More than a decade ago, Candace Castle moved back home to St. Joseph, Missouri, to take care of her ailing mother. Castle had been living in Atlanta, working in the fashion industry. Upon moving home, however, she returned to her artistic roots (she received a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Florida State University), depicting her small town and its environs in a series of paintings. “I realized how fantastic St. Joe is, in terms of scenes to paint,” she says. “I had this impression that interesting subject matter was someplace else instead of my back yard.” Her resulting series, Sketching St. Joe, comes from a mix of en plein air watercolors and studio paintings. Castle cites John Singer Sargent as an inspiration for her watercolors, noting the fast and immediate brushstrokes in his landscapes. “My focus now is finding the beauty in your surroundings instead of thinking it’s somewhere else,” she says.
Castle’s family has lived in St. Joe for generations, and in returning to paint its historic landmarks, she has become immersed in her family’s rich stories as well as those of her town. St. Joe is known as the home of the Pony Express and the place where notorious bank robber Jesse James was killed. “My great-great-grandparents sold milk to Jesse James when he lived downtown, before they knew he was a criminal,” she says. “I’m sure a lot of families have Jesse James stories, but that’s ours. We even invited him out to our farm for target practice, and my great-great grandmother said, ‘He was a perfect gentleman.’ When they finally realized who he was, I’m sure everyone was shocked.” Castle chooses to paint sites of historical significance, places that live in the collective memory of her town. “I’m interested in storytelling, so maybe my work is more a sort of visual journalism.”
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