San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico painting prodigy, 8, turning heads

From the print edition

Roberto Cantillo Salas started to draw before he could walk. At age 3, when he began to pen the walls of his family’s Puriscal home in the Central Valley with creative sketches, his father knew he’d better invest in drawing paper and a set of colored pencils for his son. 

Now, five years later, the young Cantillo has won several awards, including the top prize at the National Student Art Festival in 2010. In 2011, the young artist participated in the EmbrujArte, a culture and art fair in Escazú, southwest of San José. This year he was invited to the International Art Festival in Costa Rica.

His paintings depict the natural flora and fauna of Costa Rica.

“It’s something really extraordinary,” said his father, Wilberth Cantillo. “He’s going to be one of the best painters in the world.” 

Child Painter 2

Roberto Cantillo’s art work. Courtesy of Wilberth Cantillo

The polite, young prodigy said he usually paints for two to three hours per day. A piece of his artwork can take between several weeks and several months to complete, depending on the size and complexity. But Cantillo said the activity relaxes him and he much prefers it to watching television.

“I’m very proud of my work, and happy too,” he said.

Meanwhile, he still finds time for schoolwork, and he says he someday hopes to study biology to complement his artistic vision. 

On days he doesn’t feel like painting, the young artist hangs out in the yard with friends or rides his bicycle. The child painter has created such a name for himself, though, that even when he wants to blend in with the rest of the crowd it can be hard.

“Walking down the street, people stop and want to ask him about his work,” his father said. “Others are always wanting to chat with him on Facebook.” That buzz has created a market for the paintings, which are selling now for $100-$300. 

Someone in Germany recently learned of Cantillo’s work, and bought a painting.

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