Paige Gandara-Valderas has been a caricature artist for 9 years and recently stepped down from the ISCA board of directors and took up the position of Editor of Exaggerated Features! Read on for more about Paige's art journey and check out her artwork below!
Q: Where did you get your start, and how long have you been a caricature artist?
A: I started caricature in December 2012. In 2012 my family and I were living in Floresville TX, which was a little under an hour away from my home city in San Antonio, TX. During my senior year in high school, we moved back to San Antonio in the middle of my senior year. Feeling a little out of place returning back to my home city, I sought out work as I prepped for transitioning into college.
I got a job at a movie theatre downtown inside of a mall — inside of that mall was a caricature stand. I remember showing up to work early just to watch the caricature artists work and do their thing. After much observation, I finally built up the courage to ask how I could learn how to do this.
After a few months of not hearing from the stand of artists — they finally reached out and mentioned that I would be training with them for a few weeks to see if I could be a good fit.
I trained alongside Jeff Pecina — It was only ever him and I working together.
I was eventually hired on, but after just a few 3 months of working, I became a college student and had to shift my life over to university.
…That didn’t stop me from doing caricatures though! I did them in my college dorm hall + events on campus.
And after college, I continued and finally found my way to a traveling caricature company that has given my life opportunities that I never imagined possible!

Q: Where do you currently work, and what work are you doing?
A: Currently, I work as a full-time high school art teacher in San Antonio, TX and I recently got a position as an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University for the evenings. On the weekends and during my off time as a teacher, I do caricature gigs locally and nationally with various caricature companies. I also graduated with my Master’s degree in December 2021 from the University of Texas at Austin. My MA is in Art Education, and I had a joyful time bridging my two loves of art education and the art of caricature. I created a 100 page book titled, “Caricatures-At-A-Glance: A Resource For Art Educators” as part of my research. I plan on expanding the book that I did in graduate school to publish an official copy of this book in early 2023.

Q: Wow!! Congratulations on both graduating and the book! That sounds amazing. What inspired you to write your book?
A: The biggest thing that inspired my book was attending my first ISCA in Memphis TN in 2019. I had always wanted to go to an ISCA convention, but between either being a student and eventually a teacher, it was a hard opportunity to come by. In 2019, I was both a teacher and in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. I decided that year that I’m going to actually and realistically try to make going to a convention possible. After much conversation, email and phone calls, I was able to make it happen with the help of my school admin + college professors. Attending the convention was eye opening. I was so inspired by the level of talents, passions, and so much love/community in 1 room. I came back from that trip and told my college professors all about it. To which they responded, “you know Paige, you can do your research on caricature?” Everything changed and started from there! It was such a cool thing to be able to study an art form that I love so much.

Q: It's really awesome that you have that kind of support and mentorship. Have you found anything that really stands out in your research? Or something you never expected?
A: It's hard to say if there's something in particular that stands out, because honestly my entire experience was tapping into another world of caricature -- bridging the gap between art education and the art of caricature. I guess I can say the most unexpected thing that I can point out was sharing with other teachers about my research... teachers that were not art teachers nor caricaturists. These teachers also said that they would be interested in my book. For example, one theatre teacher said she could use the book when she is teaching character/costume design. She mentioned that she could see the overlap in subject content and explained how it could connect. That took me by surprise because I originally thought only art teachers and/or caricaturists would be interested in my book. I never thought that it may also appeal to others as well.

Q: That is really interesting. I imagine your book will be an incredible resource for many. I can't wait to read it. What advice would you give to someone starting out as a caricature artist?
A: I would say give practicing caricature time. You will never feel "ready." You can learn and train under someone else as much as you want, but the real learning takes place when you're in action drawing live behind the easel. Also, do not be afraid to experiment. I feel as if sometimes we naturally have these ideas for a sketch, but stick to our comfort zone/safety net and stay in our box. Break out of the box! I also wanted to share that if you ever get an opportunity to draw alongside other artists, DO IT! Learn from them and be open to critiques. You don't necessarily have to take every piece of advice, but listening to others input and/or advice can help be a game changer and allow you to think about certain topics in ways you wouldn't have before. I also recommend connecting to the caricature community. Follow artists and take some time to internally study what you see/what you like. This could help you pick up bits and pieces of concepts to add to your own bank of knowledge and technique.

