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An artist uses her hand as a stamp to paint intricate portraits of dogs

Amanda Krause   

An artist uses her hand as a stamp to paint intricate portraits of dogs
LifeThelife4 min read
  • Art student Erica Bleu O'Connor uses her hand as a stamp to paint intricate portraits.
  • O'Connor recently made waves on TikTok when she shared a video that showed her working on a painting of her dad's childhood dog.
  • O'Connor told Insider she was once told by an art teacher that her technique wouldn't work, but she persevered until she was able to create pieces she's proud of.
  • She now uses her skills to create commissioned art for fans, and also hopes to one day study special-effects makeup in school.

Where many painters use brushes and paper to bring their art to life, one young artist relies on a different tool: her hands.

Erica Bleu O'Connor is a 19-year-old art student from Indiana. Over the past four years, she's developed a technique in which she paints designs on the palm of her hand, and then stamps her paintings onto canvas. Recently, a video showing O'Connor's method has become popular on TikTok, where it's received more than 152,000 likes at the time of writing.

Insider spoke with the artist about her unique painting style, the inspiration behind her work, and overcoming doubt from others.


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Erica Bleu O'Connor is a 19-year-old artist who creates her work using her hand as a stamp

Speaking to Insider, O'Connor said she's currently enrolled in art school where she studies ceramics and that her interest in art goes back to her childhood.

"I've been doing all forms of art for as long as I can remember," O'Connor said. "My mom has always had me doing little crafts and art projects like finger painting, and I've just never given it up."


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Her first foray into hand-stamping came a bit later, approximately four years ago. O'Connor said that at the time, the technique was still new to her, and that she hadn't yet figured out the right way to go about it.

"I used the wrong paints that dried too fast, and I didn't quite understand everything that played into it," she said. "But last year I was inspired to try again when I saw an artist named Russell Powell creating his own work by painting on his hands as well."

She's since figured out her own process and style, in which she first draws her subject based on "reference images both normal and inverted."

"I switched to oil paint that takes longer to dry, and I paint sections of the image backwards on my hand," she said. "One of the most important steps is getting the pieces of the image to all line up and create a bigger picture."

The artist said her dad inspired her to start painting dog portraits

Specifically, she was inspired by her father's stories of his childhood dog Berry, who she described as his best friend.

"He didn't have very many pictures of her, but I knew she meant so much to him," O'Connor said about her dad and his childhood dog. "I thought that this style of painting would be perfect to re-create his old Saint Bernard, especially since I'd be leaving my own mark of my handprint, personalizing the painting even more."

"I surprised him with the painting at an art show and it was such an emotional moment for him," she continued.

O'Connor has since painted a portrait of her own dog, and is now working on a comission piece for a family whose dog recently passed away. She told Insider that each piece takes approximately two weeks to complete.

"I feel like these paintings are such a great way to captivate such an important part of someone's life, and I love being a part of making that memory live on," she said.

Though O'Connor's work has received lots of praise on TikTok, she's had to overcome doubt from others in the past

Speaking to Insider, O'Connor said she was once doubtful many people would see her art on TikTok. But only 30 minutes after posting her video, she was shocked to find that thousands had viewed and commented on her work.

"All the comments I was receiving made me feel so appreciated as an artist," she said. "Since then, more people have been reaching out, telling me how much they like my work, asking for commissions, and even sharing my work. It's unbelievable and I am so incredibly grateful."

However, people in the past have questioned her work. According to O'Connor, she once had an art teacher who, though overall supportive, didn't think she'd be able to execute her hand-stamping technique. But despite his concern and her past failed attempts, she persevered and is now proud of how far she's come.

In the future, O'Connor says she plans to continue selling commissioned portraits, as she feels they're a great way to help people remember their loved ones. From there, she says the profits will help her continue to grow as an artist and support her plan to study special-effects makeup in school.