Born in 1967 in London and raised in Dublin, Michelle Boyle is known for both her portraits and use of watercolours. Boyle studied Cultural Anthropology as an undergraduate and went on to receive an MA in Archaeology and Heritage Management from the University of Leicester. Upon graduating from her MA in 2002, Boyle exhibited her first self-portrait at the Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast. Boyle's early career saw her works exhibited across Ireland and London.
Boyle has since reached a global audience, with her works being exhibited in Estonia, Poland, New York and India. Boyle's series of portraits of the writer Thomas Pakenham was exhibited at the 2015 Hay Festival in Kells, Ireland. In 2019, Boyle was the recipient of the Watercolour Society of Ireland's Annual Award and President's Trophy. Most recently, Boyle was chosen as a finalist in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, a prize which rewards the most imaginative and impressive uses of the water-based medium (coincidentally judged by Next Generation artist Ishbel Myserscough). Boyle's works are held in the collections of Microsoft International, UNESCO HQ, The Office of Public Works in Ireland, The Irish Banking Federation, Limerick University, Price Waterhouse, Tartu Print, the Paper Museum in Estonia the Drawing Institute in Italy. Her self-portrait was acquired by Ruth Borchard Collection in 2015.
Boyle's work explores ideas of place and belonging and revealing the universal in the mundane. Often described as a 'painter's painter', Boyle views painting as a deeply personal form of art, akin to letter-writing in its immediacy and intimacy. Boyle cites Ancient Egyptian Fayum Mummy painters, Alice Neel and Sargent and Orpen as key artistic inspirations for her portraits
One of only six self-portraits that Boyle has painted since 2003, her 2014 self-portrait was an act of rebellion against a Royal Hibernian Academy member who critiqued her informal, non-academic artistic practice. This experience transformed Boyle into a warrior, her before her like a shield, her brush a spear, battling against academic preconceptions of what art should be.