A world class gallery close to Chamonix: Fondation Pierre Gianadda

Chamonix, surrounded by spectacular scenery,  amazing people and athletes is also an unexpectedly good starting point for seeing inspiring art.About 40 minutes drive away is The Pierre Giannada in Martigny which puts on regular exhibitions and also has an interesting permanent collection of paintings and sculptures (Van Gogh, Renoir Henry Moore)

It’s a breath taking drive from Chamonix over the Col des Montets and the Col de Forclaz, with an impressive switchback through the vinyards down to Martigny.  The drive is worth it in itself.

This September I visited Le mythe de la couleur which is running until the 25th November.jawa

It is from a private collection, and I found just the story behind it moving.  The owner, Merzbacher has up until now only anonymously shown his collection. Apparently, this is the first time he has ‘come out’ publicly that he is the man behind it. Putting aside all questions of how a single person could own just so many incredible pieces, he remains humble: ‘I just collected work I liked’  he says. It’s believable.

As a private collection it really came together for me: the whole is much more than the sum of the parts, but that sounds ridiculous when we are talking Van Gogh,  Picasso, Kandinsky. Maybe it’s the hint that we wouldn’t have seen this if Merzbacher had perished like his parents in the holocaust.

This exhibition definitely ‘filled the well’ for me:  I do need to keep being inspired for visual work.

These are my brief notes that I took as I walked around the exhibition, my personal reactions. You will find nothing academic here and the ‘photography’ is really just visual notetaking from my iphone….

There are many landscapes in the collection but the number of great poses of people stood out for me.


Modigliani Amadeo Jeanne Herbuterne, 1918. I love the way she is holding her head. Feel like taking this pose into a    skier portrait.  This was my favourite of the whole exhibition.





 Alexei Von Jawlensky Mystischer Knopf Madchenkopf 1917. Nice way of doing a face :o)

 Picasso Le Couple (les miserables)

lesmisFrau mit rotem Hahn, 1941, Great pose and face again

In this picture another theme came out for me…. am going to play with  using black outline again too

Use of black

Max Beckmann, Rote tulipen and Feuerlilien 1935

Stilleben mit roten Rosen und Butchy 1942


…..again on black – great still lives

Maurice de Vlaminick, Vue de Chatou …. Use the idea of a black background colours.

Frau mit Schlange (schlangebeschworerin) 1940Great pose, face and use of black. Combines all things for me!

f miit schlange


But the exhibition is billed as the colour myth, and it didn’t disappoint there at all. Half close your eyes at any point in the room and that’s the impact.

Brigit Riley 1997 Harmony in Rose









Wassily kandinski Herbstlandschaft mit booten 1908.   I want to use these colours for ski picture.

Berglandschaft mit dorf 1:  Great sunset colour scheme









Emile Nolde 1930 -1935

Sonnenblumen and klatschmohn und lupinen – good for mono prints

Other Pictures to look out for:

Van Gogh
Pelouse ensoleillee
Jardin publique de la place Lamartine 1888

1904  Max Bill

Formation eines kerns aus vier durchdringenden farben 1980

good checks! – can just see this on a ski jacket design c2012….

How to get there:

The beautiful drive from Chamonix takes about 40 minutes.

The train ride is lovely too (and goes through an entire hidden valley not accessible from the Chamonix Martigny road). This is not currently running as the line is being updated. But once its running again there are often offers for discount on joint train and gallery entry, so ask.

Running to 25th November

Next up Sam Szafran 7 December – simply titled ‘50 years of painting’.  I will be there!

Via Corda Alpina Chamonix

An accessible gem, why is this not more well known?

Having just completed this long climb with a mixed ability group we want to let more people know about it.

What is it?

It is a long climb up a rocky ridge that combines a bit of very easy rock climbing, hiking and elements of mountaineering. The views are great over to the Aiguilles Rouges, into the gorge at the end of the Mer de Glace, over Chamonix town and up theDrus cliff faces. It tops out at a snack hut and has an easy walk down.

Who can do it?

Our party included a 10 year old who has done a bit of rock climbing but is not keen on hiking and a keen hiker with next to no climbing experience. There was also an experienced mountaineer and climber in our party of 5. Everyone had a fantastic trip taking enjoyment from different aspects of the experience.

The length, 2-3 hours for an experienced and fit group or it could be a whole day out if the party has members : young,inexperienced or lacking endurance. So almost anyone who can do a day of moderate hiking and is willing to go for it could do it.

What do I need?

Some basic climbing kit, harnesses, rope, 7-10 quickdraws, helmet. We used climbing shoes, which for a long route can be a bit sore, hiking boots, alpine boots or even training shoes could be used.

Snacks and water.


Anybody leading this climb must be able to lead 3c with long runouts.

If you are not familiar with even one term or  item on the above list, get a professional to lead your group. This could either be a guide or climbing instructor for this sort of route. Please contact us here for recommendations.

Doing it in the wet or to soon after rain will make it significantly more challenging so pick good weather.

