SeaTac-based illustrator, political cartoonist and caricaturist, Valerie Gower, describes the production of each piece of art as being “like writing a script for a short film — the plot, the characters, the background and the storyboard all require careful development.” Gower’s interest in drawing began at age five. Her interest in politics also began at a very early age. Breakfast time was family time and it was a time of intellectual stimulation. At breakfast, Gower’s father, a shipping company manager with a photographic memory, would read the morning newspaper with his two children and then would quiz them regarding current events. This early connection between art, intellectual pursuit and politics, has allowed Gower to be very observant. As a result her artwork incorporates careful attention to detail.
In junior high a teacher provided Gower with instruction in oil painting and encouraged her to enter her first art contest. Also at about this time, Gower realized that she liked illustration, especially Norman Rockwell’s work, more than fine art. Although illustration often must be produced under tight time constraints, Gower likes that it always has a clear purpose in addition to creating a feeling.
Upon graduating from high school, Gower followed family tradition and went to Oregon State University where her father wanted her to study the sciences. Her art continued there as she created 44 portraits for her sorority sisters.
Strongly drawn to the arts, she transferred after one year to University of California Santa Barbara to major in fine art. Here her professors described her as “extraordinarily talented”. Subsequently, work, marriage, and parenting caused Gower to lay aside her art for seven years.
Then Gower began a career in illustration. Her first illustration work involved drawing two pillows for Fred Meyer’s. This work was followed by numerous illustrations for Meier & Frank, Bergman’s, Pay & Save, Nordstrom’s, the Bon, and many other department stores in the Portland and Seattle area.
Gower’s first cartoon work was for The Beacon, a weekly newspaper in Ocean Shores, Washington. Through this work, Gower discovered that she wanted to learn more about cartooning.
While in the Los Angeles area, Gower studied under Disney animators at California Arts. Next she studied computer animation in Bellevue, Washington.
In 1992 Bev Cheney (the Seattle based talent manager and agent who “discovered” Brendon Frazier and James Caviezel) saw Gower’s cartoons and referred her to Los Angeles based talent manager, Barbara Wilmott. Wilmott then connected Gower to the Seattle Times where her political cartoons have been published.
Today Gower continues to divide her time between illustration, political cartooning and caricature and portrait work. She regularly produces fashion illustrations for forty-year old Bensons, Fashions, Inc. (woman in purple dress above) in Des Moines and she does episodic illustrations for many other area businesses such as a caricature based logo she has just produced for Holcomb Computer Consulting. She also has multiple political cartoons in development each week and yet makes time for caricature and portrait work at private parties for Seattle area employers such as IKEA, Microsoft and Virginia Mason and at local events such as SeaFair and the Strawberry Festival.
Having already created over 1,000 portraits and caricatures and many illustrations and cartoons, Gower’s passion for creating art drives her on to continue to hone her craft and to seek new opportunities for making even more.
For more information call Gower at 206-438-3904.