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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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Italian Diary with Surprise

13 things I am learning from the total lockdown

I've been staying at home for most of the time in the past couple of weeks. Since the all of Italy lockdown, we can only go out for grocery, pharmacy and other essentials. That’s severe, we can get a fine if police check on us and we fail to prove a good justification. 

Flags (Before St Patrick, NYC)
Oil by Francesco Fontana, private coll.
Click here for my
Italian Diary Surprise Deal!
  1. Got more time to paint, study and research
  2. Enjoying the silence from my deserted avenue
  3. More family time (nice!) and more fight (crap!)
  4. Reconsider lifestyle, what if I keep it this simple?
  5. Confrontation with the fridge. Who's gonna win?
  6. Realize how many products I can perfectly live without
  7. For the reason above, I am sorry for the people losing their job
  8. I wonder why we’re so surprised, as many disasters have happened before 
  9. Virus don't need a passport, a new meaning for globalization
  10. It’s a leadership test, governments turn out their real nature
  11. Lucky we can still be connected (another meaning for globalization)
  12. I lost a lot of business (class) but I am spending virtually nothing (see 6.)
  13. Lucky we don’t need to fight for toilet paper. Got bidets! 
Hope some of these points can inspire you, help take care of your safety and make you smile! 

Cheers — Francesco
PS. Today is St Patrick day. Let's celebrate and pray together to get rid of fears. Good news is today the CV19 cases in Italy have decreased for the first time. One more good news is this a good time to buy. Prices are going down for many a product. As an artist forced to close his studio to classes a month ago, I want however be part of the solution. Please click here if interested in my Italian Diary Surprise deal! 

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Stay home, please stay home!

Life in Italy at the time of Coronavirus

I can't deny the situation here in Italy is more than serious. Coronavirus went as far has having the entire Country locked down. We cannot basically drive out of town, and flights are near to zero in 'n out of Milan. All schools and public venues are shut nationwide -- from gym to movie theaters, soccer events to many categories of business. No audience at TV shows. And every person if really in need to be out -- is required to stand one meter away from others.

For the sake of our old folks

Overall we are recommended, plead, implored by the Government and Health authorities to stay home. Please stay home! Even if we individually feel safe out there, we might affect elderly and vulnerable people, without knowing.

I admit I didn't take that too literally up to a few days ago. But insiders and friend doctors report a dramatic situation at hospitals. By experience I have a great appreciation for the Italian health system. The high number of infected people reflects the systemic testing that was started earlier than any other western Country. Doctors and paramedics are working relentlessly, night and day, and not only are exhausted, but are cracking emotionally for the lives slipping away from their hands on a daily basis.

A good system under huge pressure

The breaking point is that the number of infected people is increasing faster then the increasing of intensive care rooms available, and equipment needed to treat pneumonia, as a consequence of the virus. It's not a shortage, it's just too many cases at the very same time!

Teresa attending Chinese class via Whatsapp

As a family we are safe. The girls are having fun doing home works via conference calls. Roberta will go to her office only two days this week. I am lucky to have my studio upstairs, and some portrait commission to work on. Otherwise 90% of students do not show and maybe I should cancel the remaining 10%. Forget about economy!

Prayers for those fighting alone

That's just to give friends and family abroad a picture from inside. And to suggest you to take it seriously. Please do not trust those who minimize the issue! Even if they wear the presidential suit! Here we stay positive, reconsider our agenda and try to enjoy family and homely time.

We pray for those struggling on a hospital bed, who cannot even have the comfort of their family hold their hands. We are so grateful to the professionals on the frontline and even for the Government for  they're doing the right things this time! Let's hope this will be over soon, and that we can hug again!

Take a lot of care! -- Francesco

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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Art can help when science fails

Why pain relief can be the purpose of art 

I few days ago I was reading and reflecting for the nth time about the purpose of art. The recent controversy over my compatriot exhibiting exotic fruits on a wall — urged my reflection. Most of the concepts I come across were about why people should appreciate art: enjoy beauty in a private or public space, reflecting about an ethical point, chill out from stress -- among the many reasons art makes a difference in our lives, do we realize or not.

