Visiting the Fabriano Watercolor Festival!

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!

Fabriano: a mecca for watercolor enthusiasts.

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.

Our hotel was far away from the hubbub. Oh, but the view…!

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.

Raffaele Ciccaleni in his element

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.

Raffaele Ciccaleni has his own Daniel Smith dot card with suggested triads placed horizontally.

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.

Pros

  • 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!

Cons

  • 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.

— Laureen

21 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this Laureen – seems like you had a fabulous time there. I remember Carsten’s posts from last year too which made me feel equally envious! (So much so I have just looked up the England lead and may make a tentative enquiry for next year! Thanks again Laureen

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  2. My pleasure, John. I’m glad you liked this post. And best of luck with submitting your work for consideration. Be sure to let me know if you’re visiting next year. We could meet up for an impromptu plein air session!

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  3. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Painting in a circus and negotiating the bureaucracy is not for me. Though I do like painting with triads and colour selection has a marked effect. I generally prefer three warm primaries though like to mix with water on the paper to get all sorts of intermediate hues – again something that isnt conducive to plein air painting.

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      1. No, only occasionally. I should do more. I have been thinking about using acrylics which would allow me to work in colder temperatures outside – nothing worse than waiting for a wc wash to dry. This time last year I was pleased with some of the wc work I did and that was due to being more relaxed – not cycling so far (putting the bike on the car) and taking a flask of tea. I work better when I am not wound up and so being in some arts fest, jostling for position would be a sure fire recipe for failure.

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  4. Thanks for this description. It is great information. Do you plan to go again? I would love to go and will be using this post as a reference if I do!

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    1. Hi Karyn and thank you for the nice compliment. It makes me happy you found this post useful. Yes, I am thinking of visiting again. I would love to be included in next year’s catalogue – or even participate in the group exhibition if they’ll have me.

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  5. Hi Laureen, what a wonderful post about the Fabriano festival. And how nice to meet you in real life there (unfortunately just for a short moment). Where was your hotel located? I stayed in Vallemontagnana again, a very small village in the mountains above Fabriano. and this year I did even spend more tiem there than downtown because I love this place so much. I am going to make a video of this year´s festival agian, but I came home with a bad cold and decided to take some time to recover first. Hope to see your painting in the exhibition next year and meet you again with a chance to talk more. Cheers and Happy Painting!

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    1. Hello Carsten and thank you so much for stopping by. I was happy to get to meet you in person. Next time we can hit the merchandising stands together! Our hotel was in the opposite direction, in Campodiegoli. In hindsight, I too prefer to be away from the city as the surrounding nature is breathtaking. It’s just unfortunate to have to rely on a car, and then there’s the issue with parking…
      I am very much looking forward to seeing your video and reading about your experience. I wish you a speedy recovery (yes, it was a bit chilly there at times, wasn’t it?). Happy painting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, would be great to hit the brands place together next year. It was pretty chilly some times and these temperatures between 3°C and 27°C were a bit strenous. 🙂 By the way: I put a link to your post in my post because i did not feel for writing more about the festival – you already said everything. 🙂

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      1. Hello Laureen, nice post, I agree with you. I will add that we paint less and less in the streets and it’s a shame. the selfie is more fashionable. See you soon.
        Didier

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      2. Hello Didier. What a nice surprise. I did see people painting in town (even in the rain) which I thought was nice. But you’re right: a lot of selfies were taken. Thank you for visiting. I love your work, especially your cows!

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  6. Hello Laureen, and thanks for a lovely resumé! I just would like to add that Fabriano – the town and the surroundings – is a beautiful place for plein air painting or sketching if you don’t feel like watching demos and exhibitions. It’s also mainly a place to meet with watercolor friends from all over the world and share our passion. I hope to see you in Fabriano next year! Best wishes frm Tuscany, from Sabine

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