The 13th edition of FabrianoInAquerello, the largest international event entirely dedicated to watercolor, is kicking off

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The official start of FabrianoInAcquarello, 2022, returned this year in attendance after a two-year pandemic. The venue for this year’s event -despite the large attendance of a growing international audience- was the FICO Convention Hall in the city of Bologna. Bologna, with its architecture, including the famous Asinelli Towers and the Piazza Maggiore, was a pleasant tourist destination to explore for all participants who decided to combine the useful with the delightful by taking advantage of the convention to visit the city, in the company of a good glass of wine, in perfect Italian style.

After the welcome greetings by the visionary Anna Massinissa -ideographer of the event, curator and artistic director of “InArte” and without whom this event nowadays would not be possible- she introduced the first official artist of the day: Didier Brot, to whom Anna Massinissa extended warm thanks for his extraordinary help in organizing the event

This year for the first time, the Fabriano company, will be the main sponsor of the event and the Fabriano paper mill will be the only official supplier of the paper used for all demonstration sessions. Instead, there will be numerous brands, of pigments and brushes, both Italian and international, that will offer throughout the convention numerous practical demonstrations through the styles and techniques of some of the most important international watercolorists.

Didier Brot’s demonstration for Windsor and Newton

Among them, opening the convention dances was Didier Brot: Windsor and Newton ambassador and member of the prestigious American Watercolor Society. 

For the daily demonstration session, the artist created a portrait executed exclusively with three colors: Aqua Green, Cobalt Tourquoise and Mars Black, to which he added liquid charcoal to emphasize the black tone. “The experience established over the years and his technical knowledge have made this ‘artist leave an indelible mark on the landscape of watercolor painting,” Anna Massinissa says. His extraordinary technical knowledge allowed him, during the demonstration, to create an image that was the result of pure imagination and for the realization of which he relied on the new brushes offered by Windsor & Newton. The brand, known for its quality watercolor paints, has joined the production of a line of professional synthetic brushes available in a varied range of shapes. 

Thomas Schaller ‘s master demo presentation

Architect Thomas Schaller, is among the best-known and most beloved faces among the participants, a credit to this also due to the incessant loquacity with which the artist interacts with the audience. “Thomas Schaller is an extraordinary artist who is able to surprise every time thanks to his profound technical knowledge-derived from the study of art and architecture-and the depth of the reflections he puts forth,” said Anna Massinissa. 

In order to be able to explain the meaning of art for Schaller, it is necessary to consider drawing as “the milestone” on which the composition is based. “Without a good basic drawing there can be a good painting,” declares the artist, who before creating the final work composes multiple preparatory sketches in which he notes the philosophy behind his concept of art. His philosophy of thought is based on the fact that drawing is the visual conceptualization that is based on the idea of line construction as the intersection of time. For Schaller, each line takes on specific and interconnected meanings: vertical lines represent the past and intersect with horizontal lines that represent the tension between the present and the future while oblique lines represent the independent action of nature on life. Thomas Schaller, did not limit himself to a technical demonstration of watercolor -medium that he has always favored in the realization of architectural projects- but addresses aspects intrinsic to the mental process, even before the artistic one, that range over 360 degrees and that he masterfully expresses in the course of his work in the realization of watercolor. Scheller loves to work both in plein air and in the studio, but the undisputed protagonist of his way of conceiving art is always imagination, which -fruited from decades of architectural experience- allows him to create imaginary landscapes in a solid and realistic manner. Today’s demonstration exemplifies this: in a seascape, Roman columns are surmounted by a modern structure rendered in a totally believable manner through the skill of drawing construction and his masterful use of tonal and chromatic values.  According to the artist, it is not sensible to think of copying the works of other artists because the act of drawing, like that of painting, are processes inherent in each individual’s DNA and therefore tend to emphasize strictly personal points of view. Reiterating the importance of tonal values, in defining composition, Schaller declares that no other medium is as attractive as watercolor as because it offers the possibility of painting only shadows since the white of the paper inherently constitutes the brightest point of light. 

The final painting of Massimiliano Iocco’s brushes demo for Borciani e Bonazzi

The elegance of Massimiliano Iocco’s painting anticipates his fame, and at the event he created a demonstration for the company Borciani e Bonazzi, which has been making brushes entirely made in Italy since 1951. For the creation of a plein air landscape taken from an excerpt of the recently visited island of Favignana, Iocco used synthetic brushes from the “Unique and Endless” series. A name attributed not by chance and that highlights the technical peculiarities of the product: precision, compactness, versatility and great reservoir thanks to the soft fibers that allow to retain large amounts of water without losing definition of the tip. Two versions were used for the demonstration: the Liner version (from the 856 series, with the extra long flame tip) and the Mini version (855 series, with the same properties as the Liner but in a smaller format). 

Iocco, with incredible speed of execution, demonstrated how the reservoir capacity of the brush’s soft fibers allow both initial washes and finishing of the finest details to be done simultaneously, working excellently in both pressure and tip, with important savings in time and energy. 

