Art Supply Finds in Paris

This past December Scout and I had the privilege of traveling to Paris, France with his parents to celebrate Christmas. It was my first time and made for an unforgettable trip to the city of lights! Paris quickly stole my heart with its rich art history, delicious food and magical lights at night. I have made it a habit to always hunt down the local art supply store when we travel to a new city. To me, art supplies makes the best souvenirs and I have always loved adding to my collection. It is so fun to reminisce when I am back home in my studio and I pick up a pen I got in Portland, Oregon or squeeze a tube of paint I purchased in Calgary, Canada. After doing some research and speaking with other artists, I knew that I had to visit the Sennelier Art Store that holds such rich history with French artists and it just happened to be conveniently located right across from the Louvre Museum (the world’s largest art museum).


After our incredible 2 hour private tour of the Louvre, we crossed the street to enter the beautiful phthalo green door that opened with a welcoming bell. I went in knowing exactly what I wanted: a set of their honey based watercolors! What makes them so special is in fact the honey and that they are made in France. Over the years, Sennelier has re-worked their formula and added this sweet nectar in not only as a preservative but as an additive that gives incomparable brilliance and smoothness to the paint. It reinforces the longevity of the colors as well as their radiance and luminosity. I also read that they are many artist’s favored or prefered choice for when they are painting en plein air or painting outdoors which has always been something I have enjoyed. Check out this cute little video I found that shows Sennelier’s process making their honey based watercolors.


What was even more enticing to learn was that Sennelier watercolors or l’aquarelles roots are found in the impressionist school. One of my favorite French, impressionistic painters Paul Cézanne drew most of his inspiration from nature and set out to reproduce that natural light. He found it fit best with what the watercolor technique offered him due to its spontaneity, lightness of touch, fluidity and transparency allowing a quick translation of a particular light, movement or shape.


The store was quaint, cozy, narrow and filled floor to ceiling. I was greeted at the door by an elderly gentleman with a charming and beaming smile. I gleamed as he pulled out the honey based watercolor, ranging from 12-48 pan sets, from an antique wood drawer behind the counter. I had butterflies in my stomach as he went down in the basement to bring up the wooden box set of 98 tubes still wrapped in plastic from the basement. After scanning the color chart of the rich range of colors I was sold. He also helped me pick out a set of 3 Manet, round, squirrel hair brushes to accompany my new set up paints, a Sennelier watercolor cold press paper block, my fist metal palette (I have always used plastic) a Holbein one with 24 basins, and lastly a 12 pan travel set of their honey l’Aquarelles to dive into the remainder of our trip. During all of this I learned that he was the 3rd generation owner and his great grandfather opened the store in 1887 (and even created and sold Picasso his oil sticks! AH!) I was lucky to have his assistance the whole time we were there and got quite flushed when Scout insisted I got a picture with him on our way out (hence my giddy and CHEEZIN grin haha)


The next day we made our way to Charvin Arts which was located right around the corner from our hotel. There, I found my first awkward encounter with the language barrier since the clerk spoke very little English. I studied Spanish in school so during the whole trip I stumbled my way through reading and pronouncing my words with a French accent haha!

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I picked up a set of their extra fine oil paint (I haven’t painted with oil since college so one of my new year’s goals is to dabble back into them) a soft leather pencil pouch, travel sketch book and the accordion fold watercolor sketch book. You can find the photo of my supply haul that I managed to fly and make it home with below.

As I have progressed in my skill set, I am overjoyed to be able to invest in high quality materials this year and to have this incredible story to share with it. The best part of bringing them all home was thinking about my future customers and how I would get to create for them thoughtfully by using some of the best supplies out there.

Mallory McCamy