Animal Instinct: The World of Osterville Artist Michelle Amaral

Pictured: Artist Michelle Amaral painted this moon image on a tabletop. Amaral says she enjoys painting on everything from furniture and walls to old doors and slabs of slate.

By Marina Davalos

Not a day goes by that Michelle Amaral isn’t painting exotic wildlife. The Osterville-based artist paints zebras and giant koi fish on old doors, and she recently started memorializing beloved pets who have passed. Amaral shares a cottage with her Pekingese, Pi, and her ferret, Baby Girl. “I love being able to do [pet memorials] for people and to see their reactions—especially when I can capture the eyes.”

Amaral has been drawing and painting animals since the age of five and studied painting and decorating during the 1980s at Bourne’s Upper Cape Regional Technical High School, where she also got experience painting murals. “Back then, I was just painting and giving my paintings away to friends,” says Amaral.

In her early 20s, a friend commissioned a mural for her daughter’s bedroom. Word spread of her talent and, for example, the owners of Sundancer’s restaurant in West Dennis commissioned her to paint murals that are still there today.

Michelle Amaral is known for painting wildlife.

“I’ve done a lot of murals and children’s nurseries,” says Amaral. “In the ’90s, I got into faux finishing, which was all the rage back then. That took my work to Boston, New York and Florida.” Amaral often gets repeat customers at different stages of their lives. “Clients would get married, have kids, and say, ‘Oh, let’s hire Michelle to paint this,’” she says. Amaral likes to paint on pretty much anything– furniture, doors or slabs of slate.

While a bartender for many years on the Cape, Amaral often showed her art at the venues where she worked. “A big part of my art was doing trunk shows in restaurants,” she says. Amaral has since painted for numerous well-known Cape establishments, including the sign and awning in front of the Foxhole in Osterville, the faux finish in the Eclectic Café in Hyannis, and she even painted the mural in the children’s play area in the waiting room at Hyannis Honda’s service center.

“Michelle’s talented, she’s artistic and her pieces are unique,” says Centerville resident and longtime friend Dennis Aceto, who over the years has commissioned Amaral to paint items in his home, including furniture and a faux finish on a living room wall. Most recently, Amaral repurposed an old metal sign that used to hang at Aceto’s grandfather’s store in East Cambridge. She transformed the sign by painting a masterful scene of a humpback whale breaching out of the water, and it now hangs in Aceto’s living room. “I love that I can repurpose something that’s sentimental to someone,” says Amaral.

Five years ago, Amaral was diagnosed with breast cancer. She subsequently gave up drinking. “With over two and a half years of sobriety under my belt, my art is alive and thriving more than ever,” says the cancer survivor.

Amaral puts on several art shows a year throughout the Cape. This month, the Osterville Village Library has hosted an exhibit of Amaral’s work featuring shadow box found-object art.

Michelle Amaral can be reached at

Amaral recently started memorializing beloved pets who have passed.

Amaral repurposed an old metal sign by painting a humpback whale breaching out of the water. It hangs on a faux finish wall painted by Amaral.

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