By Emma Kent // Photos by Lauren Wood
For Baldwyn-native and artist Devin Mitchell, it’s a good thing when her paintings make clients shed tears. They’re happy tears. That’s because Mitchell paints custom pieces featuring babies’ first heartbeats.
“I started painting heartbeats when several of my friends were expecting,” she said. “These paintings became more than gifts. They were much more personal and lasting than anything else that could be given… I see a lot of mamas cry.”
She loves capturing the beginnings of that journey — those first sounds of life. And she does it through carefully sketching the heartbeats from sonograms and bringing them to life with color and her abstract painting style.
Mitchell teaches 6-12 grade art at Tupelo Christian Preparatory School when she’s not working on her heartbeat paintings. With orders for her heartbeat paintings rolling in, creating and painting are constant activities for Mitchell. After each full day of making art with her students at school she paints in the afternoons and evenings at home. Mitchell loved art long before she decided to make a career of it.
“Ever since I was little I have been drawn to art,” Mitchell said. “College was the first time I got to dive in and really start exploring my talent.”
Mitchell studied for two years at Northeast Mississippi Community College before transferring to the University of Mississippi, where she got her bachelor’s degree in art.
“I’ve always had a love for abstract art,” she said. “That’s why the heartbeats have that abstract feel.”
She didn’t always think she would be an artist, though. In middle school, Mitchell took a test to get into the gifted art class at her school and she didn’t pass it. She said she and her mother, Baldwyn Main Street Director Lori Tucker, like to laugh about that now.
Mitchell recently took an exciting step toward expanding her clientele. She’s partnered with The Farmhouse in Tupelo and the store’s owner Bev Crossen.
Customers at The Farmhouse will now be able to order custom paintings from Mitchell through the store. They’ll be able to fill out a form with their order information — colors, canvas size and any other details they wish to include — and those order forms will be passed along to Mitchell and delivered when complete.
Before joining forces with Farmhouse, Mitchell relied on her Facebook page and word-of-mouth. She joked that she’s made a heartbeat painting for just about everyone in the Baldwyn area, so it was time to branch out. She’s done somewhere in the range of 50-75 commissioned paintings to date.
Soon she’ll also have some of her work on display at The Alley Cat, a new art gallery in downtown Baldwyn being opened by Clark Richey this spring. Mitchell’s work will be joined by work from other Baldwyn-area artists, as well as Mississippi artists.
At first, making her heartbeat paintings started out really slowly with Mitchell just making the paintings for her friends who were expecting babies.
“It’s kind of surreal I guess,” she said of the way it’s taken off. “People love them. They love the colors and the textures — Everybody loves the gold.”
Couples usually contact her and send her a sonogram, including the baby’s heartbeat, which Mitchell then uses to create her custom pieces.
“I draw it all first and then I use a texture to go back over the pencil,” she said.
Mitchell lets her clients choose what colors they’d like to include in their heartbeat paintings, how abstract they want them to be, whether they want gold or silver accents and other details. She said many of her clients are now leaning toward more neutral colors like white, grey and metallics, because after the baby grows up, the painting can be displayed in other parts of the house.
Her favorite pieces to paint, though, are the ones where clients give her more creative freedom to paint something truly unique for them. She has a one-to-two-week turnaround time, although it depends on the size of the painting. The most popular size paintings are large ones that fit perfectly on the wall above a baby’s crib. She also does a lot of smaller paintings that are given as gifts for baby showers.
Right now, she does most of her painting in the kitchen. She has big dreams of having her own home studio one day. In fact, she’s already drawn out the plans. She and her husband are planning to build a home, so they’ll include her studio in that project.
Hope in the wait
Recently, Mitchell has started doing a new type of painting: The Waiting Line. The Waiting Line is something she came up with as a symbol of hope for women who are struggling to conceive. For her Waiting Line paintings, she paints a textured metallic line on an abstract background, similar to the way she begins her heartbeat paintings. However, instead of painting a heartbeat on the canvas, she just leaves the line with the intention of adding a baby’s heartbeat to it one day.
These pieces hit particularly close to home for Mitchell, who, with her husband, has been trying to start a family of her own. Despite the setback of being diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, she’s hopeful that one day she will get to paint a heartbeat painting for her own home. She hopes her Waiting Line paintings are a glimmer of hope and light at the end of the tunnel for those struggling with infertility.
“This stage in my life inspired me to paint these Waiting Lines. We’re praying and waiting for God’s timing,” Mitchell said. “It gives moms out there something to symbolize that maybe one day they’ll have a heartbeat painting, too.”
Mitchell also sees the paintings as a way to encourage women to share their struggles and lift each other up.
“I think infertility is something that should be talked about more, taken out of the darkness,” she said. “People should realize not everyone’s journey is the same, but every journey is special.”