Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

During our vacation last week we were attending a writing workshop that my daughter is involved with, and I had the opportunity to listen to some wonderfully creative speakers.  I also had the time to return to using my sketch book.  It’s amazing how easy it is to allow life to become too busy and not allow yourself the time you need to just draw.  It does not matter how good or bad the image is; it’s the process of allowing your self to wander.  This sketch was made while listening to a lecture about Beowulf.  I really enjoyed the process; I hope this will encourage you to pursue your creative self!

I just completed this image for a new book soon to be published.  Last summer I created a piece of cover art for the author, but since that time a major revision has taken place.

This is the cover art that the author liked last summer.  But that was last summer and according to the author everything has changed…yet I still like this for a cover.

This is the first version that I created last summer.  My daughter, who is the author, has the final artistic say in picking the art…since it is her book.  Let me know what you think.

If you are interested in the book and would like to purchase a copy follow this link:

Dream Captive

Paperback, 223 Pages
Price: $15.99
Ships in 3-5 business days
Shade has been haunted by nightmares all her life, and now she begins to have waking nightmares as well. When one of these waking nightmares takes her from her home, she finds out that her dreams were more real than she ever imagined as she enters the Dream World. She and several other children have been kidnapped by a man known as the Dark Master, to be used as sacrifices in a dark ritual; the Summoning. With aid from a man named Dantes, Shade escapes and tries to free the others as well. Will she be able to save the children? Or will she succumb to the power of the nightmares?

I’m in the middle of reading this new book and series by one of my favorite authors, Stephen R. Lawhead.  The book The Bone House is the second in a series called Bright Empires.  The reason I am even discussing this book is because the characters have found a method to travel between dimensions and time(s) through the use of ley-lines.

I’m not going to discuss the whole idea of ley-lines in this post, but to give you a brief overview Ley-lines are alleged alignments of a number of places of geographical and historical interest, such as ancient monuments and megaliths, natural ridge-tops and water-fords. Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins in his books Early British Trackways and The Old Straight Track.

Anyway, back to the idea of time travel, I awoke too early this morning and was thinking about this book I am reading and about moving through time. As I continued to wrestle between the state of wakefulness and reality I thought for some reason that it was no longer April 2012, but for some reason I was now half my age and it was April 1986. So I began trying to remember where I would have been in April of  1986…

I was twenty-three and in the middle of Army Combat Engineer Basic Training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  Talk about waking up to a bad dream.  Then I remembered reading an article about Marilu Henner and her special ability to remember every day of her life with striking clarity.

Henner said that having superior autobiographical memory is like having the ability to time travel to whenever she wants.  I wonder if that is what time travel is about?  I have always thought of listening to music as time traveling because I can place myself to a specific time and event with most popular music that I have grown up listening to, from hearing the Beatles in Gym class in elementary school to school dances in the 70’s and beyond.

So what truly is time traveling?  Is it physical where you actually transport to another time or is it a memory…possibly both, at least in science fiction novels and movies. I have thought it would be interesting to relive certain aspects of my life without the mistakes and with my current knowledge and understanding.  Thinking back to my dream.. well, I did not really want to remember all the wonderful events of basic training, but I do wish I was in that type of physical shape again and able to have the energy I had to get up and run five miles at 5 a.m. Instead I woke up and wrote a blog about time traveling at 5 a.m. in 2012 while listening to Celtic music.

Digital Illustration, Kevin Casto, November 2011

Several months ago I was asked to help a friend by creating an Illustration based on a dream someone had of terrible future events.  This dream was detailed in their book which I was given a copy of and the illustration purpose (as I was told) was to draw attention to the writer and his work so that he may be able to book more speaking engagements.  I explained to my friend, who had to repeatedly inform me they knew nothing about art or how to draw a straight line, that I am not a professional illustrator but an artist and art educator and that my style is very expressionistic, and they may not like it if they wanted something highly realistic.  Well, after many detailed dialogues I finally came up with some ideas and presented them.  I was told that I needed to reread the dream and be more realistic with the dream illustration.  So I did, and as you can see, this is my image/illustration.  I was asked to add a few more details to the image.

