Mom Next Door: Allison Castillo / Artist, designer and mom of three
Like a moth to a flame, Allison Castillo couldn’t resist art’s pull if she tried. Whether it’s a custom invitation, a commissioned painting or a Texas-inspired scarf, the Fort Worth native and founder of Allison Castillo Designs is at her best when she’s creating.
Though the medium is often flux, art is the constant through Castillo’s ups and downs. And, like a sort of visual biography, it’s revealing in ways that even she finds surprising. Look closely and you’ll see everything from family vacations to laughs with lifelong friends to telltale signs of her recent divorce hidden in the layers of paint. “Painting is my outlet,” says Castillo. “It’s such a release. It’s like a subconscious therapy.”
Does a proclivity for art run in your family?
My mom was an artist; she painted children’s murals. And my grandmother was an artist and an art teacher. So I grew up around people that influenced me by being creative.
When did you start painting?
When I turned 40, I started painting large-scale abstracts in my laundry room because I had friends that wanted paintings for their homes. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. A hotel in New York commissioned a piece and it completely took off.
What inspires you?
My brother and sister-in-law have a house in Cabo, so we try to go a lot. I’m so inspired by the colors and art—everything in Mexico. My scarves are inspired by Mexico’s Otomi artisans.
How do you describe your aesthetic?
Bold, bright, happy. I use a lot of mixed materials—mainly acrylic, some oils. I love gold and silver leaf. I just paint how I’m feeling at the time. Going through a recent divorce, some of my paintings were on the darker side. It’s interesting to see how my paintings have progressed during this time in my life. Being creative has been a gift of stability in a time of trial.
Will you take a break from painting to focus on the textiles?
I never want to stop painting. I’d like to have a studio/gallery eventually.
Who do you look up to in the art community?
I’m really excited about Fort Worth’s growing art community. There’s so much excitement and buzz that I’m really motivated by. I have a group of local artist friends that I get together with. We hang out and pick each other’s brains. It’s important that we have each other’s backs and grow together. On a larger scale, I’m blown away by Ashley Longshore, a pop artist from New Orleans. She’s brilliant.
Any signs that the kids may follow in your footsteps?
Yes and no. My youngest is my unofficial helper. I can’t tell you how many tubes of paint he’s ruined. But I try to allow creative freedom. My oldest loves to draw. I want them to know that it’s OK to make messes because sometimes that’s where the magic is. There’s no right or wrong in art.
Where do you like to go to view art around Fort Worth?
The Modern. Fort Works Art. The Kimbell, of course. I would love to go and do more art and museums, but I’m so hyper-focused on working and creating that I don’t make as much time for that as I should.
How do you balance your work with caring for three kids?
My studio is in my house, so I work from home. As a working mom, I’ve been able to be flexible around the kids but continue to grow a successful business at the same time. That’s been amazing.
And you're recently divorced?
Yes, it’s still pretty fresh. My faith has definitely grown through all of this. God hasn’t set me up for failure. I feel so motivated, like nothing can get in my way at this point.
Do you have a solid support system?
It takes a village. My family lives in Fort Worth and my ex-husband’s family lives in Fort Worth. I have a lot of friends. I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my friends and family. Moms today want to do it by themselves. They have mom guilt if they don’t do everything. I’ve learned I can’t go to every single meeting or game— and it’s OK. It’s important for the kids to see me be motivated and happy that I’m working.
How are the kids coping with the divorce?
We have grown closer through the process and are handling it as a team. We’ve got support from our church, family and friends. We are grateful to all of our community.
How are you coping?
I have such a strong mom support group. It’s like a tribe. I know I can count on them. It’s all new. You just do it.
What's it like having a 5-year-old and a 14-year-old?
Tanner is all boy. He keeps me young and old at the same time. It’s exhausting. The 14-year-old needs things emotionally; the 5-year-old needs things physically. It’s challenging because I’m needed on both spectrums.
If you had to pick a few words to describe yourself, what would they be?
Easygoing, laid-back, fun, creative, messy. I love to laugh and have a good time. I’m friendly, open-minded and spiritual. My faith has grown immensely since the divorce. I never knew I needed God until I really needed Him.
Besides art, how do you decompress?
I like to work out a little bit, but I really love hanging out with my girlfriends—just talking, drinking margaritas together and laughing till our stomachs hurt.