Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life

Bianca Giarola – learning to blossom

January 31, 2024 Claire Waite Brown/Bianca Giarola Episode 92
Creativity Found: finding creativity later in life
Bianca Giarola – learning to blossom
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
Perseverance through practice and imperfection
As a child Bianca Giarola loved drawing, partly influenced by her aunt – who encouraged her and her siblings to explore their creativity – and encouraged by her father – who would buy her those wonderful big colouring sets. However, as she entered elementary school she found that art was not particularly valued by her teachers and society in general, and she eventually stopped drawing altogether.
Writing was a passion for Bianca – she always wanted to write a book – and journalism seemed the right path, followed by digital marketing. However, Bianca found herself struggling with mental health issues while working in her high-stress corporate job in Milan, and it was during this time that she stumbled upon a YouTube video about using calligraphy as a tool for improving mental health. Yet it is not calligraphy that Bianca is known for now, but beautiful botanical drawing.
Find out how Bianca learned to draw and why she believes that through practice and consistency anyone can learn, just like she did. To that effect, Bianca has also now fulfilled her dream of writing a book that proves her philosophy.

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Researched, edited and produced by Claire Waite Brown
Music: Day Trips by Ketsa Undercover / Ketsa Creative Commons License Free Music Archive - Ketsa - Day Trips
Artworks: Emily Portnoi
Photo: Ella Pallet

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And I hate, now that I think about it, that when I was a child, I was already thinking about how to make something profitable. I really much hate this. My mental health got so bad that my dad, he called me one night and said, if you're not coming back by the end of the month, I will come to Milan, pack all your stuff and get you back home. We are supposed to be terrible at stuff at the beginning. We have to allow ourselves to be bad. They think that it's impossible for them to draw it, that it's talent. It's not talent. I really, really, really want people to know Hi, I'm Claire, founder of Creativity Found, a community for creative learners and educators, connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them do so with workshops, courses, online events and kits. For this podcast, I chat with people who have found or re-found their creativity as adults. We'll explore their childhood experiences of the arts, discuss how they came to the artistic practices they now love, and consider the barriers they may have experienced between the two. We'll also explore what it is that people value and gain from their newfound artistic pursuits, and how their creative lives enrich their practical, necessary, everyday lives. This time I'm speaking with Bianca Girola who loved drawing in the anime style as a youngster but became discouraged when this wasn't considered of value and gave up drawing altogether. How is it then that Bianca now has a huge following for her botanical drawings and has written a beautiful book that teaches you how to draw flowers? Let's find out! Hi Bianca, how are you? I'm fine, thank you. Thank you You're very welcome. Please tell the listeners about Right now, more drawing on physical objects than on paper. I develop my creativity on paper usually, so on my sketchbooks, on paper for prints and such. But right now I'm starting to develop this fondness for drawing on glass, drawing on fabric, drawing on tote bags and such. So I'm really enjoying this new kind of creativity. I'm using different mediums as well like paint acrylics which I'm not used to use but I'm still certainly using my old ink pens which are my absolute love Brilliant. Oh, that's so exciting. I do like the idea of the different ways of applying. We'll talk some more about that, I'm sure. So you've spoken about pen and paint there. Were creative activities, for example, drawing and painting, were they encouraged in you as a child at They were. I have a very big family, like very, very, very big family. And one of my mother's sisters is an architect and a designer, an interior designer, and a designer of everything. And she never had children. So she took us as children of her own. And she encouraged us to pursue drawing and creativity. and taught us a lot of English also because she had to travel. So she was my very first introduction to English as well. And she let us draw so much and everywhere, like on paper, on the walls, on books, everywhere. Her home was such a beautiful place for us to express ourselves. And not only with drawing, but we created, you know, like theater pieces and singing and dancing. It was like a very big, big workshop, but she was very, very, very encouraging. And also in school, like I was in kindergarten. And in kindergarten in Italy, at least, drawing is very much encouraged, and also coloring, so much coloring. It was great. But unfortunately, when you switch to elementary school, all this kind of stuff gets taken away. Because the kindergarten part of life, it's for children to Get accustomed to being away from home so they make them do all this fun activities and they go. in the wild, doing their own thing. But when you are in school, at least when I was in school, because I know right now things