artist interviews

margot wiburd, seventy, she/her

what is your art form?

works on paper, incorporating pastel, collage and stitching, and various printmaking techniques; oil painting on canvas.

what do you do and why do you do it?

i create 2D artworks, mainly still life, to quietly promote a feeling of calm and breathing space for both myself and the viewer. i also create artwork as a means of fundraising for rescue dogs - my other passion. art making has become less about me and more about giving back, and also to bring about change for causes dear to my heart.

who/what has inspired you in your artistic practice and why?

rothko's sweeping colourfield paintings, still lifes by morandi, thornton walker's quiet vessel paintings, arikha, and georgia o'keeffe for her trailblazing creative journey which inspired me to pursue my own.

what do you think your role is as an artist? has anything stopped you from fulfilling this role?

my personal role as an artist is to express my own truth, and this includes a compulsion to promote peace, beauty and tranquillity in the world by creating quiet works that offer a spiritual breathing space and pause in an increasingly "fast" and automated world. the greatest deterrent to my fulfilling this role is a frequent lack of self confidence and a tendency for perfectionism. it's always a challenge to be able to step back and see my work through an objective lens rather than a comparative one, to overcome my many doubts and move forward with my vision. it generally takes several months of not looking at a completed artwork before i can truly appreciate it as a work of art in its own right. then, if the artwork has succeeded, the feeling of excitement and satisfaction that floods my senses is what propels me forward - but always with the promise of doing a little better next time.

what have been the biggest challenges in your artistic journey?

a fluctuating lack of confidence which occurs when i leave that magical creative space and start comparing my work to that of others (so self-destructive!). and perfectionism, which can be so paralysing. better to do, fail, learn, develop, and discover than be uselessly frozen by the thought of not creating 'the perfect artwork'.

it was often a challenge to combine being an artist with working at a full-time job to pay the rent. i found it difficult to be an evening artist (i was inevitably too tired from the day's work), or a weekend artist, as it's difficult for me to create and develop artworks in a stop-start mode. i like to immerse myself continuously in that special, spiritual art-making space in order for the work to develop. however, you do adjust, because the alternative is to create no artwork at all.

i've found artist residencies to be invaluable in broadening my horizons. investing in rigorous education in classical oil painting techniques was a much-needed springboard from which to develop my work, plus ongoing workshops to keep learning new techniques. i had to personally fundraise to be able to do this, and was fortunate to be supported on my journey by art patrons and scholarships.

as an artist, there is always the peril of drifting along aimlessly, and i feel that it's vital to have some sort of goal to work to, such as a deadline or potential exhibition - even if you have to invent that goal for yourself.

do you believe that good art comes from turmoil and suffering, or is that a romantic notion?

i believe that suffering is inherent in art making, in that we all experience self doubt during some part of the process, and this can be agonising. i don't believe, however, that you must suffer for your art to be good. good art, in my view, is art that expresses the artist's truth - that which the artist sets out to express. however, the term "good art" is very subjective, as the viewer brings so much of his or her self to the process of responding to an artist's work. it's a collaboration between artist and viewer, with the outcome affected by the experience, and even the mood, of that viewer.

how do you feel your age impacts your experience as an artist?

there's a french saying: "to feel comfortable in one's own skin." that's how i feel, now that i am older. i LOVE being the age i am and having all those years of struggle and art-making wisdom behind me. when i was younger, i wanted to make a name for myself; i worried about what people thought of me and my work; i was also so naive. i felt i was always in a competitive space. now that i have years of study, research, art making and life experience behind me, i no longer feel driven to prove myself to anybody, and my creative experience is now an act of love without all the baggage and stress i used to surround myself with. (i still get anxious during the process, of course, before an artwork comes together.) i've come to realise that not everyone will love my art and i'm fine with that. i don't love everyone else's art either, but that doesn't mean it's less worthy. i love being able to draw on techniques i've learned over many years...and i am still learning. learning must never stop, regardless of age. i feel incredibly privileged to have the financial security of an age pension - even though i still work at making ends meet. the financial stress that was always present is no longer there. i feel endlessly grateful that i took the path less travelled and worked at being an artist. it's a privilege and honour i never take for granted.

what about your gender/race/sexuality/disability etc.?

i feel that the only slight disadvantage i've faced was that baby boomer women tended to be less likely to promote themselves as strongly as males. again, it's a confidence thing. but i may be mistaken; the problem may just be my inherent shyness and fluctuating sense of security.

when it comes to art, what would you tell your younger self?

work harder! don't let life get in the way of your arts practice for days, weeks, or months at a time. push through the tiredness. stay positive and above all, be confident, fake it til you make it. and yes, you are right to research and seize opportunities, to travel and broaden your horizons; this is how you grow. just keep going. it will come together in the end.

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