Although Laly Mille has been creative since childhood, it took her many years to listen to her creative soul, and become an artist. In fact, she didn’t start calling herself an artist, or sharing her art with the world, until 2010.
After reading Kelly Rae Robert’s book, Taking Flight, she began sharing her art with the world and has since been published in Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine, has a painting coming out in a North Lights book, and has received many local awards, including the “Incite: Dreams realized” mixed media award.
Alyice: There’s a lot of mixed media collage work on the market these days, how do you differentiate yours from the rest? In other words, what do you feel makes your work unique and truly your own?
Laly: Collage is very important in my work and I do use it a lot. My most elaborate paintings have lots and lots of layers of collage, and yet, when you first look at them, you won’t necessarily notice it at all. You’ll have to come closer. . . That’s because I tend to really blend it all toghether with paint, inks, pastels and even words.
To me, what’s hidden is equally as important as what is visible. When I paint a girl by her window, I paint the garden behind it, or collage a map of the city where I imagine her to be. It may be almost invisible to the viewer, but it’s there and it affects the rest of the painting.
All the collage elements I use in a painting are relevant to the story I am trying to tell. They act as clues, like a sort of visual lexical field. Storytelling is a very important aspect of my art.
Alyice: What is the most challenging part about being a mixed media artist?
Laly: One of the greatest things about mixed media is this sense of endless possibility. Practically anything can become an art supply! And there are so many wonderful books, ecourses, magazines and blogs.
But it can become a bit overwhelming too, especially at the beginning, and make it hard to find your own style or favorite techniques. To me the key is to keep experimenting at my own pace and to stick with a few techniques that I have truly made my own. But any time I get stuck, trying out something new is the best remedy.
Alyice: What is the best part about creating art using various art supplies and found objects?
Laly: First, it is just so much fun! The other day I was working on a plaster gauze piece for an assemblage and inadvertently spilled some coffee on it. . . and it looked great! The effect was just so cool that I started dipping my brush into my mug and spilling more coffee all over the piece. I love this sense of freedom.
I have also always had a soft spot for found objects, little “treasures” like lost keys, childhood memories, old postcards, pebbles, sea glass. . . I love to give them a new life, and I love that through art, others can see how poetic they are.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about mixed media before you got started?
Laly: Experimenting means trial and error! Working in layers with different materials means that sometimes they will react in unexpected ways.
For instance, inks can be pretty tricky! Some inks will keep “coming back” no matter how much paint or gesso or modeling paste you put on top of them. Brown alcohol ink will leave surprisingly pink spots! Now I know that I have to remove the ink with alcohol instead of covering it up.
When used on canvas, a non-porous surface, some inks will smear at the slightest brushstroke, no matter how dry you think they are, so you need to use a spray fixative before proceeding to the next layer. The same goes with gel pens and many others.
All these “discoveries” can be frustrating, especially if you’ve just completed a painting and find out, upon applying a coat of varnish with a brush, that ink has been smearing and made the whole thing yellowish! But once you master these processes, you can start using them to your advantage.
For instance, I have a black marker that smears really easily, but if I write with it and then quickly swipe a good amount of gel medium over it with a credit card, I get the coolest blurry effect!
Alyice: As you know, art is very subjective in nature. What some people like, others do not. I’m sure you’ve received both positive and negative feedback in your career, but what I want to know is how you handle the negative criticism, especially when it hurts deep down within your soul?
Laly: I live in France and here, mixed media is very little known. And when it is, it is categorized as a craft along with scrapbooking. Not as art. So of course some people won’t like it, or won’t know what to make of it. And if some galleries prefer cold, abstract, “conceptual” art, well, they’re just not a fit for me and I’m not a fit for them.
To me art is not an intellectual thing and I’m not interested in concepts. What I love is how poetic, evocative and intuitive art can be, how it can resonate with our deepest self, our soul, our chore. I love this quote by Albert Einstein:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
I couldn’t agree more. And thankfully, I think more and more people are rediscovering this “gift.”
But I’m not saying that rejection is not painful. When you put your whole heart into your work, of course it will hurt. The best thing at times like these is to have a strong, supportive community that understands what you’re trying to do and that you can rely on for a bit of cheerleading. These are the people you’re putting your art out there for, they’re your “fit”.
Blogging and social networking are great ways to connect with like-minded souls and build a community where you can support each other.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Laly: I don’t really know if I have a process, not yet at least. Sometimes I will “see” or dream an image that I will quickly try to capture as a small sketch, other times I just start collaging papers and staining with inks and paint and follow where it leads me.
Sometimes I work on paintings, other times on assemblage pieces, and often on both at the same time. When I feel stressed I turn to plaster, I find it so soothing. I’ve always been a very messy girl, and I guess I have finally come to accept it and just embrace the messiness.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good mixed media piece?
Laly: I would have to say authenticity. Even if you love the bold colors of an artist or the way another paints faces or the latest trend that everyone is using, like little text cuttouts for instance, only use what really feels right for YOU.
You may find that what speaks to you in the works of others is not necessarily what will work best for you in your own art making. Stay open and experiment.
Alyice: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art?
Laly: I am still very much struggling with this issue. With time and research, going to art shows, looking at how others price their work, gives me a better idea of where I stand. But it is so subjective.
For now I have an idea of the minimum price for the smaller pieces and the highest price for the bigger or most elaborate ones. I try to find my way between these.
Alyice: What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?