portrait

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

Inner truth

Inner truth... a new painting

These days are days of transition.

Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille
Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille

Letting go of what needs to go.

Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille
Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille

Opening up the gates and letting new energy flow.

Days of introspection.

Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille
Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille

Turning inside and re-connecting to inner truth.

Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille
Inner truth - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2014 Laly Mille

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

Compassion, a mixed media painting comes to life

Compassion, a mixed media painting comes to life

Compassion: Mixed media painting on canvas by Laly Mille

Compassion: Mixed media painting on canvas by Laly Mille

The inspiration for this painting comes from the amazing experience of finding a group of like-minded women and artists through Kelly Rae Roberts' "Flying Lessons" e-course: within this group we create a safe and supportive environment for each other, where we can share anything from technical tips and everyday worries and joys to the most difficult struggles, fears and experiences (many have yet to recover from hurricane Sandy). Although this is a "virtual" place, it enables us to connect in a very real way across the planet, and to truly practice what Brené Brown speaks of in "The Gifts of Imperfection" (I can't recommend that book enough!). These gifts are Courage, Compassion and Connection. They mean that we can share our most authentic selves, our whole hearts, and truly be seen, heard and valued for who we are, where we are in our lives, without judgement of any kind.

Compassion detail by Laly Mille

This new painting is the result of the "work in progress" project that has been ongoing on my Facebook page for the past 3 weeks! I really want to thank all those of you who have followed this process day after day and participated with your comments! Below are all the different steps again, from the blank canvas to the finished piece.

The words "Coeurage", "Compassion" and "Connection" are written on the painting. I like that they all begin with the letter C, which reminds me of the moon crescent. So for the text on the 2 characters' faces I used en enlargement of a dictionary page with the definition and origin of that letter.

Refuge

Refuge

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the noises of the world, by our own fears, our own expectations, the way time seems to fly and slip between our fingers. Sometimes we feel the need to retreat within ourselves, within a place of silence and solitude, within our souls. There we can breathe. There we can listen to the wind carrying our true voice, our true dreams, and simply be. In this sacred, secret place, we gather strength and understanding before diving into the flow of life again.

Refuge, mixed media painting, © 2012 Laly Mille
Refuge, mixed media painting, © 2012 Laly Mille
Refuge, mixed media painting, © 2012 Laly Mille
Refuge, mixed media painting, © 2012 Laly Mille

There's really something magical about painting a face. I only use a model in the early stages, to get an idea of the shadows etc. But I never try to make it look like the model, on the contrary. What I like most is to let the face emerge, its emotions, its personality, until it comes to life...

Annunciation

Annunciation

Annonciation: mixed media painting on canvas

Annunciation © 2012 Laly Mille 46 x 55 cm - 18,1" x 21,6" Mixed media painting on canvas

The painting reads: "Receive this gift with grace in the silence of your soul". It is about welcoming the gifts of life, the good news, the little things, the precious moments, inspiration and creativity...

I created it using Katie Kendrick's "every face tells a story" technique from her inspiring book "Layered impressions".

Miss Marianne

Miss Marianne

Miss Marianne: mixed media painting on canvas by Laly Mille
Miss Marianne: mixed media painting on canvas by Laly Mille

Miss Marianne

© 2012 Laly Mille 80 x 80 cm - 31,5" x 31,5" Mixed media painting on canvas

Most of that painting was done in 2011 but I left it aside for a looooong time and only recently decided to finish it... It is based on a Jane Austen character so I used Jane's handwriting for the collage: the author's words are sort of flowing through the reading girl.