Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marche Aux Puces de Saint Ouen (St. Ouen Flea Market)

A store display at the St. Ouen Flea Market showing the variety of items offered

Lately, I've been fascinated by the antique markets in Europe. I love the idea of hunting among seemingly discarded goods that may turn out to be a  treasure, not necessarily to re-sell but to have around your home as a memento or even an heirloom piece to hand down through generations. What I like about scrounging around in Europe as opposed to here in the States is that there seems to be a real appreciation of preserving the historical culture there. Granted, the European countries being so much older than the United States, there are hundreds more years of history and millions of beautiful items created for secular and religious purposes. It seems that everywhere in Europe there are antique and flea markets that open on regularly scheduled days.

We happened to be in Paris on a Sunday when the Marche Aux Puces de Saint Ouen, the largest and most famous antique and flea market in Paris (if not the world) was open and of course, we just had to schedule a visit there. We took the metro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and as we exited, we followed the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. A "Les Puces" (The Fleas) sign points in the direction we wanted to go. Along the way, you see hawkers of all sorts of items including knock off of designer goods - surprising since there were plenty of policemen in the area. There are also outdoor stalls selling African goods, clothing, shoes and household items. We chose to move on as our real target are the marches where the antiques are sold.
Walking from the Metro station to the St. Ouen Flea Market

Stall with African carvings

It is really overwhelming with all the outside stalls, sidewalk vendors and crowds but luckily the weather was extremely pleasant for late October, I am told that there can be as many as 120,000 to 180,000 visitors to the market on a weekend. There are 16 distinct markets with more than 2000 stores selling  art work, antiques, housewares, furniture, clothing, books, porcelain, jewelry and what have you. We finally got to the marches but had no real plan of attack. All we wanted was to soak in the ambiance of the place and look at the items being sold in case something strikes our fancy, So we decided just to follow one passageway into the next and meander through the stores that way. Here are some of the stores and items we came across:

Silver and porcelain
Fine china and collectibles

More items for the house
A store front display
Kitschy 60s stuff
Art Prints
Old Keys
A sign for a doll store
Asian and European antiques
As you can see, if you are looking for something, you are most likely to find it here and will be guaranteed a fine time doing so. I found the store owners to be very knowledgeable and helpful with information even if they sense you are only browsing. 

After a few hours of rummaging, our eyes were full but our bellies were grumbling, so we embarked on finding a place to rest and eat. There are plenty of cafes and bistros around and we ended up at a sandwich and pizza place owned by a friendly French Algerian guy. The sandwiches were really good and reasonable. 

Oh, and let me show you what I bought. When we were touring Northern France, I've been eyeing some French faience pottery by Quimper which features Breton figures on their wares. I did not buy any there. So I was excited when I spotted this cute little old plate at the market and at 8 euros, it is a worthy memento of both our trip to northern France and the Paris flea market.  I am happy!

The stall where I bought my Quimper plate

My Paris flea market find

Au revoir Les Puces de Saint Ouen.  Au plaisir de vous rendre visite à nouveau un jour

For more on the history of the Paris Flea Market, please visit http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Shopping/Paris_fleamkts.shtml

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Impressionists in Honfleur

Ste. Catherine's Bell Tower in Honfleur
by jojo sabalvaro tan
from a page in watercolor journal
A year ago, I watched a show on PBS called Landscapes Through Time with David Dunlop. This show featured a major artist and explored important events, persons and  places in the artist's life that influenced his work. What makes the show more special than being a mere biographic is that  David Dunlop and his students demonstrate these influences at the exact location where the artist painted some of his or her most important works. The particular show I watched featured John Mallord William (J.M.W.) Turner, (1775-1851) an English landscape painter, watercolorist and printmaker, at the Harbor of Honfleur. I was so taken by the location that I knew I had to go there someday.

Honfleur: The Lieutenancy from the North-East, 
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) - 
gouache and watercolor on paper
Lucky for me, someday arrived sooner than I thought. On a recent trip to Europe, we planned  to visit Mont Saint Michel in the northwestern region of France. It so happened that Honfleur was just a couple of hours away from Mont St. Michel so we scheduled an overnight stop there. Honfleur is in the Normandy region of France on the southern estuary of the Seine river which we crossed from Le Havre on the impressive sweeping Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world. Honfleur is about 120 miles from Paris

We arrived at Honfleur just as dusk was setting in. There was a light mist threatening to turn into more of a drizzle. After we checked in and brought our luggage up to our room, we decided to walk down to the harbor or Vieux Bassin. The concierge at the hotel directed us just to follow the street outside down to the port. At the end of the street, even with the looming dark and mist, the old harbor opened up, so beautiful, it took my breath away. The slate-covered buildings were lit up and reflected on the still water, so did the boats and ships docked at the harbor.

Honfleur Harbor

Honfleur Harbor 

No wonder so many artists have painted this charming little hamlet. Honfleur, it turns out will be very familiar to many people because of the proliferation of postcards, greeting cards and prints of works of artists depicting it. And, if you have been to one of the major art museums, you have seen Honfleur.  The impressionists, in particular, came here and formed the ecole de Honfleur (Honfleur School) which contributed to the formation of the impressionist movement.  The concierge advised us not to eat at the many restaurants lining the harbor as the food was mediocre at best and quite expensive. But we could not ignore the view. We were totally enchanted.  We will only be in Honfleur for such a short time, we decided we should take in the full harbor experience as much as we can. We dined on oysters and seafood but missed out on the famous moules (mussels) that every other diner in the restaurant seemed to have ordered.

