Artist Michele Byrne painting outdoors in Santa Fe
Michele Byrne painting the Thunderbird Bar & Grill on the Plaza de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM
Oil painting of cafe in Santa Fe
Michele Byrne, “Caffe Greco Delight,” 12 x 9 in., oil, 2020

How did I get started and develop my career?

After many years of freelance graphic design, I met with a marketing specialist to discuss the possibility of a fine art career. It had always been my dream to be a fine artist, but throughout high school I was repeatedly told it wasn’t possible to make a living as an artist. So, I went to college for commercial art.

In 1997 a friend suggested I meet with Barbara Dougherty who was the publisher of Art Calendar magazine at the time. She regaled me with success stories and spun a web of encouragement that moves me to this day.

I resisted many of the things she encouraged me to do. She suggested self-publishing two books of my work, participating in outdoor art festivals, painting en plein air, entering competitions and teaching workshops.

Barbara is no longer with us, but her positive advice echoes in my ears with every new opportunity or challenge that appears in my career.

Participating in plein air events has been a major catalyst in my career. These events afforded me invaluable painting experience, introduced me to a wealth of new friends and built my collector base. More importantly plein air has given me a more fulfilling life.

Now, after 16 years of these amazing events, I’m taking a break so I can work at my own pace through a combination of plein air and studio work.

How do you describe success?

My definition of success has changed over the years. Today I consider it a success when I create a piece that achieves the goal I’ve been working toward. Outward success was my previous goal. Today I’m seeking inner satisfaction. If a piece makes my heart sing, I know I’m one step closer to reaching my goals. I may never completely reach what I’m striving for, but I have learned to enjoy the process and to see what unfolds.

How do you find inspiration?

Hiking, walking, riding, cycling, and reading the biographies of historical artists feed me. I take an art day once a week to visit a new gallery or exhibit.

Moving to Santa Fe has created a plethora of inspirations. I find visual inspiration everywhere. The mountains, the skies and the rich history of this area fill me with wonder. Living in this Land of Enchantment has unleashed a passion to paint the rich history into my work. I’m experimenting with larger plein air paintings that I start in the field and finish in the studio where I add layers using brushes, knives, and other tools. These layers signify the historical layers of this magical place. The Morada Morning Light – 14” x 18” and Jemez Historic Site – 10” x 20” were done in this way.

My series of figures in motion is evolving as I move from vertical Manhattan rainy cityscapes as seen in Unity IV – 20” x 16” to a more horizontal format as in Shopping on the Plaza – 14” x 18”.

What is the best thing about being an artist?

The most wonderful thing about being an artist is the connections you make. I moved across the country from Pennsylvania to Santa Fe in the midst of the pandemic. I knew very few people when I moved here. Fortunately, the network of welcoming artists here is amazing. I can’t say enough about the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico. Thanks to PAPNM, there are so many new experiences that I’m able to take part in. In April I painted in historic Jemez Springs, and in two weeks, I’ll be staying and painting at Ghost Ranch for three days!

I’ve made friends for life with many of my hosts and collectors through my years of participating in plein air events. I cannot think of a more rewarding way to live my life.

Who do you collect?

Raising my two sons as a single mom did not allow for extra revenue to collect art. However, through trades and workshops, I have acquired a few pieces. Some of those include Ken Auster, Kathy Anderson and Joshua Been.

Oil painting of church with brown grassy landscape in the foreground
Michele Byrne, “The Morada Morning Light,” 14 x 18 in., oil, 2021
Oil painting of adobe historic building with path to the entrance
Michele Byrne, “Jemez Historic Site,” 10 x 20 in., oil, 2021
Oil painting of people with umbrellas walking in the rain on a city street with American flags overhead
Michele Byrne, “Unity IV,” 20 x 16 in., oil, 2020
Oil painting of shoppers in a plaza
Michele Byrne, “Shopping on the Plaza,” 14 x 18 in., oil, 2021

To see more of Michele’s work, visit:


  1. Michele, I was looking forward to your workshop in Bonita Springs Fl. Sorry you had to cancel, “ you all come back hear “. Love your work.

  2. I first saw her work when I lived in Lancaster PA and became a fan. . . Wanted to make it to one of her workshops but missed out. . Seems like we both moved about the same time frame. . . Hopefully I get to make it to one of her workshops once this pandemic is done. . . She does some awesome work

  3. Love your work! My first exposure was viewing it in a Villa Nobile post a couple of years ago. I hope to get back there this September- wishing you the best in Sicily and hope to do one of your workshops in the future!

  4. I treasure my Michele Byrne painting! Sorry your Bonita Springs workshop last spring did not work out. Hopefully you can fit us in another season. Love to see how creative and happy you are in your new surroundings!


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