Michelle Carnes has a deep interest in capturing the incapturable. Growing up in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, Michelle is a daughter of immigrants who escaped the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Latvia. Immersed in the stories, traditions and language of her culture, her experiences created a curiosity for human expression, survival and interconnectedness. She studied formal figure drawing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of 11. She was recognized for her artistic abilities, won regional awards, and was commissioned by collectors at a young age. Michelle went on to pursue a BFA in Visual Communications, and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

"My need to create is formed by women who taught me about strength and survival. Growing up, I found my escape in pop culture, music and film. I looked up to the artists, muses and changemakers who taught me the importance of being comfortable in my own skin and my personal power of self expression."

Michelle explores spaces of emotion, navigating the terrain of the in-between moments. The conscious and subconscious stories we tell ourselves and the truth of life's realities. Her experience of being a female creative is forged by an interest in people, archetypes, and the power of individuality. Although she has been formerly trained to capture a physical likeness of a subject in a classic sense, she looks beneath the surface to find a personal vitality, capturing the abstract energies that connect the viewer to her work.

Michelle's process involves conceptual observations, painting en plein air, ala prima, in-studio, live models, street photography and video shoots. She maps out her reference points with digital collage and design, which frees her mind to explore the materiality and tactile sensuality of pushing paint, unearthing textures, colors and elemental memory.

Michelle's work has been shown in one-woman and group shows, galleries, public art commissions, and live painting performances. She has been featured on NBC news, Sundance Film Festival, ChefDance, South x Southwest, Google, as well as commissioned for public art installations for corporate and private collections — nationally and internationally. Her studio is located on the Pacific Coast in Northern California. 


"Michelle is one of the most brilliant, creative professionals I know. She has a unique ability to understand what a person is trying to express and deliver the perfect approach to hit the mark and meet their artistic visual goals." 
-Kristi Estes , CIG-PR, llc

"Michelle has provided us with something so valuable to us. We look at the work every day and we are reminded of where we came from, who we are, and what we can achieve together. The works have become a centerpiece for our offices, our personalities are right there for all to see! Working with Michelle was so easy. Inspiring work and a pleasure to collaborate with."
-Wayne Scholls, Principal, Red Touch Media, Inc.

"An art campaign strategy for the Qdoba Restaurant Group was to visually communicate an "art persona” in each of the new restaurants. Michelle created over fifty original paintings and digital works. She captured the essence and persona of their brand quickly and intuitively. The work was rigorous and creative. The client was extremely pleased."
-Kendall Peterson, Principal, ThereSquared, llc

"Michelle is an excellent partner in art curation and was ready to make suggestions and incorporate our preferences. She was extremely helpful in placement and hanging. The process was entirely enjoyable, and we could not be happier with the outcome.”
-Gwen Eller, Roam Interiors

“Michelle's vibrant colors and expressive images capture the personality of her subjects in surprising ways. The energetic and engaging piece we purchased delights our guests as they come down the stairs, and truly defines the space.”
-Ann B, Private Residential Interior