Meet the CHamoru illustrator Paul Mendiola of Familian Lay (Cruz) and Tanda (Mendiola).
Q: When did you first get into art?
A: My maternal grandfather discovered my talent when I was four years old. He saw my sketches and drawings on pieces of paper on the dining table. He couldn’t stop raving about my art to his friends and our extended family. I was known as the artist in the family so I was busy doing free work for everyone.
At school. I won art contests. I was offered at one point to attend an art program on scholarship in China but my parents turned it down.
In middle school, I took my first formal art class under Tina Flores and Wayne Brown. Through them, I did my first mural on the hallway wall just outside the classroom.
Q: Did you have any formal training?
A: I attended and graduated from the Guam Adventist Academy, which had a limited art program. There I did my first art piece under the direction of Mrs. Gayle Yost. It was a parrot on the classroom door. As an undergraduate student at La Sierra University, I enrolled in art classes that helped refine my art skills.
After middle school, I took two years of art history because I was surrounded by so much of it in Southern California. My weekends were spent visiting museums and art exhibits.
Q: Do you find art to be therapeutic?
A: Creating art is my great equalizer. I was focused on raising my three sons and my full-time dental hygiene job of 20 years. At the onset of the pandemic, I was laid off for a brief time and things were hectic and uncertain. During that time, my soul searching led me to do more art, through the encouragement of a close childhood friend, Leonard Villagomez. He remembered that I was an artist and asked me to do a piece for him and his family.
I shared some of my pieces online through social media. I just couldn’t get enough of the positive responses I got from my network and even strangers.
On most days you could find me in my home studio, especially late at night, reflecting and producing art on varying subjects. I find that after a full night of painting, I feel so refreshed and accomplished upon waking. That’s without the aid of coffee.
Q. Any final words?
A. Visual art is my avenue to express my love for my beautiful island home, for my family and friends who have supported me through the years and my God who has truly blessed my life. There is nothing more satisfying than hearing someone tell me that my art made them feel happy. To be able to invoke such a strong emotion is empowering and that is what motivates me to keep creating and sharing.