DREAM CAREER segment on The Marilyn Denis Show. Michelle pursued her dream career as an artist and illustrator just over a year ago. She tells Marilyn her story and gets a makeover for her new career.

Michelle Vella on The Marilyn Denis Show this Friday, January 27th on CTV - Canada wide. Michelle pursued her dream career as an artist and illustrator just over a year ago. She tells Marilyn her story and gets a makeover for her new career.


What a thrill to be personally invited to the DVF fashion show by Diane herself. This was my first major fashion show ever and being that it was a NYFW show couldn't get any better. 

I arrive and as I get out of my cab, there are photographers everywhere taking photos of everyone crossing the street, I felt like a celebrity and had to laugh at myself. There was a crowd at the entrance and it started to rain. Luckily for me on of DVF's girls came out and pointed at a few of us to come in and whisked us in the elevator to the 6th floor of SPRING STUDIOS. 

There I saw groups of photographers and journalists huddled around different celebrities taking their pictures and interviewing them. To my surprise I was seated a few rows behind Kate Upton, Malin Ackerman, Karolina Kurkov, Hailey Clauson, Nicki Hilton and even The Weekend whose music played during the show. It was thrilling but then the show started and wow. Karlie Kloss opens the show and behind her is Lineisy Montero, so excited for her, then Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner to name a few. It was a lot faster than I imagined, but it was 15 minutes of high energy, beauty and fashion. Seeing Diane von Furstenberg walk out to greet her friends and fans with such grace and confidence was inspiring. She is such a positive energy.

After the show I took the back stairs exit and found myself in the back alley where Diane was leaving and the models getting to their cars. To my surprise Karlie Kloss came around the corner and said “I love your bag”,  so fun considering she is the face of the DVF Secret Agent bag. Then Lineisy Montero ran passed me as she was being rushed to her next show, but as soon as she knew it was me she stopped to dig her phone out of her bag to get a selfie of the two of us. I couldn't have been more flattered.

I didn't want this day to end. I am so grateful to Diane for inviting me into her world of fashion for the afternoon. Thank you.


Karlie Kloss opens the DVF show, followed by Lineisy Montero

Karlie Kloss, Kate Upton, Rachel Zoe, Diane von Furstenberg

Selfie with Lineisy Montero

Kate Upton and Malin Ackerman with me in the background... lol

WORLD OF DVF blog Features Fashion Illustrator Michelle Vella Oct 2, 2015


October 02, 2015

When did you start making portraits?
I started playing with painting portraits at the end of February; actually Diane was my subject very early on but it wasn’t until this year that I started to discover my personal trademark style. As an artist you need to be your true self and not a recreation of another artist’s style. I worked hard at this, going back and forth with techniques, mediums and styles and eventually it just happened. I was inspired by the portrait work of Francesco Clemente, and fell in love with how he depicted people with such big eyes. Now, fast forward to the moment I am waiting to meet with Diane von Furstenberg and sitting beneath a portrait of her by Francesco himself—I had to pinch myself.

Fashion illustration and portraiture have returned to prominence in the past few years. What do you think accounts for this rise, and what has it meant for your work?
Being so new in this industry, I can’t pretend to know why the rise in popularity of fashion illustration but from personal experience, I attribute it to the power of Instagram. It’s an amazing tool where a totally unknown Toronto artist like myself can find herself live illustrating for W Magazine at New York Fashion Week and meeting Diane von Furstenberg. By painting portraits of people in fashion you are able to get their attention and the attention of their followers.

In January of this year, I was inspired by posting on Instagram at @michellevellart and quickly became obsessed with drawing and posting my work on Instagram everyday. This is how Diane discovered me and started following me. She simply said that she wanted my portrait for her collection; you can imagine my excitement.

Tell us a bit about your technique, and what makes your work distinctive.
My distinctive style, “high art caricature,” is instantly recognizable for the big eyes brushed with long eye lashes extending well beyond the frame of the face. I start with a line drawing in marker, then paint over it with acrylic paint. I usually paint on paper but also paint on canvas and other surfaces including leather and fabrics.

What inspired you to paint Diane?
A friend suggested I read Diane’s book as well as paint her, so I did both. I looked through many photos of her and decided on this portrait. To me it said that she is the woman she wanted to be and empowered me to be just that for myself. I felt empowered as I could connect with Diane’s independent nature while being inspired by her honesty, energy, and love of life.

I was a portrait photographer turned graphic designer for the past 15 years, so finding a new creative outlet as a fashion illustrator and artist at 50 has been life changing.

In my own words...

a bit about me...

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

"As long as I can remember I liked to draw. Being creative is a part of me, it's like breathing, I can't live without it. I have been very fortunate to have made a living from being creative everyday having a graphic design business but it wasn't until recent that I decided that I want to be an artist. When I went to art school artists were always thought of as starving and I didn't want to starve. Funny how today so many artists are making a fine living from creating art demystifying the starving artist stigma.

Where does your style come from?

My style is influenced by gesture drawing that I learned as an art student. When it's really working my hand just glides the marker across the page with no pre-conceived ideas of what I am drawing and all of a sudden I see something taking shape and build on it, and voila, I created something literally off the top of my head.

Why Fashion Illustration? 

I love fashion but I don't dress girly, I never wear heals, and rarely wear dresses. I wear a lot of black, sometimes with white, love vintage, and my standard jewelry which consists of a Chrome Hearts cross and Bloodline dog tags on a long chain which completes my look. So I guess I am channeling my love for old Hollywood Glamor through my fashion illustrations. I love the silver screen beauties like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Faye Dunaway and Brigitte Bardot to mention a few. Their look inspires a lot of my work. I get to inspire women's everyday lives with a touch of glamor.

What do you wish for the world?

When I was a photographer I photographed inspiring woman and became so inspired by this project that in turn other woman were inspired by me... I was so surprised and it felt great. I want all woman to be strong and confident, to feel glamorous and beautiful, to be themselves and know that by being who they are is fabulous. Someone once told me "if you want to be something JUST BE IT" So I want all women to BE FABULOUS!  Being yourself with gratitude is the secret. Know that you can do anything you want, anything that you can see yourself doing everyday. A great quote by Beyonce that I reposted recently "I know the yes, I am powerful. I am more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand." Power is in all of us and it has always been there.

Who do you admire?

Before I go on you must know that I love instagram. It has connected me to some amazing talented people that I would not have discovered and they would have definitely not have discovered me. 

I follow and admire Instagram artist sensation Donald "DRAW"bertson (Robertson) and after reading an article about him in Vanity Fair I commented on his IG "you are from Toronto, it gives me hope" he kindly replied, "Michelle, I'm from Willowdale, THINK BIG" and ever since I have been DREAMING BIG and it's working.

Through @Donalddrawbertson I came to follow and admire Kara Ross, jewelry designer and boutique owner in NYC. She is a strong, successful and wonderful woman that has been so kind to me. Her hashtag #StrongWomenAreBeautiful says it all, she stands for empowering women and I admire her for that #GirlPower

Stay tuned for a big announcement...

--- Michelle Vella