We recently visited Margaret Petchell at her home studio in Belmont, she told us all about her 36 years experience working as a make-up artist and stylist for tv, where she draws inspiration from and how her upcoming exhibition ‘Last Light’ is a departure from her signature style of painting.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Margaret Petchell and have been painting for the past 13 years, 7 of those years commercially. I have also worked as a make up artist and stylist for TV commercials for 36 years, so I have a lot of background experience with paintbrushes on the the human canvas.
I started out doing large chalk pastel pictures of women, then progressed to painting really large portraits of women each painting took 6 months – so not very commercial!
I now mainly paint bird portraits on canvas using acrylic paint but have painted a lot of animal portraits, people and flowers. I think I gravitate towards painting birds because I am captivated by their intense expressive eyes.
What is your process for creating new work?
Travel, visiting art galleries and in particular seeing historical art with modern art is inspirational for me. My process for creating new work begins with a lot of online research or viewing pictures I have taken of artworks during my travels, and looking at the works of painters whom I admire. I then print out landscapes and pictures of birds I like and literally scrap book the two together with scissors and glue until I have a composition, scale and picture I am happy with.
What or who influences you most in your work?
I’m inspired by great artists in history like symbolist painters Gustav Klimt, Gustav Mareau and Maurice Denis and seeing their paintings in world famous galleries is very inspiring to me and my work. I have definitely been influenced by the symbolist exhibition I recently went to at Musee du Luxembourg in Paris. I also love watching movies about the lives of artists.
There was a strange concurrent influence while I was painting the yellow skies for my latest exhibition, that day the sky in Auckland became dark and yellow around 2.30 in the afternoon caused by the Australian bush fire smoke it had a very strange similarity to what I was painting. Also other images of trees with no leaves started to look like burned Australian bush such as in the background of the Huia and Trees painting.
Tell us about your upcoming show ‘Last Light’.
In the past I have been known for painting large pictures of birds against stark white backgrounds. In my latest series birds are shown in the forest at dusk, the light is golden, it is the “magic hour” when colours seem slightly surreal.My colour palate is restricted, using a lot of blues, greens and blacks with golden yellow skies. The backgrounds of my mini series evolved more into a symbolist feel. I can never quite remember the moment I decide on a particular theme or direction before conceiving a new series, but it has been a long time coming finding a new direction.
What are you looking forward to most about your show?
People who see my new work can see a different side to what I can do as a painter, I’ve enjoyed being a bit freer and look forward to the viewers response to that, and of course a few red stickers would be great!
In three words describe your upcoming show.
Atmospheric. Symbolic. Nature