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This Is Me: Casey O’Connell

I always start a piece of art blindfolded. I do the first two layers like that to remove other people’s voices from inside my head. It took me years to discover that method. Before I’d hear my art teacher’s voice, feedback from show curators and friends’ opinions.

Don’t change to please people. I’m very nervous of critics and terrified of going to my own art shows, but I know it’s impossible to please everyone, or you risk losing the innate quality of what you do. It’s tough to remove your ego from the process and see it objectively, but you have to.

Artist’s block is sudden. One minute you’re working away, full of the creative whatever it is that makes you paint, and then you just stop. It happened to me for the first time six months ago. I was like, “Is this it, is this the end of my art?” You can’t imagine it will pass but it does.

It’s mad to think my work ends up in people’s houses, where it’s seen every day. People will form a connection with the painting and interpretation of what it’s about that is very different to the one that was in my head when I painted it. But that’s also one of the greatest parts of what I do.

One of my earliest memories is of my grandmother, who was an artist. We were in Florida, it’d be warm and I’d eat grapefruit while I watched her paint. My mum was creative too. She was queen of arts and crafts. On rainy days we’d just stay home and paint. I wouldn’t want to be growing up now. Everyone is so obsessed with being noticed. I’m painfully shy and terrible with computers so not on Facebook or anything, plus I only have five friends, but my mum teaches 13 year-olds and the stories you hear of cyber-bullying, it’s so anonymous and horrible. Innocence is lost these days and I’m so glad I had that time to be a child.

Future generations will blame us for our treatment of the environment. Recently an oil tanker hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge, and all the beaches closed. I surf there so it was very important to me to clean up, but I was disappointed about how few people turned up to help. This country can be a bad place. I’m not naive enough to think one politician can suddenly make it perfect but it’s good to see young people so engaged with politics.

I was a liftie in New Zealand and it was great. I’d worked in Colorado and wanted winter all year round. In San Francisco the weather is beautiful all the time. You get both nature and the city, as you have the beach, parks, hills and you’re just three hours from Tahoe. You can get stimulated by the city, and then retreat back to nature when you want a break.

Sea lions are the funniest things. They live 10 blocks from my house and I can go there in the worst mood, but as soon as I see them I’m like, ‘oh my god, you’re hilarious’.

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