Inspiration Valentina Scagnolari: Colorful Tutorials, Pink Windows and the Fantasvale Art Lab


What caused her 2-year art hiatus? What brought her back to art? Colorful tutorials and Books: How did Fantasvale Art Lab start?

Full of wonderful artful things to impart, Valentina has been sharing fun, colorful tutorials with her audience through the Fantasvale Art Lab YouTube channel since 2009. In this article, you’ll find the art journey, personal and professional life of one of our beloved Luminaries. Let’s look at the life of the visual artist, designer, author, and our ZenARTist of May 202, Valentina Scagnolari.

Early Life in Frosinone and Treviso
The House with Pink Windows
Student Life in Venice
The Way Back to Art
On Fantasvale Art Lab, Love, Books, and Colorful Tutorials
Fantasvale Supports LGBTQ+ Pride Month and the Zan Law
Selected Pieces from Valentina’s Body of Work

Valentina Scagnolari, also known as Fantasvale is a Treviso-based visual artist, illustrator, and art teacher. Her body of work consists of playful watercolor pieces evoking warm happy memories of spring. She is known for her successful art channel Fantasvale Art Lab – the first Italian watercolor-themed channel on YouTube founded as early as 2009. Hence, the YouTube channel now has over 300,000 engaged global subscribers. 

Since 2014, Valentina has been working on creating art books and courses for students through Rizzoli Education, the leader in Italian school publishing. When she’s not teaching colorful tutorials and working on her channel, she also collaborates with art and luxury brands from across Europe.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - A Head Full of Drreams
A head full of dreams, colorful tutorials and an insight on the life of a creative. Photo from Valentina’s Instagram.

Be what you want to be. When you get a head.. A head full of dreams.” 
—Valentina Scagnolari

Early Life in Frosinone and Treviso

Valentina Scagnolari was born on the 12th of November 1981 to parents Paola and Roberto in a town in the Lazio region of Italy called Frosinone. Her mother Paola is an artful teacher who often creates art. Similarly, her father Roberto is a civil engineer who likes to invent and craft novelty objects that Valentina loves. Both her parents are creative folks who have continuously inspired their young daughter to eventually develop her art practice. 

It seems that the gift of creativity certainly runs in the family. Valentina’s younger brother Lorenzo also grew up to work in the arts industry as a composer and musician creating soundtracks for films and video games. 

One-year-old Valentina in 1981.

When Valentina was three years old, not only was she able to draw female figures with clothing of floral patterns, but also render a purse, jewelry, and matching high-heel shoes. At some point, this made her pediatrician express that they’ve never encountered such a skillful toddler.  

Later, when Valentina was five, Roberto and Paola relocated their young family. The family moved to Treviso in the North of Italy in a region called Veneto. By this time, Valentina’s most favorite activity was drawing. She also crafted fantastical stories which she narrated and recorded through a cassette player.

Little artist in the making, three-year-old Valentina in 1984.

Valentina became very keen on her studies during her middle school years and became really fond of all her humanities subjects. Therefore, in 1995 she enrolled in a classical high school or a “Liceo Classico” school. These schools include subjects like Philosophy, History, Latin, and ancient Greek. This turned out to be exhausting for Valentina’s creative soul. She spent five years studying in the rigorous curriculum set by the school and spent less and less time making art.

The House with Pink Windows

Psychologists suggest that imagination and creativity generally tend to decline as we grow older. Valentina’s art practice includes an attitude of wonderment, curiosity, and openness to endless possibilities. This we can trace back to her preschool years. Back when she was little, Valentina would always draw houses with colorful window shutters, especially pink. One day, her teacher told her that window shutters aren’t supposed to be colorful. Although respectful of her teacher’s advice, young Valentina stood by her choice and reasoned that windows can be of whatever color people choose. It all depends on one’s imagination.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Swallowed by Autumn on an October Day
Swallowed by Autumn on an October Day (2020) by Valentina Scagnolari, watercolor on paper in one of her colorful tutorials

Student Life in Venice

With creative parents and a real gift for drawing, one would think that Valentina will straight away pursue art as a career. Originally, Valentina wanted to take up Illustration and Design at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Turin. However, this was frowned upon by her parents, financial sustainability whilst in a career in art is still something parents worry about to this day.

