Snappy Dressers & Dandies

Snappy Dressers & Dandies

Barcelona street performersGrowing up in a family of fashion designers, it wasn’t surprising that I was voted Snappiest Dresser in my graduating class. I travel with my camera around my neck. I’ve become very brave about asking total strangers to pose for me and some of them make it into my paintings.

Harajuka girls in Tokyo, JapanWe were fortunate to have a business trip to Japan. These Harajuka girls live and  breath style, style, style! They sit and do their makeup with huge compacts and really work their own personal runways on the street.

Harajuka street fashionsThis guy with his huge bleached blond hair has such a lot of attitude and this cute little gal with her pink ponytails decorated a corner, waiting for business to come past her pink café.

Circus artThe circus has always been a source of inspiration to me and I’ve been lucky enough to see Cirque du Soleil several times. The Balance piece (slightly skewed here, darn) came from a circus series of works.

Circus wearable art coatCircus spills over into my own daily life. If you live in BC, you need a raincoat. I make my own from Goretex and decorate them expressively. The center panel is a decoupage panel from my front hallway.

wearable art shoes, decorated shoesShoes! I find shoes that fit and then make them into what I want them to look like. The center ones were pale blue so I sponged them with lilac and pink, works very well on canvas. The leather boots are painted with paints and glitter and glazed. The lampshade from my home sports earrings dangling from its edge like fringe.

life drawing in color graphite, ipadSnappy dressers and dandies don’t always even wear clothes. In 2007, I returned to weekly life drawing. I work lots of colored graphite and pencils onto dark paper and the right side grey one is done with Brushes program on iPad.

02-Paula_O'Brien_008In 2008, I began to photograph interesting people in my community and began my journey into figurative art. Noelle was my massage therapist and perky Natalie was my exotic 6 foot tall receptionist!

10-Paula_O'Brien_009I found this little girl dancing in Granville Island and bucked up my courage to ask a total stranger to pose for me. They were thrilled and we’ve had several photo sessions. She’s worked her charm into a whole series of my paintings.

17-Paula_O'Brien_010The photos also began to have a life of their own other than just being reference for paintings. I juiced these up with digital saturation and manipulation.

Anna KompanietsI was squeezed up against this exotic creature on a crowded London Tube and asked her if I could take her photo. We jumped out at the next stop, snapped some shots against the plain wall and jumped back on. She’s a fashionista that works for John Galiano and other fashion house. Anna Kompaniets

01-Paula_O'Brien_012This gal in red was in a dance show The Circle of The Wheel. It took a few years for her to make her way into a painting, seen top right.

Nutcracker ballet dressing roomStaying with red, these shots are from the wonderful Nutcracker ballet from last December at Gibson Heritage Playhouse. I’m really capturing the color and light and composition. The crunchy square format in lower left is with Hipstamatic app.

Nutcracker BalletMore Nutcracker, backstage and one stage. The painting detail is reverse painting on glass and is of the two professional principal dancers.

18-Paula_O'Brien_015This exotic gal lives here in Sechelt. Another total stranger, I sought her out and asked her to pose for me. It sure helps to have a business card in hand to show you really are an artist. We had a great session and she’s seen in the painting in lower right.

Valencia, Spain, Madonna with flower cloakSometimes snappy dressers that catch my eye are not quite human. This massive Madonna sculpture towers over the square in Valencia, Spain. Over several days, whole communities march to deliver a total of 25 tons of flowers that create her massive cloak of flowers.

Valencia, Spain, Fallas festival , fine dressesHere are the richly dressed women and children in the procession to the Madonna. From their embellished hairpins to their fine gowns, the splendor was just riveting and we took thousands of photos.

05-Paula_O'Brien_018I’m also drawn to snappy decor and I capture rich environments that again, may make their way into my artwork later and certainly look nothing like what we see back home.

circus art, painted old coachThis gorgeous old coach fits right in and surely transported many dandies in its time. Again the almost circus-like visual delight sparkles through.

wearable art, costume, LondonThis final photo was another fine woman I ran chased in the London Tube. She apparently dresses like this all the time and we plan to meet next time I’m in England and maybe I can snap her in many other outfits.


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  1. Reply

    Linda Murphy

    June 22, 2013

    Wow. What fantastic work.

  2. Reply


    June 22, 2013

    Great blog! It was a FABULOUS trip down memory lane!
    I hope to make the snappy dressers evaluation tonight!
    We are singing at a concert for Democrats Abroad on the same program as Roy Zimmerman, a very clever satirical singer.
    Our gang as usual chose some very tepid songs, the most risque title being EVEN PIPELINES TAKE A LEAK.
    We had to use brute force to override one song!
    Our terrible rehearsals usually turn into pretty good performances. Here’s hoping!
    See you later!

  3. Reply


    June 24, 2013

    Paula! This is great. I can see how you were named “Snappy dresser”. I think this also makes for a wonderul name for a blog… just a thought! x

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