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Margaret Horvat is a self-taught artist based in Ontario, Canada. After being an artistic child, she returned to painting in her late 20s and recently has been inspired by the daily painter’s movement. It’s led her to paint smaller and on a daily basis, which helped develop her style. Her subjects include still life, florals, landscapes and portraits.

Mop Tops oil painting Margaret Horvat

© Copyright Margaret Horvat

What you will learn in this episode:

• Margaret’s artistic journey and painting style
• The daily painting projects
• Her creative process
• Margaret’s approach for maintaining inspiration and motivation
• Her favourite creative tools and resources

Margaret’s artistic journey and painting style

Margaret drew a lot as a kid for entertainment but let it fall away after high school, never thinking it was possible for art to be her career. In her late 20s, she revisited it and taught herself to work with watercolours. She painted when she could, learning mostly from books and very occasional courses at the local art gallery. With so many resources available online now, Margaret feels she would have progressed much faster if they’d been available to her at the time.

Beginning with watercolours, Margaret broke out into oils in 2009, and then returned to watercolours last year. She mostly paints realism, although she has tried abstract as well. She finds she can get more heavily into realism with the oils, but enjoys that with watercolour she doesn’t have to be as realistic and can just be creative.

Pink Stripe Cherries oil painting by Margaret Horvat

© Copyright Margaret Horvat

The daily painting projects

In 2014, Margaret became aware of the Daily Painters , which is a popular movement where artists paint a painting per day. This was very different from how she was used to paint until that time, which would be in layers and take 14-16 hours over a number of days. Although she never could paint a painting a day, the process of trying to paint smaller works more often helped her hone in on her technique and simplify it. It also helped Margaret move forward more confidently and quickly, and in 2015 she began selling her smaller, 8 x 10 paintings on the website.

The 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge is run by Leslie Saeta twice a year. Although Margaret didn’t want to do 30 paintings, she did still want to do her own challenge. In September 2016, after 9 years working exclusively with oils, she pulled out the watercolours and her challenge theme became to paint only with watercolour in September. She was curious to see the effect of her oil painting technique on the watercolour style. She worked small so she could work more quickly, and kept things simplified, ending up with 7 or 8 paintings in the month. A little bit of oil technique did spill in, and she fell back in love with watercolour again.

Margaret’s creative process

Margaret paints a range of things and doesn’t really stick to any set rules. She knows the wisdom for galleries is to paint in a series and stick to one theme, but she finds so much out there that draws her so her approach is ‘whatever works, works.’ She loves details and textures, and in recent years is working at loosening up her style a bit.

These days, Margaret works from home full time so her days are her own. She tries not to linger too much after breakfast, but get into the studio around 8.30am and get going. Once she’s in there, it’s usually not hard to get consumed. She’s not as rigid as she used to be but she does try to paint every day and if she’s not well enough to paint, to at least do some planning. Margaret will try to push past that ‘can’t be bothered’ feeling but if she gets into the studio and really isn’t up to it, she’ll stop so as not to ruin any of the paintings that are going well. Most of the time now she’s a good judge of whether that feeling is legitimate, or whether she’s just feeling afraid or lazy or uninspired.

Margaret’s approach for maintaining inspiration and motivation

Margaret takes a lot of photos—for example, flowers in her backyard—and uses them for reference. Sometimes when she’s short of inspiration she will go back through her archives of photos to get a subject to work with. Then she sketches and plays with the images in Photoshop to get the final drawing for the canvas.

Although she hasn’t experienced it much in recent years, Margaret does experience artists block. She finds in those times that she has to acknowledge it, and give herself permission to step away for a while and do something else. If she focuses on a complete diversion, like a home improvement, within a few days she’s itching to get back into painting again and the inspiration comes back. A change is as good as a rest, too, so sometimes she just needs to paint abstracts for a while before she’s ready to come back fresh and face the realism again.

There is also a point Margaret gets to in the process of a painting that she calls ‘the ugly phase’. It’s a point where she wonders if the painting is going to work. She can see it the finished thing in her mind and knows where she wants it to be, but it doesn’t look like that yet. Early on, Margaret gave up on some things because she got stuck in this phase, but now she knows it’s just a part of the natural progression of the painting. If she’s getting to a point where she’s wondering if it’s finished, she brings in her husband Tony, for a second opinion. He has a good eye and is very honest and support so his feedback is almost always spot on.

Margaret’s favourite creative tools and resources

Margaret finds Photoshop really helpful when getting the composition of an image right and to use as a reference picture.

As for art supplies, after having breast cancer in 2009, she tries to avoid toxins wherever possible. Gamblin paints help to make her artistic environment less toxic, so she uses their Gamisol Mineral Spirits and Escoda paint brushes.

She also uses: M Graham and Winsor and Newton?

Books she recommends are Daily Painting by Carol Marine and Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. She also looks to the artists David Gray, Neil and Karen Hollingsworth for inspiration.

The 30 paintings in 30 days artwork challenge is run by Leslie Saeta at

Where to find Margaret

You can find her at her website, and also on

Or, connect with Margaret on Facebook and Instagram @margarethorvatart