The Lieutenancy in the background

The Hotel de Ville, far left

The Lieutenancy

The next morning, we chose to have breakfast in one of the restaurants along the harbor once again. We arrived at the harbor just as the sun was beginning to peek out and usher in a  new day.  The waters of Honfleur shimmered in the reflected morning sun. The light here seems so pure that I can understand the lure to the impressionist painters to break free from their studios and workshops and come out here and paint the light.

In the early morning, you almost had the narrow cobble-paved backstreets to yourself and could leisurely peek at the offerings in the patisseries, boulangeries, butcher shop and what-not stores. Honfleur also had a great selection of art galleries being a haven for artists. At this time, while most tourists are still tucked in bed,  you see the citizens of Honfleur going about their daily routines - a mother walking her young children to school, women on their way to the market, a storekeeper arranging the store's display, men delivering seafood, and bread and vegetables to the restaurants - a scene repeated from hundreds of years ago to present day. One of the highlights of our walk was a visit to St. Catherine's Church, the largest surviving wooden church in France. It was built by ship builders, referred to as "Axe Masters", using naval building techniques. No saw was used in the construction at all.

St. Catherine's Church showing its double nave

The bell tower of St. Catherine's

Lining the narrow paved cobbled stone streets, we found many intact half timbered structures, typical of Normandy-style architecture.

Here are some of the paintings of Honfleur by impressionist masters. It is striking to note how Honfleur still looks the same as it did in the 1800s, when the Impressionist were painting there.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) 
 Rue de la Bavolle, Honfleur

The Market at Sainte Catherine, Honfleur
Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891)

Honfleur ,Maison Sur le Quais (1830)
oil on canvas
Jean Baptiste Camile Corot (1796-1875)

The Harbour Entrance, Honfleur
George Seurat (1859-1891)
Oil on Canvas
The Honfleur Lighthouse - Eugene Boudin (1824-1898)

Today, artists from all over the world come to Honfleur to capture its beauty on canvas and paper. Exploring Honfleur, you can understand the fascination of artists old and new with this very inspiring place. I did a couple of paintings in Honfleur on my watercolor journal for this trip and I am definitely inspired to do more paintings of Honfleur using the photographs we took as reference.  Meanwhile, here is the Honfleur page from my journal. You can see the other watercolor sketches from other places we visited in my journal for this trip in  Aquarelle Carnet de Voyage (Watercolor Travel Journal) blog post.

A stroll in Honfleur
by jojo sabalvaro tan
a page from watercolor journal

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aquarelle Carnet de Voyage (Watercolor Travel Journal)

One of the many one lane country roads in Normandy we were pleasantly lost in. The theme song for this trip is 'Two for the Road' even though there were three of us and sometimes four.

Here are pages from my watercolor journal for a recent trip we took to Europe where we visited The Netherlands, Belgium and France. Our base for the trip was Den Haag (The Hague) and we drove from there to Belgium, Normandy, Brittany and Paris. In the Netherlands, we visited Amsterdam and Delft. I will be featuring the areas we saw in future blogs but, in the meantime, here is a preview from my pen and watercolor work inspired by these places.

I started out by sketching the scene in pencil. I am using the spiral bound 15 sheet  Carnet de Voyage Travel Book by Arches (140 lbs cold pressed watercolor paper, 6" x 10") .

And then i finalized the sketch by going over it with a super fine black Pitt pen.

Then I applied watercolor. I used a Winsor Newton Travel Box. And a #8 Isabey Petit Gris and #5 Daler Rowney synthetic brushes

These are the results.......


During our early morning stroll in Honfleur, we happened upon this old lady walking in front of a Biscuits/Calvados store. I just had to capture the moment.


A Bicycle in Delft. I wanted to capture the  iconic bicycle you find everywhere in Netherlands.


The Bayeux Tapestry was displayed in this cathedral originally. Now it is housed in a former monastery turned museum. It is still displayed at the monastery for two weeks once a year for the benefit of the citizens of Bayeux. The cathedral itself is undergoing major restoration. the inside is almost 100% completed and one can see how it looked centuries ago when it was first built. Yogi and I both thought it would be wonderful to get married there.


Our view from our hotel (Hotel Arvor). We walked around town following the ramparts and went down to the River Rance on foot on steep cobbled stone streets. This old and quaint medieval town is full of Brittany charm.


I sketched this from the balcony of a dear friend's house. Paris is truly an artist's dream.


Our base for this trip, Den Haag is a city of old and new. I show Tram #1 which takes you to the center of old town.


It's been 33 years since we last visited Amsterdam. We took a canal cruise and found many changes, yet no change at all.


Our GPS took us right through the inside of the thick stone walls of the ramparts of the old town, down narrow streets and we ended up, to our surprise, right at this bridge (moat)  into this Chateau. We were sure we were not supposed to be there.


Butte-du-Leon - A request stop by Dennis who was kind enough to put up with all the churches without complaining. Waterloo is the site of Napoleon's defeat to Wellington.


The Carmel Monastery where St. Therese entered at the age of 15. In the chapel, lays her relics tucked into a  waxed recreation of her dying moment.


The Ghent Belfry as seen from St. Bavo's Cathedral, where the Van Eyck Altarpiece is on display. On this trip, we targeted seeing as many UNESCO world heritage sites as possible. Many of the old belfries of The Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France are listed.


Here with Rory, at La Chaloupe d'Or  on Grande Place, indulging in our favorite activity during this trip - sitting at cafes drinking, eating and people watching on the main squares.


Brugge, the Venice of the North,  is one of our most favorite cities visited on this trip. The entire old town is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was a magical place that entered your soul.


One of the main purposes for taking this trip was to see Mont Saint Michel, often named on the list of  places to visit before you die. It was truly awesome.

I had fun painting this journal. I hope you enjoyed it. Merci! Dank je! Danke!