“A Day in the Life” with Toronto artist Michelle Vella
Based out of Toronto, Michelle Vella works as a full-time pop artist known for her signature WIDE BIG EYES style. She always had a talent for the arts and was constantly drawing as a child. Her career in art soon began after she graduated in 1986 from McMaster University with a degree in Fine Arts. She worked with an art consultant and Toronto Gallery, sales and marketing career in high-tech, sales in magazine publishing, then a portrait photographer and ended up moving to Vancouver for a second time in 2004. One year later, she opened her own graphic design business called RealSTUDIO. After running this business for over 10 years, Michelle desired a career change at age 50. She started dabbling with painting again and decided to go full force, becoming a full-time artist – leaving RealSTUDIO behind.
She began painting portraits of fashion icons, finding her WIDE BIG EYES style and posting a new portrait on Instagram every day. This led to her being discovered by W Magazine and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg who purchased the portrait of her by Michelle – it now hangs in the DVF Fashion House in NYC. Since then, Michelle has completely switched gears and has a full-time career as an artist, painting commissions and tapping into retail with the launch of her fashion and home collection with products outfitted with her WIDE BIG EYES pop portraits.
In the upcoming months, Michelle has many exciting things in store. She will be popping up at Yorkville Village’s Holiday Upmarket from November 15-17 and December 20-22. In the new year, Michelle will be at IDS (Interior Design Show) 2019, showcasing her new capsule luxury furniture collection of hand-painted Eames Elephants by Vitra and Panton Chairs by Verner, both in collaboration with studio b.
Michelle painting a portrait of Malachy O’Reilly Wilks at Malachy’s Soiree 2018 Charity Gala. (Photo Credit: George Pimentel)
What ‘hood are you in?
I work out of my studio in my home located in midtown Toronto – Mount Pleasant Village. It’s a friendly neighbourhood, lots of friends and family living nearby, and I especially love my light-filled studio, it’s small but sunny.
What do you do?
I am a visual artist and designer, I paint pop art portraits with my signature WIDE BIG EYES. I also design a clothing, accessories and home collection.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am booked until January painting custom commission portraits and I am designing new clothing and accessories for my fashion collection. I’m also preparing for upcoming Holiday pop-ups. I also will be painting Panton® Chairs and Eames® Elephants for my home launching at Toronto’s IDS, Interior Design Show in January.
Where can we find your work?
ONLINE: You can find my work on my website where you can see and purchase original art, limited edition prints, fashion, accessories and home products.
POP-UPS: Yorkville Village Holiday Market, November 15,16,17 and December 20,21,22. Inside Yorkville Village at 55 Avenue Rd.
SHOWS: Interior Design Show (IDS) from January 17–20 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Michelle painting her WIDE BIG EYES portrait of Prince.
Michelle painting her “Lake Life” series of family and friend portraits, inspired by summers in Muskoka.
Michelle at Harper’s BAZAAR ICONS party in NYC.
Michelle with Iris Apfel holding a hand-painted Bidinis Italian Leather Bag outfitted with Iris’s portrait.
Michelle chatting with fashion icon Jeanne Beker about her new fashion line at her WIDE BIG EYES pop-up in Yorkville Village.
Michelle with Diane von Furstenberg at Suzanne Rogers Presents DVF May 2017.
Michelle’s WIDE BIG EYES pop-up shop at Hillcrest this past October.