‘I paint daily, no matter what’: how one woman’s coping mechanism became a global business

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Twelve years ago, in response to tragedy, Margo McDaid decided to paint a picture every day. Now she’s sold 16,000 paintings – and has galleries and collectors queuing up to buy her work

Every day without fail, for the past 12 or so years, Margo McDaid has painted. At first, it was casual; an amateur kitchen-table-with-the-kids affair. More recently, she has worked from the bright and airy, white-walled Kent coast studio where she’s sitting now, two of her colourful, graphic portraits – for which she’s becoming internationally known – hanging pride of place behind her. Regardless of where she is, she’s painted prodigiously. “I’m an obsessive person by nature,” she accepts, surrounded by piles of pictures, overloaded boxes and shelves seeping with supplies. “In the past, I’d juggle all sorts of things at once. Now, each day, I channel everything into my painting.”

Restraint doesn’t come naturally to McDaid. “And why should it? Doing something you enjoy is addictive. Christ, I smoked for 20 years.” She’ll happily produce 10 or 20 pieces per day. In professional settings, she suggests, it’s expected we’ll hone a skill through daily repetition to make more efficient employees. “Why not apply that to what you deeply want to do? My mum knitted all day every day, my granny constantly baked Irish bread to feed her 11 children. In 2012, when I was 44, I decided to put all my effort into painting. Starting late, I didn’t have time to mess about – I cracked on and committed.” It paid off: earlier this year, she held her debut solo exhibition. Her work has been displayed in the nearby Turner Contemporary in Margate; a pop star’s team recently enquired about a commission. To date, she has sold 16,000 pictures under her Margo in Margate moniker. “I’ve just had an email from a museum in Madrid. It’s mind-blowing. How many people get the chance to be successful in their 50s, from doing what they adore day in and day out?”

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