Interview with an artist: Giovannina Colalillo

King’s own celebrated illustrator, artist and art educator Giovannina Colalillo (pronounced Jo-van-nee-nah Cola-lee-low) sat down with King Country Magazine to share her views on teaching, inspiring and creating. Check out the interview below:

KCM: From your resume it looks like creating art and educating others has been a passion of yours since before high school. What is it about teaching that appeals to you? Tell me about your generosity of spirit when it comes to sharing your talents

Giovannina: Since high school I always had three things I loved; art, teaching and psychology. I have made a point of teaching art in the way I would have liked to be taught. I pulled things I liked best from my most valuable art teachers and utilize them in my art classes.

Since high school I always had three things I loved; art, teaching and psychology. I have made a point of teaching art in the way I would have liked to be taught. I pulled things I liked best from my most valuable art teachers and utilize them in my art classes.

Teaching allows me to share my excitement, and the passion of seeing art come alive while creating, with people of all ages that want to create, learn how to express their ideas and tell stories through art.  I have been teaching since 1992.  Last year I was struck with the best praise any instructor loves to hear, here in Schomberg, a former art student of mine,  told me that she is now in University studying visual art because of the impact and influence I had on her in my art classes. I in turn told her, I still use a copy of her artwork of a children’s book she created, to show as a sample in my art classes. My motto in teaching art is, Art is learning to see things and then interpreting them through your art by sharing with others what you are seeing and how you seeing them.

Jonah and the Wale, Teach me Torah book, Behrman Publishers
Noah’s Arc, Teach me Torah book, Behrman Publishers

KCM: Much of your art combines the bold colours of a vivid sunset and the flow of water. Is this an intentional element of your style? Is there and underlying message?

Giovannina: While painting I lose myself in the mesmerizing rich colourful flows and swirls. Emily Carr has been one of my biggest influences. Her work demonstrates how to transform things that are stagnate and stiff and paint life into them by finding the rich colours, passion, and movements of energy and life they exude.

The underlying message that drives my artwork is to draw you in with colourful dynamic concepts that tell a story. I became an illustrator because I love the idea of telling stories through my art. As a child I loved reading and losing myself in the beautiful illustrations, trying to fit the story in the image. The book mobile would come by once a week before our local library was built and I would sign out as many books as was allowed and I could carry. I am still connected to my local library here in Schomberg where I go regularly to order and sign out materials. I was selected to teach art classes in their artist-in-residence program connecting art with reading through the art of illustration. From what I see a lot of your work celebrates the feminine and agriculture… i.e. mother nature. You also choose to live in a quiet village, in a country setting. What draws you to where you live. What is it about Schomberg/King Township that you really connect with.

Very early art piece created in 1988
Portrait of Photo journalist Bryon Johnson for CAPIC Double Vision Competition, 2014

Giovannina: As an illustrator I am honoured to have the opportunity and responsibility to use my medium in the media to portray, promote and depict females and cultural diversity in strong, confident equal and positive roles, especially to young women and men, who are growing up influenced by images in the media all around them.

When I became a mother, I saw the world through a mother’s eyes  and wanted to raise my children in a beautiful place with lots of nature around, surrounded by supportive, friendly, nurturing people in a community that looked out for each other. Schomberg was the perfect place, having all the benefits of a small village yet close enough to go into the big city.

Mother Earth
Terra Mater (Mother Earth)

KCM: You seem very involved with a variety of community groups and non-profits. Please talk about which ones you are involved with and how this enriches your life and connection to where you live.

Giovannina: As an artist and member of the King Township community I joined Arts Society King to contribute and get involved artistically in my community. Arts Society King allow as me to both give and receive at the same time by sharing my passion and knowledge of the arts by teaching various visual art programs to a variety of ages; and participate and attend many of the events and shows where I meet local artists and art lovers, to communicate and share ideas for arts in the area.

CAPIC, The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators keeps me connected through programs, seminars, events and social media with other illustrators, photographers and image makers in the communication arts industry.  I am currently working on a piece for their annual completion Double Vision, where a photographer and an illustrator are paired up to create portraits of one another with a strong conceptual message.  I am humbled to say I won the first place for the popular vote in 2015 when I was paired with another illustrator Barbara Spurll- concept/title “Streaming” and won 1st place 2016 when I was paired with Photographer Bo Huang concept Qi the energy that runs through Yin and Yang. CAPIC has given me the opportunity to learn more about the industry and reach out and meet other members all around Toronto and the GTA.

Won 1st place popular vote, 2015 CAPIC Double Vision
paired illustrator Barbara Spurll- “Streaming”
Won 1st place popular vote2016 CAPIC Double Vision
paired with Photographer Bo Huang
concept Qi the energy that runs through Yin and Yang

My strong belief that art and an artist can be a catalyst in learning, drew me to teach arts infused learning through he Ontario Arts Council, Arts Education programs in various schools in York region, Durham region and Toronto school boards. I have brought the project to Schomberg PS, Nobleton PS twice and St Mary’s Catholic School the grade 7 students 2015-2016 created a permanent mural The Evolution of Art on the schools south wall on the ground floor.


St Mary’s Catholic School, grade 7 students 2015-2016 created a permanent mural “The Evolution of Art”
Photo at Mural unveiling during Art Through Time, May 9, 2016 show with Mayor Steve Pellegrini

As a woman, mother and feminist, and advocate for women’s rights, sharing and solidarity, I have been honoured to have been commissioned to create the International Women’s Day poster and pin for the past seven years for the Ontario Federation of Labour. The proceeds of the posters and pin have been donated to fund these programs in Ontario, that affects people in the King area as well:

• Equal Pay Coalition’s Equal Pay Day Campaign
• CBTU Summer Youth Program OFL sponsor five girls to attend
• OCBCC- Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day
• Northwestern Ontario Women’s Centre• Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)
• Co-sponsor launch of Women’s History Digitizing Project. The website will be launched in October, Women’s History Month

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