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Maggi McDonald

Maggi McDonald

Tell us about how you became the woman you are today. Where did you grow up? What moments in life have influenced your character most.

I’m originally from South Africa and now live in Sydney, Australia. I come from a family of makers  – my mum is very creative and we grew up doing all kinds of crafts, from making wrapping paper with potato stamps to macramé and jewelry. She did various things throughout her life including pottery at her home studio so we were surrounded by creativity and encouraged to explore. My grandfather was an accountant but in his spare time, he did carpentry and made intricate dolls house furniture out of timber. My mum & grandmother made a lot of our clothes and my sister and I wore matching outfits on many occasions! I believe all of this had a strong influence on the person that I am today and how I perceive the world.

After university, I moved to London where I lived for 5 years before settling in Sydney. Life took over and creativity took a back seat until I decided to go back to school to study design in the year my son started school. Looking back now it was crazy – I was still working 4 days a week and studying one day and I remember spending all my weekends working on assignments in between family life and mum duties but I loved it. I finally felt like I was moving in the direction the universe had planned for me.

Tell us about the exact moment or period in time when you realized you were born to create.

I’ve always been very creative and a maker of stuff but it wasn’t until about halfway through my design course 5 years ago that I had this sudden lightbulb moment that I was put on this earth to create stuff. Most of my friends in the class wanted to be interior designers and stylists but I realized I didn’t want to style the things that other people created – I wanted to create the things that people styled.

 Tell us a little bit about what drew you to your medium. Did you choose to work with said medium or did it choose you?

I actually stumbled across the technique of scraping acrylic in layers while doing mark making in surface design class – we were exploring different ways of mark making for creating patterns and it just sparked something in me. I went home and bought some cheap acrylics and started experimenting layering & scraping with a palette knife and my style has evolved from there.

 What do you want the younger female artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the art industry in general? 

That with hard work and determination you can make a living from your art. Overnight success is a complete myth – it takes talent and a whole lot of drive to keep going when things are tough. There are going to be times when you feel like giving up. Take a step back, regroup and keep going because the breakthrough is often on the other side. Be open to collaboration and say yes to things – even if they scare you and are way out of your comfort zone! It’s also important to remember that there is room for everyone – community over the competition all the way. 

What is the message you're sending into the universe with your work? Why do you feel so strongly about said message?

I want to let people know that art is abundant, accessible & has the power to inspire, effect change and create joy. 

 Finish this sentence. I find myself most inspired to create when I am…

completely relaxed. Usually after a couple of days at the beach.

How do you stay motivated? What does your daily routine look like?

I’m a creature of habit and I start every day with a coffee before I sit down at 7:30 for half an hour of emails & planning for the day ahead including writing my to-do list. After that, it’s mum duty with getting my son ready for school and school drop off followed by a swim or some exercise. Then it’s painting/admin/content creating before I do school pick up and afternoon activities with my son. I’ve recently started to schedule my days to allow for more productivity which means I only do my admin on certain days of the week leaving me more time to be creative and get back to what the core of my business really is. Making sure you protect your creative energy when running your art business is super important.

Big or small, what’s the single best money making tip or piece of advice you can share with up and coming artists?

Embrace your worth!

What tools, apps, websites, blogs, books, or podcasts help you the most when it comes to financials?

I recently started using Quickbooks and I love it – super easy to use and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

What specifically gives you the most anxiety when it comes to talking about money? Explain.

I still get super weird with charging for my artworks! It’s been a long road to understanding my worth and moving away from that feeling of being just so happy that someone wants to buy my art vs actually charging what it’s worth. I know a lot of artists struggle with this and my only tip is to price your artworks according to size and then stick to those prices.

What do you know for sure?

That life is short and that we were all put on this earth for a reason.

Give us three of your favorite/ most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc.

Obessesed with Italy’s Amalfi coast at the moment! I’ve never been but I’m planning a trip very soon.

Name 3 of your guilty pleasures.

Netflix binges, midweek beach days and of course, cheesecake!

What's the best advice you've ever been given? 

I went to a design talk in my first year of studying design and one of the speakers, Russ Koskela from (Koskela in Sydney) told us to “just have a go”. I went home and painted those words on a poster sized piece of paper, framed it and put it on my studio desk. It keeps inspiring me and it’s something I tell aspiring artists when they ask me where to start.

 It’s karaoke night and your up. What song do you sing?

Hard choice as I have so many favorite songs but it would have to be It’s My Life by No Doubt. I’m a child of the 90’s and Gwen was my jam! 

Finish this sentence. I never leave home without my…


 A genie grants you three wishes. What do you wish for?

A private jet so I can visit my family in South Africa whenever I want to, the opportunity to spend a day with my grandmother Enid who passed away before I started painting and who is a constant inspiration in my work and the ability to eat as much cheesecake as I want without gaining a kilo!

Name 3 Artists you would like to see featured on Hola Gwapa next and what you love about them.

 I am in love with the work of fellow Sydney artist Alexandra Plim – her joyful free expression on a canvas just gets me so excited. She is definitely one to watch!

 Marnie McKnight is another local Sydney artist who’s work is just stunning. She is also a savvy biz owner and I’ve learned so much from working with her.


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