Revealing the magic that surrounds us

Maplewood Flats by Margot Brassil. | Photo by Margot Brassil

North Vancouver has been the source of inspiration for local painter Margot Brassil for many years. She is also an active member of North Van Arts and features in the 2019 You Are Here calendar.

Brassil relocated to British Columbia 14 years ago and has been painting her surroundings ever since.

“I grew up in South Africa,” she explains. “I’ve been passionate about environment and environmentalism since I was a little girl, so wherever I go nature speaks to me: the plants, the trees, the animals, the insects. Every aspect just fascinates me and I love this part of the world and getting outdoors on the hiking trails.”

Working largely with oil paint, most of Brassil’s paintings begin as photographs she takes outdoors or as sketches drawn on location that later inform her paintings.

“My work is fairly detailed. I grew up as a child with very poor vision so I guess that’s why I learnt to focus on things. Small things don’t escape me and I love looking at nature and natural forms,” says Brassil. “Mostly I’ll get the inspiration outdoors and then things do morph and change a little bit when I work indoors again. A little bit of artistic licence also sneaks in.”

Brassil’s love for painting began as a child when she won art prizes at her junior school. She later went on to study art at the now Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. Before arriving in British Columbia she often painted African landscapes.

“Africa has a rawness and [a] wildness that speaks to the soul and it is more vibrant in colour,” explains Brassil. “I’ve noticed since I’ve been here that I’ve down played colour a little bit, but now I’m changing back to bringing slightly brighter splashes of colour into my work again.”

A sense of place

Brassil has been a member of the North Van Arts for over ten years and has been a part of several group shows at CityScape Community Art Space, including the annual Anonymous Art Show.

“Quickly after I arrived here I joined the North Van Arts and I’ve been with them ever since,” explains Brassil. “They’ve been vital to me, especially as an immigrant and not knowing anyone when I got here. It is so important to have that. They give all artists who come there an opportunity and I’ve made so many friends through them. It’s incredible.”

Diverse cultural offerings

Brassil is also one of the twelve local artists whose work features in the 2019 You Are Here calendar that raises funds for the North Shore Cultural Mapping Project. Each month’s artwork depicts a local scene or landmark and Brassil’s piece entitled Maplewood Flats features on the month of April. The calendar also includes holidays and religious observances that reflect the diverse cultural makeup of the North Shore community.

“I think it is so important for tourists and for people who live here to know what is going on in the area,” explains Brassil. “The calendar is also an in-road to the local environment. There are often places that are missed or forgotten; and the artists often feature these places, and that draws attention to them.”

The aim of the North Shore Cultural Mapping Project is to create a free interactive online map that can be used as a practical resource to map the geographical location of a wide variety of ‘cultural assets’ situated in North Vancouver. The first prototype for the website is due to launch in April 2019.

“The mapping project is for people, tourists and for those developing the area,” explains Brassil. “It is about featuring spaces and saving areas that are important to people: they’re the cultural assets. Festivals, events −
anything like that shows up. Even stories and legends will show up, which is important and is what I am all about. I love a good story.”

For more information about the exhibition, please visit