Artist Interview: Nell and Meg Mercier
For sisters Meg and Nell Mercier, art is a family affair. Growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, both girls were encouraged in the arts from a young age. Years and careers later, they found themselves on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer, exploring their individual styles and passions and immersing themselves in the local art scene. Today, the sisters are represented by North Water Gallery in Edgartown, where Nell’s miniature painted pendants and Meg’s evocative oil paintings are on display.
Here, they talk to Artifacts about early inspiration, process and painting (big and small) on MV.
Artistic talent clearly runs in your family. As children, were you exposed to art as a profession or hobby?
Nell: We had a wonderful art teacher, Mrs. Hall, at our elementary school, The Grosse Pointe Academy. She encouraged us both in the arts and suggested to our mother that we take additional classes outside of school, which we did. Our parents have always supported us as artists and support the arts in general.
Meg: We were very much encouraged in the arts. My mother is very creative. She used to paint her own fabrics, and sometimes even her shoes if she needed them to match a certain dress. She even let us design our own wallpaper and paint bathrooms and our kitchen. My mother also avidly studied sculpture and was very talented.
How did you land on Martha's Vineyard?
Nell: We both came to the Vineyard about 20 years ago in conjunction with a gallery that used to be in Edgartown, Jensen Fine Arts. I managed the gallery and Meg was one of the artists represented by the gallery. We both lived on the Island for many years.
Meg: I was recruited to paint Plein Air scenes around the Island, and especially in Edgartown, to bring people into the gallery. I thought the Island was so beautiful to paint I kept staying longer and longer into the shoulder seasons and eventually found a caretaking job that enabled me to stay year-round.
How does the Island inspire your work?
MEG: I find the Island to be endless inspiration. There is an incredible amount of diverse landscape. You can paint the sheep at the Allen farm, the Aquinnah cliffs, the Menemsha fishing village, Edgartown roses and white picket fences. But even more important than the diversity of subject matter is the light. The sunrise, the clouds, the intensity of the light and the blueness of the shadows. This inspiration keeps me going out and setting up my easel and always amazed at the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.
Do you see any similarities between your work? Differences?
NELL: We both lean towards the impressionist style in our work. Just the huge difference in size creates the biggest difference.
MEG: It is wonderful to have a sister as a fellow artist. We can talk things over and encourage each other when our work is not all we want it to be. One difference is that I am more interested in light effect and, without a doubt, Nell is the stronger designer. She has always had a natural instinct in that area and I have had to study more about composition.
What are you most excited about working on these days?
NELL: I have started doing some hand cut wood designs that are a fun challenge.
MEG: These days I am incredibly interested in brushwork and seeing how I apply the paint and how each stroke can affect the painting. Presently, I am trying to push myself to do some very large pieces and I am enjoying the challenge.
FILL-IN-THE-BLANK with the Mercier Sisters
I do my best work....
Nell: …under pressure of a deadline.
Meg: …when I really listen to nature and enjoy the beauty of all the color working together.
My favorite music to work to is…
Nell: …an Audible book.
Meg: …classical in the morning, jazz in the afternoon, rock for cleaning my brushes. WMVY always is a go-to.
My dream day-off would be…
Nell: …hanging out with my family in northern Michigan.
Meg: Ditto. It’s a special place with old friends and family.
If I weren’t a painter I’d be…
Nell: …an inventor.
Meg: I’d work in a flower shop.
The first time I realized I wanted to be an artist was…
Nell: …as a young child.
Meg: …as a little girl. I became drawn to studio arts and oil painting in college when I started attending RISD in the summers.
If I could paint anything or anywhere in the world, it would be…
Nell: Italy. I love the earth tones of the architecture and countryside.
Meg: I honestly think the Vineyard is where I would choose. There is no better place to be an artist.