drawing

She comes to life

She comes to life... a portrait step by step

Have you been following the "work in progress" portrait on my facebook page last week? It has been such fun painting and sharing the process with readers at the same time. A challenge for sure, but very exciting... On Facebook I only shared the portrait part of the painting. I've been working on the background some more and it's finally done! So today I'd like to share the whole painting with you: it's called Gentle Heart.

Below you'll find slide-show and a recap of all the different steps from start to finish, including techniques. And as always, I look forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have, technical or otherwise. Enjoy!

Gentle heart, Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille
Gentle heart, Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille

First, a peek at my portrait toolkit!

portrait toolkit
portrait toolkit

And then,  it all starts like this...

Steps 1 & 2
Steps 1 & 2

Step 1: I start with lightly sketching the main features with a pencil, then add a light wash of white acrylic paint to the "skin" areas.

TIP: if you're not comfortable drawing, take a photo you like and print it the size you want the portrait to be. Roughly cover the back of the paper with a 2B or 3B pencil, then place it on your canvas (image facing you) and trace the features with your pencil on the photo: they will transfer to the canvas.

Step 2: Roughly shading with "walnut stain" Distress ink, using my fingers.

Steps 3 & 4
Steps 3 & 4

Step 3: Awakening her soul right from the start... Watersoluble black Stabilo All pencil + matte gel medium on a super fine brush.

Step 4: More shading, again with Distress inks in "walnut stain" and "old linen", using fingers and a small brush. I love the transparency of those inks, which allows the text underneath to show through...

Steps 5 & 6
Steps 5 & 6

Step 5: Shading some more and adding color to the lips with Pitt Artist pens (B, brush tip) #189 & #169. These are India ink pens. I add tiny touches of color, then move it around with a super fine, wet brush. And highlighting some areas with a white Posca paint pen and a paintbrush. At this stage the nose is way too round for my taste!

NB: Distress inks are water-soluble, which means that you should work with a dry brush or finger. BUT you can also use this to your advantage to create different effects. For instance if you want to add more definition to the eyebrow, you can add just a little bit of water or gel medium to your brush: you'll get a watercolour effect + variation in the color of the ink (walnut stain becomes more yellowish).

Step 6: Outlining the face and hair with the watersoluble black Stabilo All pencil and a wet brush. At this stage, she's really got her true soul...

Steps 7, 8 & 9
Steps 7, 8 & 9

Step 7: Hair and make-up + nose-job... using the same techniques as before.At this stage I was happy with what she had turned into. And yet, because the painting is part of a series, I put her side by side with the previous 2 paintings and found that her skin was much darker. And after a while it started bothering me. So...

Step 8: ... I thought maybe I could lighten it just a little bit... Bad idea: in seconds the face lost some of its freshness and  transparency. As a result, the lips now seemed too big and the nose looked weird...

Step 9: ... which led to more messing up and making her seem older... I don't dislike this more mature look, but it's just not who I feel she's wanting to become. Make-up removal is in order...

NB: It's been so interesting for me to get all your comments and perspectives at this particular stage. What's most important to remember is that at all times I keep trusting the process and waiting to see "who" is finally going to emerge on the canvas. What I mean to say, about "messing up", is that at some stage I have felt like I knew that girl, felt connected to her, and then I didn't recognize her anymore. But she's on her way...

Step 10: final version!
Step 10: final version!

Step 10: Here she finally is... I'm happy with how the innocent and more mature looks blended together. I have removed some of the paint on her skin and in her hair to reveal the book pages again, gone back to the first shape of the mouth and painted it a bit lighter, lightened the eyes too...

TIP: To safely remove layers of paint I use hydroalcoholic gel on a cotton bud.

As promised, here is the video showing you the whole portrait coming to life, from start to finish!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0AXpk4cXQM

I hope that you enjoyed this process and that it will inspire you to try your own mixed media portrait... Remember to let go of any expectations regarding how the face is "supposed" to look. Let it unfold and bloom naturally, and once you get a glimpse of the soul behind it, take your time, let it sit aside for a while if you need to, don't rush it. But also know that "mistakes" are part of the process and that, like all our experiences in life, they shape who we become and allow us to learn and grow. They will eventually give your portrait its own unique character once it is fully born on your canvas. And of course you can ask me any questions here in the comments or on Facebook.

NB: Enjoyed the video? HERE is another one from last year that you might like: it's a mixed media floral painting, full of blooming roses...

Have a beautiful week-end!

Light & Love

On trust and not doing it all

On trust, welcoming the unexpected and NOT doing it all...

Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

Where does time go? Where does it hide?... I've been trying to keep up with the roller coaster that the beginning of this New Year feels like, doing my best to meet deadlines, to keep doing all the things I have patiently and passionately built last year: first, making art, making art, making art, taking classes, experimenting, reading, learning.

Writing this blog and documenting my creative journey, taking and editing pictures, hopping from one language to the other, solving technical problems, running my little shop that allows my art to carry joy and inspiration into the homes of others around the world, connecting with other creatives on social media, helping each other and sharing daily discoveries, meeting deadlines for art show commitments, magazines and book submissions, so that my creative dreams don't stay small and hidden in the nest of my studio...

This has been a lot of work, this is a lot of work. Good work, real work, work as in answering your soul's calling and making it come to life. Work done with joy, dedication and hope.

Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

And yet, right now all this needs to make room for something new.

I told you earlier that I was going back to school this year, to learn a new job (because, believe it or not, all this creative work does not, for now, put bread on the table - well ok, a few crumbs). Just before Xmas I decided to leave the youth and cultural center where I had started my internship a few weeks before. Spending my days stuck at the front desk was not what I had expected and I just had to move on, trusting I would find some other place where I could truly learn and feel useful.

Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

My heart's whispers, which I had been ignoring for way too long, led me to a nursing home. I'm so glad they did. I just spent my first full week there and feel such gratitude for all I have learnt already, all the little miracles I have witnessed and sometimes been part of, the humbling sense of being truly useful, the gift of standing at the side of people who are so much further on their life journey than me, but now depend on others to keep walking their paths.

So for now, I need to accept the fact that I simply can NOT do it all. At the end of the day, I come back home with my head and my heart full, but exhausted and longing for my bed as soon as the kids are in theirs. Plus I have essays to write and homework to do! This means that a good part of my creative work must be put on hold for a whole year. Those of you who are faithful followers of my art page on facebook might have noticed it's been very quiet lately. And I am far from the 2 weekly blog posts I used to write before. I can't paint every day anymore.

You belong, Life Book 2014, page 1, warm up exercise, © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
You belong, Life Book 2014, page 1, warm up exercise, © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

But I trust it will be OK, it will turn out just as it is supposed to. I trust this journey I'm on, even though I don't have a clue where I'll stand in a year's time. I know that being an artist is at the heart of my life's calling, that I am not leaving this part of me behind at all, but that it is going to unfold in new and unexpected ways for a while.

Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

And I am taking the Life Book 2014 e-course, with weekly prompts and art lessons to keep creating all year long. It's going to remind me to keep creating in a stress-free way, even if I only have one small session a week. In the first lesson, the first week of January, we chose our "word of the year". Mine turned out to be Trust. It has already helped me a lot and I know it will be an everyday source of inpiration and serenity.

Until next time, and until I find a moment to work on last week's and this week's Life Book assignments, here are the first two pages of this year-long journal I have started.

Have a beautiful week everyone!

You belong, Life Book 2014, page 1, warm up exercise, © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
You belong, Life Book 2014, page 1, warm up exercise, © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper
Trust, Life Book 2014, page 2 (Inner artist guardian lesson) © Laly Mille, mixed media on watercolor paper

Studio tour!

Studio tour!

studio tour 5

In our home, we've made it a tradition to put away the Christmas decorations on New Year's day, to tidy up the house, sometimes rearranging the furniture a bit: a clean start for a fresh new year! And so I finally took the time to rearrange and clean the studio, my little creative nest... With lots of drawers for all my little bits and pieces, cherished treasures and inspiration, I'm happy to say it's ready for new projects and I can give you a (long overdue) tour! (if you're curious about the attic to studio conversion, check out THIS blog post) Upon climbing the stairs, you'll be welcomed by a whimsical cat and garlands of heart-shaped leaves. My apron invites me to get to work and get my hands dirty! When I get back from a walk, I can drop any gifts from nature into a large basket (lovingly embroidered by my mom a few years ago).

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

The room is rather long and narrow. The painting area is on the left...

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

... and the reading / blogging / printing / sitting /musing / washing area is on the right:

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

In between is the music area with my husband's piano, so he can play while I paint...

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

So first, the painting area: my faithful kitchen table has followed me into this new creative space!With a big skylight above it and a large glass palette, it's perfect for medium and small paintings, assemblage etc.

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

The sewing and jewelry supplies are stored nearby in the white drawer units, along with my sewing machine. For larger paintings I turn to my easel. I like being able to adjust the height of my seat depending on where I work (although I just stand most of the time).

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

My painting supplies are in the blue trolley and on the chest of drawers, a vintage find that I have customized with printed papers. I always keep a canvas nearby where I can apply any unused paint at the end of a session. It will become the background for a new painting some day... And I simply love my inspiration wheel! It's a bicycle wheel I found on my street one day. With some ribbon, tiny pegs and fairy lights, it's perfect!

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

Now, when we decided to turn the attic into a studio, a sink was at the top of my list. I just can't do without it, it allows me to get very messy and is a must when working with plaster and such (+ I always have a nice cup of tea ready!). There are lots of birdies in my "nest" and this one is especially dear to me: it used to be in my grandparents' house and reminds me of sweet childhood memories.

Across from the sink is a small couch (I love that it's called a love-seat in English, I don't think we have any romantic translation for it in French...) and what I like to call the "blogging corner" (that's where I'm writing to you from!). That's where my art books, notebooks, folders and magazines are, as well as a regular printer for everyday use and an Epson printer for art prints. Two large drawers contain most of the supplies for my Etsy orders. We don't watch regular TV but we do have a large computer screen that can be connected to a DVD player, the laptop or even our old VCR to watch movies etc. The 3 little clocks help me keep track of the time in different time zones where friends live!

My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com
My creative space! Come visit my artist studio - Laly Mille, mixed media artist, studio tour, www.lalymille.com

 Voilà! I'm ready for a new creative year! And actually, 2014 is off to a great start because my Prince Charming/Santa has signed me up for 2 online courses, the first of which is Life Book, and it has already started! (but more on that in my next post...)

In the mean time I wish you all a beautiful, joyful and magical New Year...