The Margaret River Region has long been a centre of art and creativity in Western Australia. The fresh country air, stunning beaches and towering forests are a source of inspiration for many artists, and wineries provide an outlet for local artisans to display their works.

Arts Margaret River (1974) and Busselton Cultural Precinct (1985) have long served as umbrella groups, providing support and advocacy for community organisations, and many individual artists have also played a role in pioneering the arts in the region.

From a host of galleries, woodworkers, chainsaw artists, landscape photographers, painters and jewellers, let’s explore some of these pioneers a little closer.

Busselton Cultural Precinct
Busselton Cultural Precinct re-opened as an arts complex in 1985. Photo: Russell Ord

Patricia Negus

If you’ve ever leafed through a local guidebook on walking the Cape-to-Cape track or read about the South West’s wildflowers, chances of you’ve seen the botanical art of Patricia Negus.

Patricia began watercolour painting in the 1970s, and as one of the early pioneers of art in the region has been a source of inspiration for many in her community.

Since 1995 she has worked from her mud brick studio in Witchcliffe, a beautiful space where visitors are able to view her art and share the gardens and birdlife and bush surroundings which for many years have been a headwater of inspiration for her. Her delight in nature is reflected in her art, with some of her most recent works focusing on the colours and patterns of fallen marri leaves.

Her paintings and illustrations are celebrated in numerous books such as The Magical World of Fungi, Rottnest Island (a collaboration with her daughter, Sally), Catch of the Day, A Tale of Two Honey Possums, and the Cape-to-Cape field guides and walking books.

Patricia Negus in her mud brick studio, Witchcliffe. Photo: Elements Margaret River

Sandra Hill

Sandra Hill is a Minang / Wadandi / Bibbulmun / Ballardong Noongar artist who currently lives and works in Balingup, Western Australia.

For nearly 40 years, Sandra’s mentored, influenced and trained emerging First Nations artists, worked in and supported First Nations community organisations and inspired nationally important conversations in truth-telling, culture and contemporary arts practice.

Her unique practice has involved working in three streams simultaneously over her career – cultural immersion, public arts, and fine art. This year, she received the honour of the Red Ochre Award, an award established by the Aboriginal and Torres Islander Arts Board in 1993 to pay tribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for outstanding lifetime achievement in the arts. She’s also a board member of the Undalup Association and believes deeply in the power of art to reconnect Aboriginal people to their Country.

Sandra’s artworks are currently displayed at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and at multiple other locations nationally and internationally.

John Streater Fine Furniture

The Australian bush was always a great source of inspiration for John, and from the moment he began creating in 1982, he was compelled to weave that through his work.

He has gained legendary status with iconic creations like the Cone Table and the Parallel Universe Table, and his fine furniture reflects what this country has to offer in terms of its landscape, climate, and resources. Utilising many local hardwoods like jarrah and marri, you’re invited to witness the entire woodworking process from the viewing area into his workshop in the John Streater Fine Furniture gallery.

John Streater Fine Furniture
John Streater in his workshop at John Streater Fine Furniture, Yallingup. Photo: Anna Froederberg

Douglas Kirsop

Douglas spent his formative years in the rich training grounds of Europe, studying arts in the UK before discovering his own means of self-expression while living and travelling through France and Italy in the late 70s and early 80s.

His sense of adventure led him to Australia, and since 1991 he has called Yallingup home, drawing inspiration from the wild, rugged and ever-changing beauty of its coast. His work is represented locally at The Studio Gallery & Bistro, make sure you pay them a visit.

Brendan Booth – Wood Be Good Gallery

Sometimes, on a still night in Karridale, you might hear Brendan Booth’s chainsaw roaring from the workshop inside his Wood Be Good Woodcraft Gallery near Hamelin Bay.

Brendan hand carves raw lumps of wood into colossal sized sculptures. He works with the natural design of things, and where others sometimes look at a raw lump of wood, he can see a dhu-fish, a gorilla, or perhaps Bugs Bunny. Much of Brendan’s work is displayed at his gallery, which also features the Giants Garden, a large walk-through garden where guests are able to experience the magic of his work.

He recently installed a 13-tonne concrete octopus sculpture, “Ophelia” beneath the Busselton Jetty, with the piece designed to grow coral which will become part of its camouflage appearance underwater.

Brendan Booth with Ophelia the giant octopus sculpture Busselton Jetty
Brendan Booth and "Ophelia", waiting to be placed beneath Busselton Jetty earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

Yallingup Galleries

For over 30 years, Yallingup Galleries has represented the region’s recognised artists and showcased a diverse range of fine arts and furniture.

Originally started by Rob and Robin Malcolm, Emma and Matthew Skinner now run the gallery. They moved to Busselton in early 2022, after falling in love with the area during an eight-month road trip around Australia. They were drawn to its natural beauty and vibrant art community, and they work to share those things with both their children and the public.

Heather Locke OAM

Heather Locke is one of Art’s Margaret River’s life members and is currently penning a book about the history of Arts Margaret River as they celebrate 50 years as an organisation in July 2024.

She has become an icon of community arts in Margaret River and plays a long and storied role in facilitating the development of the local creative scene, without which the region’s appeal as a destination for working artists and major festivals would not be possible.

In 2011, she was awarded a well-deserved OAM for her work in developing the arts scene in Margaret River.

Heather Locke OAM
Heather Locke OAM is an icon of the Margaret River arts community. Photo: Supplied

Looking to explore more artists?

Each year in September, many of the region’s artists open up their homes and display their work to the public through the Margaret River Region Open Studios. The free and much-loved event has become the biggest of its kind in Australia and in 2021 was awarded the Gold Award for Events and Festivals by Tourism WA.

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