Friday, May 6, 2022

How to Enjoy Flying Again Overseas

Freedom can be scary after the long shutdown

Let me tell you a little story about traveling again. Last April I finally returned to the United States, first time since the era of lockdown.

I was a little nervous while prepping all requirements: mask, covid pass, traveler locator form, extra insurance.. at a point I realized that I did not feel as safe as in many years of traveling. I have always been a traveler, at the age of twenty I moved to Paris with no french nor a dime. But this time it was stressful! It seemed impossible to me that I could, for example, fly five times back and forth overseas in 2017.

Sick away from home

In fact, the minor and major health flaws happened in last three years have made me feel more vulnerable. Surprisingly, I skipped Covid, but maybe the effect of aging is just that: the fantasy of being sick and alone thousands of miles away from home -- which makes packing up not so exciting.

But I'm not a quitter. Rather, I reconsidered my trip: I canceled some business and reduced my tour to 13 days instead of 18; planned my tour as a vacation for most of the time and and scheduled visits with friends and family. Slowed down to listen to my belly in this great Country, America, that can be as exciting as scary at times. For future reference and therapy I wrote a diary.

Smart aging

It was an almost perfect trip! Always surrounded by people who love me and who have pampered me, carried me around, talked in a more intimate and personal way then ever. People made a difference, they made me feel safe and at home in three states and four different cities; fears are gone and I am looking forward to return soon!

In my diary I wrote: don't be proud. The smartest way to get older is to let others help you.

Let's talk about this, let's talk about art, let's meet in Bologna on 13 and 14 May 2022, at the Watercolor Festival. Will you be there? Reply here


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Break Your Records Like a Champion

Learning competitiveness from winning athletes

Yesterday a friend posted his painting that was rejected from a major competition. He had no complain, was just proud to share it with the world. And it was indeed a good work, pretty original. I complimented him publicly and (privately) suggested to reflect on some part of the composition that might have looked unresolved by the jurors. I meant it as an encouragement and he appreciated the hint.

Managing disappointment after blaming others 

Old Time Concho, Watercolor by Francesco Fontana

But it's not always so easy. You know I have been there, in the Rejection Blue Room. That place were you either get depressed, or take it as a message for you to work harder and become a better painter. The way I learned to manage these disappointments, is to consider my career like sport people do. Sometime you win, sometime you lose, some other time you go tie. I found that a healthy competitive attitude helps face the defeats as part of the game. And, after a beer night blaming it on the referee, we want to forgive, forget and set a tighter training plan for the next challenge. Athletes and players do that all the time.

Healthy competitiveness make your art grow

In my my business of art, breaking a record basically means master some skill I am still weak at, research a more original idea, or introduce a more effective step in my process. Then present a new version of my work to the next test. Which can range from a friend's honest. feedback, to a submission for a top international competition. If you look at a workshop in this perspective, you will consider the training you get, a building block of your ability to win at the next games! 

We are the champions my friend! Let's become a team!

Cheers -- Francesco

BTW If you're an art promoter consider hosting my workshop. If you're a watercolor painter join my workshop at Southwestern Watercolor Society in Dallas, TX in April. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Just Good Luck?

Why strong resolutions work

2 min read

Against all odds, 2021 It’s been a good year, even better than the previous one, which surprisingly wasn't bad at all for my business. 

Preoccupation for my life

But not later than 30 months ago I thought my journey was over. Illness and hospital seemed to be my new reality. Business had been terribly slow even during the previous dozen months. I guess preoccupation about my life effected my ability to be creative and productive.


Out of the tunnel

However in 2021 I won several major awards, the projects I am being offered are top notch, and when I look at my recent art I can see how much I have grown. The wheel turn good! 

Just good luck?

