Bond movies are fun to watch. It’s a little different when your life becomes one.

But for the past year that has been the case for Chappaquiddick-based artist Elizabeth Whelan.

On. Dec. 28, 2018, Ms. Whelan’s brother Paul Whelan was arrested while he was in Moscow attending a wedding. Accused of international espionage, Paul Whelan has been held in the notorious Lefortovo prison for the past nine months.

Now Ms. Whelan has temporarily left her quiet life as a Martha’s Vineyard portrait artist and traded in her canvases for canvassing, moving to Washington D.C. in a tireless attempt to lobby all 535 members of Congress and the American ambassador in Russia, John Huntsman, for her brother’s release.

Letters are mailed to her brother but rarely received, Ms. Whelan said. — Jeanna Shepard

“I was literally in a Twitter spat with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs the other weekend,” Ms. Whelan told the Gazette in an interview this week. “How often do you get in a Twitter spat with the state department of a foreign country — not to mention the one that is holding your brother hostage? When you talk about situations that you would have never dreamed of, I think that this one is pretty high on my list.”

Although the Russian government has not allowed her to contact Paul, her persistent work on Capitol Hill has played an instrumental role in the creation of two congressional resolutions that call on the Russian government to provide evidence of Mr. Whelan’s wrongdoing.

“I’m used to talking to people one-on-one for my portraits,” Ms. Whelan said. “But I’m not used to sitting at a table with all this fancy china laid out, and all of these very important people sitting across from me, in this historic room — and yelling. That is not what I do.”

Paul Whelan was arrested nine months ago. Since then, the Whelan family has undertaken an aggressive public relations campaign that has steadfastly asserted from day one that he is being unjustly held as a political chess piece. “Trade fodder,” she said. Ms. Whelan’s brothers, David and Andrew, have mobilized, sending weekly email updates, holding press conferences, and working with the governments of the three other countries where Paul holds citizenship — the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland.

That left Elizabeth to deal with the American politicians.

“I basically ended up being the more flexible person, making me the one who went to D.C,” Ms. Whelan said. “This is a political situation, and unfortunately only a political solution will bring it to an end . . . when I said that to my brothers in January, I had no idea what that was going to turn into.”

She started by meeting with Cong. Bill Keating and the representative from Paul’s home district in Michigan, Haley Stevens, learning how to run back and forth between different sides of Capitol Hill like the proverbial K-Street lobbyist she is not. Almost a year later, Ms. Whelan has made contact with hundreds of members of Congress, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups and embassies. But because the United States government isn’t calling Paul a hostage, she hasn’t gotten any help from the alphabet soup of bureaucrats and secret service agents whose job it is to bring home Americans who are being held hostage abroad.

“So what’s happened is that Elizabeth Whelan is running around D.C. trying to make her own fusion cell,” Ms. Whelan said.

“It’s crazy, because when I go to these meetings and talk to the Deputy Secretary of State, they aren’t telling me they are going to take care of this and get him out,” she added. “They are giving me suggestions about what I should do. And I tell them, I am more than happy to call President Putin myself and discuss the situation of my brother’s detention with him. But I will not meet with him in person because, as my brother David says, no Whelan will be going to Russia until Russia returns the Whelan they already have.”

With persistence, she has made inroads in Washington. The joint resolutions now in front of both the House and Senate say that if the Russians continue to not provide evidence of Paul’s purported crimes, he must be returned. A week after they were introduced, the bills received numerous co-sponsors and were released from committee. Now Ms. Whelan has three weeks to call all 535 legislators again before they reconvene in less than a month leading up to a vote.

“I am more than happy to call President Putin myself and discuss the situation of my brother’s detention with him.” — Jeanna Shepard

“It’s an extraordinarily large job for one person,” she said. “Luckily I’m a spreadsheet queen.”

Meanwhile, Paul has had little contact with anyone other than the U.S. Embassy consular staff, according to Ms. Whelan. He’s spent time in solitary confinement and hours in the interrogation room. His attorney was chosen by the Russian government. His family cannot speak to him. They’ve sent him hundreds of letters, including many from Martha’s Vineyard. Ms. Whelan said hardly any arrive.

“It’s extremely restricted, and when you compare it to how U.S. government treats Russians who we have, they are allowed to talk and to have family visits,” she said.

Things don’t appear to be getting any easier for the Whelan family. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who has been the primary liaison to Paul, is stepping down and had his last meeting with Paul on Wednesday, Ms. Whelan said. President Trump has appointed his Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan, as Mr. Huntsman’s replacement, but it could take weeks or months for him to be sworn into office.

But that hasn’t stopped the Whelans from devoting their lives to getting their brother home.

“I never, ever thought I would be doing this,” Ms. Whelan added. “One of the reps from Michigan is going to be in Boston to talk about what we should do next. Who does that? Not a little artist working from Chappaquiddick. I just want to be behind my easel in the woods.”