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.
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
A couple of years ago I was visiting the Unesco World Heritage site of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is an amazing place to explore. I was hoping to paint some watercolours of this place as soon as I got back. I did some sketches while I was there but soon realized that it was going to be a challenge to paint.
This week I have decided to give it a shot and see what I come up with. Painting moss covered, crumbling ruins requires some thought and a little risk taking. Getting bogged down in all the detail would be very easy to do. I have taken a more impressionistic approach to focus more on the mystery of this place.
I am not finished exploring the possibilities of this picture and so I will paint it over and post the results soon.
The title of my blog “The Paddle And The Paintbrush” is a reference to the adventure
spirit that was instilled in me from a young age. Along with painting in watercolour, I spent many summers working as a white water rafting guide in Western Canada. The picture above shows me guiding in Bow Canyon, on the Bow River in Alberta.
It’s been a few years since I hung up my paddle as it relates to river guiding but the spirit of adventure, exploring and travel lives on. My watercolour paintings and sketches are often scenes of Canadian wilderness, however I also love to paint my travel experiences and adventures world wide. What I hope to share with people is the beauty I see along the way with a special emphasis on Canada.
I grew up with a fascination and respect for a group of Canadian painters called the Group of Seven. They painted Canada in a style that show cased Canada as a rugged land of lakes, rivers, mountains and forest. This is a big part of what Canada still is and I would like to be a part of that tradition of painting this great land.
The idea behind my blog is to share with you my journey of painting in watercolour. When I couple this idea with my love of travel, hiking and fascinating places, I feel their is no end to this adventure. I would like to think that there is value in sharing thoughts and experiences and so I welcome your comments.
Thanks for stopping by!
Sketching at Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park,BC