Artist Margaret Petchell at work.

Being an artist often allows you to express your talent in more than one arena. And in the case of expert Margaret Petchell painting and makeup artistry are her twin passions. Trudi Brewer visited Petchell at home in Auckland to find a creative space with a feminine edge.


Tell us about your painting?
I started out with giant size portraits of women, a natural extension of my interest in faces, copied from Paolo Roversi’s amazing portrait photography. These were incredibly time-consuming taking around six months to complete. To become more commercial, I searched for another subject and was captivated by the expression in the eyes of birds. And it was about four years ago a photographer friend, Max Thompson and my partner urged me to set a date to put on an exhibition of my work.

What do you love most about what you are doing now?
It's a great balance between having a very social people-oriented job, working with crews on TV commercials, to being solitary at home painting. I feel lucky to have a career that I enjoy, which is both creative and self-employed. And I love the positive feedback and a sense of achievement from something I have created.

What is a typical day for you?
I am running two businesses concurrently. My roles probably work out 50/50 at the moment, which suits me - until the painting takes over. The make-up, styling work has been the backbone of my career for 33 years. For now, it works for me to be involved in both worlds.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Visual inspiration from magazines including fashion images, when I used to work on a lot of fashion shoots. And,I am going to Morocco again this year; I have quite a connection with Arabic culture and its aesthetic.

You paint peoples, and animals, but more recently birds, why?
The common denominator between all my subjects is the direct gaze, connecting with the eye of the viewer. This links my work as a makeup artist, where the expression in a models eye was everything to capture 'the perfect shot'. For my painting, regardless of the theme, it is the same, without that personal connection, there is no life in the picture. 

What is a great start to a day for you?
My day starts with yoga, and coffee from Little & Friday, where I have been a customer from day one. Kim, the owner of Little & Friday, is a loyal supporter of my work, especially with her sponsorship of my shows, suppling her amazing baked goodies. And, then my day is interspersed with learning French, and sewing, I am making a tailored jacket for myself. And trips to the art shop and Endemic World, who print my work.

How has your career influenced your style?
Being surrounded by fashion it has been a big part of my life and has always been a driving force of inspiration. Currently, I am inspired by Alessandro Michele, the head designer at Gucci who I believe is a genius. I love his designs the detail, colour, patterns and his ability to create new ideas, you don’t feel you have seen before.

How would your describe your home?
A cross between Greek provincial with a Moroccan vibe. It's  eclectic and bohemian, the result of years of my collecting.

What makes a great interior?
Good curation, not too much clutter or buying into faux for the sake of trend.

What are your most treasured possessions?
I’m pretty attached to everything; it's here because I love it.

What is always on your bedside table?
A cup of freshly grated ginger tea, a drink mat from The George Snake Pit Bar. My iPhone, pictures of my daughter and travel books, as well as a copy of Stephen Fry Autobiography.

So what does beauty mean to you?
A colour, style, fashion, a feeling, individuality, or a quirk - never the expected.

What is your one beauty indulgence?
Chanel skin care, I can thank my daughter for that who worked for Chanel for several years.

As a makeup artist, there must be a short list of products you would never be without, what are they?
Bourjois Kohl Pencil in Brun. MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo. Chanel Powder Blush. Chanel Auburn Mascara. And Nars  Punjab Sheer Glow Foundation.

You have beautiful skin, what’s your secret? 
Genetics play a role, along with the usual - stay out of the sun, never smoke, don’t drink too much, don’t eat too much sugar, and stick to food that looks like actual food. Plenty of sleep and not too much stress...   

What is your top anti-ageing tip?  
Flax seed oil and yoga - and all of the above.

What would you never compromise on?
Quality, and cheap copies that never have any soul.

To view Petchells' latest paintings visit Endemic World or check out her new exhibition this month April 8-18 at 62 Ponsonby Road.

Photography Keryn Sweeney