How 2020 Inspired These 4 New Oil Paintings


Contemporary Oil Paintings > Whether painting energetic scenes of New York City or the quiet spirituality of the Southwest, Michele Byrne has found a way to express what so many of us are feeling in 2020.

Byrne is known for her impressionistic landscape oil paintings, which she expertly creates using a palette knife. Here, she shares four recent paintings and her inspiration for each.

Behind the Scenes of 4 New Oil Paintings


Oil painting of New York
Michele Byrne, “Manhattan Blues,” 24 x 18 in., Oil on Linen, 2020, $2,800, Available at Michele Byrne Studio

“Manhattan Blues” (above) was painted in April of 2020 when the Covid Pandemic was at its worst in Manhattan. My beloved city, which I treasure for its typical flurry of activity and inspiration to my artwork, was in a total transformation.

The streets looked like a ghost town and I wanted to paint my memories of happier times with half painted figures in the streets in hopes and prayers that things would get back to normal.

Landscape oil painting of San Jose
Michele Byrne, “San Jose De Gracia Las Trampas,” 12 x 16 in., Cobra Oils on Linen, 2020, $1,800, Available at Wilder Nightingale Gallery, Taos, NM

Totally uprooting my life in Pennsylvania and moving across the country to my new home in Santa Fe has been a monumental task. Of course I had no idea the Covid pandemic would arise, but I chose to go ahead with my plans – moving my possessions across the country in early July. Thank goodness for the wonderful artist community in Santa Fe. The local plein air group continued to paint outside and I met many new friends, all masked of course. I also painted outside with a few close friends that I had met or known previously.

“San Jose De Gracia Las Trampas” (above) was painted en plein air at Las Trampas, a very magical and historical church on the high road to Taos.

When nearing the end of my painting process a few tourists walked up the steps to see if they could go in the church. Of course, it was closed, but I took a mental snapshot and indicated where I would add the figures in my painting. The rest was from memory as I have learned to establish somewhat of a photographic memory of the figures that I see.

I find it much better to paint from my memory and my knowledge then try to painstakingly add figures from photographs. I believe this gives the figures in my oil paintings more of a loose, fluid, and spiritual presence.

Landscape oil painting
Michele Byrne, “Santa Fe Holiday Lights,” 12 x 16 in., Oil on Linen, 2020, $1,800, Available at Michele Byrne Studio

Moving to a new city during a pandemic has been challenging. However, the magic and beauty of Santa Fe keeps my spirits high. After multiple walks through downtown and many paintings of the cathedral, I decided to challenge myself with a cheerful holiday view.

“Santa Fe Holiday Lights” (above) was done from some sketches and witnessing an early snowfall in October, and was painted mostly from memory and my imagination. This is more representative of how I would like the view from the Plaza to look during the holidays. Fantasy and imagination work well in my studio practice. I am a bit of a colorist and enjoy creating my own vision of light and color.

Oil painting of New York
Michele Byrne, “Unity II,” 16 x 12 in., Oil on Linen, 2020, $1,800, Available at Michele Byrne Studio

Having painted many rainy New York City street scenes with flags, I created “Unity II” (above) after my move to Santa Fe.

As my inspiration I used multiple photographs taken in the rain on 42nd street and Fifth Avenue. I had also previously painted the same view with one lonely flag off to the left. For this newest painting I decided to take the liberty of adding many flags to focus on my intention.

Reminiscent of a Childe Hassam painting, I produced this piece with thoughts of creating unity for our country. I do not intend for this piece to be a political statement – but aspire to create a feeling of hopefulness in those who encounter it.

Art is very powerful, and I humbly believe that I can make a small difference in this world by presenting my view.


Connect with Michele Byrne at, and learn about her art video workshop “Palette Knife Cityscapes” here.

If you’ve been looking for a way to enhance your painting style, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. This may contain just what you’ve been looking for: a refreshing new approach that will bring in the zing and zest your paintings are missing.

Award-winning artist Michele Byrne is going to show you how to blend the best of both worlds — beautiful brushwork and amazing palette knife techniques, all in one painting.

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