Visiting the Musee de Montmartre and Suzanne Valadon’s Studio May, 2017
One of the reasons that I went back to Paris was to learn about the life of some of my favorite artists. I wanted to know about the social fabric of the times, where they lived and worked, who their friends were, and also to try and get a sense of what it was like to be an artist back then.
Montmartre is a hill in the north of Paris that is known mainly for its artistic history towards the end of the 19th century. Many artists such as Picasso, Renoir, Vincent van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked there taking advantage of the low rent in the area. While visiting the Musee de Montmartre I discovered an artist I knew very little about. Her name was Suzanne Valadon and she lived and worked on the property that is now part of the museum.
Walking into her studio is like going back in time. The sketch I did at the top of this post shows the working part of her studio. She was born in 1865 and grew up in poverty. When she was 16 she worked in the circus as an acrobat until she got hurt. She then went on to be a model for Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and others. During this time she learned how to paint by observing and learning their techniques while modeling. In the early 1890’s she befriended Edgar Degas who was impressed with her bold line drawings and bought a couple of her paintings. She went on to paint for 40 years and became the first woman painter admitted to the Societe National des Beaux-Arts.
The Artist Market is in Montmartre at Place du Tertre.
The Moulin Rouge in Montmartre. I did this sketch from inside the Starbuck’s Coffee Shop. Oh well, they had the best view!
Au Lapin Agile: A tavern in Montmartre where Piccasso and Renoir would go. Pen and watercolor wash
Another view of Suzanne Valadon’s studio with a sitting area. There is a small drawing of her on the wall in the background.
The lower garden at the Musee de Montmartre. Renoir lived on this property in 1876.
Walking up the narrow streets towards the Basillica of the Sacre Coeur.
It all sounds great! She has a beautiful studio in the artistic area of Paris and she has amazing artist friends that eclipse any education you would receive by going to art school. On the other hand her life was not easy, she was only 18 when she gave birth to her son Maurice. My understanding is that she was a single mother and her income at this time was from modeling. Modeling was not so straight forward in those days. Montmartre was a free loving kind of place during the “Belle Epoque” (1872-1914) and some artists expected or hoped for more from their models. Being an artist back then was tough enough without being a female or being born into poverty.
As I sat in the lower garden behind the museum doing a sketch I imagined that many of the great artists such as Renoir had painted and sketched here.
Walking with Lions, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe August 16th, 2013
We had the opportunity to spend some time with two 18 month old lion sister cubs just outside of Victoria Falls. Lion Encounter is a not for profit organization working to reintroduce lions back into the National Parks of Africa where the lion has become extinct. There main goal is to increase the overall population of wild lions in Africa.
In the 1940’s according to National Geographic the estimated population of lions was approximately 450,000. Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 animals in the wild.
We were somewhat cautious of being part of a lion program that could potentially sell the lions to a private game reserve that caters to hunters. We were assured that this was not the case by the information and video that we watched that this was about reintroducing lions into the wild through a 4 stage program. We were seeing the lions in stage one. In stages 2 and 3 they are part of a pride with no human contact. In stage 4 the off spring from the pride in stage 3 are released into the wild when they are old enough.
With that being said our experience with these lions was amazing. We spent about an hour and a half walking and hanging out with them. It is one thing to see a show on television about lions and it is another to see them up close. Later on in our trip we saw wild lions in Etosha Pan from the safety of our truck. Taking pictures while on the ground with lions allows you to get a lower perspective than if you are in a vehicle.
The pictures that Lyn and I took with our cameras were used later on for the watercolor painting at the top of this post. Often when I am preparing to do a more formal watercolor such as this one I will do a series of sketches to become more familiar with the details. One of the things that amazed me about lions was how there coloring blended perfectly into the surrounding bush. With this in mind I used a limited selection of colors to suggest this in the picture.
As amazing as this experience was I realize that this is somewhat controversial. Our next encounter with African animals would be on the Chobe River in Chobe National Park in North West Botswana.
Walking in the bush with lions.
Lion Sketch#1 Pencil and watercolor wash
Female Lion in Zimbabwe Watercolor 15 inches x 22 inches
Lion Sketch#3 Pencil
Lion Sketch #2 Pencil
Lion Sketch#4 Pencil
One of my favorite painting trips each year is to the Sunshine Coast which is just north of Vancouver, BC. In past years while I was still working full time as a chef, a couple of weeks away from the grind of cooking was an opportunity to sketch quietly by the lake or in the woods. Now that I am working full time as an artist I guess I can say that this is a chance to get away from my studio and just paint.
The sketches and paintings shown below were all painted on location with the exception of the watercolor of the cedar tree which was done in my studio. Over the years I have done a lot of sketches up at this cabin and these pictures are just a small sample of the last twenty three years. For me this place has given me a lot of inspiration and the opportunity to experiment with my art work.
Pencil sketch behind the main cabin.
Banjo in the water at Pat Lake