How to paint glass – see a painting as it was completed

 Watch this quick 30 second clip for a demonstration. 

There is a variety of Park skiing in Chamonix. There is a mini park les Houches, a large park with ski across at the Grands Montets,  a ski accross at le Tour and an airbag at Brevant and Flying K at Flégère.

Here is a recent painting, inspired by the park, titled  Park Sun.  It is adapted from a photograph showing a park skier jumping overhead onto a rail, with the sun behind him.

People often ask how the paintings are made, and to see this you can watch this quick 30 second clip. The camera was below the glass as I worked.

And if you are more patient and into detail,   please click on the link here for a longer clip.

Read more about my work here

pic saraPlease feel free to contact me here with any questions about this



The art of skiing – an interview with Basi News

How did you get into skiing and what prompted you to pursue a BASI pathway?

I started skiing late. I was around 22 when I first put on skis,  in Japan. I was teaching English at the time. I loved it instantly, and could not understand why I had left it so long; I immediately wanted to  do this all the time, and to be in the mountain environment.

It took me a long time to achieve this, but I now live full time in the Alps, in Chamonix. I won’t bore you with how I continued in my career, holding a deluded belief that I could also teach myself to ski.

Eventually, on a BASI level 1 course, I understood it didn’t have to be as hard as I was making it for myself. I was helped to reconstruct a few strange habits. Overnight, I was enjoying skiing  more.  I experienced similar improvements at level 2, and I was convinced: take lessons if you want to improve your skiing. Don’t be like me.

As I still was still working long hours in the corporate world, BASI offered a neat solution with modular courses. I was able to drop in and out over a few years. The ability to work through the syllabus at any speed is a great strength of the system for people like me. Not everyone is in a position to commit the time, money or bandwidth to qualify in a short space of time.

Where, when and how did your interest in art develop? Where did you develop your skill?

Unlike Skiing, I found art, drawing painting and anything visual very early as a small child.  But like skiing, I left it late to take formal training.  A redundancy gave me the gift of time to attend Falmouth College of Art.  I actually spent most of this time in Chamonix but that’s another story. Happy days:  skiing and making visual work.

What is your favourite medium for work?

I work in paint, often on glass, and am a printmaker. Glass for its fluidity, and print for the light and immediate way that images can be created. Both methods are spontaneous, and work well with snowsports and the mountain environment.

What subjects do you work with?

I paint the art of skiing or riding, the essence of the snowsports experience!  This could be capturing what flashes past my eyes as I ski, or as I watch a skier or boarder. This may be the colour, the sensation, the movement, a position, some technical skill, or the ‘design’ the skier makes against the dramatic mountain.

I also notice that my training to improve ‘my eye’ as a ski instructor is adding positively to the work.

So what parallels are there between art and skiing?

Well, we all have seen how instructors love to draw in the snow. I think this is funny in itself, but I am sure that actually there is a lot more to this habit….

I am fascinated by the links I see with good skiing and creating visual artwork: the’ inner feeling’,   the way ‘you know when its right’; the dynamic shapes that are mad,  and  the way  we ‘read’ the terrain.   Trainers can ask you to interpret a task creatively. All these are artistic traits too.

The colours and design of fashion and kit play a part. And its seasonal: most artists cannot be creative all the time.

But to give a more concrete example, I am often struck by how an analysis of a run can be like the analysis of a picture: in a video analysis, the visual picture of a skier is created from technical inputs, and we all are trained to see these as teachers, looking for clues.  At times it is similar to the technical assessment of a piece of visual work: art critics or buyers  may look at the colour palate, the composition, how  the work  is put together,  what has the artist has done before,  and does it answer the brief?

And then there is the unavoidable –  do I like it? is it any good?

That may be why skiers, like artists vary in their liking and ability to take feedback.  It is an ability that can be developed, but the timing and delivery of this is key.  On a given day an artist or a skier in training may not be ready to hear something.  Yet they could be receptive to the same point days, weeks, or years, later. Good art coaches and ski coaches share this insight.

Life drawing is another example.  Life drawing classes focus heavily on the form of the human body, and particularly where the weight is, how the movement of one limb influences the position of another.

For me making art is straight forward and I know just how to get into ‘flow’ with it. I also know that there is no point if flow is not around, better do something else for a bit, change your head.

I am a more natural artist than a natural skiing athlete, and I have to work harder at my skiing, but this does not matter.  I enjoy the process. Even raw material like mine can be improved, and this is also the point of training and education. I say the same thing to people I teach art to – everyone can be shown a way to be better, to enjoy the process more, at any point in their development.

Where and what stimulates your inspiration for subject matter?

The actual environment of the ski slope is so full of visual subjects –the obvious majestic mountains, the weather, but I am also interested in the kit, and the styling. I love the variety of the graphics on snowboards, and this year’s look of single blocks of bright colours, unexpected colour combinations and asymmetric designs.

You are currently training for your level 3 – how are you progressing and how far do you want to go?

I would love to be able to ski to level 3 standard, and am continuing to work towards this.  I have completed all modules, except the technical and teach, and I have trained with Bass Chamonix and Interski in the Aosta valley.

