10 Mar 2023Mont Marte

Mont Marte: How it all started

A stack of white canvases piled on one another.

Originally an import wholesale business, supplying variety stores with hardware and garden products, founders Bob, Carol and Cheyne Kent discovered the art world in early 2003 when a shipment of black garden stones was ordered for wholesale. The stones were too heavy for a full container shipment, so artist’s canvases were used to top it up. Rolling with the opportunity, Bob, Carol and son Cheyne, set the products up to sell, only to see them fly off the shelves.

The price was affordable, however, the clean edge look of thicker canvases was much more appealing. With closures due to the SARS outbreak in China, Cheyne and Bob flew to China to re-design the canvases. And so, the Mont Marte Double Thick Canvas was born, with its increased frame size and double back stapling.

A white canvas with back staples and canvas keys.

“People buy canvas and paint on it, and they spend hours painting on it, so it’s got to be decent, it’s got to be substantial, and not something that would just bow, and you throw away,” said founder, Bob Kent.

Back then smart phones didn’t exist, the internet made funny noises when it connected and online shopping was unheard of. Brick and mortar stores were where people shopped, and there was a clear need for quality and affordable art supplies in the market. At the time, art supplies were mainly restricted to art stores, and it was hard to find what you needed at an affordable price.

“We heard the same thing coming through, “I used to love doing art when I was a kid, but I can’t afford it, it’s too expensive now” and that rang in my ears. It was reinforcing what I believed, but it was saying, hang on there’s a genuine need here, to have a brand of art materials that do their job and that the average person can afford to buy.”

A paint brush in red paint with various blue paints spread out on a white surface.

Accessibility meant more people could connect with their creativity. Affordable products in places people visit every day. This gave people the chance to experience creativity for the first time, or the chance to re-connect with something they loved as a child but didn’t have the extra money to explore again.

But affordability needed to mean quality too and that was important from day one.

“With art supplies, it’s even more important, because it’s not just the tool they’re using, it’s the outcome they need to get with the tool. So quality is a really key thing but so is affordability,” Bob said.

Founders Bob, Carol and Cheyne standing out the front of Mont Marte in Salisbury.

With this at the forefront, it was time for a name. Having visited Montmartre in Paris a number of times, Bob and Carol had always loved the creative spirit of the artistic district and decided it was time to bring an Australianised version of affordable art supplies to the world.

A range of Mont Marte oil paints standing upright on a wooden palette.

“As much as Montmartre signifies art, we wanted it to be Aussie. So, when you talk through your nose, you call it Mont Marte, rather than Montmartre and that’s how we spelt it.”

In house artist Joe painting a forest artwork on a wooden easel as part of Mont Marte's free art lessons.

In 2010, Mont Marte began publishing free art lessons on their website to enable and empower even more people to create. Covering a range of mediums from painting, drawing, sculpting and crafting and including a range of skill levels from beginner, intermediate and advanced. This was followed by online how-to videos on social media accounts to educate and inspire. Meaning everyone -- no matter who they are or where they’re located, can jump online and learn how to create.

The front of Mont Marte's building in Murarrie Brisbane.

In 2022, Mont Marte expanded from its small home in Salisbury Brisbane, to a much larger warehouse complex in Murarrie Brisbane and launched its first ever online store. The heart of wholesale is still there, the brand is stocked in over 1000 local Aussie stores, including everyday accessible locations like discount stores and newsagencies.

Products are designed and tested by an in-house team, so Mont Marte can continue to provide a comprehensive range of affordable, quality art materials to everyone no matter what stage they’re at in their creative journey.

Four images of various Mont Marte painting, kids, drawing and sculpting tools.

Growing from a small, family importing business, Mont Marte now supply art tools to over 95 countries and territories around the world and counting. Reflecting on the journey, it’s still a bit of a surprise to founder Bob Kent, “to think of a container full of rocks turning into a leading art brand is almost ludicrous!”

You can find out more about who Mont Marte are and our mission here. Or browse our free art lessons.

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