Art supplies, Provence and Paris.

My other Kryptonite is art supplies. Not only was my visit to France replete with foie gras and fromage blanc, I also indulged in art supply shops of hyperventilation-inducing variety.

I dragged friends to Creative Grafic in Aix-en-Provence and proceeded to ignore them for an hour.

Creative Grafic interior

Creative Grafic interior

I wanted to hug their brush display. I’ll take one of each and an extra, please.

Brushes!

Brushes!

Sketchbooks and watercolor blocks overflowed from the shelves to the floor.

Sketchbooks on the shelf

Sketchbooks on the shelf

Sketchbooks on the floor

Sketchbooks on the floor

Like the other art supply stores I would visit in the coming days, Creative Grafic was for working artists of all stripes. Large jars of powdered pigment were just a shelf away from Derwent pencils and Pilot Parallel Pens. Watercolor and colored pencil sets lined the windows. There were student and artist lines from ArtCreation, Pebeo, Sennelier and more.

Gimme gimme gimme

Gimme gimme gimme

I came away with Arches hot-pressed watercolor blocks, an Isabey “Gold” brush set in a wrap, ArtGraf, and solid brass sharpeners.

Art loot and coffee

Art loot and coffee

In Paris, I went to Magasin Sennelier (Couleurs du Quai Voltaire) twice, because I didn’t want to leave the first time. It’s a short walk from the Louvre and the Lovelocks bridge, along a row of galleries. They have other branches but I wanted to see this one in particular, because it was the first one, established over a century ago.

Beware, tourist shot ongoing

Beware, tourist shot ongoing

Their pastel line-up is beyond comprehensive. I don’t think you’ll get a wider range in any physical store anywhere. It was total sugar rush for the eyes.

ms-oilcrayons

ms-pastels

Lining the stairwell are swatches. They could be works of art on their own.

And I thought I was doing pretty okay with swatches

And I thought I was doing pretty okay with swatches

The mezzanine had canvas in all sizes and supports for whatever you could think of. The floor above held inks (Rohrer & Klinger, Platinum Carbon Black, Platinum Pigment ink in Sepia, Platinum Mix Free),  calligraphy supplies, a surprisingly varied selection of Japanese brush pens, and brushes.

Hello there, ink

Hello there, ink

I’ve been guilty of slipping a sketchbook out of its plastic cover to fondle the paper. The kind people at Magasin Sennelier have saved me from myself and laid out open sketchbook testers. What a great idea. Other art stores should follow suit. (Google says “griffonner” means “to scribble.” What a lovely word for it. Hold on, I’m griffonning.)

Please doodle in the testers

Please scribble in the testers

This is a busy shop, catering to tourists and local artists. (Must apologize for the blurred pictures, a combination of excited hands and irregular lighting.) Yes, that is a Molotow cabinet in the corner. I really, really want to dive into the Molotow system but 1) I am too scared to graf and 2) I’m not worthy!

Magasin Sennelier - interior

Magasin Sennelier – interior

Pro tip: the Escoda travel brushes are BEHIND the counter. Ask for them.

My last major contribution to the French GDP was at Passage Cloute, an art supplies megastore 400 meters from the Nation Metro stop. We emerged from the Metro straight into a demonstration. There was much playing of Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning,” a staple of rallies around the world since 1987.

What we (literally) go through for art supplies

What we (literally) go through for art supplies

There was no Old World charm in sight.

Passage Clouté - facade

Passage Clouté – facade

But who cares? It was heaven inside.

Palettes hanging from the ceiling!

Palettes hanging from the ceiling!

So. Much. Clairefontaine.

pc-stacks

pc-wcblocks

A surfeit of art candy.

pc-colors

pc-morestacks

Sennelier everywhere!

Sennelier everywhere!

Leigh, you don’t need any more brushes.

No, I don't need any more brushes

No, I don’t need any more brushes

There are many ways to infer what a country values – the shows people watch, the industries that grow around culture and capabilities, the food people are proud of, even the distribution of shops in a mall. (France seems to have no malls, not the kind I’m familiar with.) Creative Grafic was your friendly neighborhood art store, where regulars were greeted by name. Magasin Sennelier was a tourist attraction, but also a serious supplier for artists, not a museum. Passage Clouté was a warehouse. This kind of variety in retail means the demands of artistic impulse are well-served by commerce, letting both thrive. Thank you, France, for keeping the arts just as much a part of the everyday as a glass of good wine.

 

  • Margana

    OMG!!!

  • Sonia

    my heart, drooling.

  • pmontyda

    please forgive my envy — pictures say you had a lovely time in France 🙂

  • Leila M

    Leigh, oh my gosh. I went nuts with Copic markers this weekend…at one lucid point I asked myself why I was buying so many when I’m no more than a dabbling occasional artist, but that was quickly silenced by the wall of glorious colors before me. What it comes down to is really that colors make me happy, and I love having them around.

  • Christine Witt

    Oh my goodness. Travel envy! (Pentulant)

  • Limner

    Ooh! All the lovely photos! I licked my screen! I took a photo of Dick Blick’s window in downtown Chicago while on vacation and did not feel foolish at all. 🙂 It’s the first real store I’ve seen. I’ve only shopped from there online.

  • leighpod

    I spend hours and hours in art supply stores! I could hug the shelves. (Come to think of it I might have…)

  • http://www.belovedlovephotography.com Abbie in Provence

    I live in Aix-en-Provence and never heard of this shop! OMG I love your post and the photos! I need to go to both places and spend serious time!

    Thanks so much! Your post came up for calligraphy aix-en-provence and I’m so happy you blogged and I found this!

    Sunny wishes from Provence!

  • http://leighreyes.com Leigh Reyes

    It is a lovely shop and well-stocked too! Enjoy!