Born in 1950 in Greenville, Florida, Arnett moved to Fort Pierce in 1955. He attended Lincoln Park Academy and graduated from Dan McCarty High School. He began painting as a youth and sold his first painting when he was only sixteen.
Arnett said he met A. E. Backus in the early 1960s. He remembers that he told Backus he wanted to paint wildlife. Backus jokingly replied that he should go over to Frankie and Johnny’s, a nearby bar known for its raucous customers. Arnett met some of the artists who lived in his neighborhood. He began selling his work to businesses starting at age seventeen. He first painted the tropical scenes typical of the Highwaymen, but now creates landscapes of central Florida.