Creativity Camp: Ethan Castillo takes over Wacom’s Instagram 

June 29, 2023

Ethan Castillo, an 18-year-old art phenom who’s been exhibiting at conventions since he was only EIGHT, will be taking over Wacom’s Instagram from July 7-9th to share his creative process and art journey! Despite his youth, Ethan has contributed to TV animation project books, been a sketch card artist for Spider-Man card sets, and much more. He recently finished his first year of college, studying art at USC. 

Follow along on Instagram to get a glimpse into this young artist’s world, hear his tips to improve your art and get the most out of your Wacom device, get expert advice, and get a preview of what he’s working on as he prepares for Comic-Con. 

We spoke with Ethan in advance of his Instagram takeover, about his journey from precocious child artist to college student, what he’s up to these days, and what he has planned. 

Young Ethan tabling at a comic convention
Young Ethan tabling at a comic convention

You’ve been making art publicly since you were very young. How old were you when you first tabled at a Comic-Con? 

I was eight when I tabled at my first comic convention, which was called Big Wow Comic Fest in San Jose, CA. I’d been drawing my entire life, but that was the first time I publicly presented it and had a space to show it off. 

How did you get so invested so early, and get to the place of tabling at a Con when you were so young? 

Drawing has been my passion forever. I would always get in trouble in class because I would spend too long on drawing and not enough on writing! I would never turn in an assignment that was completed, because I would spend all my time on the art part, and none on the writing part. My teachers would say the same thing to my parents: he’s a great student, and he has a great imagination, but he’s not paying attention to the other half of assignments.  

My dad was a big comic head growing up, and I had a lot of his back issues … that’s actually where I learned to read, from comics! At a certain point, we started going to WonderCon in San Francisco. So I kind of grew up around comics and obviously superheroes. At a certain point, at a comic convention, I just asked my dad when I could have a table like the people I was seeing there. And that’s not a question that very many 8-year-old kids were asking at that point! I was very lucky to have an amazingly supportive family. They helped me put together some sketchbooks and prints. And they were really just about making sure I was having fun, and tabling was about that. They made sure I took breaks and had snacks and that it wasn’t too serious. 

Even younger Ethan drawing on a Wacom tablet
Even younger Ethan drawing on a Wacom tablet

As someone who’s been tabling at conventions for 10 years, what in your opinion has changed over that time period? Either the convention scene, or comics, or the art industry in general? 

The biggest thing that I’ve seen is that comics and the superhero genre have become such a mainstream phenomenon.  It wasn’t really like that before, and I was lucky that I grew up in a time where comics were beginning to become cool again. Because other generations would say that they didn’t used to be, you know?  

And I also think that comic art was something that was not as respected before. When my parents learned that I wanted to get into art, they put me in some art classes at school, and they would teach you how to draw, like, still lifes. And I thought it was the most boring thing because it wasn’t superheroes.  

At that point, I thought, “this is not the kind of art I want to do.” What’s funny is, now I love that kind of stuff, I love fine art! But in that moment, I was like, “if this is what older generations want me to do with art, then I don’t want to do it. Let me do my own thing and try comics.” Even just 10 years ago, I don’t think that comic art was yet a respected thing as much. So, I think, the “mainstreamization” of comic has been the biggest change. 

Many variations of Spider-Man drawn by Ethan
Many variations of Spider-Man drawn by Ethan

How have your thoughts shifted over the years about comics or art as a career path? 

They have definitely shifted, and they’re going to continue to shift in ways that I think I’m never going to be able to describe! A perfect example is that still lifes, and the weird, abstract, fine art stuff that I hated when I was growing up, is like my favorite thing now. 

Everything you do is always changing you, and I’m never going to be stagnant. I will never stop loving comics. I’m never going to stop loving Spiderman. In terms of specifically comic art, it’s something that I still want to do, but lately I’ve kind of shied away from a little bit. As I get older, I know I love storytelling, but … well, actually, I learned this recently: I love doing cover art, and that is what I like to do for superheroes and in comics storytelling. I’ve tried and tried, but I just cannot do sequentials! I just cannot draw pages or storyboarding. I’m going to keep trying, and building that skill, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.  

I’ve also done a bit of concept art stuff, and I could see myself doing concept art. But truthfully, I feel like at the end of my life … OK, I say this a lot, and I think I got it from Ethan Hawke. He said, in an interview, that he often thinks about his obituary, and he doesn’t want it to say just “actor,” because it that’s not who he is. He’s really an artist. I kind of think in the same way; I don’t want to be defined by one thing, like being a comic artist. So, in this moment, I could say I’m a writer or I’m a concept artist, or an “influencer,” or whatever. But I think that’s always changing, and I’m never going to be just one thing. 

A Spider-Man variant drawn by Ethan
A Spider-Man variant drawn by Ethan

You just finished your first year of college. What was the decision process like when you were deciding to go to USC? 

Going to college was something that I always wanted to do. Growing up, I did think I was going to go to an art university, like a specialist school. And growing up, I was really lucky to have a lot of contacts at, like, Art Center, and Otis College of Art and Design. And I did apply to a lot of art schools. But I ended up choosing USC, because I wanted to do a lot of other things. I love writing, like screenwriting, and even poetry. I love reading, and film, and I play guitar. I’m so glad I chose USC; I love it to death. I didn’t necessarily choose specifically that I wanted to major in art at an academic university, versus going to an art-specific school, but it worked out. 

What are your plans for your takeover of Wacom’s Instagram account, coming up July 7th-9th?  

I’m a big believer in making the content that I would like to see. And my favorite part of the artistic process is the actual process, so I wanted to shed some light on that with some behind-the-scenes content. I’ve been messing around with a new digital camera, and I like filmmaking, so I’m putting together like a little short that I want to premiere. Just kind of like, a day in the life, because I love seeing that kind of stuff. But it’s also an opportunity for me to make a film, so it’s not just, you know, an Instagram Live. It’s something that I’m really passionate about. 

I’m also currently working on a new sketchbook, so I have some process from that I want to show. I don’t want to reveal too much, because that’ll be revealed at Comic-Con. So, anyone who comes to Wacom’s Instagram during my takeover will definitely get a little preview of what I’m working on before Comic-Con, and I have some new prints, and some new art inspired by Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse, so if people like that movie, hopefully they’ll like the art!  

It’ll mostly just be getting people excited with the new stuff that I’ve been putting out. It’s cool because I’m in summer right now, but during the school year I’m a little busier. I was the busiest I’ve ever been! And I’m endlessly grateful for that. But during the summer, it’s exciting because that’s when Comic-Con happens, and I get to do all this stuff that I don’t get to do during the school year. So I’m excited to show off work and connect with folks. I hope to bring a little bit of that community to Wacom and to my account, and vice versa. 

What’s on the horizon for Ethan Castillo in 2023? 

Ethan Castillo Portrait

That’s a great question. It’s a question that I asked myself every second of every day!

I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Lightbox is in October, and I’ll be there to connect with folks but I won’t be tabling. My biggest project right now, though, is focusing on my second year of college! Filmmaking is something that I love doing, so I’ll probably be posting little shorts on my Instagram as they’re being made. I did some concept art for a little indie TV pilot, called Manic Man, on OTV. Other than that, hopefully I’ll have more to share soon! 

For more from Ethan, check out his website or follow him on Instagram!

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