🔗 AT 50, MICHELLE VELLA USED INSTAGRAM TO BECOME A FULL-TIME ARTIST

"I was just sitting at coffee with my sister, when all of a sudden I see my phone light up. And it says: ‘@DVF is following you.’"

Since graduating from McMaster University with a fine arts degree in 1986, Michelle Vella has worked nearly a dozen jobs, on either side of the country, in several different industries. She worked as an assistant at a Toronto art gallery, took a job in software telesales, moved into marketing, spent three years in publishing and pursued portrait photography. At one point between all the career left turns, she launched a salad topper business: “when I was 23, and I started Michelle’s Gourmet Croutons. It was the middle of the gourmet food craze, and I had them in Pusateri’s, Holt Renfrew and David’s Foods.”

Then, just over a decade ago, she started a graphic design business called RealSTUDIO. “I thought at 40 I found the career of my dreams,” she says. “Fast forward 10 years, I started to want something different. So I started to pick up a pencil again.”

When Michelle was pursuing the idea of revisiting art, a wise friend advised her, “Oh, just draw fashion. Everybody loves fashion.” So she started flipping through magazines and drawing what she saw: “When a Vogue cover came out, I would draw that.” And everything she drew, she posted on Instagram.

Scroll back to Michelle’s 2015 Instagram posts, and you’ll see just how far her work has come—and you’ll see it didn’t take her long to understand she needed a signature style. “I would look at past drawings, and realize that they weren’t authentically me.

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