This biography uses Stephanie’s own words to tell her story – words that first appeared in numerous interviews and her personal diaries.
Stephanie O’Connor was born on November 12, 1989. She grew up in Union City and is the oldest of two children. Her artistic interests were obvious from a very young age.
“I always drew as a child. My Dad worked for a paper company and would bring home stacks and stacks of paper for me. They were really big pages that I would use to draw stories and color pictures of whatever came to mind. I always seemed to explore my imagination. I was an only child for eight years so my art was my company. My Mom was amazing at fostering my artistic growth and guiding me.”
Art continued to be a main focus in Stephanie’s adolescence. Through an extensive art education program at her elementary alma mater St. Augustine School, she learned a lot about art history. Stephanie also proudly graduated from Dalia Condis Fine Arts School which was an intensive five year program.
“I always like to joke that my family had connections. The reality is that my Grandma was very good friends with artist Dalia Condis. They spoke and Dalia accepted me into her art school with the understanding that I would be treated as an adult. There was no babying there and I am so grateful for that. Dalia Condis was my mentor and refined my artistic talent. She was strict but knowledgeable. She was honest but fair. The point is, your best was expected, not asked for, and I took that very seriously.”
At the end of each academic year, Dalia Condis Fine Arts School would hold a prestigious gallery exhibition of all the student’s best artwork. For five consecutive years, Stephanie won first place.
“I remember my Grandma looking at me straight in the eyes saying that my admittance into Dalia’s art school was because she swore to Dalia I could handle it. It was not easy. It was intensive. It was hard. It was very focused. I remember looking right back at her saying that I understood. It was like we made a blood pact that I would succeed and show everyone what I was made of… And I did.”
Upon graduation, Stephanie continued to pursue her art. She would paint for hours on end. It was her passion but unfortunately, not her bread and butter at the time. She was making a living managing a construction company.
“I cannot say it was boring. It was a lot of fun. I climbed up huge ladders to just hang out on the roofs of homes. I met so many great super nice people from all walks of life. One person was an opera singer. Another person was a decorated American soldier. They would tell me their stories and I would just sit there and listen in amazement. It was awesome.
On my down time at the office, I would create art. I made a gummy bear fortress and drew tons of sketches. When I would stay late, I would open up my easel and paint. My boss did not know but I would pop in my favorite CD and blast the music as I painted. When the phone rang, I would press pause and with my most professional voice answer the phone. Good times… Good times”
Elements that would become central to Stephanie’s style were beginning to emerge. She began working in the abstract form. She was discovering some of her most important influences in the art world.
“Aside from creating art, I love to read. I am a huge bookworm. I always have my nose buried in a book. When I was younger, I would read and study a lot about Salvador Dali, Keith Haring, Peter Max, and Pablo Picasso. They are my absolute favorites.
I believe my artistic style draws from them. Little bits and pieces of their artistic signature creates my own unique artistic signature. People even back that up when they say my artwork kinda reminds them of Haring or Max or Picasso or Dali. It is great. I smile because my artwork reminds people of the great Masters!”
Stephanie was excited about her art but she continued to work in the construction industry. After eight years working construction and marrying her husband Patrick, she lost her job and had some thinking to do. She was a newlywed and pregnant with their first daughter. Times were tough but she was tougher.
“Pregnancy hormones definitely don’t help when you lose your job out of nowhere. I just sat on my bed crying as I wondered what I would do. We planned our daughter down to the littlest detail. Patrick and I were established in our careers and ready to fill our empty nest with little ones… And then I lose my job. That was obviously not planned.
Patrick, my husband, was really supportive tho. He said that since I was an artist, I should pursue art as my career. I looked at him with wild eyes. First off, I was under the impression that the starving artist stereotype was not a myth. Secondly, I was excited I would be able to do my art full time. I totally had mixed emotions but I blame that mostly on the pregnancy hormones.”
A Part of Art
Stephanie opened The Artistic Giraffe art studio in the Spring of 2014. At first, it was small and operated in a shared space in Teaneck, New Jersey but it was unique. Unlike other sip and paint companies that dictate which cookie cutter painting everyone will be doing, The Artistic Giraffe art studio nurtures a true authentic artistic experience where everyone chooses their own individual picture. Participants get to then paint on a canvas or glassware with professional instruction and personalized guidance from Stephanie.
