Cameron Gantek of IMI Agency
An in the Mix Feature Interview
Photography by Alisha Gore
Junior Graphic Designer,
IMI Agency’s Junior Graphic Designer, Cameron Gantek, reflects on her residency as an emerging artist at Chateau d’Orquevaux.
Cameron Gantek, Junior Graphic Designer for IMI’s Creative Services Department (CSD), recently completed a two-week-long Artist Residency at Chateau d’Orquevaux. Chosen as one of the program’s Emerging Artists-in-Residence, this residency provided her with the opportunity to engross herself in the French country lifestyle focusing solely on artistic development and personal growth. The residency is creatively ‘self-motivated’ offering a respite from “real” world energy, limited distraction, and an abundance of natural inspiration.
Touted as one of the top 10 most beautiful International Artists & Writers Residencies worldwide, the residency program of Chateau d’Orquevaux was founded by world renowned artist, designer, filmmaker, and writer, Ziggy Attias, with the mission to serve as a vibrant community and home for artists of all mediums, backgrounds, and stages in their creative journey. The ‘self-motivated’ international residency has grown remarkably over the years and has proudly hosted artists from all over the world.
in the Mix: Thank you for taking the time to share your residency experience with us. As a Junior Graphic Designer for IMI Agency, can you share a little about yourself, background, and how your interest in art arose?
Cameron Gantek: I’ve always been interested in art and technology. Growing up, I was always either doodling or playing computer games – it’s funny to think about how directly that combination directly correlates to my job as a Junior Graphic Designer now. I went to college at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, which has a lovely art community and only added fuel to the fire. My interdisciplinary degree path allowed me to focus on all kinds of art – film, studio, graphic design, 3D modeling, game design – which eventually led me to my job here, as a designer in IMI’s Creative Services Department (CSD).
Photography by Alisha Gore
itM: What do you feel is crucial to your growth as an artist?
CG: Having a natural curiosity about the world is what drives me to grow and learn. I was lucky to grow up in the age of the Internet, so whenever I’m wondering “how did they make that?” I am only a few clicks away from learning something new.
itM: How would you describe your artistic style? Do you wish to develop in a particular way?
CG: To be honest, I am a little bit all over the place. I like to call myself a multimedia artist with a focus in acrylic painting. I wouldn’t say I’ve nailed down a particular style, but I love to paint animals, nature, and the figure. One of my favorite things to do is to go to antique stores or thrift shops and find old frames, boards, wooden boxes, etc. and give them new life by painting something new on them.
I really love surrealism and would love to develop my art more into that type of style. Rene Magritte is one of my favorite surrealist artists. I love that his work focuses less on having a profound meaning, and more on evoking a general feeling of intrigue and mystery.
itM: Could you tell us about your creative process when working with various mediums?
CG: Some artists are great at just starting something out of the blue and totally going for it. I am not.
For an artist, I am very analytical. My left brain and right brain are constantly fighting one another. A blank canvas scares me. Whether I’m designing or painting, I always feel the need to have a plan and an idea of a final product. With an idea in mind, I create a rough layout or sketch, plan out my values and colors, and let the process take me from there. My process is mostly muscle memory, but I like to experiment and try new things here and there. Watching some of the abstract artists work during the residency has really helped me loosen up and be less afraid to make mistakes.
itM: How has your career as a designer at IMI evolved throughout the past two years?
CG: The thing I feel has evolved the most is my comfort and confidence. Jumping into the beverage industry with no experience was very daunting at first, and I knew I had much to learn, and still do. Now, instead of mixing up clients and project numbers in my head (Was that project for IHG or HGI? What do you mean Stags’ Leap and Stag’s Leap are two different wineries?), I am pitching new projects, voicing my opinions, and coming up with alternative designs that step outside of the box. It’s a fun spot to be in, and I’m very grateful for Ashley (CSD’s Senior Graphic Designer) and Jean’s (CSD’s Production Manager) guidance and mentorship to get me to this point.
itM: How did you come to find and apply to the Chateau d’Orquevaux Artist Residency Program?
CG: I applied on a whim one summer day in 2021. At the time, I was really itching to travel and experience something new, so I was applying for any international residencies or trips that piqued my interest.
I always thought that artist residencies were meant for well-established artists. What caught my eye about Chateau d’Orquevaux was that 1.) the application was free and 2.) they had 4 spots each residency for ‘emerging artists.’ I just thought, hey, I’m an artist and I’m emerging, so why not?
itM: In what ways was this residency important for you and your work? Did you have any expectations or goals going into the program?
CG: Getting accepted into the program was a big reset button for me as an artist. Looking back, I really struggled through the end of my college years due to COVID-19; classes meant to be hands-on were fully moved online, teachers and students simultaneously gave up, and the sense of artistic fellowship dwindled. After I graduated, I had lost my spark and felt like I just wasn’t good at ‘being a creative’ anymore. I knew I had talent, but I had no desire to do anything with it.
Honestly, when I got the acceptance email, I thought I was being scammed. I reached out to some of the artists that had attended in the past and they assured me it was anything but. I was also incredibly lucky to receive two grants to help me pay for my fees. From that point on, I was so excited – I started creating again immediately.