are not like that, but when I was in elementary school, it was very strict. I went to a private school, so it was super strict, like we have to learn counting, writing, reading, cursive writing, which was, I don't know if they still teach how to write in cursive, but for us, it was Nightmare with so much information and we only had one hour of. art in a week, so it wasn't very encouraged. Also because when I was little, children were more shifted towards sports. If you didn't play a sport when you were little, you were not seeing very well. So we were encouraged to play football, volleyball, swimming, dancing, whatever, but we had absolutely had to play a sport. So I don't know if I fell out of love with throwing, or if I completely forgot about it, or if I didn't have time to really focus on it, but I one day completely stopped drawing. And it was really sad because I remember that my dad, until I was like seven, eight, he still liked to buy me, you know, those gigantic sets of markers, pencils and stuff. And I remember that I never touched the last one he he bought me. So yeah, I completely stopped drawing. But I remember I enjoyed it a lot while it lasted. I remember taking every single drawing competition that I could find, especially when we were on vacation. we were in those, you know, family hotels where they have the mini club, and there's always a drawing, there was at least, always a drawing competition, and I always entered and always wanted to be the one to win, and I was really upset when I didn't end up winning. But it just kind of drifted away at some point, especially because I remember that I started to like the anime style. I used to draw a lot of seascapes. I was so in love with seascapes, mermaids, and those animals and that kind of stuff. But I was born in 1989, so I'm an early 90s kid, And at least in Italy, the only source of entertainment was anime in the television at the time. So all us children were obsessed with Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and all that kind of stuff. And I really, really, really liked it. I was in love with Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon, to this day, is one of my absolute favorite things. Pokemon was another great addiction of mine at the time. But somehow, even if it was okay for us children to enjoy this Japanese style of animation, it wasn't really encouraged for us to draw in that style, because it was so far from the classical way of drawing, especially for us in Italy. Growing up in Italy, it's beautiful. It's amazing. You're exposed to so much art, to the best art that there is in the whole world. The whole world comes to us to see our art, but at the same time, it's so hard for us to differentiate ourselves and like something different more than you actually like the classical Italian style. So that was never really encouraged. And I remember drawing some, you know, Sailor Moon characters, Pokemon characters and stuff. But when people kind of pressured me to go back to the normal Italian style, I end up Yeah, that is sad. You're not the first person to talk about drawing those characters as well, or at least characters from childhood. We had a chap last year started off by, he was obsessed with Smurfette and he would just draw Smurfette. And myself and another guest were talking about drawing Garfield when we were younger as well and copying those other styles. And like you say, they're all completely different styles and I can see how you then, it's not quite so interesting to look at the classics. So when you stopped all that, but you were doing sport, what was your plan educational-wise? What did you think you wanted to do when you grow up, When I stopped drawing and I started to practice my writing, I became enamored with writing and I liked expressing myself through words so much. I'm not really good at expressing myself through, you know, spoken words, but I love, I loved writing so much. And that was also an okay thing to do apparently in my family. So my dad is a journalist. So, I mean, it was the natural thing for me to do. So when I started to realize I had my ways with words, I started to say when I grew up, I want to be a writer. I never really wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to be a writer. Because I remember that when I was drawing, my drawings were a still from a story I imagined in my mind. So, I wanted to write stories, like I've always wanted to write stories, a novel, being a famous novelist, but that's, again, not something I could do because, I mean, I think everywhere in the world there's, you know, this stigma and that if you want to be a writer, you can't be a writer. There's so much struggles you have to endure, and you can make a living out of it. Even J.K. Rowling had Harry Potter shut down six, seven, eight times before she could actually publish it. If they shut down Harry Potter, could I, with my ideas, create a book that will instantly sell? So the only profitable ways, and I hate now that I think about it, that when I was a child, I was already thinking about how to make something profitable. I really much hate this, but the only thing I thought was profitable using my writing skill was to do what my father did, so I became a journalist. So since I was in, I think, early middle school, I've always wanted to do that. In middle school, I already knew which university I would take because that path was there for me. I never really questioned it. I never really found anything that interested me more