Michel Lablais was born in Paris in 1925. From early childhood Lablais was set on becoming a painter, to which end he attended the Ecole des Arts Appliques in Paris. When he reached young adulthood, he joined the military, hoping with some friends to become cartographers in Indochina, then a French colony. Due to illness he was sent to convalesce in Cambodia. It was there he discovered the temple of Angkor Wat, which was the beginning of his fascination with Asia. His time in Indochina was followed by four years in New Caledonia (1949-1954), and the New Hebrides (now Vanatu), with occasional trips to Tahiti.
He was deeply influenced by his time spent in Asia, and he returned there time and again throughout his life. During his most recent visit in 1995, Lablais completed about 80 watercolors in a single month.