“I had a clear revelation that communicating through art was essential. That single moment will forever remain with me – I realized the potential of my personal power – my artistic voice.”






    For Michelle Carnes, the creation of art is a transcendental undertaking. Her work is a testament of a true dedication to being witness to the world around her.


    Michelle’s earliest artistic experiences were formed by her life growing up in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago. Her perceptions were rooted in the sights and sounds of her culture, with the vibrance of an inner-city backdrop. Born into a lineage of artists, which included a great aunt who studied with the turn of the century Impressionists in Paris, art was in her DNA. She was consumed with drawing and determined to learn. At the age of 11, she convinced her mother to take her to the Art Institute of Chicago for the Saturday morning figure drawing class. Her passion for art was recognized by her teacher, and she was asked to assist with model preparations, and to paint a personal commissioned work. It was her first job and she was hooked. Michelle continued her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago throughout her formative years. While visiting the Institute’s museum, she saw the original work of Pierre Auguste Renoir, On The Terrace. “That day it just clicked. I had a clear revelation that communicating through art was essential. That single moment will forever remain with me – I realized the potential of my personal power – my artistic voice.”


    Her studies in art took her westward, where she continued exploring color, composition and design, graduating from the Art Institute of Colorado, where she discovered the works of Sergei Bongart and Nicolai Fechin – masters of Russian Impressionism. It was a surreal feeling. The style was deeply familiar – the way her grandmother used to arrange flowers, and how her childhood drawings of neighborhood characters were mirrored in the masters’ works. Her passion to return to her roots was ignited, and she was invited to study under colorist Don Sahli, Sergei Bongart’s last apprentice. Under Sahli she studied Russian Impressionism and painting en plein air, and immersed herself in the discipline. Her devotion for painting was fierce. She continued to refine her craft at The Art Students League of Denver under Mark Daily, and the Watts Atelier in California under Jeffrey Watts. “Their influences are felt in my work, but in the end, it’s my own,” she says.


    Michelle’s work has been praised for its unique ability to capture the energy of the subject. Inspired by the light and colors of painting from life, she expresses her observations in an immediate and bold voice. She keeps herself open to surprises, not relying solely on the skills she has worked out over the years. Her constant exploration gives way to new creative processes that carry her forward.


    Michelle’s art career has spanned more than 2 decades. She has been a guest on NBC News, interviewed on KUVO Jazz Radio and has won the 2007 Southwest Art Magazine Plein Air Juror’s Pick Award. She was awarded and recognized for her 2011 Burning Man Rites of Passage multi-faceted art installation, which also was featured in the Black Rock City magazine. Her One Woman Shows “Heart and Soul of Denver” and “Celebrations” were both sold out shows. She created the live painting feature in the “Ser la Muse” cabaret which was recognized in The Press Democrat, and the North Bay Bohemian. She was the creator and former owner of CounterCulture Art Haus Gallery in Sebastopol, CA, has sold her original works in galleries in Chicago, Denver and the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as in private international collections. She was invited by Richard Schmid for a personal art review and to show in his Rist Canyon Fine Art Auction. She has published her art internationally, and has donated her original work and limited edition prints to charities and fundraisers. Her original works and live painting shows have transformed spaces in public venues including 2013 Sundance Film Festival, 2013 South by Southwest, The Intersection at Google and entertainment venues in the Bay Area. She has permanent corporate installations in Qdoba Restaurants nationwide, and Red Touch Media internationally. She is currently showing in the Bay Area, is a member of the California Art Club, and is a juried artist member of Oil Painters of America and Sonoma County Art Trails. Michelle lives in beautiful West Sonoma County, California.




    Art is changing the world. As an artist, it’s my calling to be an agent of change, a storyteller of the human experience – and the vibrant vistas that surround it.


    Painting from life, about life, is very gratifying to me – its direct truth is a perpetual challenge. Experiencing its sights and sounds influence my perceptions and allow me to accurately connect with the spirit of my theme. My paintings are personal confessions of my true emotional kinship to the subject. Everyone has a story and a strength. Life is beautiful, in all its glory and all its shadows.


    I see a common thread that weaves its way through all the moments that permeate life – a musician mesmerized by the rhythm, the light that engulfs a landscape only possible by the conditions of that day, and the beauty of a confident woman. It evokes a feeling of connection in me. My initial reaction is what interests me most, because it’s raw emotion. Being true to its core while reveling in its chaos is not easy to implement. It calls for courage. It’s easy to falter, but if I maintain this fragile balance, a work of art is created – it lives. Navigating the struggle between anarchy and composure is the essence of why I create art.


    As a multi-disciplinary artist, oil painting has proven to be my primary form of expression. Oils are vibrant, bold and sensual. I love to use color to arouse feeling. Color has a satisfying way of communicating what can otherwise be hard to explain. I merge the traditional painterly techniques with contemporary textures, subjects, compositions and palette. I infuse color and brushwork with music and rhythm, and expressions with poetry and motion.


    Throughout my career, I have explored the mysterious terrain between what can be measured by physical senses and what can be expressed only by feeling. I find joy in transforming spaces into vibrant statements that create a mood connecting the viewer to my art at a gut level. I want the viewer to be welcomed by my work, to be infused with its living essence.


    I am fortunate to have discovered my artistic voice at an early age. It has served to be my passion and my life. I will continue to be inspired by the vibrant world we live in and tell the stories of memories and dreams. Life is beautiful.