Posts Tagged ‘art educator’

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.


…A cabinetmaker’s son

His hands were meant for different work

And his heart was known to none

He left his home and went his lone and solitary way

And he gave to me a gift

I know I never can repay (Fogelberg, 1981).

“Every individual’s sense of identity is rooted largely in his or her place within various groups.  Nearly every individual belongs to several groups, whose missions and memberships may or may not overlap” (Gardner, 1995).  When I look at the life and career of Charles Edward Casto, I see a multi-talented individual who was never satisfied with the status quo, but always pushed himself and those around him to be the best, exploring new creative solutions to life’s problems.

Charles Edward Casto was an art educator, sign painter and entrepreneur; he still works as an artist and is my dad. I will examine him as an exemplary model of a creative life, an on going work-in-progress.

Charles, “Chuck” to his friends, was born February 11, 1933 in Spencer, West Virginia to Raymond and Ethel Casto, the youngest of three boys.  Growing up in the Great Depression in rural West Virginia, life was hard and opportunities were scarce, but his parents always provided for all of his needs.  Life was not easy, but he did not realize that he was poor because most of his family, friends and neighbors were in similar circumstances.

Individuals do not develop merely by existing, or growing older, or becoming larger; they must undergo certain pivotal experiences that result in periodic reorganizations of their knowledge and their understanding.  A developmental framework can be applied as well to an individual’s production over time (including artistic ones) (Gardner, 1990, p. 3).

Being the youngest at home, Charles occupied his time with his interest in art and, through hard work and self-determination, developed his art abilities through a personal work ethic modeled and handed down by his parents. He used his artistic curiosity to create and build many of his toys with the aid of his father, who was a carpenter and cabinetmaker, which allowed him access to various sizes and amounts of scrap wood.

This reminds me of Gardner’s ideas on “situated learning…engaging students in meaningful projects” (1990, p. 49).  My dad’s projects were useful and personally motivational for artistic production that was characterized by “various forms of knowing including intuitive, craft, symbolic, and notational forms” (p. 49).  My dad would also follow around the local sign painter when he was not shinning shoes in the barbershop. The sign painter was very personable, allowing my dad to watch him paint and ask questions regarding his craft. Dad respected him very much because this man had lost part of his right arm and would use his injured arm to hold the paint can and climb ladders while holding his brush with the other hand.  Dad was impressed as a child that this disability did not hold the man back in pursing his craft.

The watchmaker of Switzerland, Norman Rockwell, 1958

In relating a description of his public school art experiences, Charles explains, “There were no art classes or teachers,” but because of his interest and demonstration of art ability he was always chosen to help work on special projects or posters for the school.  When he was in high school, there was a Spanish teacher who had an interest in art, and she would allow my dad and another girl, Margaret Fields, who also had art talent, to work on art projects at the back of the room when they had completed their class assignments.  They were called upon to create posters for clubs and community organizations and to create decorations for dances at the American Legion.  Charles’s artistic influences were the illustrators/artists who painted the covers of The Saturday Evening Post, such as Norman Rockwell.

Vygotsky states, “Learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers” (Vygotsky, 1978b, p. 90).

Attending college was the next stage in Charles’s life.  He wrestled with the decision of whether to follow a calling to the ministry or to pursue a career in art education.

Weber (2000) states, “For many people, the absence of spiritual belief is like a missing identity; there is a void, something to be filled or restored” (p. 205).  The process of growing up and finding our identity is a lifelong process that begins in our childhood as we seek to make sense of the world we live in and our place within that world.  “Often, spiritual forces within us show themselves through a sense of purpose” (p. 204). Many people are drawn to religion, the arts or other pursuits to help them make sense of the journey they are on in life.