“Patrick, my husband, always tells people that what I do at The Artistic Giraffe is harder than just standing in front of a class and giving general steps on how to finish a painting. He is right but still, I love it! I respect art and I want people to experience true art. I want them to pick a picture that inspires them and create it with my guidance and personalized one on one help. I want people to have fun and create from their soul. There is a magical vibe that is felt at The Artistic Giraffe. It is something that is indescribable and just needs to be experienced.”
Stephanie’s success was growing exponentially and the word was out, The Artistic Giraffe art studio was open for business. People loved the freedom they were given to paint whatever they wanted and Stephanie enjoyed giving it to them. Meanwhile, she was blowing up like a balloon with her little daughter growing inside of her but she continued to work.
“While pregnant, I would have to disassemble the store’s merchandise, set up all my tables and art equipment, teach the class, clean the whole business, then dissemble my art equipment, assemble their merchandise, and leave. The whole process would take six to seven hours. I was fortunate to have a very supportive family who joined my art studio, The Artistic Giraffe, and helped. So I am very proud to say we are a local small business that is family operated and woman owned.”
With her family’s support, Stephanie was able to continue to work approximately three weeks before her daughter’s birth. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, Brooke Marie O’Connor was born at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
“My amazingly healthy baby girl was born and I had completed my most beautiful work of art.
We remained closed for two months to make sure I fully recovered from child birth and so my daughter would always be with me. I remember having her little body snuggled up against my chest and just silently admiring her rhythmic breathing. It was an magnificent time. Totally a highlight of everything in my life as a whole.”
On the third month, Stephanie reopened The Artistic Giraffe and had a full calendar of booked Paint Parties. That is what Stephanie calls her sip and paint art classes. Things were running smoothly until March.
“I clearly remember being home and my daughter sleeping. I received a phone call from the business owner we used the space from and he casually said we could no longer use his space. No reason. No apology. Just a polite goodbye.”
That day, after much confusion and anger, Stephanie huddled with her family and searched high and low for a solution. Within twenty four hours, she had an awesome new location and relocated all of her equipment. This empty place was now hers and could call it her own art studio. Life was good but she was not in the clear.
“All of this was done when we had over hundred people scheduled for weekend Paint Parties. It was a disaster. Our business was homeless and we were going to look like fools if we had to cancel.
I have to be frank tho, the location we quickly found was totally not up to par. It was old looking and not ready for anything. We hustled and in two days made it look way better than it was. The situation was explained to all of our clients and they were totally understanding which made everything easier. Plus, they had a blast with us painting.
After the weekend, we continued to fix up and design the art studio. It consisted of very long hours of laborious work, painting, and making everything pretty but we pulled through. It was a whole family effort. To give you a real good picture, my divorced parents were in the same room together and not fighting. They were even cracking jokes with each other. I am laughing as I tell this story but that is how united my family became through this whole ordeal.”
The Life of an Artist
Once The Artistic Giraffe art studio was established and self sustaining, Stephanie began to intensely focus on creating artwork again. She drew inspiration from various sources which is why she has a number of different series. She was painting whatever came to mind like when she was a child.
However, there is one particular subject that greatly inspires Stephanie and fuels her creativity. It is Cuba.
“I have always felt so strongly about Cuba. My family immigrated from Cuba to the United States for better opportunities because of the political situation in Cuba. My Uncle was a political prisoner and my family has volumes of stories relating to the Cuban Revolution that I always loved listening to. I am the first born generation in America. I love being American but I also love being Cuban. I was raised with Cuban traditions in a household which equally spoke Spanish and English that also cooked pork for Christmas Eve and turkey for Thanksgiving but always included flan for dessert. I have a Gringa accent when I speak Spanish but I am fully fluent and well spoken. Cuba is in my blood. I even visited Cuba once! Not many people can say that.”
Stephanie loves to paint about Cuba. Her Cuba Libre Series explores Cuba in its entirety. The Cuba Libre Series includes oil paintings with strong political messages, expressive cultural scenes, and normal everyday life. Stephanie’s artistic style stands out in her artwork with bold compositions and vibrant color palette.
