Illustrator Spotlight: Eric Castleman

© Eric Castleman

May 1, 2018

On the first of each month in 2018, we feature an illustrator who won or placed in our Kidlit411 banner contest, and we switch our website banner and Facebook page cover image. Today we present Eric Castleman and his work.

Tell us about yourself and how you came to illustrate for children.

I was born and raised in Southern California. Throughout my childhood I had always been drawn towards the arts. I was that kid who thought every class was art class. Many of my drawings dawned the teachers walls, but more because I was being made an example of, rather then for my artistic ability. However, I loved the moments in school when my teachers read to us. The illustrations were always so incredibly imaginative, and in my free time I would try my best to copy Chris Van Allsburg drawings, to name one illustrator of many. 

© Eric Castleman

As time went on, I did not grow out of my love for the artists works that I loved as a child. In my early twenties when I was first married to my beautiful wife, her first gift to me was a book on how to write and illustrate picture books. It still wasn’t clear to me that this was something I would be able to do. Since I was newly married I started working in manufacturing rather than in the arts. 

© Eric Castleman

Interestingly enough, I would continually find myself drawing layouts for engineers, who would remark that I should have become an artist. I assumed that to mean that I was not really great at that line of work. Then a few years ago, in a moment of reflection, I decided to search picture books illustrators on youtube. One of the first videos that popped up was Will Terry’s video on how to break into the picture book industry. I found out that he had an online school called SVS with Lee White and Jake Parker. I signed up as fast as I possibly could. I have been there for the last couple years, and they have helped me exponentially. So here I am, finally doing what I love.

Congrats on your entry in the Kidlit411 banner contest! How did you go about approaching this assignment?

Thank you! I am very honored.

© Eric Castleman

I love working with with light. It is something that for me can really enhance a scene and place emphasis where I want it to be. I chose a night scene, because I felt as though it would lend to the idea that these two kids were reading of their own free will, and that maybe they were reading when nobody was around. 

I also thought a bit about the common goal we all share as writers and illustrators. I wanted there to be children reading, and to illustrate the profound effect reading can have on a young person.  

I thought putting the birds outside of the window was a interesting nod to the original banner. When I first read the the rules of the contest, I knew I really wanted to do something different.  But I also understood that playing off the old theme was encouraged. This was an easy way to have both.

Your work has a distinctive style. Who or what influences you?

A couple years ago I was really struggling to find my style. I just couldn’t figure out how to create consistent pieces that people could tell were made by the same person. I tried working with watercolor, gauche, colored pencils, etc. Finally I decided to start drawing and painting the way I liked instead of forcing a style and that’s when all of those different mediums sort of came together. 

© Eric Castleman

Artists such as Poly Bernatene, Lee White and Christ Van Allsburg are illustrators who have very much influenced my style. I would add that a lot of the facial expressions and body positions I use came from drawing my favorite cartoon characters that I loved as a kid.

 Please walk us through your illustration process

Whenever I start designing an image I try my best to focus on shape language. Depending on the mood of the characters, I already know what shapes I can use. Very round shapes are non threatening, and I also think they lend very easily to comedy, as well as, make my characters endearing. When designing I usually just overlap circles in the areas I know I want my characters and once something clicks I then draw out the image I see in the shapes. I want the drawing to be something anyone could color if they printed it out.

© Eric Castleman

For rendering I use what is called a glazing technique. This is where I paint a monochromatic painting first and then glaze the color over the underpainting. I go back and forth between the drawing and the painting using the drawing as a guide. I don’t use line work in my final piece because I want the shapes to do all of the work.

© Eric Castleman

Once that is done, I can put in the detail and really adjust the image however I like and get the exact feel I want. This technique really grants me control over the foreground, mid ground and background. My medium is mixed media, and seeing that much of my work is a combination of different mediums, this really fits the bill for me. I love throwing in texture to help move the objects back and forth for the viewer.

© Eric Castleman

What projects are you working on now?

I am currently working on two book dummies I hope to pitch very soon.  I am also gearing up for the Summer SCBWI conference. For the first time I will be starting to submit my work to agents in hope of landing an agent in the near future. On top of that, I am working on art for podcasts.

© Eric Castleman

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

I once played an undercover cop on a TV show called LAX. I am not an actor and should never be allowed in that line of work. But I needed to make some money and decided to try out as an extra. Surprisingly I got the call. I was only suppose to be in the background acting like a cop, but even that I was not very good at. So it was no surprise that when the episode aired I was only shown for a brief second. However, I did accidentally eat Heather Locklear’s prepared lunch by mistake. I was surprised how mad everyone got about that.

Where can people find you online?
Instagram: ericcastleman

Eric Castleman is an author/illustrator born and raised in Southern California. He is a husband and father, and his four year old son gets final approval on what art gets posted on social media. He loves historical philosophy and biographies on famous authors. Feel free to contact him at any of the links above.


  1. Eric, I love how many of the facial and body expressions you draw come from time spent drawing your favorite cartoon characters of youth. Your illustrations are simply amazing! I'm hooked - can't wait to see more of your work featured in our kidlit community! Best wishes for much success and happy days ahead.

  2. I love seeing each illustrator's process of bringing a story to life. Love your style, Eric!

  3. Fabulous new banner! Thank you, Eric, and thank you Kidlit411 for what you do for our #kidlit community.

  4. I love the banner! Clever to put the birds in! Love reading about your process and best wishes on your work!

  5. Love, love, love Eric's work! So interesting to see how people move through their careers. i hope you enjoyed that lunch!


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