Margaret Wright fell in love with painting at age seven. Eighty-eight years on, she loves spending up to five hours each day creating stunning watercolors, only now she uses apps and an iPad, rather than paints and paper.
‘It's marvellous because you don't have to wash brushes. There's no paper to throw away so that costs nothing, paints cost nothing, and it's wonderful.’
At 95, Margaret has never lost her sense of curiosity and thirst for knowledge. ‘My mind's never still, it's always looking for something else to do. I’ve tried most things. I did pottery. I've done some sculpture. I love sculpture because you're putting your hands all around it and you're molding it into something. It’s a lovely feeling.’
She is a huge fan of technology, recently teaching one of the nurses at her aged care facility how to paint with an iPad.
‘I just love people and people's lives and autobiographies and listening to what people say and Google is wonderful. I spend ages on that. I mean, it's better than the Encyclopedia Britannica. You just go: I want to know this skill.’
Margaret was born in Heidelberg in 1925 and studied nursing when she left school at 17.
‘The war was on, and I thought I'd go overseas and meet some sort of wonderful general and marry him but it ended about two weeks before I’d finished my training.’
Instead, Margaret married a young farmer called Peter. The couple had three children and travelled extensively. ‘We all did it on the smell of an oily rag and that made it more interesting.’
Margaret returning to nursing part-time at age 40 for a couple of decades before she decided it was time to indulge her love of painting, which had been sparked in primary school.
‘My teacher had a huge red bun wound around her head and I thought, “That looks like a cow pat”, so I did a little picture of a cow pat on a piece of paper, which was passed around the desks. Finally, she saw it and said, “Bring that picture up to me”. So, they brought it up and she said, “Who did this?”. No one put their hand up, I just sat there. About 15 years or so later, I went to call on her. She'd retired, and she said, “I knew you'd done it, Marg. You were very naughty, but I really did love you.’”
As well as taking classes from artists such as the award-winning watercolorist David Taylor, Margaret also taught painting and exhibited her own work.
Luckily, Peter was a very patient and supportive man.
‘We'd go somewhere and then I'd say, “Oh, stop, stop at this old house. I want to paint it”. So, he'd put a book under his nose, and I'd start to sketch the house.’
One time she made him stop after a gum tree caught her eye. On the way home she insisted he stop again so she could paint it from the other direction. ‘He couldn’t believe it,’ she laughs.
Another time they were at an art show where some of Margaret’s work was on display. ‘He stopped in front of mine and he said, “Oh, this one is by someone called Margaret Wright. I think I've heard of her. She's brilliant”, and so other people came because he was going on about my painting. I gave him a kick and said, “You can't do that Peter”.’
The trick to being a good artist is to look, Margaret says.
‘No one looks at things and really sees them. They'll see a bird or a flower but they won't see it really. You must learn to observe. One day I was going to Melbourne and I was on the train for two hours and all I did was look at shadows. That was marvellous.’
Reviewed 02 August 2022