Growing recognition of Stephanie has brought on much appreciated artistic success. The Artistic Giraffe continues to brightly outshine its competitors with its relaxed creative atmosphere that oozes with “I am an artist. I paint what I want” spunk and fun loving attitude.
“The Artistic Giraffe art studio is everything I envisioned and wanted it to be. It is woman owned by me. My family works with me so we are family operated. We are a local small business that is actively connected and engaged with the community. We let everyone paint what they want with my guidance and support which is so important to me. It is the core of my whole business philosophy for The Artistic Giraffe. I do not mind when some people choose to do the same picture but choose is the highlighted key word. I personally do not feel you should be told what to do with art. A person can be guided but not told what to do. That is what we stand for. We do not just sip and paint. We expressively paint and responsibly and lavishly drink! We are the ultimate experience! Plus, we are fun as hell!!”
Stephanie’s artwork is on display at The Artistic Giraffe art studio when it is not at a gallery exhibition.
“My art studio is the largest in New Jersey. I am proud of that and with all that size comes awesome wall space to display my artwork. I simply love when people talk and ask me about my artwork. It means that they want to know what it is and what it means. I love having my artwork all hung up and observing people just stare and talk about it with their family and friends. It is so cool. I am always inviting people to my art studio to check out my artwork and talking about my artwork. I am passionate about my art.”
In addition, Stephanie painted her first outdoor mural for the City of Hackensack in November 2015. The mural is a part of the Main Gateway Mural project that consisted of five uniquely different artists.
“Painting the Main Gateway Mural was such a magnificent experience! I had to paint most of it at night since I had to stay with Brooke during the day. Patrick had mandatory police training the week they let us begin so it was my Apple iPhone light, Sherwin Williams paint, and I battling the relentless November cold Winter nights. I was so bundled up, I looked like I skiing in Aspen. But it was awesome. I would be painting and look behind my shoulder to see people just observing me and captivated. They would ask me questions and point out little subliminal messages I painted into the mural. The people’s feedback about my artwork was priceless especially because everyone was so different from one another.”
Stephanie has had multiple interviews on various media outlets and met a number of celebrities. She continues to look forward to spreading the word about her artwork so people can learn more about her and her artwork. Stephanie loves to meet people and openly welcomes the press.
“I cannot say I am a natural in front of cameras but I do love to talk and let people get to know me. In this day and age with all this technology, I make sure to stay connected. I have a blog, Instagram, and Facebook. I always update my website and have Google+ and LinkedIn as well. My goal is to engage with my audience. I want people to know they can reach me. Always!”
Stephanie stays busy with her family life as well. She is married to her husband Patrick and mother to her daughter Brooke. Stephanie also has two German Shepherds, different fish, and a Labrador Retriever.
“I stay busy. I am so busy, I sometimes find it difficult to get to my art studio to paint but I have great support so it eventually happens and I stay on track. I am a breastfeeding mother who is active in La Leche League and its mission so that takes a lot of my time too. My German Shepherds are a hand full but I love them. My Labrador Retriever now lives with my Grandma and is her service dog. They are a great team. My fish are simple but they first caused a little of a headache when they were eating each other. I remember panicking and telling Patrick that this did not happen on Disney’s Finding Nemo! FYI, I am a huge cartoon buff. I am seriously attached to cartoons from Disney, Looney Tunes, Nickelodeon, and more. My Mom says I never grew up. I agree.
Overall, I am happy. Success is measured differently from person to person but I feel I am living in success. I have been blessed by God to be healthy and placed on this beautiful Earth to live my life to the fullest. That is golden.
I want to continue to succeed engaging with the public and attracting my audience. I want to continue to bump into people who recognize me for my art and become friends. I want to continue to be a pillar locally and to my community. I am an active artistic member of the Hackensack Creative and always sponsoring local events. I want to continue to succeed and earn the respect of those in the art world – other artists, critics, curators, galleries – everyone.
Lastly, I want the continued success of selling my artwork. It enables me to continue painting and add more color to the world!”
Stephanie hopes her impact on the art world will be a ripple effect. She has aspirations to being globally admired for her artwork but more of a drive to have the messages of her artwork heard. It is always about giving a voice to the voiceless for Stephanie.