My Path

My first recollection of being fascinated with painting and colours brings me back to kindergarten, waiting impatiently for my turn to paint on giant sheets of paper clipped to an easel. Ever since, I’ve surrounded myself with art in all forms, and would be constantly sketching, colouring, decorating, and designing. Art is my way of life.

I grew up in Milwaukee Wisconsin, USA. It was a beautiful environment with numerous lakes, green parks and four distinct seasons. As the colours changed throughout the year, so did I. Changes became a way of life for me.

I graduated from high school with a background in art and went to MATC University where I studied graphic art design and life drawing. I worked part time painting on and designing clothing for a store called Valentinas, which is still there.

Photography became of strong interest to me, and I even posed as the model for our class room assignments. This led me to a career in professional modelling. After working in Milwaukee in publicity I was soon attracted to the lights of Chicago, and shortly after the fame of NYC. I’d accomplished many photo shoots including fashion and publicity over the years, and even did runway modelling. Being acknowledged by a Parisian modelling agency I travelled for the first time over seas which has been my destiny ever since. This is where I met Paul. I continued modelling for three years in Paris until we were married and had my first child, Jeremy. This brought me back to my life as an artist. Since we lived in a small apartment I had just enough space for a drawing table and began ink and colour pencil drawing. I was inspired by the markets with the fresh colourful fruit, vegetables, flower bouquets, courtyards, and faces. These drawings were in galleries and were also sold to friends who saw them in my apartment.

Living in Paris for eight years filled my spirit with new sensations and ideas. Walking down the small cobblestone streets lined with fine pastry shops, florists and cafes was an enriching experience.

In 1983 after giving birth to my second child, Melanie, my little family moved to California. I was immediately inspired by the sunlit flower gardens that lined the streets. This is when I began painting in oils and thrived on the beauty of these vivid colour combinations. Shortly after, people were attracted to these living paintings, and commissioned me to paint pictures of their gardens and houses. I enjoyed this very much, and  when people started ordering second paintings, it gave me a great feeling of satisfaction. During this time I met a woman who wrote poems who was drawn to my pencil work, and I to her singsong poems and we put together three children’s picture book with magical stories.

Life was beautiful and I had satisfaction as a mother and an artist. In 1987 Sophie was born, and I began to paint portraits of my children which were full of life. I also taught them how to paint and they taught me how to see things in a simple way.

Paul became home sick so we moved back to France on condition that we would move to the country and have a garden. We lived in Montpellier for two years where I continued painting gardens. I got back to the public and started some exhibitions, commissioned work and was taken in by the galleries. In 1990 I was discovered by an editor of art catalogues and he edited eight of my paintings which became art reproductions sold throughout Europe.

1992 longing for a country life, we moved to the South-West of France. The beauty was breath taking and we were captured by the panoramic views. We found a modest stone castle with three hectares of park full of historical trees, roses and other flowering plants. It was then that I began to see the beauty in the distance and let my brushes go to work. The views were unlimited and the colours were soft and subdued. I loved to paint the fields with the red roofed houses and sunflower hills. I experimented with different tones and light effects and developed many styles. Galleries invited me to do exhibitions and show my work. I entered contests and won awards and trophies and collected articles from write ups about my accomplishments.

In 2003, our children were now university age and needed to move on. Instead of letting them go, as we are all very close, we decided to move to a bigger city. After prospecting France with nothing left to be desired, we decided to move to Florida. It seemed like we were going against an ultimate plan until our friends told us about Australia. We were taken by the idea and had a three week visit to Perth. We fell in love with the extraordinary beauty of the country and the warmth of the people. Three months later, our house in France was sold and we were living in Subiaco as we had opened a clothing store called Blanc Bleu on Rokeby Rd. This had been Paul’s business for twenty years and the natural cotton clothing fit in perfectly with Perth’s lifestyle. Searching for a typical Australian lifestyle, we discovered the hills and moved to Brigadoon two months later. We have made WA our home and all five of us feel very grateful to be here.

Once settled with the shops and the children went on with their lives. I unpacked my tubes of colours, brushes and set up my easels and started to paint Australia. I remember the feeling of packing them from my studio in France where I had spent so much time and emotion. I knew we would be together soon and experience new ways of seeing things, different lights and colours. I have discovered so much beauty here. The light is transparent and pure, the colours are rich and the earth is glowing. The skies are so blue and the sunsets are magical. Every day is full of freshness and I am making the best out of those tubes of paint.

We have since moved twice, and each time, finding old houses with a soul. I have a passion for bringing old homes back to life….breaking down constricting walls, replacing small windows by salvaged giant french doors, designing new kitchens, bathrooms, and gardens. Adding light and color, which is my natural way of giving life.

IT’S LIKE A CELEBRATION WHEN I PAINT, AND ANOTHER WHEN IT BRINGS A SMILE!

My inspirations to create are everyday reborn and start by a mood. There are certain situations that give a feeling of cosiness and comfort. I want to capture those feelings and keep them with me so it becomes real.

I like to paint bringing an ordinary corner of the world into focus that nobody might have noticed before.

To be drawn into a painting, travel around it, and live inside of it for a while is a good escape!

Beauty can be brought out of ordinary things and given life. The older I get the more beauty I see.

Brushstrokes of color are left on canvas like footprints on a path. Traces of memories and visions that can be shared.

 We refurbished our Guildford cottage in it’s beautiful heritage style, built an art studio, and I continued painting. The collection “Going Home” began. With a long wide path filled with inspiring memories from France, America and now Australia, my imagination and reality worked together to create lifelike storybook houses.
Then, one Sunday afternoon we were on our way up Gooseberry Hill to our favourite French Patisserie when a “Home Open” sign caught our eye. There it was..our future home. We made an offer within the hour! A legend. We only found out later it was the home of Heath Ledger’s grandparents. It’s soul was still alive, but the house itself was  broken down. We knew how to bring it back to life. Ceilings lifted, rooms extended, enormous salvage windows replaced tiny ones, and the beautiful country garden was reborn.
 I continued to paint my story book houses in the front sunroom until we build an art studio amongst the trees.
Soon after, I had the opportunity to do a 2 week expo in a shop on James Street in Guildford to perk it up while it was empty and for lease. Once my paintings were up and the reactions were encouraging, we signed the lease for a year. We called it “Stories on The Wall”. Our slogan was “Time for Colour”. Amazing energy with paintings  selling and many friendly visits. That’s when I decided to get a few pieces of furniture, but it would have to be colourful like my art, handmade, and have a story!! So, Paul and I started designing and importing furniture made from old tropical fishing boats. They were instantly loved, sold, reordered, and reordered! We’ve also let our clients be creative, and design their own pieces. We opened a huge showroom close by, and Paul had a new full time job!
Most of my French Collection of 8 years had been sold.  I then presented my “Going Home”Collection in August 2012 with success.
Our 5 year lease would soon expire being the perfect time to look for a new larger gallery. Just our luck, a clothing shop would be leaving, and we insured the lease. A chance to design our own gallery. The feeling would be warm with copper lights hanging from the pressed tin ceiling, creamy walls, shiny polished cement floors, and a bright sunny window for displays.
We opened the gallery with my  first real Australian collection. Named “Soul Trees”, reflecting the strength and colours of our sacred land. Bright, bold, and alive….most of the collection was sold out that weekend.
In 2015 I did an other solo exhibition “WANDERING SOUL” which was also highly successful.
Continuing my path, everyday with new inspiration…..I used to paint things I could see… now I paint feelings.

“My life is on canvas made of paint”

Bonnie Atlan