, and I was always working on different project.
“But it’s not the hardest job,” he laughs. “I had that job. It’s digging ditches for a plumber in Florida in the summertime.”
When Castellanos and Cantu started developing the strip in the late ’90s, there weren’t any comics that dealt with Hispanic or Latino families. “We were at the right place, at the right time, with the right product.”
Making a living as an artist isn’t the easiest road, though, but it can be done. Castellanos, a father of three, feels strongly about teaching children to follow their dreams, and, more specifically, ways they can be successful with art. He contributes content to cartooningpro.com, a site where artists can watch instructional videos by working artists.
” When I was starting out, there weren’t a lot of resources available. For those who are spacial and visual learners, it gave us a way to reach them. The conventional means aren’t working for some kids. The Internet has brought the world to your doorstep, and the videos give them a chance to look over my shoulder.”
For Castellanos, who began drawing as a child, art was a means of communicating and a way to make friends. “I was very shy as a kid and it also became a way to interact with kids, to break the ice and show kids what I was about. “
In the years he’s been working on the strip, he’s been bombarded by phone calls and emails and fielded a lot of practical questions about being a working cartoonist .
Art’s value, Castellanos says, “is not only about reaching them, it’s about giving them a platform to talk about what’s important to them.”
And he doesn’t just teach about art, he also teaches through his art. A series of strips about Baldo’s father getting diagnosed with diabetes allowed Castellanos to talk about a topic that was important to him. Castellanos says he prefers a series of strips to the “one and done” gags because he can deal with more complicated issues.
Castellanos’ exhibit gives fans a chance to peek behind the veil and almost captures what it’s like to draw a comic strip on a daily basis. Story boards, framed strips and a life-size cutouts of the characters are hung beside a large canvas that sums up Castellanos’ primary message: Dream.
IF YOU GO
Baldo Comics by Carlos Castellano: Through Oct. 14, the Jan and Gary Dario Gallery at PBSC. (561) 868-3909 | Directions, invite friends, more