Last updated: April 11, 2023
Artist, author, bilingual speaker, pastor, entrepreneur—all these words describe Joe Castillo. Yet, none of them adequately encompass his versatile skills or his passion for encouraging others.
Creative from childhood—his mom claims his first solid food was a Crayola Crayon—Joe has continued to nurture his artistic roots, using sand as his medium to communicate truth. His greatest adventure in storytelling, called SandStory, is a live-art motivational story performed to powerful music and projected for a stunning visual effect. In his SandStories, Joe creates art by drawing in sand on a light table.
Over the course of 32 years and more than 15,000 live events, Joe has performed his SandStories in 45 states and 27 foreign countries. He has performed for Pope Francis, presidents, kings, world leaders, TED, CBS, NBC, and BBC. He also reached the finals on America’s Got Talent.
“Sand happens to be one of the most abundant materials on the face of the earth,” Joe said. “God often used sand as an illustration of abundance. The Scriptures tell us that Christ stooped and wrote something of great significance in the sand.”
Using his artwork, Joe speaks, inspires, motivates and relates ‘life story’ applications that have touched the hearts of thousands of children, teens and adults. Ironically, his adventure in creative storytelling began with a trip to the store for mulch.
While walking through the store, Joe discovered a bag of sand that had spilled onto the floor. People had scuffed through it, leaving images behind.
“I got home with the mulch, but I also had a kitchen light fixture, table legs and a bag of sand,” Joe said. “Using this makeshift light table, an overhead camera and a couple of handfuls of sand, I began creating powerful, fluid illustrations that were projected on a screen for the audience to see.”
However, his confirming moment occurred at an Asbury Seminary President’s Retreat. As the images unfolded under Joe’s fingers, he noticed the audience had become deathly quiet. The lights came up as he completed his depiction of Christ holding out his hand to Doubting Thomas, and the audience released its collective breath.
“In the silence God seemed to be saying, ‘This is the way. Walk in it,’” Joe said. “Since that day, many people have expressed similar emotions, leaving me to conclude that God can and often does choose the most humble and insignificant tools to accomplish His work. After all, it’s just sand.”
Since then, he has developed a number of SandStories, which use intricately crafted illustrations to teach biblical truths as they unfold. The most famous of these is the Face of Christ. In this piece, a number of illustrations depicting Jesus’ life combine to create a larger illustration of the Savior’s face. His artwork has been sold worldwide and has touched the lives of hundreds of people. Stories of the lives impacted by his artwork have been compiled in his book The Face of Christ.
Joe’s drawing skills are not limited to the sand. In addition to SandStory, Joe offers ArtStory, which is a live drawing on a four by eight feet mural. Joe narrates his mural drawings with inspirational messages.
Joe has a repertoire of SandStory and ArtStory presentations of many inspirational, spiritual and biblical themes and stories. He can customize his presentations or even create original, custom pieces to tell unique stories for any audience.
A native of Mexico City and fluent in English and Spanish, Joe grew up surrounded by art and the cosmopolitan culture of an international city. In his teenage years, a gospel message presented by a Christian chalk artist brought him to faith in Christ. Upon moving to Florida, he attended Ringling School of Art and graduated from Florida Bible College. Starting his career as a Christian businessman, he founded The Advertising Library, a successful advertising agency in Knoxville, TN. After 21 years in advertising, he returned to school and received the M.A. in Biblical Studies and the M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary. He pastored a church in Richmond, KY, for five years. He also served as the Executive Director of Christian Hospitality Network for two years. He now travels worldwide, speaking, drawing and performing at corporate events, churches and conferences. Joe is the author of SandStory, Love Letters, and The Face of Christ.
He and his wife, Cindy, have four grown children and eight grandchildren and call Atlanta, GA, home.
Joe Castillo shares practical advice based on his spiritual and creative journey as an artist, pastor and encourager.
What do you wish someone had told you before you started your ministry?
- Spend less time judging people’s theological affiliation and more time listening to their story. (Ask more questions).
- Save the memory of the times God works in you and share them with others. (Keep a Journal).
- Give your best time to God, your wife and your family. (In that order).
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
- Remember, it ain’t about you.
- Don’t give satan too much credit for your mistakes.
- If nobody is following, you are not leading.
- If people say nice things about you, just say thank you, and let it go at that.
- Be thankful always. Like really thankful.
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