Final Illustration, Come out of that house, Kevin Casto, November 2011

So I added a few more details…maybe you can see what I did between the two images.  I have to laugh because I believe that dreams are meant for the person experiencing the dream and not really meant to be illustrated to send a clear message to others, not having the dream like a movie.  I took the assignment as a way to grab the attention of others to the message the speaker had to share because of experiencing the dream.

The Dream:

That night I heard Jesus’ voice in a dream, and the following Sunday I heard the preacher saying the exact words Jesus said to me in the dream: “Come out of your father’s old house and live in a new house on the rock of Jesus” (based on Luke 6:48f). At the time, I didn’t know that there is only One Almighty name by which man can be saved.

Anyway that job is over…

Let me know your thoughts on the work, the dream, or the problem of pleasing a client.

My kids just completed reading God’s Smuggler and I wanted to share their book reviews.  I think they did a great job and hope their reviews will encourage you to read this book; I know that I was inspired and encouraged by this contemporary story of faith.

Rachel Casto Book Review: God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

 God’s Smuggler is a book about the life of Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary who went behind the Iron Curtain to spread the Word of God to all the people of the world.  But his methods of doing so were unlike normal missionaries.  He was never formally trained and he was entirely funded by donations that were sent without his asking for them.  He fully relied on God to take care of all his needs, at home and in the mission field.

It’s a spectacular story which can sometimes bring you to tears at the sheer miraculous nature of the situations and solutions that happened during his life.  The details he used to describe how Christians could just recognize each other and feel the untamed joy from that recognition and fellowship was extremely moving.

The story is good to read for any new Christians, anyone who wishes to go into the mission field, really any Christian at all.

Alec Casto Book Review: God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew

 God’s Smuggler is a book written by Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary whose main mission field was communist countries.  A lot of his work was during the 1950s and 60s, a time when the United States was more concerned with the “Red Menace” than concerned with spreading God’s Kingdom, which ironically was a time when the veil of Christianity was used to show how patriotic and God-fearing a nation we were.

The book starts during Brother Andrew’s childhood in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during the 1940s.  It then moved from his childhood to when he was in his late teens when he joined the Dutch army and fought in the war in Indonesia.  The Dutch war in Indonesia was a very unpleasant war and was for them was very similar to what the United States experienced in the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s.  At that time Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands and there had been a rebellion.  Due to all the cruelty and violence that he faced such as the killing of civilians – they never knew who were the rebels and who were the civilians who would just leave them alone – he and his squadron just essentially became nihilists and he was a heavy drinker.  But he eventually found his way to the Lord as his mother had always been very devout and had him attend church and had always wanted him to read the Bible, but he never really cared much about it.

But one day he attended a meeting for army veterans and it made an impact on his life and he began reading the Bible and then the Lord started working in his life and he started his first step in his journey toward Christ.

Eventually as the years would go on he returned to his hometown and would make an impact on the people’s lives as he would work in a chocolate factory near the town and follow God’s example and he ended up making a big difference in the lives of the factory workers and managers there.  He became good friends with many people.  He eventually felt God’s call to go into the mission field but first he needed to get training and education, so he felt called to go to a school in Scotland where he would be trained in a very unusual and unorthodox way where it emphasized more on having faith that God would provide everything.

Much of what the book chronicles is how he starts up an unusual form of missionary work in Iron Curtain countries and how he very much relies on God by faith alone, something which is difficult for any Christian, it doesn’t matter who you are.  That’s one of the things I really like about this book, is that it really shows how he, his family, and the friends whom are also fellow missionaries of his rely strictly on God and how they all, through God make an impact in the lives of the many Christians behind the Iron Curtain.