than that. I briefly wanted to study psychology, But again, you can do it because you can really make a living out of being a therapist. Right now, mental health, it's a great topic. There's not much stigma anymore, and the people who are right now studying psychology, have bright futures ahead. But in the 90s, there was no talking about mental health, really. So it was something like for people who are really, really, really in a bad mental space. So again, I couldn't do it. So I stick to my safe plan, which was going to the university and get my journalist degree. I did it, passed with the maximum grade possible just to make my father happy. So I think that I enjoyed studying journalism. I really, really, really enjoyed it. There are much, much harder topics to study. So journalism was really fun. It was hard, I will admit. So if anyone is thinking about taking a journalism degree, don't think it's a walk in the park. It's not. it's absolutely not a walk in the park. You have to put a lot of effort and cry over every single one of your sentences. So think about that. So I got my journalism degree and I ended up working in a very important newspaper. But when my contract ended, and I wasn't renovated for the following years because the newspaper was shifting to the online version. I saw the transition from the only paper to the almost only online versions of newspapers, which is not so long ago. We are now used to see papers online all the time, but they started to shift only 10 years ago, so not long ago. And yeah, I was one of the victims of the cuts between the paper and the online versions. And so I started to work accidentally in social media because I graduated with a paper on how you construct your popularity via social media, especially via YouTube. which was, again, amazing because I got to travel to New York, to Rome, to a lot of places to interview those YouTubers, the rising stars. It was great because papers were really interested in this new kind of celebrities, so I got to create my whole thesis on that. And since I became somehow an expert on, somehow, an expert on how to manage your social media to have success, a lot of people were asking me advice and if I could look at a YouTube channel, if I could look at a Facebook page, Instagram wasn't even a thing at the time. So I found myself having these clients without any marketing background. And of course I could write great copies because I came from journalism, so the copy was right, but I ended up almost winging all my marketing strategies. I had no idea what I was doing. I was trusting my gut that that was an amazing idea and we should do that. So I found myself thinking I can do do this, like I can continue taking clients without having any credential. I'm scared of selling people something I'm not. So I went back and got my bachelor's degree in digital marketing and communication. So Again, finally, I had my degree and I went to work for a very big corporation here in Italy and I enjoyed corporate life a lot. I know that a lot of people hate corporate life, but I loved corporate life, like I really, really, really loved it. And to this day, I invite people who live the corporate life because they don't know the struggle of us freelancers out there. They really, really don't. But there's like when you pursue marketing in Italy, You have this idea, this dream, that if you're not doing marketing in Milan, you're not really doing marketing, that it's very easy to do marketing everywhere. But the people who really are good, they work in Milan. I don't know if there are other marketing cities around the world, but for us, it's Milan. So when an agency in Milan called me, I dropped my beloved corporate life and went to Milan, working to have my dream job. At the time, I really thought that was my dream. I loved doing marketing because it was a way for me to be really, really, really creative and express myself. So I really loved it. And I went to Milan. Milan was horrible. Honestly, never pursue your dreams. It's like never meet your idols. It's the exact same thing. But Milan was amazing. Like I loved what Milan gave me because it gave me great friendship. It made me grow so much as a person, as a professional, and taught me so much, really. It taught me so, so, so much. But at the same time, the work-life balance is non-existent. You work almost 24-7. My boss said that if I couldn't, I had too much on my plate, I could easily work at night or during the weekends. There was no way I could have someone else on the team to alleviate the job. No. We Where few people and we have to do it there were no other ways so my mental health really started to deteriorate when my phone buzzed. I had like a micro heart attack like it was like. every time. I was scared to see what was the notification on my phone because I was always hyper aware that something could have happened. My boss lost a file in the drive and wanted me to absolutely find it because I don't know why bosses can never find anything on Google Drive. You can have the best and the most organized Google Drive ever, they will never find anything in it. Yeah, I spent a lot of time linking But you were just on a very high alert and high active lifestyle. How did you feel about that? Because you've just said that anybody that's anybody in marketing works in Milan and for you to go there and then go, oh, this isn't actually what I wanted. How did that make you feel? And then how were you able to change It made me feel like I was the wrong