A student of psychiatry, Emily Payton, told her own experience in a hospital, assisting patients terminally ill. Where drugs won't stop the sickness, surgeons could not do any better, science could ultimately do nothing — art proved being helpful. A young man put a note by his bed: “I like music. It makes me happy :)”

He's dying and there's still something that makes him happy. And it's not a material thing, it's not a new dope, definitely nothing practical. It is music, it's art, only created to give emotion. Something magically able to distract attention from a state of desperation.  All of a sudden I realized that as an artist I create something way more powerful than I ever thought. It's not only about my ego to self express and shine. What I do has got the power of making people al little happier - regardless of my intention, which could be the selfiest possible.

A gentleman recently purchased my painting and contextually wrote me the story of his wife being seriously ill. I was happy for the sale but honestly thought - hasn't he got anything else to worry about but buying a watercolor? After reading Emily’s story, I thought he did the best thing he could do, beside taking care of his wife. I felt stupid and admired him.

There's no better time to surround ourselves with genuine art than difficult times. A painting that brings the living energy of another human, the artist, is the best cure to live a happier daily life! No matter how long we are going to be around!

May art contribute to make your new year the happiest so far!


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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Never too late for love

When I was a kid I used to spend long afternoons at the community center play ground. Very often I was in awe with Fabrizio Merlo, a slightly older boy, who loved to spin at supersonic speed, bend on four-roller skates.

Although I used to spend hours sweating after the soccer ball with my friends, I thought roller skating was the coolest of sports! Fabrizio had the posture of a rocket man, and those skates were like wings!

Me roller skating in Valencia, Spain

He was my hero! And that intimidated me to the point of giving up before I could even learn how to move forward. Taking classes was out of consideration, who knows why! Later as a young man I used to ride my bike across the crazy streets of Palermo, dreaming of jumping over all sorts of obstacles on my superhero skates!

The contemplation of skating heroes continued when I lived in Paris. Some
saturday nights I wowed at flash mobs of skaters at the famous cross road of Boulevard St Germain and Rue the Rennes. These guys performed tricks and jumps and hooked up to the cars that started at the green light. Yet my wow did not turn into action.

When I moved to London I finally decide to try again. I started training up and down the side street of my guest house. One day I stepped onto the walkway, headed at the front door. But I lost balance and before falling down with my ass on the ground, I clung to the low fence wall. A block of bricks came loose and fell on my leg! It hart like I broke my leg. But the landlord yelling at me was even worse!


Me painting in Piedmont, last snow March 2019
Many years passed and I am the dad of two teenagers, whom I encouraged to learn roller skating. They used to do or still do skiing, swimming, ballet, yoga, volley, tennis and who knows what BUT skating! No way. You know what? I enrolled MYSELF into a class and still doing it. In three years I was able to go out skating with my club for 15+ miles in Italy and Spain. And you can still see me 2 - 3 times a week rolling through my neighborhood, training at the basket floor outdoor, shamelessly at my age!

Ok a couple of times I had  my bones x rayed at the hospital but you know, no guts, no glory, right? And the glory soon came my way. The other day as I was roller skating down the street, and a kid cried out: look at him mom, wow! Wanna do it too!

I was that boy's Fabrizio! 

I felt so proud, and recalled this story from 50 years back, when Fabrizio was my idol. I know, Fabrizio could have been my big bro, while I could be that kid's grandpa. But that's a just a detail, isn't it?

The lesson learned is that it's never too late for the things you love. They might have been silent for decades but lived within you. Maybe it's time for you to give them a chance! Could it be painting?


PS. If it could be painting, one exciting way to immerse in what you love is join one of my workshops. Take a minute to check out my workshops calendar and get your spot asap!

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