Breaking Home Ties, Norman Rockwell, 1954

Charles’s art professor, Mrs. Eunice McDonald Meadows at Alderson-Broaddus College, had a guiding impact on his decision to follow art.  She was an artist/teacher who prepared him with a foundation in the fundamentals of art.  She was a realist in the American Regionalist style and guided him through his initial exploration of painting, drawing and sculpture.  One of the highlights of his time with her was the annual trips to the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, after two years Mrs. Eunice McDonald Meadows left Alderson-Broaddus College, and the art department was closed.  Charles made the decision to transfer to Glenville State Teachers College where he completed his art and education degrees and met his future wife, Beulah Beckner.

Montgomery (2003) states,  “Locke saw children as neither intrinsically good or bad but as a product of their environment which had to be shaped by adults for the children’s own good” (p. 64).  Charles began his teaching career in Parkersburg, West Virginia in the fall of 1955, teaching junior high school art and social studies.  It was a difficult year of teaching inner city students who had little supervision and guidance.

Many of his students were from the Salvation Army Orphanage.  For a first year teacher it was an eye opening experience.  The school served breakfast and lunch to the students, and he had eight students leave school due to pregnancy.  Charles experienced a population of students new to his experience of growing up. “The environment or lack of a structured household really impacted these junior high school students in my first teaching assignment.”  Charles completed his first teaching assignment, was married and drafted into the United States Army in the spring of 1956.

Two years of service in the United States Army was a new experience for Charles, leading him miles away from college and the public school classroom.  He had the opportunity to tour Europe and visit many museums and cathedrals that he had read about in college, including the Louvre Museum in Paris.  He was also able to put his art skills to work in the army, being called upon to paint signs, create logos and use his talent in unexpected ways.

After completing his army service Charles obtained a teaching position in Logan, West Virginia, where he taught art and social studies.  This was not a pleasant teaching environment.  Logan, West Virginia was in the heart of coal country, and art was not considered essential to the curriculum, so dad only taught art part time.  The other difficult factor was that the majority of male students did not deem education as important, and most quit before graduation to work in the coalmines.  Many of the students bragged to my dad that when they quit school they would be making more money than he would with a college degree!  After completing the 1958/1959 school year, Charles obtained a teaching position in Willard, Ohio where he began the art program in the Willard Exempted Village School system.

“One can become a direct leader in one’s own domain only if one has earned one’s disciplinary stripes through indirect leadership” (Gardner, 1995, p. 81).  Beginning in the fall of 1959, Charles began to build and develop the art program in the Willard School system.  “Willard was a small town when we first moved here; it was still a village, and we were lucky to find an apartment to rent.”  He began teaching junior and senior high school art classes.  He enjoyed the students and liked the small town atmosphere.

After much initial success, dad inquired about expanding the high school art classes to a full time four-year art program. The principal and superintendant were skeptical and did not think it would work or that there would be enough interest.  Charles asked the state art supervisor for help in creating a four-year art program, and the supervisor gladly volunteered to spend a weekend with him writing a curriculum for this program.  Dad said they had to turn students away the first year because they ran out of seating since so many kids signed up to take art!

Eisner (1998) states, “The act of creation -does not follow an unalterable schedule but is a journey that unfolds…a conversation between the worker and the work” (p. 84).

In the ensuing thirty years, the high school art department became a full time teaching position; a full time junior high school art position was created and within a few more years an elementary art program was begun.  Charles enjoyed teaching, and the students enjoyed art because it was such a new experience.  Having art shows and exhibits and working as technical/art director of the theatre program were some of highlights of his tenure as art teacher.  Watching students develop their skills over four years and pursuing art in college and as a career has been very satisfying to Charles.  He states that there is not a week that goes by that he does not hear from former art students who enjoyed his classes. Charles states, “I have had more students continue in the arts as a career than the athletic department has had athletes make a career in athletics.”