Maybe, but let me think of some strong decisions I took when I was struggling to survive:

  • — As my body got thinner I felt closer to my soul and I decided to show more of it, tell my story, use my voice, be honest..
  • — I challenged my impatience and forced myself to work on paintings that requires time, days or weeks, versus the comfort of (plein air) painting-a-day 
  • — I accepted my ambition and rose the bar, planning more complex pieces of art that may one day hang in a museum.
  • -- I believed I had something to say, and started to say it, though my discourse wasn't completely formed 
  • I never stopped studying. I discovered that while the satisfaction for a good job vanishes quickly, learning is for good.

It’s not on me to tell how far I have gone and how long the good time will last. But for sure I made progress that stand out enough to provide acknowledgment and new opportunities. And for sure there’s still a long way to go. 

More courage in 2022

That's why I take resolutions very seriously and suggest you to do the same. I know it's hard to keep up with the diet, but maybe you got stronger motivations in your business of art. Maybe -- like me -- for 2022 you need to be bolder, take more risk with your choices, learn skills you're still weak at, get involved with new people! 

And of course welcome good luck if it knocks at your door!

I love to hear from you!


One of the awesome projects I am involved in is
Watercolor Live 2022. If you are a watercolor fan, don't miss my demo and that of stellar international artists on Jan 26 - 29, 2022. Get your seat here:  link

BTW 2. If can also meet me in presence at my 3 day workshop in Dallas, TX 11-14 April 2022. Sign up here:

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Happy Like a Kid

Analog vs digital, a newfound joy

      Flash News

My memory today goes back to last fall, when I took a walk in the park as the sun was hitting the wet grass. Not a big park just a neighborhood park, where residents walk their dogs and chat. The leaves on the trees reflect all sort of color, except for blue maybe. Yellow, orange, red, purple, and of course green, plus tons of their variations. For a moment I feel like I am wandering in Central Park. In addition to the beauty of these big overlapping masses of color, I realize the magic is also given by the carpet of fallen leaves at the feet of every tree, and by the translucency of the sunlight thru them.

Instinctively I pulled out the phone to take 'beautiful photos' -- for the sake of it and as possible later panting references. Ops my photo memory and 100 gb storage are full! Darn it, I knew I needed to slim down the thousand of pics I hold, and by no way I will add more today! 

So I contemplated the Idea of keeping the moment for myself, just as a memory. No need to record everything that happens in my life. In the process I picked up a couple of leaves from the ground to look closer. In a few minutes I collected two dozens of different samples. It reminded me when we were kids and would collect stuff all over the place, to play, make a gift, or simply manipulate material. 

The feeling of a stronger connection to the place and its nature revamped in me! Digging my shoes into the wet grass, find a way to hold the bunch with one hand while bending down and get my hands dirty - was way more fulfilling than the easy touch on the camera screen to quickly pass on. Maybe normal if you live in the big wild, but very unusual for the city slicker I am!

This might be called analog in the digital era. Then took one, and only one pic of the bunch and went home holding my treasure tight. Happy like a kid!

Merry Christmas!🎄 Francesco

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Breakfast with Honor

Bronze Medal of Honor

American Watercolor Society
Bronze Medal of Honor, American Watercolor Society
Close up of Breakfast in America (with Flora) - Watercolor 21 x 14.5 in (54.5 x 36,5 cm).

What an awesome news to share! My painting Breakfast in America has just been awarded Bronze Medal of Honor at American Watercolor Society's International Exhibition 2021. So honored and proud of this third place overall and profoundly grateful to the great jury of award Schaller, Nuttall and Smith. Wish to thank AWS president Antonio Masi and their relentless staff and art selectors. Congratulations to the amazing fellow artists participating! And not least, thank you my beautiful daughter Flora for being my muse! I guess I must share the prize with you baby! ♥️

Dear Francesco,
I have the honor of informing you that your painting "Breakfast in America" in the 154th Annual Exhibition has been awarded the AWS Bronze Medal of Honor with a check. Congratulations on this achievement! 
Antonio Masi, President AWS

Awards are given among the 135 exhibiting artists selected out 1,300 who submitted their art this year. The exhibition is due to open April 12, 2021 at historic venue Salmagundi Club, Fifth Avenue, New York. Hope to see you there! 