Who are your typical clients

I sell commissioned originals to people who would like to see their ‘hero skiing moments’ depicted and properly honoured, and to chalets looking for their own identity, and prints  or originals to snowsports enthusiasts.

I also work with people who want to learn to paint or be involved in a different activity while another member of their party is getting their adrenalin kicks in Chamonix.

I am trained as an illustrator, and can work to any brief – do get in touch at http://www.sarapendlebury.com  or sara_pendlebury@hotmail.com if you have an idea that you would like to see transferred to paint or print.

Where have you or are you exhibiting?

Please support me by liking my facebook page!


You can also see my work at www.sarapendlebury.com.

I have exhibited in Cornwall, in Chamonix, and at the London Business Design centre, London City Hall and the William Morris Gallery in London. This April I took part in an exhibition opposite the new Olympic stadium  Spring at the Smokehouse


Whats next?

For anyone missing the northern hemisphere ski season, I am running a competition to win a print of your choice from my collection this summer.

To enter, all I am asking is for your suggestion of name for the picture shown.

Click on this link to enter or go to http://www.sarapendlebury.com/competition/

Walking on cloudy days from Argentiere


There is nothing better than walking along a high ridge under one of those crystal skies where,  looking up from the horizon, the colour quickly deepens from the normal blue to a deep space blue and you feel you are so much closer to the edge of the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Frigg the Norse Goddess of clouds can sometimes bestow a little too much of her blessing on the mountains. BUT all is NOT lost for your days hiking.

Low level

The easiest way is to get out of the clouds is to be below them.

Around our chalet favorite hikes on low cloud days are circular walks on the ‘Petit’ Balcon’ paths. From our doorstep we have circuits to the east and west. These paths meander just above the valley floor. Steep sections are never too long, nor are flat section long and dull. These are interesting walks of moderate intensity.

Themed walks

When there is little to see of the large scale landscape, look at the smaller things. Trails introducing history, flora and culture have been set up in several parts of the valley. None are very long but amongst our favourites are the historical walk around old Servoz village and the botanical trail in Les Houches. Each can be done in an hour and our own suggestion is to link them by taking a trail through the tall forest between the 2 villages. Together they male a full days walking.


Chamonix’s position near the meeting point of the Swiss, Italian and French borders is more than a geographical interest point. It is the separating point between different climate zones and the high mountains nearly always have different weather on ‘the other side.’

If we have heavy clouds from the North, pop through the Mont Blanc tunnel and explore the undeveloped Val Ferret and Val Veny. These valleys have extensive trail networks, hikeable peaks and unbelievable in-your-face views of the Mont Blanc range’s highest peaks.

When greyness looms in from the west head for Switzerland. The valleys radiating from Martigny offer every thing; Saunter around the fruit orchards and bonuses of the valley floor and lower slopes for something relaxed, stride the mellow meadows sprinkled with chocolate box cute chalets to the summit of Mont de L’ Arpille for warmer muscles or go into the wild limestone cliff landscape leading to the Fully lakes.


Sometimes a few smudges of mist can add to the atmosphere. There are gorges in the area where the outside weather is almost irrelevant. The Diosaz starting in Servoz is pretty and interesting but an entry fee is charges. Our recommended one is just over the border into Switzerland. The Tete Noire gorge is so magical expect to catch faeries and elves if you can walk quietly enough. A few wraiths of mist in the air adds to the sense of other worldliness.


Max on the good weather, save cloudy day hikes if the forecast is less sunny.

Select the season. June and September have a better chance for settled weather spells. Also everywhere is less crowded.


Spring at the Smokehouse exhibition

**Recommended as one of the top five exhibitions for April 2012 by First Thursdays **

Spring in the ski season is a poignant time – there are no ‘new beginnings’  as the chances to ride start to melt  away– the snow is melting, transforming, and any new snow that comes will disappear quickly too.  It is ending for another year. Seize the day, live in the moment.  Find spring snow.


Spring Skiing at Flegere

While the world wakes up and notices new beginnings  – for any winter sports lovers,  it is an indication that the snow is soon going to disappear for another year. Any regular skier or boarder will feel at their strongest and at their best in Spring as the season ebbs to a close. Spring, in this case, means an end.

Spring Snowboarder

The quality of spring snow is unique; it has been transformed by the evolutions in the changing winter weather, and more sunlight as the earth warms.  It can feel old, scratchy, used or dirty on piste, and in the mornings it can be icy, difficult to manage. But on an afternoon after the sun has softened it, it can be the most forgiving and flattering surface.

With mild weather, it is a time to make the most of what is left. Spring in the ski season is a reminder to relax, and live in the moment.

Spring Snow in Courmayeur 

These  paintings  were inspired by scenes in the Mont Blanc region of France and Italy over this past winter season 2012 and will be exhibited at ‘Spring at the Smokehouse’ exhibition  in London from this April 5th to May 6th.


Spring at the Smokehouse Catalogue