Examples of Art by Donald Moore,

Former student and military illustrator Don Moore states, “The biggest influence was his patience with me. I was always doing Roman soldiers or Custer. He would put me to work on other projects. I gained knowledge without any noticeable pressure. He made art class fun for me and got this young mule to drink from the well.”  Don is an award-winning illustrator who designed the 2007 Christmas tree ornament for the Pearl Harbor U.S.S. Arizona Memorial that hung on the White House Christmas Tree and is now in the National Archives.  Former student and founder of Axtell Expressions! Steve Axtell states, “Mr. Casto was the best teacher, and an incredible influence in my creative life.   He was relaxed and easy going but he could crack the whip when he needed to.   He recognized my talent but always kept pressure on me to work “clean” and “neat”.  It was my biggest challenge and I don’t think I ever really got it.   He worked it out for me to draw caricatures of the teaching staff for the yearbook.  Mr. Casto was a dream teacher and became a friend over the years.  His faith in God was so evident in his character, you always knew you could trust him.”  Puppeteers, magicians, clowns and entertainers around the world, on television and in motion pictures, have used puppets created by Steve Axtell.

Examples of Steve Axtell’s work

These are just two of his students who have entered the field of arts; many others have become art teachers, painters, and commercial artists.

Charles retired from teaching in 1985 to pursue his other interests.  He continued to paint signs and began designing and painting billboards for Kilbane Advertising.  He also pursued his interests in magic and ventriloquism by creating magic tricks for magicians to use and created by hand several ventriloquist dummies.  He also designed a feathered flower that wilts for magicians and clowns to use and began a small business making and selling them.  After retiring from billboard painting in 1998 he returned to his childhood interest in watches and began buying and repairing pocket watches like he did with his granddad as a boy.  He also returned to woodcarving and carves walking canes, incorporating animals and nature into these productions.

Charles suffered a heart attack in November 2003 and his pace has slowed down to working on one project at a time and meeting friends for coffee, along with spending time with his wife, family and grandchildren.

Charles is my dad, the largest artistic influence in my life. When I was little I always tagged along to watch and see all of his activities, from sign painting to gallery exhibitions.  I visited his art room and learned to clean brushes the proper way. I was encouraged to follow my dreams and to be creative.  I always thought his shoes were too big to fill, so I never thought of becoming an art teacher; I followed a career in photography that was encouraged by him.  When he was preparing to retire from teaching, I suddenly woke up to the influence and difference he made in the lives of his students and decided that was the career move I needed to make.  My journey has shadowed my dad’s by way of entering the military, working with him in sign and billboard painting and choosing a career in teaching.  The greatest gift that he along with my mother, gave me was that of adoption and making me a part of their family.

…A cabinetmaker’s son

His hands were meant for different work

And his heart was known to none

He left his home and went his lone and solitary way

And he gave to me a gift

I know I never can repay

A quiet man of music

Denied a simpler fate

He tried to be a soldier once

But his music wouldn’t wait

He earned his love thru’ discipline

A thundering velvet hand

His gentle means of sculpting souls

Took me years to understand

I thank you for the music

And your stories of the road

I thank you for the freedom

When it came my time to go

I thank you for the kindness

And the times when you got tough

And papa I don’t think I said

“I love you” near enough

The leader of the band

Is tired and his eyes are growing old

But his blood runs thru’ my instrument

And his song is in my soul

My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man

I’m just a living legacy

To the leader of the band (Fogelberg, 1981).


Axtell, S. (December 7, 2009). Personal communication.

Casto, C. E. (December 5, 2009). Personal communication.

Eisner, E. (1998). The kind of schools we need: Personal essays. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.

Fogelberg, D. (1981). Leader of the Band (Recorded by Dan Fogelberg). On The Innocent Age. (Record) Location: Epic Records.

Gardner, H., & Laskin, E. (1995). Leading minds. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1990). Art education and human development. Santa Monica, CA: The J. Paul Getty Trust; The Getty Center for Education in the Arts.

Montgomery, H. (2003). What is a Child? Woodhead & Montgomery (Ed.), Understanding childhood and interdisciplinary approach (pp. 46-73). Southern Gate, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Moore, D. (December 7, 2009). Personal communication.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978b). Interaction between learning and development.  Mind insociety: The development of higher psychological processes (pp. 79–91; M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Weber, R. J. (2000). The created self: Reinventing body, persona, and spirit.  New York: W. W. Norton and Co.