Sea of Success
By Danae Jones
Petra Meikle de Vlas is capturing the hearts and minds of all who encounter her. TV shows such as The Block, House Rules and Foxtel’s Love It Or List It, have all fallen in love with her paintings and art galleries both physical and online can’t get enough of her work. She is a humble artist hailing from the small northern beaches suburb of Holloways Beach in Cairns, and her new found stardom has caught her by surprise.
“I didn’t really know what was happening when it all took off. It has just skyrocketed. And it’s like little old you, all of a sudden in the spotlight. The national media coverage has been quite phenomenal, it’s taken on a life of its own,” said Petra Meikle de Vlas.
Her majestic paintings of the sea and sand cays off Far North Queensland are breathtakingly beautiful. Some of Australia’s most well known interior designers are lining up to commission her to create signature pieces to adorn walls in commercial and residential properties. Petra’s unique way of mixing colours, paints, textures and 3D elements have proven a real show stopper.
The single mother of two is driven to succeed with her insatiable passion for painting as not only a way to provide for her family, but fulfil her dream of being a full-time artist.
But she is quick to thank those who’ve been her biggest cheerleaders through it all and credits Art Lovers Australia for putting her name on the map.
“The TV shows all became aware of me through Art Lovers Australia and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. We have the same values and ethics and we’ve formed a great relationship based on trust. They have been so supportive of me.”
She has a unique way of showcasing the Great Barrier Reef and all its wonder in magnificent canvas pieces, and for someone who knows good art when he sees it, Veteran Gallerist Tom Colrain says the interest in her work will only continue to grow as more and more people are exposed to it.
“There’s a lot of people who can pick up a paint brush and create art, but the difference with a successful artist that has the ability to make a lifelong career out of it, is someone that has that constant desire to do better and push their artistic limits. Petra has that. She is a very humble person, but she is willing to take guidance and feedback and she possesses a strong desire to always do better,” said Tom Colrain.
Tom Colrain has mentored and befriended some of the nation’s most prolific artists throughout their careers including some of the world’s most famous indigenous and Archibald Prize winning artists.
“You really get to know the artists well and you become great friends. It’s a trust thing. Becoming successful in the art world doesn’t happen overnight and it takes a lot of hard work and the willingness to persevere through the down times. And there are a lot of down times to begin with. So you ride those waves with your artists and the bond you form is quite special.”
Tom owns two galleries in Port Douglas (Australian & Oceanic Art Gallery and Australian & Oceanic Art Gallery For Collectors) and he has taken it upon himself to mentor Petra as she enters this heightened phase of her career and show her how to navigate the art world. It is something Petra is incredibly grateful for.
“He has seen something in me and I am very excited to be chosen to exhibit in his galleries. His guidance has been a dream come true for me,” said Petra.
When the onset of the global pandemic took hold and many industries were forced to shut down, Petra’s art sales did the complete opposite.
“It was surreal, I couldn’t understand it. I guess a lot of people were home and they turned to decorating their world and started doing the renovations that they’d always wanted to do.
“I actually fell in a heap as I had to double my output of work, and the value of my paintings had gone up, the demand was so high for my work and the pressure was high too. I literally just collapsed from so much painting and the expectation to succeed. Not an expectation from others, but more of one I had put on myself. I have never sold so many paintings in all my life.
“Tom was so great during that initial time as he told me how I was feeling was completely normal. When an artist is discovered in a big way they do find it hard with all the pressure and expectation and there is an overwhelming sense that the next painting has to be better than the last. A constant striving for perfection if you like. And he just kept reminding me that what I was feeling was normal and something that every successful artist goes through and that constant desire to be better is what will make me last in the industry. He would say that this is part of your journey and it is what will push you to the next level. People like that are so important to have around you in those moments.”
Art galleries continue to enquire to showcase her work across the country.
“I was recently chosen to be amongst some of Australia’s biggest named artists in an online art auction and I was listed in the ‘renowned Australian artists’ category, which is hard for me to wrap my head around to be honest.”
Her love of art has always been there and it is something she always knew she wanted to do.
“I have always been into art right from a young age and I was always told I was good at it. I guess as a child you gravitate to what you are told you’re good at as you want to be good at something. And so I continued to paint. I come from a very creative family, my parents were very arty.”
Although she knew she had talent and wanted to one day make a living from her art, she hadn’t dedicated her time and energy to it until recently.
“I always knew I would make a living from it one day, but you know life gets in the way. Family, kids etc, I think there’s probably a lot of women that can relate to me saying that. Once I’d moved out of that baby zone with the kids I wanted to really give it a go and I knew as soon as I picked up that paint brush for real it would take me and I would be all consumed by it. That was five years ago that I did that. I was in an experimental phase for the first few years and I ran the business at a loss for a number of years. But then it just started to happen. People started noticing my work.”
Her inspiration comes from many and varied sources and she says believe it or not, it’s not necessarily from sitting on the beach or being out on the ocean.
“Although I have done a lot of that living where we live and it is the main subject of my work, what inspires me more than anything are feelings. Things that happen that evoke an emotion in me. It could be a deep and meaningful conversation with someone, a movie that sparks a certain something in me, a piece of nature that captivates my senses. I am inspired by a whole range of things in my life.”
She says she can’t explain what gives her the energy and determination to succeed at this point in her life, but being a mother has certainly contributed to the forward propulsion.
“I’d love my kids in my lifetime to be able to look up and go, look at Mum she did this, she did that. I guess I am always striving for something greater and I want to make a name for myself in the art world. I don’t know why I am driven to do that. I want to do it for me, but I also want to do it for my kids.”
To view Petra’s work visit her Instagram page @petrameikledevlasart or go online to https://artloversaustralia.com.au/artist/petra-meikle-de-vlas/ or see her art in person at the following Port Douglas Art Galleries – Australian & Oceanic Art Gallery and Australian & Oceanic Art Gallery For Collectors.