As her brush hits the page, Margo McDaid isn’t always certain of what journey she’s about to embark on, but one thing’s for sure, since donning the alias Margo in Margate, it’s been the adventure of a lifetime

Margo first moved to Kent with her family, including her two small children, in 2010 and immediately fell in love with the place. ‘There’s a genuine sense of space in Thanet. I love walking on the beaches, finding fossils and that everyone bids you a good morning,’ Margo says. ‘It’s a friendly community, perfect for a small family. The area’s always attracted creatives, many of whom have inspired my work. Julie Westbury and Shelley Goldsmith are incredible artists who both live and work in Ramsgate. I have a long-standing admiration of people like Mary Quant and Elizabeth Frink and love female artists who’ve managed to be successful regardless of how challenging it must have been.’

For as long as she can remember, Margo has possessed a passion for art. ‘I’ve always needed to see it or be part of making it. From age 19 to 23, I lived in New York and spent my time exploring art galleries and museums. I would stand outside the Parsons School of Art, dreaming of becoming a practising artist,’ she says. Margo first started painting at her kitchen table with her children. ‘I loved the freedom of doing something simply for the fun of it. My children and husband all love drawing and crafts. We’re a very creative household,’ she shares. ‘I didn’t open my studio in Ramsgate until 2018, as we’d started running out of space for my pieces at home. I’m committed to producing a drawing every day, so the kitchen fills up quickly!

Great British Life: Margo's committed to producing a drawing every day.Margo's committed to producing a drawing every day. (Image: Margo McDaid)

‘Whether it be a small doodle in a sketchbook or a large-scale painting, it’s a daily ritual. I made this pledge because I believe that art is a craft that can be improved and informed through physical manifestation. If I think of something, then I need to act to make that thought a reality. I’m always trying to tap into the endless possibilities of what I can draw.’

Being so prolific, Margo has produced a large body of work so trying to pick a favourite was challenging, but she admitted to having a couple of pieces that she treasured more than most.

‘Ginger Elvis is a beloved work, yet I don’t regret selling it as I know the people who bought it, and they’re the perfect custodians. I also adore a painting I made called Sad Girl,’ Margo adds. ‘I’m fairly sure she’s sitting somewhere in a vintage frame, hanging somewhat solemnly in someone’s hallway in Margate. I cherish both paintings dearly because they both made me smile.’ Margo is a firm believer that art should bring joy. ‘Making art makes me happy, and it’s been a dear friend and companion that’s helped me to manage my sense of loss and anxiety in the past,’ she admits.

Great British Life: Inspiration for her pieces comes from Margo being completely at home with herself. Inspiration for her pieces comes from Margo being completely at home with herself. (Image: Margo McDaid)

Despite her longstanding ardour for art, it wasn’t until a tragedy befell one of her pupils that Margo left her job as a primary school teacher to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. In 2006, one of Margo’s students tragically lost their life, along with their mother, after they were both killed by the mum’s boyfriend, following his release from prison.

‘It was a devastating tragedy that affected everyone and altered my perspective on life forever. I realised that every moment is precious and not to be wasted. From it, I became determined to be fearless in my pursuit of personal happiness and accept that no matter what may come my way, I could handle it,’ Margo confides. ‘I recognised what was important to me and that gave me confidence in my approach to art making. After experiencing something like that, you’re left asking what’s the worst that can happen. If someone doesn’t like what you do, is that such a bad thing? Perspective is everything, and it meant I could focus on just enjoying the work I do.’

Since then, Margo hasn’t stopped painting, adopting the name Margo in Margate. She’s taken part in numerous shows and exhibitions, becoming a regional and national success. She recently held a solo exhibition at Brighton’s Helm Gallery. ‘The show was amazing,’ Margo says. ‘It’s one of the most successful I’ve ever done. I can’t even describe how it feels to have a show sell out. The gallery was a perfect match for my work and the team was brilliant. I loved being in another inspiring coastal town. There’s nothing quite like the energy of areas like that. It’s the perfect place to explore creativity.’

Great British Life: Drew Barrymore is a fan of Margo's work and actress Sophie Thompson has previously bought a painting. Drew Barrymore is a fan of Margo's work and actress Sophie Thompson has previously bought a painting. (Image: Margo McDaid)

Margo also took part in the Power of Women (POW) festival earlier this year and showcased pieces at the Albion Hotel in celebration of International Women’s Day. ‘POW is a wonderful charity that champions women across Thanet. It’s an honour to work with them and help raise funds to support their worthy causes,’ she notes. ‘Their message resonates with me, and mirrors values I aim to depict in my art.’

Her original graphic paintings and prints have garnered much attention for their vibrancy, positivity and messages of empowerment, love and hope. When describing her style of work, Margo admits: ‘I think my style comes from a very honest connection with my interests. In the beginning, I kept drawing faces and what started with tattooed sailors has grown into very smart ladies in shirts with big collars. I think the inspiration for my pieces comes from being completely at home with myself and my expectations.’

It’s a powerful motif that individuals can instantly connect with when looking at her creations. Drew Barrymore is reportedly a fan, and one of Margo’s pieces can be seen on Celebrity Gogglebox adorning the wall behind models and activists, Munroe Bergdorf and Leomie Anderson. She was also recently featured on BBC News. Though one of Margo’s all-time favourite celebrity anecdotes is from 2017 when she was visited at a pop-up in Margate by British actress Sophie Thompson.

Great British Life: From left to right: Clare Croome, Margo McDaid and Jo Brooks at The Turner in Margate. From left to right: Clare Croome, Margo McDaid and Jo Brooks at The Turner in Margate. (Image: Margo McDaid)

‘I adore Sophie Thompson and her visit is still one of the best experiences I’ve had since starting my art career,’ Margo shares. ‘She bought a painting called Not a Normal Cat, and we had a hilarious conversation about the mental cats we each had as children. RIP Shoo Big Boo.’ However, despite her increasing notoriety, Margo’s focus remains on pushing her creative talents and exploration.

‘I’m more committed than ever to finding ways I can make my pieces even better,’ she says. ‘My advice to any other aspiring artist or creative is to always believe in your dream. As cliche as it sounds, I know how hard it can be to convince yourself that you’re doing things right. The most important thing is to relish your process and not be too hard on yourself. Trust me when I say, it’s all going to be ok.’