Calisse Basada (she/her) is a multifaceted artist who throws herself into every new skill or craft she learns- and there are many, including crocheting, clay sculptures, felting, and more! Calisse fell in love with caricature via a request for 288 (!) dog caricatures, and is now melding her long-time work as a dog trainer to her many skills as an artist, with healing at its heart. Read on for more about Calisse's art journey below!
Q: Where did you get your start, and how long have you been a caricature artist?
A: I’ve always been an artist but about 7 years back I started drawing cartoony dogs with big heads because I thought that’s what caricature was. I got a request for 288 dog caricatures as Christmas presents for clients at the dog training company I worked for. They wanted them done in 2 months. It was a lot of work and I didn’t charge nearly enough but I did it! I discovered that I really loved drawing caricatures and I wanted to do more. The following year I discovered ISCA through a YouTube channel I was watching. Without knowing anyone or anything I bought a ticket to the convention, hopped on a plane to Arizona and have been hooked ever since.
Q: Where do you currently work, and what work are you doing?
A: I currently run my own company Sweet Paws Path where I work as a Death Doula, create pet memorial artwork and offer creative healing classes.
Q: We’ve been living with COVID for quite a while now. How have you adapted to these changing times whether it be in your professional work or your personal life?
A: I’ve adapted personally in that I am not as worried about uncertainty. I have a greater appreciation for the life lessons taught through less than ideal circumstances, and to embrace the rough waters of life with a more open mind. I’m always reminded of a saying “calm seas does not a skilled sailor make.” I just learned how to sail and I’ll keep sailing.
Q: What is it about caricature that you’re passionate about?
A: I love how you can reflect a personality and essence through the art of caricature, and the art form itself can be expressed in a variety of unending mediums. Caricature has a breath of freedom ingrained into it and I thrive on that freedom.
Q: You are such a multi-skilled artist in so many mediums- crochet, embroidery, sculpture, painting, puppets, felting- the list goes on, and you’re amazing at all of them! How do you approach learning a new medium, and how do you balance the time to do them all?
A: Haha! Yeah, the list is so much longer than that and it keeps growing. I have a bordering on obsessive need to learn new things that I find interesting. When I discover something that sparks an interest I can’t just enjoy it, I need to understand it, I need to know why it works, how it works, and what the creators experienced when doing it. Sometimes the obsession goes just past getting above mediocre at a skill and other times it’s one that sticks around that I continue to cultivate. When learning a new skill I reach for every book, video and tutorial I can find. I join groups and ask a lot of questions and spend weeks or months cultivating the skill until the obsession has been satiated. How do I balance the time? I make time. If a task is important to you, you’ll make time. Sometimes it’s getting up earlier or going to bed later. It might be skipping out on Skyrim or missing a tv show. I look at the list of things I want to do and I make time for them.
Q: How do you overcome creative blocks?
A: When the blocks arise, I take the time to sit with myself and embrace what I’m feeling and experiencing. I don’t judge it, condemn it, or try to shut it out. I accept it and observe the block mindfully. I remind myself that the resistance that shows up in the form of a block reaffirms that I’m on the right path. The more fear I feel and the stronger the block is, the more I know I need to do the work. Every time I experience that resistance I know that all I have to do is show up to my work. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, I make sure to show up and do it, rain or shine, in sickness and in health. Show up and do the work.
Q: Tell us more about your business, Sweet Paws Path. I think it’s so cool that you’ve found a very fitting intersection between your work as a dog trainer and as an artist. What gave you the idea to start this business?
A: I have been training dogs for about 20 years and over the years I’ve received calls from past clients asking what to do when they have to say goodbye, how do they know when it’s time, what to expect etc. Recently in my personal life we had to say goodbye to three dogs in an uncomfortably short amount of time. With Covid, between my husband and I, there was a shocking number of human deaths in our families that left us blindsided.
All of these experiences started my own healing journey, since at the time I was ill equipped to deal with so much death. I just had no idea how to deal with death or how to help others deal with it.
Going through my own healing I began weaving together numerous experiences that had unraveled over the past few years. I saw a need in the world that was not being met. I still wanted to help pets and their owners but in a different way. I got certified as a Death Doula and began to focus on pet memorial art and here I stand today, with Sweet Paws Path offering senior pet care and coaching, support for pets and their owners during the death and dying process and guided healing for afterwards. At this point in time I have helped numerous owners with senior dog training so their old dogs could stay active and mentally stimulated, presented seminars about death work in the pet industry, coached and supported owners during end of life transitions for their pets, and helped people on their healing journey through art.
Q: What are some joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a business owner?
A: Learning how to do marketing is not as fun as a new art skill. Growth is slow especially with a business where most people have no clue what it is you do and even the job title is unknown to most. There’s a lot of public education that goes into this but everyone is very supportive once they realize what I offer. Often times I hear comments like “I wish I had known about you when so-and-so passed”. And that reaffirms for me that I’m doing something that’s important, is needed, and wanted.
Q: How do you define success as an artist or as a person, and what do you hope to accomplish?
A: I define success when I’m able to help others feel something through my work or help them heal and move forward in some way. I would like to go nation wide with my death work and my artistic healing work because I think there are a lot of people out there that need it.
Q: What hobbies or passions do you have outside of caricature or art?
A: I love writing poetry, specifically haikus. I’m currently working on a book of haikus that I want to publish one day. I also enjoy dabbling in music. I can sing, have played the guitar, violin and piano.
Q: Who are your favorite women artists in caricature or in related industries?
A: Maria Picasso opened up my eyes to the world of abstract and showed me a new way to see things which led me to expand my creative horizons into so many new mediums. Maria has been so kind and generous with her time and it’s meant a lot to me. Meeting her was a huge turning point in my life and altered how I experienced the world of art.
Q: Thanks again for participating in WIC's Artist Spotlight! Where can we follow your work?
A: Thank you for having me!
The website for my pet business is sweetpawspath.com and has an Instagram under the same name.
For all other art you can find me on instragram @skiblits