Valentina painting on canvas in 2002.

Since her confidence in her art wasn’t fully developed yet at that time, Valentina considered the only other subject she liked. In 2001 she enrolled in a foreign languages course, English Postcolonial Literature and Spanish Literature at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Unfortunately, her depression reached a crescendo around this period in her life. Her studies coupled with managing her emotions took up the majority of her time and energy that she eventually stopped making art altogether.

Drawing is like breathing to me. Drawing is an appendage of my being.” 
—Valentina Scagnolari

When Valentina finally graduated in 2007, she was terrified of life outside university. She was left with the choice to be a language teacher or to take on a 9-to-5 corporate job that would require her foreign languages degree. Valentina recalled how both options made her nauseous. To cope, she started writing poetry. 

The Way Back to Art

In 2007, two months post-graduation, Valentina was anxious about her next steps in life when her brother Lorenzo came to her rescue. Lorenzo handed her the phone and a sheet of paper with an unknown number to call. This turned out to be the number to reserve a slot for an evening watercolor illustration course in Vicenza. Valentina saw a glimmer of light and signed up. 

Later, Valentina enrolled in the International School of Illustration in Sarmede, a prestigious educational institution for illustrators where the best from all over the world teach. Her piece Il Grande Vecchio dall’Aspetto di Tricheco was selected to be exhibited in the 26th edition of the Sarmede Exhibition of Illustrations in 2008 under the beginners category. The rest is history. 

On Fantasvale Art Lab, Love, Books, and Colorful Tutorials

The Beginning

When YouTube took Italy by storm, one of the first to jump into the bandwagon were channels devoted to make-up. Upon realizing that there was not a single Italy-based art-dedicated channel in existence, Valentina decided to start one. In 2009, whilst aiming to simply share her art practice, she started Fantasvale Art Lab. By this time, she was already getting recognition for her work in the children’s illustration field.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - 2010
Valentina in one of her videos from 2010.

To get out of her comfort zone and to explore possibilities for her career, Valentina traveled to Los Angeles at the end of 2010. She returned to Italy the following year, refreshed and ready to take her art practice to the next level. Soon after, she wrote and self-published her first book People – La Vita Secondo Gatto (People – Life as a Cat). Her audience received the book with enthusiasm. 

That same year, the Fantasvale YouTube channel started gaining a steady following and Valentina began receiving her first gifts of paper, paints, and brushes from different brands. She recalls how it felt like ‘Christmas morning.’

People – La Vita Secondo Gatto (People – Life as a Cat) written and illustrated by Valentina Scagnolari

The Big Leap from Mexico

Driven by her passion for exploring possibilities, Valentina traveled to Mexico in 2012 with the goal of establishing a publishing house with Alex Contarin who would later become her husband. The trip that was originally intended for work turned into a beautiful retreat for self-discovery. Valentina and Alex spent months of art and meditation together in a holistic center where they eventually decided to return to Italy and plan their wedding.

Valentina with now husband, Alex Contarin on their eco-wedding.

The couple tied the knot that same year in September through a beautiful eco-wedding held at the heart of the Venetian countryside. Their union gave way to the EcoSposi project – an initiative aiming to transform ordinary weddings into ecological and eco-sustainable weddings by providing guides and a list of suppliers.

Their wedding menu consisted of 100% vegetable food.

Two days after their wedding, Valentina and Alex moved to Malaga, Spain where they spent more artful days together until their return home in 2014. During their stay in Spain, Valentina won a competition with LA3 channel. Hence, she had to fly to Milan to record three colorful tutorials that aired on national television. She also worked on her first major educational book project Arte e Immagine published by Fabbri Editori which included a series of videos of practical and creative lessons.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - LA3 Milan
Valentina getting ready for her shoot at an LA3 studio in Milan.

The Return to Italy

More and more Italian brands wished to collaborate with Valentina so the couple decided to return home in 2014 to meet the demands of meetings and events. Soon after their arrival, Valentina worked on the illustrations of her second major book project, Perchè Esiste Il Mondo? (Why does the world exist?) by Tich Nhat Hahn and published by Terranuova.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Why does the World Exists?

