Mavis Penney


MAVIS PENNEY (Happy Valley-Goose Bay) is a painter, photographer, teacher, workshop leader, writer and active supporter of the arts. She maintains a painting blog and collaborative online arts projects with other artists from around the world, and she is currently working on a series of landscape paintings based on her travels in northern Labrador.

A longtime proponent of visual arts, Mavis is a past board member of Visual Artists of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is currently the chair of the Eastern Labrador Arts Alliance.

Mavis Penney is a graduate of Concordia University, Memorial University and Sheridan College. Her work has been exhibited widely and is represented in public collections in the province, and in private Canadian and international collections.

Website: http://



When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an artist – some of my earliest memories are of using paints and crayons and plasticine, and I’ve got the scribbled-up books and the family stories about paint in the wrong places to prove it.


What mediums do you work in and why?

I work in a variety of media – for example yesterday I was using watercolour and coloured pencils, the day before that I was editing digital photographs, and tomorrow I will be shooting video. I print linocuts, too, and I try to practice drawing every day.


How do you get ideas for your artwork?

Sometimes I paint commissions for other people, but mostly I have ideas for projects of things I want to do or try. Recently I’ve been trying something new – a notebook as an “idea trap” where I can collect projects that I can’t work on right away, but that I want to do at some point. Like a sketchbook, but more immediate, more quick.


What other artists influence your artwork?

Probably the artists I have read about most recently, or artists who are using media or techniques in a way I want to try. J. M. W. Turner, for colour and loose handling of paint. Chuck Close for stick-to-it-ive-ness. Marina Abramovic for sheer audacity in her performance art. Jim Dine and David Hockney for drawing. These are the ones that come to mind right now.


What are the “big” themes in your artwork.

I think of myself as a nature artist, landscapes in painting and photography, but I recently looked at some of my older work and I found a recurring theme of figurative work which I was surprised to see.


What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist working in Nfld & Lab?

Staying pumped up about my work is my greatest challenge. Although I do live in a physically isolated area in Labrador, I use the internet a lot, and I have done collaborative art work with artists in the US. I stay in touch online with other artists from Europe as well. As stimulating as that kind of contact is, it doesn’t beat pulling out a canvas with the paint still wet and actually showing it to someone who can talk to me about it, in person.


What is the best thing about working as an artist in this province?

VANL, of course! Really, the best thing is a sense of community with other artists who are facing similar problems, and who are coming up with radically different solutions to meet their particular needs.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself still painting and drawing every day; hopefully showing – and selling – more of my work.


If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

I can’t imagine that I would be doing anything else except to be an artist.


If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

To keep on painting, strong and healthy, for years and years and years to come!