Paulicia Bender began her love affair with art at the wise young age of five. This is as far back as she can recall being fascinated by the various characters her mother would doodle on pieces of paper, taking requests from Paulicia and her sister to write their names in perfect penmanship or to draw different animals and objects. Interested in exploring her own abilities in transforming real life into ‘cartoons’ and encouraged by her mother, Paulicia began making her own doodles and experimenting with different ways of drawing the same images. With art, she could create worlds of her own making where grass could really be blue and every character was their own unique being. Later, art became a way for Paulicia to escape the awkwardness and loneliness she felt growing up as a very dark-skinned child in early-80s Georgia. Quiet and shy, her habit was to stay as unnoticeable as possible to avoid the attention of bullies. However, she continued expressing herself through drawing in a way she couldn’t with words and her talent became very noticeable within the school district and city of Savannah, earning her many accolades and awards.
Paulicia’s love of reading and hours spent hanging out in her favorite spot- the public library- lead her to discover the works of artists such as Picasso, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keefe, and the fantastic illustrations of Inger Edelfeldt in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. As she grew and discovered more about her history as a Black woman in America, she became inspired by the art of Kadir Nelson, Faith Ringgold, Billy Bill, and Dr. Yemonja Smalls- to name a few. Paulicia began feeling more free to express more of herself, her life, beliefs, and values through her own artistic skills. She was not only able to create art and images around her own home that inspired and empowered her family, but she made canvases, wall art, and greeting cards for friends and family as well, bringing joy into the lives of others. She began creating art she wish she’d seen more of growing up, outside the enclave of the projects her family lived in or within her other childhood homes. Paulicia understood the importance of representation and creating artistic space for people who, like her, didn’t grow up seeing their likeness displayed in the everyday world. She wanted to help fill those voids, so she began creating greeting cards that depicted the interests and cultures of those who didn’t fit the mainstream. The uniqueness, customization, and quality of her all-occasion cards and party invitations soon gained a following and Penned by Paulicia, her greeting card business, was born. She believes cards are a way for an individual to express exactly what is on their heart, and they’re too personal to be a duplicate that’s being given to several hundred others when we’re all so unique. Paulicia remains dedicated to making cards that all people can see a bit of themselves in, and clients often tell her the cards are gifts by themselves. When they receive “a Paulicia”, they know extra love and thought was put into the gesture.
From book and calendar illustrations to multimedia wall art, greeting cards and canvases, Paulicia enjoys creating for a variety of reasons and seasons. She spends anywhere from 1-3 hours creating just one of her cards, which is assembled by her own hands, comes with a coordinating envelope, and may include leaves, petals, or other tiny details hand cut by the artist herself. Cards are blank on the inside, giving space for your own words. Gloves and frequent handwashing were practices of Paulicia’s way before Covid-19 to prevent the transfer of oil and other debris from the artist’s skin to paper as she works, since certain materials can become discolored this way. Completed cards are allowed to set for 24 hours and sealed in their own protective sheath.
Paulicia is working to own a multicultural art studio, a place where she can not only sell her imaginative creations but also have space for children to explore and learn about diversity through art. She currently lives in Kansas with her children, including two very large, lovable feline fur babies.