Q: That's great advice. How do you manage your work-life balance? What are some tips you can offer, or something that you struggle with?
A: Work-life balance is still something that I feel that I am trying to figure out, but I have gotten better about it with age. Being a teacher, caricaturist, and student all at once, while also being a daughter, sister, girlfriend, athlete, and friend to many, it can definitely be challenging! Caricature is a huge part of my life and art practice, so at the forefront of it all, I always remember that and try my hardest to be an artist at heart and at the core of my being. The way that I balance all of the hats that I wear is to use a planner and WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I have to plan well in advance to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit into a day, week, month, year. I typically know what I am doing every day and try to make sure that I squeeze in recharge time. Recharge time for me looks like: going to the gym, drawing for myself and not always for others, and spending time with my partner on the weekends. I usually like to dedicate a huge portion of my weekends for me and not work-related things. Once I leave work (as a teacher), I try to leave it there the best that I can. As far as balancing caricatures, I typically try to pick up weekday evening hourly gigs -- they are short and sweet and not incredibly intrusive to my personal time. For longer, retail gigs, I schedule those well in advance so that I can prepare for travel and communicating that time with the people that need to know. And all year long, I leave myself pretty open to sporadic caricature commissions that I can do from home 🙂

Q: I'm definitely like that too. I can't operate without my planner.
What’s the most valuable piece of art or object that you have, and what does it mean to you?

A: Right! We all need a planner if we are always busy.
I think the most valuable piece of art that I have is a collection of caricatures that I did of my family: mom, dad, me, 4 brothers and my sister. I think it has a "Brady Bunch" feel to it. I drew everyone in November 2019, and gifted a tshirt with all of us on it to them for Christmas 2019.
I think this is my most valuable because for as long as I had been a caricaturist, it was the first time I had drawn my family live, and all together.
It also holds a deep, sentimental value to me because of my dad, whom passed away in July 2020.
My dad was always a huge supporter of me and my art my entire life. He loved the drawings and wore that shirt all the time proudly.
I am not too sure if it's a stretch to publish this part, but my dad actually wore this shirt on the day he suddenly passed away. We had all wondered where the shirt was, and we had later found out that he was in fact wearing it at the time he passed away.
As a family, we all saw it as an act of love that he had for all of us -- which brought even more value to that art piece. We will still all wear our shirts at family gatherings and know that our dad is also there with us wearing it too from heaven.

Q: That is incredible and so sweet. I am so sorry for your loss. Nothing is more valuable than love. It sounds like he loved you very much and he was very supportive of your work. Did the grieving process influence your art?
A: The loss of my dad sort of did the opposite for me (coping and grieving). Normally, art is usually therapeutic for me. In this specific case and dealing with a loss unlike any other, I wasn't sure how to cope -- and I let a lot of my interests go during that time. I feel like I let a lot go so that I could refocus the relationship and core of my family. But my dad was always supportive of my art and encouraged me in every regard. I felt like months after the sudden loss (while also dealing with peak covid and a major surgery), art was set off to the side for a good bit. It was the first time I set it aside like that EVER -- but the circumstances were all so heavy all at once.
Fortunately, I was able to get back into caricature again through commissions and slowly working fairs in early 2021. Working the strawberry festival in Plant City, FL helped to rekindle pieces of me and my art that I felt I set off to the side for so long. I was with friends instead of at home by myself (quarantine), I was able to get drawn and draw others creatively, and found my love and spark again. And through it all, I kept my dad in mind and how proud he was of me to be working around the country doing what I love!

Q: I'm happy to hear you ultimately were able to find your spark again. Who are your favorite women artists in caricature or in related industries?
A: My favorite women artists in the caricature community would have to be Kiko Yamada, Kelly Berry, and Robin Schwartzman. I admire all of them so much, and for very different reasons. For Kiko, I love her style -- I look at her work and it always amazes me how she is able to creatively sketch people. Kelly Berry is such a strong and empowering female in our community -- she speaks her voice both through her artwork, but also through public forums and within the community. Robin, I've only recently gotten to know this past year through being on the board of directors for ISCA -- she is so organized, thoughtful, and adds so much value to the organization with her innovative ideas and dedication.

Q: Thanks again for participating in WIC's Artist Spotlight! Where can we follow your work?
A: My Instagram is @jpaigeart
Thank you for having me!

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