Giovanni Balzarini and some of his painting showed during his workshop

FabrianoInAcquerello is not only a watercolor convention in which participants can interact with some of the greatest protagonists in the world watercolor scene, but also offers the possibility of practicing real practical sessions , during which the exercises proposed in parallel by the various watercolor masters are followed by critical sessions under the expert eye of the masters who dispense advice and suggestions.  This is the case of Giovanni Balzarini, who for the occasion conducted a workshop in which he showed the importance of drawing “Alla Prima” in watercolor By means of simple exercises played initially only on grayscale tonal values, the artist later made the same composition by inserting chromatic values. “I recommend approaching this system of work because it allows you to focus on the basic concepts of art, such as proportions, tonal values and chromatic ones. In addition, by drawing directly with the brush you will have the opportunity to focus on the dimensions of objects, volume and their relationships,” said Balzarini, who at the end of the workshops showed some complex works made over time and for which it takes up to a month of work. 

Artist Felice Feltracco is a watercolorist devoted to the constant search for the best artistic materials and tools. In this regard, based on personal artistic needs he has developed a series of brushes (in collaboration with Tintoretto) and completely innovative colors, Creamy Water. Creamy Water are very fluid and stable cream watercolors that allow the color to be spread without having to regenerate it first. This allows better pigmentation of the color on the paper and, thanks to the special dispenser inspired by the world of cosmetics, avoids the dispersion of components typical of tubes, for example. Feltracco in his demo -wet on wet- painted a typical night forest landscape-which he normally does in green: “a very complex color,” the artist declares-inspired by the French series Black Spot aired on Netflix. The artist particularly liked the noir tones to the point that he personally traveled to the original locations of the series to take photographs with which he then made his paintings. In the creation of the work with the use of Creamy Water, he used several synthetic brushes, among them: no. 1407, characterized by its long fibers and extreme versatility: it is excellent in the drafting of both finer and thicker lines and guarantees precision of the stroke since it perfectly follows the pressure given by the hand; and no. 853 from the Feltracco Acquamarina line, characterized by its high elasticity that allows precise control of the brushstroke. 

From left, Anna Massinissa and Felice Feltracco at the end of his demonstration for Acquarelli D’Autore.

Delving into the technical aspects of the materials used by artists is always a fascinating subject. The Spanish company Escoda, a leader in the production of fine art brushes at FabrianoInAcquerello attended with the participation of Josep and Richard Escoda: the great-grandsons of the progenitor who founded the company in Barcelona, in 1933. In addition to telling the story of the company, the Escoda family members showed the audience the technique used to assemble the brushes, which still follows the ancient family tradition.  A craft theirs that has been handed down from generation to generation and that, almost a century after the company was founded, carries out the entire assembly process entirely by hand. It is a story full of the fascination of history and charm because, as Michael Solovyev said “You can feel the passion and love with which these brushes are made just by holding them in your hands.” 

At the hands-on demonstration of the brushes by some of the great international watercolorists, who used a number of brush series specially designed for watercolor, including: the Perla, Aquarium, Ultima, Prado and Chronos series. Escoda brushes offer exceptional performance and are able to please every artist because in addition to working excellently on large backgrounds they are extremely precise in defining details, To show the versatility of the brushes, Escoda sent some distinguished international artists, among them : Lea Nixon (England), Johnny Patramanis (Greece) and Atul Panase (India) and Michael Solovyev (Canada) who said,” you can feel the passion and love with which these brushes are designed and made, just by taking them in your hands.”

The Escoda brushes team’s demonstration. From left, Atul Panase, Josep Escoda, Lea Nixon, Michael Solovyev, Richard Escoda and Johnny Patramanis

The last artist of the training day was the exciting Javier Gomesoto who a did the figurative demonstration of Mahatma Gandhi. He did this in an unconventional manner by limiting himself to using brushes as little as possible especially in the creation of the background obtained by using cloth-paper, sponges, eraser and a small iron tool to scratch the surface of the paper in search of light spots. The result was a riot of colors that the artist dosed in a balanced way by alternating warmer colors with cooler colors concentrated particularly on the face to highlight the “planes of the head” and create three-dimensionality to the image. In Gomesoto’s work there is a strong symbolic component rendered not only by the figure of Gandhi but also by the dove represented in a very particular way by the artist who painted the wings as if they were olive leaves. This is another symbol of peace in addition to the final inscription that drew a standing ovation from the audience, “Breath of Peace.”

Javier Gomesoto’s painting demonstration, “Breath of Peace”

The theme of peace is a hot topic during FabrianoInAcquerello and there are many references to peace, starting from the exhibition of works created in these times of war by Ukrainian artist Victoria Gregoreva, to the official opening speech of the convention, where Anna Massinissa, supported by Laurin McCracken, Didier Brot, Gabriele Mazzara and Pierre Guidetti. During the speech Massinissa and Mazzara stressed the importance of coming together and sharing the universal principles of art that must be guaranteed to all as the universal heritage of humanity despite war and violence. 

(on the title: The Official Opening of FabrianoInWatercolor, 2022 (from left) Laurin McCracken, Didier Brot, Gabriele Mazzara, Anna Massinissa e Pierre Guidetti)

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