Catholic Artist Spotlight: Michelle Arnold Paine

Michelle at work - Image copyright Michelle Arnold Paine. Used with permission.

Michelle at work – Image copyright Michelle Arnold Paine. Used with permission.

Michelle Arnold Paine is an artist whose faith plays an integral part of her work. I discovered Michelle’s magnificent work on a recent retreat and have enjoyed my frequent visits to her website since then to learn more about this gifted painter. Michelle began to explore the visual richness of Catholicism while studying in Italy during college. She was confirmed at Easter 2001 in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy.

Today, I invite you to learn more about Michelle’s work by enjoying our recent conversation and visiting her at

Michelle, thank you for sharing your gifts with us! Please briefly introduce yourself and your beautiful family to our readers.

I recently re-located to Ohio with my husband of seven years and two young daughters (3.5 and 1.5) after living in New England for fifteen years. I am thankful that we are finally settling in.  I grew up outside Chicago in a wonderful Evangelical Christian family and entered the Catholic church when I was 23, in 2001.  You can listen to the story of how I found the Catholic Church in my recent interview on The Journey Home:

How did you find your path to your work as an artist? Are the realities of working in a creative endeavor like this all that you expected they might be?

I have been an artist from the time I was small, taking art classes all through school and through college (when I thought I wanted to be an art historian). I studied abroad in Italy my Junior year of college, responding visually to the masterpieces there, and then returned to finish college by creating a Senior Thesis painting exhibit my senior year.  Through those experiences I came to realize I didn’t want to be writing about the pictures – I wanted to be creating them.

The realities of being a painter are every bit as difficult as I was led to believe – I had a mentor who repeatedly told me  “if you can do anything else, you should.” But I can’t do anything else: the impulse to create is too strong within me. There is a lot of non-creative work involved in the nitty-gritty of making myself seen in the world. And no one ever mentioned how much of being a painter is just moving stuff around – carrying materials in, carrying materials out to the show, moving them around the gallery, moving them back to the studio. It’s not glamorous — just a mess of bubble wrap and cardboard boxes!

Mary the Dawn, Oil on Canvas, 22” x 28” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2009

Mary the Dawn, Oil on Canvas, 22” x 28” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2009

I can’t help but ask this since you have a beautiful conversion story. How does your faith life impact upon your art?

Creating has always been a part of my yearning for God. Responding to beauty through painting and drawing has always been how I have tried to come closer to the transcendent. Beauty is one of the ways God reveals himself to us, along with truth and goodness, so my faith is integral to my art even when there may not be any overt reference in the subject matter. In my time spent living in Italy I experienced the narratives of Scripture in new and surprising ways through the masterpieces I viewed there. It made me desire to be a part of the “sacra conversazione” or sacred conversation which occurs across time among the saints and aided by the artists who represent them.

Much of your art is overtly sacred. Is this intentional?

This question is closely related to the previous question. I make art about what I find beautiful, which can be a landscape, architecture, figures, or the narratives and images my Catholic faith. I I didn’t  (and don’t) set out to make “sacred art” – I make art about what is important to me.

Fede: Faith, Oil on Canvas, 12” x 12” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2012

Fede: Faith, Oil on Canvas, 12” x 12” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2012

A large portion of your portfolio highlights your magnificent figure work. How does your perception of the Divine impact upon the way in which you represent the human form?

In every model, old or young, large or small, male or female, I see one God’s amazing creations. In the process of drawing and painting I am trying to capture just one small portion of the magnificence, delicacy, and beauty of what He made.

The human figure is the most beautiful, most complex, and most difficult subject there is. While everyone’s proportions are very nearly the same, yet every individual is unique. The human body’s proportions are so ingrained in our visual brain that even non-artists can easily say “that looks just like him” or “Not at all!”.

To engage in the process of drawing is an act of love. The dedication required to spend hours drawing is humble at its core. Even for the most talented of draughtsmen, drawing is a process of creation and correction, establishing relationships and then refining them. All art fall short of God’s original creation.

How has motherhood impacted upon your career as an artist both practically and creatively?

A great deal of my work centers around the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation. (You can view paintings paintings here and monoprints here: ). I used to see the Annunciation as a metaphor for how we open ourselves to God, and, as an artist, to the Holy Spirit in the act of creativity. Now that I am a mother I see Mary differently then before, her life AFTER the Annunciation comes more to the forefront. As I am still in the midst of toddler-dom this has not yet filtered out into my paintings, but I am sure that it will.

Practically speaking, the few hours a week I manage to have a babysitter come so that I can paint or write are very precious to me. I love what I do, so this is my beautiful alone time, as well as a time to manage to press forward in this career as an artist which I have pursued for more than a decade.

Capella: Convergence, Oil on Panel, 12” x 12” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2012

Capella: Convergence, Oil on Panel, 12” x 12” ©Michelle Arnold Paine 2012

What are your dreams for your art?

I pray that I may continue to share the beauty of God’s creation with many people through selling original works of art and through teaching. I am so blessed to be many years into this dream already with my work in many private collections and in several college and university collections as well. Selling my work allows me to continue making it – purchasing materials, paying studio rent, not to mention compensating the many hours I spend developing ideas and compositions.

How can our readers bring a piece of your work into their homes?

I love when my art goes to someone’s home to be loved and looked at! After I have made it I don’t have the space to enjoy it myself – it is meant to go to a new home! I have original drawings, paintings and prints available at my website I also have work available at Sloane Merrill Gallery in Boston as well as occasionally at other exhibition venues.

Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers.

If you enjoyed viewing my work and would like to hear more about my series on Mary, my thoughts about sacred art, or my exhibition schedule, I invite you to visit my website and sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Connect with Michelle Arnold Paine:

Copyright Lisa M. Hendey

Images copyright Michelle Arnold Paine, used with permission



About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

1 Comment

  1. I like the honesty of what it is to be an artist. All the things you do behind the scenes that if they weren’t done, there would be no art. There’s a huge lesson in that, for me. It is like motherhood. The little things count, probably the ones unseen, the most.

    There is a beautiful softness in your art, and your sense of color is soothing.

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