By : Bailey Julian and Faith Oak
Among a sea of students hurrying through the halls to their next class, a few flashes of color in bottles and shoes stand out to passersby. Intricate designs of nature and Disney are hidden on practical accessories, painstakingly detailed by a steady hand. At Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC), one way students have learned to express artistic creativity, despite limited access to professional resources, is through everyday objects and mediums.
Shoe by shoe, senior Gianni Romanelli has been making a name for himself on campus since junior year. Like many other students of his generation, he developed an interest in brand-name athletic products as a child, and has recently implemented an artistic twist to start up a small business. With an understanding of his own natural aptitude for art, Romanelli was inspired to transform his talent into a relevant and unique style, and he made a smooth transition from murals to Nikes.
“I started painting shoes when I fell in love with the sneaker game. When I bought my first classic Air Force Ones, I figured they were plain and everyone else had the same colorway,” Romanelli said.
After doing research on the right materials and paints to use, he quickly came up with his first pair, which followed a California theme with the state grizzly bear and the classic Hollywood sign. Since then, he has been bold in experimenting with new techniques and taking risks with his designs. His favorite pair involved burning the Nike symbol with a lighter and painting over it to create a more intense, fiery effect. However, he noted that his most popular request among customers is a wave design.
In order to get their shoes painted, students can drop off their shoes with Romanelli and together discuss a design with him. He draws out a draft of the design and tries to picture how it would look on the shoes, and after preparing the surface he uses leather paint to create layers of color.
“The coolest things behind each shoe is that it reveals each person’s personality and individuality, so I just thought it was pretty cool to design art for them,” Romanelli said.
Senior Chloe Petersen, another frontrunner in this trend of renovating practical objects with an elevated level of artistry, picked up her practice after seeing the popularity of Hydro Flasks at school.
Since the beginning of the school year, Petersen has produced Disney-themed bottle paintings for Hydro Flask owners. She was initially inspired by Pinterest to paint a bottle as a gift for a friend, but her creation was a hit and she quickly realized she could make a profit. As a Disney enthusiast, most of her designs entail classic silhouettes, movie scenes, and beloved characters such as Rapunzel from “Tangled,” Lilo and Stitch, and Merida from “Brave.”
Depending on the project, on average one bottle takes about 12 hours to complete. As her service grows in demand, Petersen has had to pick up the pace of her work to keep up with requests, but she never misses a detail.
“I think my favorite part is focusing on the little things, like adding gold paint to reflect the light. Or doing little stippling and grass effects is fun. For me, I just enjoy the process, so if I’m proud of it I know it will pay off,” Petersen said.
Ultimately, her motivation stems from both her love of art and the creative control she has over the bottles she paints. The excitement customers show when she reveals the artwork to them is just as thrilling as the process of making them.
“I would love to keep doing this in the future. I don’t know if it will become anything bigger than this, but it’s fun in the moment. It keeps me busy and productive, and someone else is happy because of it,” Petersen said.
Throughout high school, teenagers are given the chance to explore and develop their passions, as well as the opportunity to consider the ways in which their skills can translate into careers. Romanelli and Petersen are two examples of students who have found a creative outlet in their personal possessions and have successfully expanded their hobbies to a school-wide scale.
While both students see their growing businesses as a fun pastime, the initiative they have taken to profit from their passions is admirable, and they plan to take it as far as they can.
“Overall, I just enjoy creating, designing, and developing, so as long as I pursue something along those lines, I will be happy,” Romanelli said.