one, like I was the one that wasn't able to fit in the standard, that there was something missing in me that maybe I wasn't really cut for it. It made me feel really, really sad and made me question myself a lot because i've always been an overachiever i always wanted to be excellent at everything in life and finding myself for the first time in a situation i couldn't really manage and starting to think Maybe this is not what I want was a shock for me, truly, because I never even allowed myself to think, maybe this is not what I really want to think. Maybe I was on autopilot until now. And I never really stopped and asked myself, Bianca, what do you want to do with your life? Is this really what you want to do? or are you doing this because you want a career, because you want the money, because you want to impress your parents, because I don't know who I wanted to impress at the time. But my mental health got so bad that my dad, who never, ever, ever in his life said anything about any of my decision, He called me one night and said, if you're not coming back by the end of the month, I will come to Milan, pack all your stuff and get you back home. And that was a wake up call because coming from him who never said anything was, yeah, a wake up call. So I, you know, I raised white flag, I admitted defeat, which was very hard for me because I never admitted I lost anything in life. But yeah, I don't even know if at this point if I lost or if I gained something going back. But yeah, I decided to What was framed initially in your mindset as a loss That's your framing and society's framing, where in fact, when you look at your life now, you know that's absolutely not the case. And I love that story about your dad. It's good to have somebody else to be able to see that in you, to tell you and be supportive of you. So even if you're thinking, is this right? Is this wrong? Somebody else is thinking the same thing. It gives you that support, doesn't it? Yeah, Yes, I went back home and back home I had no home, nothing because all my life was in Milan. So I actually went back and lived with my dad, which was not ideal because when you're an adult living with one of your parents, it's nuts. Honestly, nuts. But of course, I'm grateful my dad gave me a place to stay while I was gathering my thoughts and piecing my life back together slowly. At one point, my mother, who has her own company and she works in the sustainable and organic agriculture field, which is Completely different from what i was doing she said look we are expanding our line even further so. We are about to hire a new marketing manager would you want to be our marketing manager she said i know this is not the field of your dreams. But if you want there's a place for you i said yes. So another struggle, because I've always wanted to do something in which my parents weren't the one paying me. So I always valued my independence. And I know now that there's nothing bad in working in the family business. A lot of the most important businesses in the world are family run, but somehow I was really not in. I wanted to do something for my own and of my own, but I had nowhere to work. My mental health, again, wasn't, I wasn't really fully recovered, so I wasn't sending CVs and resumes around. So I said, why not? let's try. And it was nice because my mom gave me full independence on my work. And I had my team, I had everything. And I was, for the first time, the boss doing stuff. And I came to have, you know, so much responsibility, which I never had before in Milan because my boss was really controlling. but my mom let me do my stuff, so yeah, I had a lot also of freedom to do everything. I want, so I'm really happy because now we launched a new line, everything is going really well, so I'm grateful and I'm also grateful because because of her I could move to my own place. I had, I recovered, I met my soon to be husband, so my life settled and also the kind of work that we did left me with enough freedom to also pursue my drawings again, and so I'm really, really grateful Well, that's a perfect segue. Thank you very much for that, Bianca. Tell me how, then, and why drawing came back into Let's go back to when I was in Milan. I was diagnosed with depression at the time. And so as the nerdy girl I am, I was all day on YouTube trying to understand what was going on with my mind. And one day, a random video popped up in my YouTube homepage, which was tools to deal and help with your mental health. And one of those tools was calligraphy. And I thought, why not? It came in a time in which the bullet journal community was on the rise. So everything about calligraphy, bullet journaling, and drawing was really, really, really on trend. And so I saw a lot of my friends doing calligraphy, a lot of people doing stuff and workshops, and it was really on the rise. So I thought, why not? I've always liked writing, so why not? Let's try it. So I started practicing calligraphy, but since I am left-handed, it was a struggle because, you know, the calligraphy pens and calligraphy in general is meant to be performed with the right hand. The tools are not made for left-handed people. So I did my best. I tried. I enjoy it a lot, honestly. Especially I liked buying all the pens because I'm a little bit of a stationery addicted. Just a little bit. I promise. And so I loved buying all the pens, all the colors, all the sketchbooks, the notebooks, the papers, and the washi tapes, and everything. So I also started to follow a lot of people on