Conversations About Color with Gabriela Castillo



Painting is at the core of everything Gabriela does. And as a result, color is of the utmost importance to her, both personally and professionally. Gabriela paints mostly portraits, painting from life, as well as using photographs to create her visions. She uses both techniques because photos do not always show the colors that are presented in real life. “There’s a whole range of colors that don’t translate into photography. It’s a compressed selection of colors. Whereas your eye is always going to give you probably too much. And then that’s the tough part, you have to edit.” Therein lies the real challenge of painting from life. Deciding which colors to not include. 



One color that Gabriela does insist on including in her paintings is cadmium red, a warm vibrant red. It is the base of our Limited Edition POPPY, which is her favorite Tono color. According to Gabriela, not only does Poppy make her feel confident and happy, but it has a magical quality to it. “If you incorporate a stroke of that color in the most strategic place in a painting, it makes a huge difference. It would not be as interesting without it.”

Color came into Gabriela’s life at a very early age. She was born in Colima, Mexico, where she was raised until she was 6. Her and her family immigrated to the United States, giving Gabriela a unique cultural perspective which she views much of her life and artwork through. She attributes the origins of her love for color to her parents and their fantastical use of it growing up. The home she grew up in was painted an earthy orange. She describes the lush greens from plants that overtook the front yard and the colorful paintings and suns that covered the walls inside the home. “Eventually I began to associate those colors with feeling good. I’ve never been afraid of color because of that.”



Gabriela is fascinated by using vibrant colors to create the illusion of reality. After studying many of her favorite painters she began to realize that the traditional way of painting, by starting with a muted and dull base drawing, didn’t seem to apply to them. This realization stuck, and since then she has always started her paintings with lots of color. “I’m more interested in creating the illusion of a texture and then relying on the viewers empathy to help you in believing that. You’re asking the person who’s looking at your painting to do some work. I thought that was more interesting than doing photo-realism. I was always more interested in what other people were seeing.” Gabriela also relies on the viewer for their own insight on what the paintings mean to them.  Time is a huge concept in her work, and is the defining factor that motivates her to keep painting. Only after time has passed does she understand what the painting means to her and why she painted it in the first place. Which is why others’ perspectives are so fascinating to her.


This connection to time and from Gabriela to her viewers is what has kept her painting over the many years. “To me it’s like, what else is there in life if I’m not painting? For me there isn’t anything else. It’s become my ritual. I’m so crazy about it that I think the whole world exists just for art to exist.” 


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