Maegan Oberhardt

Wildlife Artist - ARC Living Artist

Fumage & Fire on Paper

Finalist in the Art Renewal Centre 16th International Salon Competition 2022

Born in 1997 and raised on a rural property in Queensland, Australia; Maegan spent her early years surrounded by nature and native wildlife. This environment provided her with the opportunity to study their features, individual characteristics, movement, and their expressions. It taught her appreciation of the natural environment and inspired her passion for animals, becoming the foundation for her artistic creativity.

By the time she started high school in 2010, she had moved to the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria with her family. It was the same area that was affected by the Black Saturday bush fires in Kinglake in 2009. She had many friends who were directly impacted by that day and the devastation to the local region. After completing Year 12, she continued formal studies and by the age of 19, graduated University with a Bachelor of Design Arts.

Throughout her education she maintained a continual focus on art and experimentation in style, media, and mediums. She had become confident with her drawing skills and looked for unusual and challenging techniques to enhance her drawings in both concept and composition. One such technique has been traditionally referred to as ‘Fumage’. This incorporates the soot from an open flame as the media directly or in combination with other media to create an ethereal and abstract effect. This technique was popularised by surrealist greats like Wolfgang Paalen (1905 – 1959), Salvadore Dali (1904 – 1989).

Maegan explains this by the literal description of ‘Painting with Fire’: the technique of dancing an open flame underneath paper to leave a fragile layer of soot and etching it away to reveal the artwork. Working over a graphite sketch, she layers the soot from an open flame from various sources such as candles, fossil fuels, or wood. She will next begin the delicate process of removing both soot and graphite by using tools such as brushes, erasers, and various hand tools to create an incredibly realistic image of the animal.

The connection within her art is in the technique. It is man-made fire burning paper (which is a by-product of trees). This is a commentary on the conflict between man and nature. The result of that conflict is that most wild species are directly impacted by man’s carbon footprint, both literally and figuratively represented in her artworks. By combining her drawing skills and passion for wildlife, Maegan has created a unique style and a collection of artworks that raise awareness and provide a voice for many species at risk.

Maegan’s studio is located at her home on rural property in Bobinawarrah, Victoria. Abundant with native wildlife, many have inspired several of her latest pieces.

Maegan is a recognised young talent accomplishing notable achievements at this early stage in her professional artistic career.  She made the top 35 Finalists list for the Holmes Prize in 2021, an Australia wide competition. In 2022 she was juried as a Semi-Finalist for the Art Renewal Center’s 16th International Art Salon Competition with all 3 artworks accepted. In 2023 she progressed to the finals. This competition had 5,400 entries across 75 countries and only the top 40% 2,152 artworks qualified for the Semi-finals round. She is currently 1 in 12 Australian Artists with an internationally recognised title of ARC Living Artist, awarded by the Art Renewal Center.

Maegan is represented in private collections across Australia, Europe, East Asia and the United States of America.