Close-up: An Interview With Artist Becky Castañeda

Artist Becky Castañeda – known to many as Beckycas – has grown a huge online following with her adorable kawaii illustrations.

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with the Swiss-based artist to find out more about her digital art style, being successful online, staying organised, and much more.

Q: When did you first start to develop this digital art style of Kawaii characters and pastel colours?

A: It started last year when my husband gave me his Wacom Bamboo graphic tablet. I was doing everything traditionally before, and I never approached digital art before that.

After drawing with the Wacom for a while, I grew incredibly frustrated with not being able to see what I was drawing directly on the tablet. This way of digital drawing was not meant for me. I like to look directly on the tablet, notebook or whatever I am drawing on. Looking at the monitor and drawing with the tablet was hard.

That’s when my husband got an IPad Pro, then things really started going for me art wise. I defined my colour palette even more after getting my IPad and because I changed the brush for the line art, my art also started evolving into what you see now. I used to have a brush that looked like pencil, and now I was using a brush that looked more like vector lines.

All together this formed the style you see now. It has been a year since this happened.

Q: Looking at your art, one might assume that you are an irrepressibly positive and exuberant person. Does this art style reflect your personality?

A: I think that assumption is correct. I am a very positive and optimistic person, wouldn’t call myself exuberant, but I am friendly and easy-going. I always think our art is a reflection of ourselves, at least in my case it is. If my soul would have form and colour, it will be just like my art.

Q: As someone who freelances from home, I know it can be a challenge to motivate yourself each day and stay on task. How do you approach your daily routine and ensure you don’t become stagnant in your work place?

A: I plan my week every Monday morning and I just try my best to reach every day’s goal. I don’t stress too much about it, but I do try to stick with my daily plan as much as I can. Of course there are difficult days when it’s not possible, but I can always catch up.

I think my motivation is to clear my daily to-do list by the evening, so I can rest and spend time with my family without having my mind at work. I think organisation is the key to staying consistent.

Q: The art world can sometimes be a pretentious and elitist space. Have you felt any pressure to change your style and work in more traditional ways?

A: It can be difficult sometimes, but I try my best to stay true to myself and don’t fall into the pressure trap. I just follow my own path as an artist and focus on developing my style, rather than trying to fit into the art world.

There are always people who will dislike my work, and that’s totally ok. I just won’t fall into the trap of wanting to be liked, because at the end of the day, if we are not happy or comfortable with our art, what are we doing this for?

Q: There are so many cute characters in your work. Do you create narratives around these characters? I, for one, would love to see a picture book or animation based on them.

A: Oh, thank you so much! You are so kind! I do create narratives around them! I have some recurrent characters who always come back and I try to develop them by creating a world around them.

My dream, of course, would be to create a picture book or animation one day. I’ve done one picture book before with one of my characters, but I haven’t sent it to anyone yet. I need to redraw it or translate it into digital art because I made it with watercolors back in the day – when I used to do only traditional art.

But can you imagine an animation based on these characters? That would be a dream come true!

Q: You’ve had incredible growth on Instagram in recent months. How have you dealt with this expansion and the pressure of having a larger audience?

A: Growing on Instagram is scary. I still can’t believe how much my account has grown in the past year.

Of course, it has been the fruit of hard work behind every drawing and a lot of time interacting with my audience, but still, I can’t get use to seeing these numbers. There is more pressure, for sure. The larger the audience the greater the pressure to keep bringing quality art to them.

At the same time, I try to remind myself that all these kind people are here because they like my art, and they like who I am. So I need to stay focused, and stay true to myself and my art by not giving in to the pressure of “performing”. 

Q: You have an Etsy shop and a Patreon. How do you find the challenge of managing the business end of your work?

A: It’s all about organising my week. I usually take some mornings to pack orders and afternoons to work on client work. I use my free time to draw for fun and that’s what I post on Instagram.

I take one day a week to work on Patreon, make tutorial videos, podcasts, take photos of my sketchbooks, etc. And I forgot to mention, I am the mum of two little girls. So organisation is my way of life. 

Q: Lastly, what are your ambitions for the future?

A: I am very eager for the future. I have a lot of things I would like to achieve. The picture book is one of them, make more videos for my YouTube Channel (because it’s been abandoned at the moment), and having an Art Podcast where I can interview some artists and have nice and relaxing conversations about art topics.

I guess I have a big list, but I believe with determination and hard work everything is possible.

Check out Beckycas on Instagram

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