James Castle: the job of describing a place

James Castle was born deaf in Garden Valley, Idaho. He attended a school for the deaf for five years but resisted his instructors' efforts and was sent home at about age 15. He refused to learn to read, write, or sign, but was obsessed from an early age with artmaking. Encouraged by his family, who describe him as gregarious and highly inquisitive, Castle took to making art inspired by the people and places of his past and present.

Other than occasional use of crayon and chalk, Castle preferred making his own ink of stove soot and saliva. His pens and brushes were sharpened sticks and wads of fabric. His color washes came from laundry bluing, makeup and crepe paper soaked in water. His canvas was scrap paper or cardboard, available in unending supply and variety from his family's general store and post office. With those rudimentary art supplies, he developed expert technique and masterful composition and perspective.

Castle devoted himself to making art for more than 60 years. Although briefly “discovered” in the 1960s, he was largely unrecognized during his lifetime. Castle left behind more than 20,000 artworks.

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