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Meet Sandy Castaneda Acero of Tsuki Shining in Southern LA county

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sandy Castaneda Acero.

Sandy, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve had a passion for creating art since I was a young kid. I spent a lot of time drawing and making crafts for my own satisfaction and for the people around me. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I took a more serious interest in art. I would sell small drawings to people in school and I was developing a strong interest in animated film and video games. I came to appreciate the impact that visual art can have on myself and on others and I wanted to be part of the creative process. However, I was really unsure whether I wanted to pursue art or a career that would guarantee more stability, and that caused me a lot of stress when thinking about college applications and about my future.

Ultimately, art was my only passion that stood out despite my other academic strengths, and I was in a desperate need to find something fulfilling in my life. I was lucky enough to have full support from my teachers, friends, and family, so I applied to CSULB and eventually got into the Animation/Illustration BFA program. I’m currently getting ready to work on my thesis film so I can be on my way to graduating during the Spring 2021 semester.

Life as an art student has its own set of challenges, but I haven’t regretted my decisions at all. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work on a professional project for the city of Long Beach through one of my classes and I’ve recently realized that I have an interest in experimental animation and video game art as well. I’m excited to see where my interests lead me next as I work on personal projects and get myself out there.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As a first-generation college student, I put a lot of pressure on my self to succeed in an environment that requires a lot of confidence and hard work in order to “make it”. Unfortunately, for me, that meant developing a deep fear of failure that led me to the point of not taking risks because it felt safer or it felt better than disappointing the people close to me. I think that mentality kept me from developing a sense of self in my work early on. I also tended to compare myself to my peers and felt that my work wasn’t enough to get me anywhere, as much as I enjoyed doing it.

As I was forced to pour more creativity into my projects, however, I learned to loosen up and be comfortable with new things and be confident in expressing my personal self in my art. It was definitely a long process of unlearning self-degrading behavior, but I am proud of how far I’ve come and I’m the most optimistic I’ve ever been about where my art will take me in the future!

Please tell us more about your art.
For the first part of my college years, I was really focused on animating and character design. However, I started to develop an interest in drawing environments as well. I think I find a lot of satisfaction in setting a tone for a scene or visual and bringing it together with characters. If I were to be more specific, I feel like I am successful in expressing an idea or emotion through the use of color in a scene. Because of this, I feel like I strive in visual development work and the use of color, especially in my art is very apparent.

Although I don’t have much to show of it as of now, I did some animation projects in experimental mediums (stop motion) last semester, and I found that I really liked it! I feel like experimental media is the most effective way to express the personal stories and struggles I want to share with others, since it doesn’t necessarily have to follow a set format. When I am able to see myself in a personal project that I’m happy with, it’s like a tiny act of self-love that gives me the confidence I need to thrive as an artist.  I feel confident that I can take these interests further in my future projects and make it a part of my artistic identity as well.

I occasionally do small commission work outside of school, which is usually for personal purposes, but I appreciate engaging with people interested in my art. I am also preparing to start development on my thesis film, the subject of which is not yet set in stone, but I am hoping I will be able to use experimental methods with it and learn a lot from it.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I think that as an artist, I have been incredibly lucky to have support from the people around me. I know that there are large negative misconceptions about what it means to be an artist, and it causes people to be discouraged or for people to discourage others. I also don’t exactly have the most privileged life, but I do consider myself lucky that I am in a comfortable environment to focus on school. Being a college student isn’t exactly a stress-free thing, especially for those that struggle financially or have other situations affecting their studies. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t take what I have for granted.

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