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In Conversation With Valentina Fontana

last updated 06 February 2024

Interview by Rachel Moffat

We recently sat down with Valentina Fontana, an Italian artist who loves to bring stories to life. We discussed her artistic journey, inspirations, and dreams. Read the full interview below.

Valentina Headshot

Here’s what Bright Agent Anna Zieger has to say about Valentina:

“Valentina’s art is full of magical elements and beautiful colors. Her unique talent for creating mesmerizing atmospheres makes you feel like you’re part of the beautiful worlds she paints, turning every piece into a personal adventure.”

What are your first memories of art?

Since childhood, I’ve always been keen on drawing. Every time drawing was required, a sort of bell rang in my head, like a “sixth sense” telling me I was doing the right thing. I remember when my parents took me to an ancient fortress during an annual artistic event. All the children were drawing that castle in a friendly competition, and I truly felt like an artist, putting a lot of effort into it.

A funny memory involves drawing a tree, and my mother, genuinely surprised, said, “It’s really nice… are you sure you don’t want to attend an art school?” but I did not listen to her right away and choose a different school, which I now regret. P.S. at the end I finally went to an Art School


What brought you to Bright?

I approached Bright after some years as an illustrator. I found it challenging to secure regular work by only participating in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair once a year and I wanted to expand my collaboration opportunities throughout the year. Bright contacted me first, I was already with another agency. However, after a few months, I decided, fortunately, to make the switch.


Where are you from, and how does that affect your work?

I’m from the outskirts of Verona, Italy, and have always lived in the countryside, away from city traffic, immersed in nature. The mountains have been a constant presence in my life, influencing my preference for landscapes over characters. I love drawing landscapes with small isolated houses, countryside settings, ruins, and cute animals, capturing enchanting panoramas.


How do you translate your thoughts to the page?

This process is truly strange and unique. Initially, I think a lot about the project, but sometimes this phase can become paralyzing. To overcome mental obstacles, I often switch activities, perhaps drawing a landscape from a photo to free up my mind. When I rediscover inspiration I hear the “bell” in my head and I return to drawing on the project. I then enter “autopilot” mode: as I draw with my hand, I let my mind free to connect all the missing dots and empty spaces of the artwork spontaneously and creatively. Sometimes the ideas are great, sometimes less but I think it is part of the process.


What is your favorite part of the illustration process?

Undoubtedly, my favorite phase is what I call the “autopilot.” After doing a lot of photo research and understanding the subject, my mind starts generating many ideas and additional insights that I could add to enrich the image and help the storytelling. These are sudden realizations and intuitions, like transforming a foggy landscape into a rainy one with a bird using a leaf on its head like an umbrella. They are what make the process exciting, and the results become my favorites in the portfolio. Of course the “autopilot” is not a magic power, it is a transformation of what a brain nourished with images and colors sees and for this reason I try to stay curious and interested in what I look at.


How do you develop your art skills?

I study from real photos. Despite attending art school and practicing consistently, studying from real photos has significantly improved the quality of my illustrations. I draw constantly, not just with a pencil or a computer but also mentally. When I see something interesting and can’t draw it immediately, I imagine how I would treat it, and this stimulates my creativity.


What is an average day in the studio like for you at the moment?

After waking up my kids and taking them to school, I start the day with a latte and settle in at the desk. I set up my workspace, turning on the Cintiq, MacBook, and an external screen. Depending on the project I’m tackling, the day may be dedicated to photo researching or more creative works. Often, I browse my Pinterest board, trying to “listen” to the images and choosing the one that “sings” to me that day. If I’m working on a project instead, after extensive research, I keep the references on the external screen and start developing storyboards and sketches.

Having the TV on with nature documentaries helps me concentrate.


Who/What have been your key influences?

Fantasy stories, from the classic Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to lesser-known fantasies, have profoundly inspired my imagination. These fantastical worlds fuelled my creativity and inspired my love for creating magical landscapes and characters. The desire to become a fantasy writer initially, gradually gave way to the fascination of translating these visions onto paper through illustration.


What was it like seeing your work out in the world for the first time?

It was exciting, like feeling famous for a moment and I shared my achievements online with many people. Although looking back at those early works now, I’m less enthusiastic. That moment was unforgettable.


What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Study from real photos! It’s advice I ignored for a long time, but when I followed it, I noticed significant improvements. Start as early as possible!


Do you have any ‘dream projects’ that you’d like to work on someday?

I have two. I would like to publish books where I am also the author of the story, using the fantastic stories me and my husband have fun inventing. Additionally, I dream of working in animation as a background artist or visual development artist. It would be the cherry on top of my artistic career.

To work with Valentina, get in contact here.

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