Written by Sunnefa Hamar Penning
Petra Meikle de Vlas, is a 3D, mixed media, realism to abstract creative. Based in Cairns, the self-taught artist found her feet early on when her Year 10 art teacher praised her for her work. “It was the very first thing in life I was told I was good at”. Petra describes how she can’t pin point a time or the feeling of becoming an artist, but rather that she had always been one.
“Something is open in your brain at all times, and you see details in life, colours formations emotion etc more clearly, and it can make you feel very special, like you have a real gift”. This privilege gives her a unique perception of the world enabling her to see things that the average person might miss and creates a space for continuous development. “It makes you grow, your soul grows. For me creating my art gives me a direct line to feelings of happiness. And happiness is key to a good life.”
As a young traveller she used her talent to see the many wonders of this world selling her art to fund her adventures. People started taking notice of Petra and recognising her gift “it was then when I really realized I had something to offer, people where commissioning me and I was producing wildlife art that seemed to be moving people in a very emotional way”. Travel was not just a way for Petra to see new places, she used this time wisely to gather unique experiences to reference in future work. “While living in Africa for many years I concentrated a lot on reference gathering and learning, producing a little work, but mainly enjoying the amazing travel journey I was on”.
After returning home life got busy for Petra with work and sporting commitments, and the raising of two children. This meant that she had to take a short break from art until five years ago when she decided to pick up the brush again “the more I created, the more I realized this was what I wanted to do seriously and have ever since been heavily focused on forging a career out of it”.Other people’s creations inspire Petra“Looking at art work (of other artists) that I admire gives me a big urge to create”. The valuable time spent exploring different parts of the world also has influenced her work today. “My fine art is a detailed perspective on the natural world and my abstract work is an abstract impression of the world around us”.
Being a mixed media artist gives Petra the flexibility to experiment and to utilise her resourcefulness when choosing materials. You can find just about every medium in her Cairns studio. “The works are mostly created using recycled materials ranging from cardboard, electrical wire, newspaper, wool, fabrics, plaster, clay and oil and acrylic paint. Oil paint is my main painting medium, but I am always experimenting with different mediums to achieve that perfect effect, striving for a strong, secure and tidy finish”. The methods that she loves to use include pouring and sculpting “it’s just so exciting…it’s no surprise I’ve combined the two to create a lot of my work”.
Petra is a professional and an absolute perfectionist. Her work is a result of her determination and hard work to every time strive for a better and more resounding result. “I’m consumed, obsessed, and addicted towards my artwork. I see my work as a series of mistakes, as I climb higher and higher to try and obtain my own version of perfection. I believe I can be very harsh on myself, it’s nearly impossible to finish a piece, as they are never quite good enough”.
Opening up and reflecting about her art is a challenge.As many artists can be, Petra is her own biggest critic. “This has been hard for me to articulate, as I struggle a lot with self doubt… a lot of how I describe my own feelings towards my creative journey may be perceived as negative. The way I see it is these harsh judgments I make on my work, only seeing the mistakes etc, help me to reflect where I can improve, grow, and perfect. That’s got to be a good thing I believe“.
Her labour of love is a gift to those who experience the end result. When scrolling through her collection of oceanscapes you feel instantly calmed by the playful and soothing use of blues, greens, golds and silvers used to portray nature. As if transported into the deep blue, diving underwater you feel consumed by the beauty of the shapes, shade and light brought to life in these pieces. It is not surprising that the ‘Ocean Art’ series is Petra’s best-selling Abstract work. We can say without any hesitation that we are Petra’s biggest fans and that the critic inside her can sleep easy.Your work is magic.