Want to celebrate with me? Follow me on Instagram! 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

What Artists and Criminals Have in Common

My talk with Eric Rhoads on launching festivals, creating style and facing mafia (1:20 min read) --

Many of us artists and most galleries and event promoters, raise questions about the unique voice of an artist. Being recognizable it is considered key to visibility and success.  And I agree it is, as long as it's not just a branding operation. In a recent podcast with #1 publisher, tireless mentor and artist himself Eric Rhoads -- I talked my idea on how to achieve that uniqueness. 

Podcast Francesco Fontana with Eric RhoadsWith time I discovered that originality it's not only based on a concept or just your personality, but is a modus operandi. Yes like serial killers, great criminals and great artists, always leave a signature! A modus operandi is a set of tools and actions to do things - that make a difference as they exclude other ways. In this conversation I reveal some of my personal rules, such as my 7/5/3 design mode.Eric is a curious kind, never short of questions! So we talked over many topics, from the difference between Europe and USA in organizing plein air events to the need for artists to engage in social issues. And for those who love stories, we recalled lot of anecdotes from my early career adventures in bohemian Paris and the Montmartre 'portrait artists mafia'!

Do not miss listening to this unusual podcast conversation! I truly believe you will find insights for your art and business! 

Be safe and happy! - Francesco

PS.  Please, your feedback is so very welcome publicly in my blog or just by replying to this email. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Be Like a Brush

The real meaning of resilience (2 min read)

I don't exactly know what specific issues your are facing right now. I assume you are quarantining, and so adjusting to a new routine required by the pandemic. I am not sure what concerns you more, if your health at risk, your business to crash, running out of TP or getting bored at home. Or all of them. I guess it might depend on where you live. 

As we Italians are about two weeks ahead of USA, we past the shock phase, the scary phase, forgot the sing an cry phase, the family yelling at each other phase, the ok let's make a cake (followed by let's make a pizza) phase. Now we are in the phase: cool to slow down and reconnect to what really matters, but how long the hell are we gonna live like this?

Things we miss

Brush set Francesco Fontana Fine Artist
My brush set
They say our life will never be the same. I hope so, there's so much to be changed in the world! Still there are things we're deeply missing, being outdoor in the first place

Last time I went out for a non-grocery reason, I walked to the huge park I use to go roller skating, but without skates. If the orthopedic ER sees me again, they will spit the coronavirus on my stupid face on purpose! So I went to run a bit. We were still allowed to run or gym solo and in the neighborhood. 

That day I found the park completely deserted, only one dog walker, in a mile square area. We did not even crossed each other, taking different trails as we spotted each other from afar. I guess I scared the dog. And as I was panting and sweating (man how rusty I am!) a lot of what I have been through in my life, came into my mind. 

Tough skin

Mafia, terrorism, illness -- to only mention the scariest ones. I grew up seeing bodies on the pavement for mafia murders in Sicily, survived the killing and bombing of political terrorism in the 70's and  shared the shock and terror for 9/11. More recently I cried the innocent lives shot at the Bataclan in my elective city Paris, and not later than 12 months ago, faced a tough and scary surgery to 'save my life'.

At that very minute in the complete silence of the sunny park, I found myself stronger than ever! "If you made it so far, you'll make it this time too" - I said to myself! Tough skin.. resilience..

So when anxious about the current situation, we should think of the difficulties we have been through and how and where we found strength, courage, faith and help to overcome them. We so easy forget. So as soon I got home, I searched the precise meaning of the word resilience: 

- The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
- Ability to spring back into shape; elasticity. 

Wow, just like a good painting brush. Spring back.. then I started painting. 
Keep safe, have a bit of fun and help others. 

PS. Needless to say, artists need to resist financially as well as emotionally. Please take a minute to check my StayHomeArt sale to both support the arts and enjoy a special happy deal! 

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