The years 2014 and 2015 brought about many media successes for Valentina that she began producing videos in both English and Spanish on top of her Italian ones. As a result, her Fantasvale YouTube subscribers jumped from 5 digits to 6 digits in a short span of time. The increase in her subscribers also brought income that allowed her to dedicate her full time to finally consolidate her art career and her direction.

The New Member of the Family

The blessing of a child finally arrived for the couple. In 2016, six-month pregnant Valentina set out to do a big promotional tour around Italy for a French manufacturer of fine art paper brand, Canson. When Lila was born, Valentina took a break for a whole year to focus on her family. 

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari - with daughter Lila
Left photo:  Valentina with her infant daughter, Lila. Right photo: Toddler Lila making art.

After her year-long hiatus, Valentina came back to work with a bang. Collaborations with a wide range of companies started pouring in that she even had a project with Eridania, an Italian sugar brand! She was commissioned by Osama, the Italian distributor of Mitsubishi Pencil Company of Japan, the makers of Uni Posca. As part of this big collaboration, Valentina worked with other international artists on a series of videos and colorful tutorials. 

Also with Osama, Valentina created a manual of bricolage dedicated to schools. She was also Osama’s representative at the stationary fair at FICO in Bologna that year. It was in 2019 when Valentina finally decided to focus all her activities and expertise on the first medium she loved, watercolor.

The Pandemic

The year 2020 brought about chaos and many hardships for the world. Valentina did not let this hinder her progress. It was this time that she found the time to consolidate her plans and direction for her Instagram @fantasvale. Her latest book Watercolor Survival Manual came to fruition. Furthermore, she was able to successfully launch her first online courses.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Watercolor Survival Manual
Valentina showing her most recent book, Watercolor Survival Manual.

Today, Valentina continues to share her knowledge with her massive audience while consistently working with educational institutions in creating instructional materials for Fine Arts. On top of that, she also uses her expertise to test products and provide practical demonstrations. We’re proud to mention that Valentina is one of our brilliant Luminaries, an international community of our most well-loved ZenARTists.

Fantasvale Supports LGBTQ+ Pride Month and the Zan Law

June is World LGBTQ+ Pride Month and Valentina Scagnolari, a long standing ally of the community announced her support of the Zan Law, a law in Italy now being considered for approval at the Senate aiming to punish discrimination and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals.

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari Pride Month
Valentina Scagnolari with the ZenART Black Tulip collection brushes for water media.

Selected Pieces from Valentina’s Body of Work

We’ve selected a few of Valentina’s notable pieces throughout her fruitful art career that exhibit her visual style. As an art curator, I’ve always thought that her visual style evokes that warm feeling from seeing the sunrise on a beautiful spring morning. Let’s take a look at some of these wonderful paintings.

Vives les Livres (2011)  by Valentina Scagnolari

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Vives les Livres

Autumn Girl (2017) by Valentina Scagnolari

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Autumn Girl

Anne with an E (2018) by Valentina Scagnolari

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari colorful tutorials - Anne with an E

Say hello to our ZenARTist for May 2021, Valentina Scagnolari! Send some love her way on Instagram @fantasvale and on her YouTube channel Fantasvale Art Lab

Fantasvale Valentina Scagnolari - Watercolor Mixing Guide

Did Valentina’s story inspire you to paint? Get some inspiration from our colorful tutorial How to Watercolor for Beginners toolkit article. Have some questions for us? Don’t forget to leave your questions, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section below! Happy painting!


Fabrianne is the Ambassador of Art Buzz at ZenART, resident eccentric pocket-sized art curator, editor, and art world liaison. She builds and develops relationships with the arts community and makes sure that ZenART’s inspirational articles get to you “hot off the press.” She co-founded an online contemporary art gallery, worked with over 100 artists on exhibitions and performances, wears only black clothes and when she’s not creating buzz or curating and saturating in art, still daydreams of becoming a quirky Wes Anderson film character.