This time I have something to write about: I just got back from a lovely trip to Fabriano, Italy, where I attended the international Fabriano in Acquarello festival for the first time. It was my husband’s Christmas present to me. Hooray for me!
The festival consisted of a grand exhibition, scattered throughout the city, by artists from around the world, live demos, and workshops with notable artists. And whoever wanted to drop serious cash on art supplies certainly had the chance to do so. By the way: John Cogley, the owner of Daniel Smith, was there!
The atmosphere in Fabriano was exhilarating. What I thoroughly enjoyed was seeing so many people with the same passion gathering in one place. For someone who paints in solitude, this was a breath of fresh air. I even ran into Carsten Wieland from Brushpark Watercolors. He made a fantastic video last year which perfectly captures the vibes of the festival.
I had only read about the festival earlier this year and didn’t know what to expect. Did I have to be a “super pro” to attend a workshop? Or could I perhaps even actively participate as an artist? Being fairly new to the watercolor scene, I had no idea about the expected quality standards for entering one’s own work. So, I contacted my country’s representative, the lovely Ms. Lalita Rochanakorn who informed me that I was too late to submit my work for consideration. However, she encouraged me to try again next year. Lalita also let me know that one must sign up to attend the festival – even as someone tagging along. What was confusing to me on the website, Lalita made up for by providing me with all the necessary information. And she even invited my husband and me to join team Switzerland for dinner which was great fun. Everyone in the group was very nice and a pleasure to get to know in person.
I had signed up via the official website for a 45-minute nude painting session and a plein air workshop with Raffaele Ciccaleni, only to learn later on that an email confirmation means nothing. What happened was that I didn’t actually know if I made it on the list of 20 or so maximum participants. One has to show up in person 2 hours prior to the course and pay cash up front, in order to receive the entrance ticket. The entire sign-up process is a hybrid between digital and offline, meaning that once you register online, the list is finalized manually in what seems to be an Excel file and kept in a binder. The staff has to flip through the binders and find you on the list. Needless to say, this process could be entirely digitized and save time and chagrin. Luckily, this lack of organization played in my favor: People who had signed up ahead of me didn’t show, and I was able to attend my two sessions even though my name was among the lowest on the waiting list.
The courses were fun, and I am glad I got to participate. Nude and plein air painting is out of my comfort zone and I was completely out of practice. Being nervous about screwing up and the feeling of “having to deliver” didn’t exactly help create masterpieces. Alas, I will share them.
The plein air workshop was set out to take 3 hours. Walking to the destination and then listening to the introduction, shaved off about 40 minutes of painting time. We were only allowed to use triads. The plein air session didn’t go well for me. I had issues with spacial awareness and creating a solid fore-, middle- and background. In addition, the triad which I picked was too cool. Nevertheless, I enjoyed painting in a group and seeing all the wonderful works that evolved around me.
What I take away from this experience is how important it is to go out and talk to fellow watercolor enthusiasts, participate, try out new things and just have fun. While I did not stay for the entire duration of the festival, I quickly got the sense of the pros and cons of visiting Fabriano in general. Please bear in mind that I’ve visited many Italian cities. Someone who has never been to Italy might feel my cons are somewhat nit-picky.
- Immersing oneself in the international watercolor scene
- Participating in workshops, watching painting demos, etc.
- Seeing fantastic watercolor art from around the world
- Making new friends
- Buying new art supplies, especially hand-made paper from Fabriano
- Being in Italy!
- The organization, especially the sign-up process
- The hotels in the city are usually booked out way in advance. You do need a car if your hotel is located further away.
- People not actively participating, e.g. friends and partners, might get bored. It’s not like visiting Rome or Florence where there’s an abundance of things to experience.
- If not participating in any painting sessions or workshops, I personally would feel a little underwhelmed by the festival. While it is fun to watch a painting demo, you are still just watching and not doing.
How to show your artwork at Fabriano watercolor festival:
The exhibition consists of works by a community of artists representing their country. Each country has its community leader, who, together with their team, invites new members into their community. Here you can familiarize yourself with the rules and guidelines
I hope you enjoyed this post and I wish you lots of joy with your next painting.