Experimenting With Experience
From my early days as a young creative, I’ve always felt at home expressing myself through art. Whether it was drawing fabulous, over-the-top portrayals of women (this was 100% the beginning of my obsession with drag), painting ornately decorated creatures from the depths of my imagination or simply vandalizing my Nonna’s newspapers with a standard Bic pen, I was always bringing something creative to life.
I started seeing art as a legitimate means of expression when I was enrolled in the De Paoli Studio of Art (Windsor, Ontario) at the age of 10. Here were three Italo-Canadian artists that had built a small community, supporting a new generation of artists in YQG. The family-run studio’s approach to teaching allowed students the space to openly explore their inner artist through the application of traditional techniques and media.
I spent every Saturday at the studio, and over the course of my 4 years of attendance, I learned the fundamentals of drawing, painting, sculpture and the culture of art. At the time, I saw the De Paoli Studio as an outlet, a fun time to get to make art and focus on something I liked. My experience during that period of my life would unknowingly inspire me 20 years later to pursue a similar path in my own career.
When GIOGRAFIK launched in 2017, my focus was business-to-business, client-based creative. For those of you who have been following my story, you know that I have worked within a variety of industries, ranging from corporate agency gigs to fashion collaborations to branding startups. Creatively speaking, that had been my world up until the summer of 2018.
Let’s go back in time a bit to the core of why I’m writing this post. It will totally mess up the timeline I’ve started to carve out, but that’s how I tell a story... rest assured, you’ll understand where I’m going by the end.
When Samantha Walker, owner of The Art Lab Windsor, entered my life back in high-school, we bonded on our bus rides to class over our love of reggae, art, The Simple Life and our mutual desire to explore the world beyond the existence we knew in Amherstburg, Ontario.
Now, almost 15 years later, I can without a doubt say that our art-loving, geeked out teen selves would be proud for our accomplishments.
In the Spring of 2018, she was ready to make her lifelong dream of opening an art studio come true. My relationship with The Art Lab began when Samantha asked me to brand the business.
The concept is new to the Windsor Essex region : an art-focused studio hosting a wide range of workshops and art camps for kids and adults alike. She’s built a business making art accessible to the everyone. Her vision was to eventually partner with various local businesses to allow them a space to promote their services or products while teaching specific workshops to the public.
Some of the other businesses and artists who’ve hosted their own workshops include Well Baked Sustainable Foods, DREVMZ, Witch & Whimsy, Andal Lopez and Tree’s Essential Oils to name a few.
The workshops facilitated by these entities have range from fashion design, crocheting, graffiti, bath bomb making and culinary workshops. The Art Lab’s partnerships have been an indisputable showcase of small businesses across Windsor Essex, proving that there is room for everyone and when we work together and support one another, we all win.
The Grand Opening took place in July 2018, and she hasn’t looked back since. YQG has fully embraced her business and its mission statement : that art is for everybody.
That same month, The Art Lab partnered with the University of Windsor’s Lancers Summer Camps as the official art camp instructor. I worked with Samantha to facilitate the workshops over the course of the week.
Long story long, this was the gig that ignited my (unbeknownst to me) love of working with kids.
I’d always been told I was great with kids, the eternal big kid / goof… and on some level I knew this to be true. Being given the opportunity to bring my personal experience to the drawing board (pun most definitely intended) in order to show young people that there are no limits to how they can creatively express themselves has been nothing short of magical.
It was more than just having them make something to pass the time. Seeing the struggle within some of them, afraid to even begin a drawing or painting was reminiscent of a younger Gio. The parallels between that experience and how the roles were reversed when I was in classes at De Paoli really stood out in those moments.
Witnessing their realization that there were no rules was something I truly can’t describe. I was able to see the light bulb turning on a few times that week, which was beyond fulfilling as an art educator. Delivering the goods for clients has its merits, and I won’t ever take that for granted. This was a different kind of special, revealing another facet of myself as a creative, something I knew in that moment would be part of my life moving forward.
I knew by the end of that week at the Lancers Summer Camp that this was something I could very well see myself introducing within the world of GIOGRAFIK (see what I did there). I did a Google Earth view of my life, looking at the landscape of the past and the influence that the De Paoli family had on me : their special approach to teaching youth about connecting to themselves through their artistic expression had a profound effect on me which came full circle as I realized I could do the same for a new next generation of miniature artists.
Since then, I’ve been hosting my own workshops at The Art Lab, which has become my second home. I’ve become the official drawing instructor at the studio, and have begun introducing other classes as well.
I can’t thank Samantha enough for allowing me the space to not only facilitate these workshops, but to follow another path within my career, something I never considered before.
She has not only brought joy and expanding imagination to hundreds of kids and adults since the opening of The Art Lab, but to artists and local businesses as well. We all benefit from having her and the Lab in our lives.
I am beyond excited for what the future has in store regarding this new chapter in my career. As I start to ramp up 2019’s scheduled workshops and classes (in and out of The Lab), I wanted to write this as a salute to where this inspiration came from, the beautiful relationship I have with Sam and The Art Lab and will continue to inspire as I have been inspired in my own life.
The artist’s version of paying it forward.