Instagram, which taught calligraphy and everything. And I started to notice that a lot of people were incorporating drawings, illustrations, and flowers in their calligraphy pieces. So I thought, why not? If I have to do my piece, I want to make it look good. So why not learning how to do flowers? What a great idea, Bianca! So after watching a lot of YouTube tutorials, because I'm absolutely self-taught, I discovered that I wasn't enjoying doing the quotes and the calligraphy part, but I was really enjoying the flower drawing parts. So I ditched calligraphy immediately, and I was the first among my calligraphy friends, because I made a lot of calligraphy friends on Instagram, and I was the first one to switch to botanical drawing. So tutorial after tutorial and i have to thank miss shayda campbell so if anyone wants to learn how to draw flowers i owe everything to miss shayda campbell her tutorials on youtube are amazing so thank you. And she taught me everything, honestly, everything I know she taught me. And I started to draw and draw and draw and draw every day. And here we are now. I started to post my drawings on Instagram. I saw that people really liked them. and my profile gained some traction, and in the Italian community, I was known as the one who draws flowers. Because no one else was doing it at the time, so I think that helped me gaining a little bit of You've told me as well about how the beginning stages and later and learning and you have shared your earlier pieces and your later pieces and redrawn them and stuff. Why Because when people look at a finished piece of art of someone who has drawn that subject for a very long time, they think that it's impossible for them to draw it, that it's talent, it's not talent. I really, really, really want people to know that talent is something you make bloom. It's not something that you are born with. Like you are born with this little seed inside, but it's you that you make this seed bloom into something. So I want to show people how much my first drawing were horrible. I was about to say a bad word. You're terrible. Because we are supposed to be terrible at stuff at the beginning. We have to allow ourself to be bad. And this comes from someone who never allows herself to be bad at anything, but you have to be bad. Like there's always an ugly stage in anything. Like if you do something and you're super good at it from the start, great, amazing. I envy you so much, but that's not me. And that's not 99% of the people who come to a creative medium, whichever it is, especially in their adult life. You have to practice. You have to practice. You have to put in the work and you can do it. You absolutely can do it. I want to show people that if they want, they really want, They can't, because I'm not a classically trained artist. I'm just a random person who followed some YouTube tutorials and fell in love with the subject and put in the effort and ended up writing a book about it. They can. They absolutely can. I really want people to understand that anyone, really anyone can draw, but I also want them to understand that no, it's not talent. It's consistency. It's I love that. I love two things about the book side of things. You do say, by the way, listener, I edited Bianca's book and it's a very lovely book. But you say a lot in there about practice and consistency, and that comes up a lot, which I really like. But I also love your style of writing, which then takes us back to the stories that you wanted to write and the writer that you wanted to be. Maybe it's a slightly different type of book, but you have a very eloquent, lyrical writing style, even when you're writing these step-by-step instructions in this teaching text on how to draw the flowers. You actually teach people as well, don't you, in real life? That's important to Yes, it is, absolutely. That's one of the reasons why I loved writing the book, because I put a lot of my experience in teaching people how to draw flowers in the book. So I already knew what people needed, because My page blew up during lockdowns. Of course, a lot of people were at home and wanted to find ways to pass the time. And so I taught a lot of people how to draw flowers, which was an amazing experience. And I was so excited when finally lockdown ended and I could take some in-person workshops and seeing people actually draw something in front of you because you taught them how to. It's an experience that fills me with joy, especially when they start and they're so discouraged and they say, I can never draw. I'm sure that my flowers will suck. I will never draw like you and you're so good and blah, blah, blah. And when they finish their one-hour workshop, they look at their own flowers and said, oh, I guess I could do it. And that's so amazing because I really want people to recognize they have the spark inside them. They have the seed. And I always say to them, now you are aware that there's the seed inside of you. It's your job to water it every day and make it bloom. And I promise it will bloom in the most amazing flower, but you have to take care of it. I really love teaching. I think that teaching is one of my, of my goals. I love, really, really love working with adults because they listen to me, but I especially love working with children. I love teaching them how to draw flowers and they are so good at it. They come up with such amazing color combination I could have never thought in my life. They add petals in places that petals will probably never grow, but