"Toronto-based artist Michelle Vella is known for her colourful, bold and energetic portraits of pop culture icons."
Toronto-based artist Michelle Vella is known for her colorful, bold, and energetic portraits of pop culture icons. With a degree in fine arts and a history working in graphic design, she made a career change in 2015 to pursue art full-time. Vella began sharing her work on Instagram, quickly developing her Wide Big Eyes signature style. She works primarily with acrylic on large square canvases, giving her paintings a “Pop Art” feel.
With her passion for painting, Michelle creates original works and custom commission pieces to bring clients’ visions to life, while further developing her style. In 2020, Vella began exploring a new style beyond big eyes, sometimes describing her subjects with words and symbols in the background to a simpler approach that is ever-evolving. Her work showcases her love for the classics, from movies and music to style icons of the past, and her commitment to social issues including feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Vella has had an aptitude for drawing since she was young enough to hold a crayon. Since childhood, she’s always been considered the talented artist in her class. Graduating from university with a Fine Arts BA in 1986, “the starving artist stigma did not sit well with my entrepreneurial spirit.” So, with that, she pursued art-related careers and some not so related, allowing her to develop skills in sales, marketing, and business. Thirty years into her career, Vella chose to become an artist and has since been noticed by several notable celebrities and collectors.
In 2015, Fashion’s iconic designer Diane von Furstenberg discovered Vella on Instagram, asking to purchase Vella’s BIG EYE portrait of DVF, which is now part of Diane’s art collection at the DVF Fashion House in NYC. That same year, she was commissioned by W Magazine for a custom portrait of their Editors, including Edward Enninful, the Fashion and Style Director at the time and current Editor of British Vogue. She also joined W Magazine’s annual New York Fashion Week ‘It Girl” Celebrity Luncheon to paint live portraits of such fashion icons as Emily Ratajkowski. Vella has participated in art fairs and solo art shows as an independent gallery and dealer across Canada and the United States, and most recently exhibited at Aqua Art Miami during Art Basel 2019. She has collectors throughout Canada, the United States, and internationally.
Vella has been featured in several other well-known Canadian and American national publications, including The Washington Post, CNN Style, ELLE Canada, FASHION Magazine, W Magazine, and Harper’s BAZAAR Thailand. She has appeared on The Marilyn Denis Show, CityLine, TSC’s Style Matters with Jeanne Beker, and The Feminist Perspective with Dr. Sophia Johnson NYC.