My biggest complaint against the book is the fact that many characters aren’t detailed enough and so we don’t get the sense that they’re real people, just that they’re characters in a book.  And the book does skip a lot of time as it starts in the 40s and ends in about the mid 60s and a lot of time has passed.  For instance Brother Andrew is married and has kids but we never know much about his children or even that much about his wife.  We know some, but not a lot.  We also don’t know a lot about the other fellow missionaries who work with him in the Iron Curtain countries and it would’ve been nice to know a lot about them and see them not as characters but as people, and that’s my biggest complaint is that a lot of times they seem more like characters than people.

But overall it’s definitely a good book to read and it will hopefully inspire Christians to rely solely on God and faith and it’s definitely a book that also shows missionary work can be very unusual and that we need to really radically think what it means to be a missionary and we need to always be thinking about how we’re serving God.


It’s good for everyone to stop from time to time and take inventory, isn’t it?

 God’s word reminds us to look back at what happened; I need look at 2011 to seek God’s direction for 2012.

Deuteronomy 32: 7 tells us to remember the days of old; consider the years long past.  Don’t forget why God saved you!  2 Corinthians 5:15 states, “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” (Holman Standard Bible)

So I need to take stock and look back on what I did last year so I can walk with confidence into this new year, the future which is where we are all headed.   I have a list of challenging questions that I have asked myself about what I have done and where I am going.

 1. What have I done in service to the Lord this past year?

2. How much did I grow spiritually this past year (or did I)?

3. Who or what did I witness to this past year?

4. Was I as faithful as I could have been?

5. Did I encourage others every time I had the chance?

6. What would I like to see different this year ?

7. What am I going to do to help make this difference ?

8. What change has Jesus been working in my life?

9. Am I loving those in my church, my family and my community, as well as my enemies?

 What tests did I undergo this past year?

10. The test of anger: What makes me mad?

11. The test of humor: What makes me laugh?

12. The test of music: What makes me sing?

 13. The test of anxiety: What makes me worry? What do I fear?

14. The test of money: How important is it to me? What do I do with it?

15. The test of value: What is most important to me?

16. The test of influence: What difference am I making in others?

 17. The test of companionship: What kind of people do I prefer to be with?

18. The test of speech: What do I like to talk about?

19. The test of time: What do I use it for? How well do I use it?

and finally:

20.  What goal should I have for 2012?

Reflecting upon what I have or have not done is a great way to seek what I want out of life and a great beginning to set goals for the future.  In 2011 I completed my Masters degree from Boston University, which was a huge goal and a huge relief after all of the energy I put into my studies.  I then put my Masters thesis into practice by beginning The Art Junction in March of 2011 as a community-based art education project for the rural community that I live in.

Kevin Casto, Self portrait during grad school, digital collage, 2010

One of the goals I have set for this year is to open my studio back up and begin regular work in painting and drawing.  I am well on my wayI closed down my last studio in the spring of 2006 and was in my last exhibit October of 2006 at Cleveland State University.  Studio time had to take a break.  I had to allow my family to have first priority for the past several years as we built a house, moved, dealt with family health issues, and endured graduate school. The goals that I have now embarked upon are daunting, and I know that running the Art Junction, as well as restarting my studio, is a major stretch.  I read in my devotions the other day a great quote from Calvin Miller who states, “Nothing is more beautiful than people trying to accomplish some great thing in the name of Christ.  These see themselves as weak, but we should never pity them.  Those who hold any vision too great for them to accomplish on their own must rely on Jesus.  For those are most blessed whom life reduces to such utter weakness that they cannot manage on their own.  But watch the weak!  See how they tremble and trust. What! Do these who have no strength still dream of conquering the stars?  Yes.  Their dream is reasonable, too.  They have been made capable by his power.” (The Christ We Knew by Calvin Miller)

So as I challenge myself I want to also challenge you: to allow the Master creator to guide the artistic endeavors of your life; to invite Christ to fill your empty canvas.  I know it’s not easy and we will make mistakes and fail, but in our weakness He is able to do His will.