the flowers make sense at the end of the day. And they are so proud and so filled with joy. And coming from a place in which I was never really encouraged, like drawing when I was really little, I love being able to contribute to the love Yeah, and I was going to mention that because you've talked about a number of things that have changed in a very small amount of time. For example, the emphasis on mental health being not talked about at all in this. It was absolutely diabolical as to now where it's much more understood. Also, now you're teaching the children and they're obviously coming to you for classes, so perhaps do you see an attitude within Italy around art that is different to the attitude that you experienced when you were a child and kind of Yes. I think that, I don't know about the UK, but here in Italy, the Montessori method has blew up in the past six, seven years. So the Montessori method, the parents are encouraged to let the children do what they want. and pursue their own desires and explore their passions. So a lot of children are more allowed to explore the love for drawing. But I don't know if it's the subject, because there's still this idea that flowers are something for girls and not something for boys. I actually had a very heated argument during one of my workshop because one kid wanted to attend my workshop and his father didn't want to because flowers are something for girls and I should have teach him something else because he's a boy. And I said, no. And I asked the child, what do you want to learn? Do you want to learn something else? Or do you want to learn how to draw flowers? And he said to me, I want to learn how to draw flowers. And I said, you're absolutely welcome. Flowers are for everyone. Beauty is for everyone. And reluctantly, his father left him. So he ended up drawing flowers, which is amazing. But I don't know, I think that drawing in general is still seen as something more for girls, which is honestly stupid because if you go in any museum in the world, like 99.9% of the paintings that are up there are drawn by male. All our history books are only filled with men, men created the most beautiful pieces of art in the world. So why is art something for Yeah. Well, well done to you for standing up and letting that boy do his class and draw his flowers. That's brilliant. What are your flowery plans for the future, near Well, I have some plans, honestly. Talking about the children, I would really love to write a book for children, like a children's manual for drawing flowers. So, simplified shapes, fun compositions that they can draw for, you know, cards for their moms, for their friends, that would be great. I would love to create coloring books as well for adults and for children. And also, which is the biggest, biggest dream I have right now, I would love to have my own stationary line. So have notebooks pens washy tapes anything with my flowers and my designs this actually started because when my mom usually or my brother also. wants something, you know, some cards or anything they have to add to presents, they always come to me and say, why can you draw me something, please? And I always say, damn, if I had my own stationary line, I will have so many cards that I can just give to you. So yeah, greeting cards and get well cards. I love your cards and everything will be in my line because I really don't want to still draw cards. Yes, absolutely. Oh, I also want to, you know, make stamps. If I had a stamp, I could, you know, stamp my drawing and write something and the card is done. So everything comes from a place of practicality for me. I want to create something that's useful for me first, and And I don't see a problem with that happening at all, other than, of course, the hard work on I can do it. I can do it. I mean, writing the book was something I could have never picture myself doing all the effort that came with writing the book and the revisions and the pages and the drawings and everything. For me, it feels like I gave birth to a child because, you know, you were there. The process took more than nine months. So it was really a labor of love. And I say, if I manage to write that book, I can do Yeah, you definitely can. It is absolutely packed full of content, not just the instruction, but the extra bits. And I know I'd like Martina and I would come back to and say, Bianca, can we have something like this or can we have a bit more of this to illustrate it and make it look lovely? But it has ended up in being a book packed full of content. So how can You can reach me on instagram and on tiktok the handle is the same it's at be creative lab written bi like bianca creative lab bi creative lab on tiktok and instagram you can write. a DM to me, I'm always online, basically, I'm, you know, chronically online. So yeah, if you want to write directly to me, you can write an email at bianca at be creative And Brilliant. Thank you so much, Bianca. I really enjoyed that chat. Thank you so much for having me, Claire. It was absolutely a pleasure. This is also my very first podcast. Yay! Good for you. Yeah, thank you so much. It was a real Thanks so much for listening to Creativity Found. On Instagram and Facebook, follow at Creativity Found Podcast. And on Pinterest, look for at Creativity Found. And finally, don't forget to check out, the website connecting adults who want to find a creative outlet with the artists and crafters who can help them tap into their

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