This was my first residency, so I was going in blind. Some residencies have you plan a project in advance, or some artists have an idea of what they’d like to work on – I decided I was going to focus on the experience rather than worry about projects, and I’m so glad I did.
The residency was the best experience of my life, as a person and as an artist. It helped me regain my confidence as well as the sense of community that I’d been craving. During one of the history talks we had, the founder expressed a thought he had during his own journey as an artist: “Huh. I’m here, surrounded by artists, and these people are accepting me, so I must be an artist, too.” It sounded like such a simple concept, but it was a reminder that many of us needed. Art is so subjective and varied that it can be difficult to feel that you are “good enough” to be a “real artist” – this talk reminded me that mindset was a load of bologna. If you create art, you are an artist, and that is that.
itM: Describe a typical day at Chateau d’Orquevaux.
CG: Besides meals, how we spent our time during the two weeks was up to us. Some days we had activities planned like literature night, where the writers at the residency shared what they’ve been working on, or history night, where the founder Ziggy told the story of how the residency came to be. Other than that, our time was mostly free for all, and we could spend it how we’d like.
My bedroom was on the top floor of the chateau in the Emerging Artists wing. I would wake up around 8/9 am (if I was lucky) and head down 4 flights of stairs to the kitchen. I would grab a croissant to-go and begin the walk down to my studio, which was in a historic building of repurposed horse stables. Then, I’d grab a cup of coffee from the French Press, and either journal or warm up with charcoal sketches for the morning.
Throughout the rest of the day, I would either explore the small town of Orquevaux, pop into other residents’ studios to see what they were working on, hang out with the two residing cats, Dusty and Baby, walk around the grounds of the chateau, or of course, do some painting.
The dinner bell rang at 7 pm each day. We had the option of visiting the Cave de Vin to purchase bottles of wine to accompany our meal. Several amazing chefs curated dinner and dessert for us each night; my favorite being the bacon & cheese quiche and crème brulée for dessert (my first ever!). I remember the first night we got there, after traveling for days and being awake for almost 24 hours, and finally being able to sit down to take my first bite of that glorious, glorious French food; I think I shed a tear.
After dinner, some would retire to sleep, some would return to work, and some would stay in the lobby for drinks, movies, and games. As you do when in France, I tried a lot of wines, my favorite being a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages, and even partook in a bit of Absinthe.
itM: How did the environment inspire new elements, textures, or colors in your work?
CG: The ride to the Chateau, about 3 hours east from Gare de Lest, was a big source of inspiration. Once we were out of Paris, the views were pure countryside – rolling green hills, huge wind turbines, occasionally small farms and livestock. I even ended up going onto Google Maps, entering the Street View mode, and retracing our steps to screenshot some reference photos of places we had passed for a painting I started. Each morning, I also warmed up by drawing the local animals.
itM: Please describe the art you created throughout your residency. Were there any particular themes or references that inspired you when creating? What did you have to develop, try, or learn to create this artwork?
CG: I planned to do a series of large paintings inspired by the countryside– but that didn’t happen. I’m not used to working so large and I overestimated the time that I had. I also tried some collage work from vintage newspapers I found, which was new to me.
In the end, I only had one piece I considered finished, which was a self-portrait titled “Amongst the Flowers”. During one of our visits into the small city of Chaumont for supplies, I found this beautiful floral paper at the art store and thought it would be a fun challenge to paint in the negative space behind the pattern. The process was very tedious and time-consuming, but the finished product was very rewarding. I am happy to say that this piece was acquired by the Chateau d’Orquevaux Gallery at the end of my residency.
itM: How has your residency at Chateau d’Orquevaux affected your usual practice or graphic design work in general?
CG: It helped my imposter syndrome a lot. Learning that others at the residency—especially ones that I consider much more deeply established in their careers—also sometimes doubted their abilities made me feel normal and validated. I really loved the community we all had together, and I have had a major spike of inspiration and creativity that has propelled me forward during my graphic design work since then.
itM: How has this experience impacted your view of the world and professional work as a designer for IMI’s Creative Services Department (CSD)?
CG: It was a breath of fresh air. I was very lucky to be surrounded by this particular group of people – so talented, humble, and unapologetically themselves. I’m so happy to say we all keep in touch, and even have some collaborations in progress. I am very grateful to Beulah and Ziggy for curating such a magical experience and safe space for artists from all over the globe.
I am a huge supporter of doing what makes you happy, and this experience solidified that for me. Though I was reluctant to leave (and who would ever want to, with an endless stream of cheese, wine, and gorgeous views), I felt very grateful knowing that I was returning to a place and a job that I love.
Cameron has been a Junior Graphic Designer with IMI Agency for a little over a year. Her degree in Game Design & Development from Georgia State University and lifelong passion of combining art and technology has led her to become a graphic designer and multimedia artist. Prior to joining the IMI team, Cameron worked at Georgia State University’s College of Law as a part-time graphic designer. When not designing or learning new skills, Cameron loves to play video games, eat cheese, and spend time with her pets.