Ants to Dinosaurs: the sky’s the limit!

September 2019

Although many Thunder Bayers may not officially know Michael O’Connor they certainly know his art.
Remember the big purple ape on the side of Helium Highs on Simpson? Yep, O’Connor painted that. And the mural on the side of the old Global Experience on Algoma? O’Connor again. Then there’s the moose mural at D&R Sports, the ten theme rooms in the Regional Health Sciences Centre, the paintings at the Madhouse, the Trompe-l’oeil/3D like stonework at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the murals on Finnport, The Flower Shop, and Breeny’s… The list goes on and on.

O’Connor came to Thunder Bay in 1994 after studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with the intention of making a career as an artist. He formed his first business, Mosart Designs, and created uniquely designed t-shirts using an airbrush selling the Canadian wildlife line at Global Experience, and the Star Trek line through Paramount Pictures.

Shortly after, store owner Kevin Anderson asked O’Connor if he could do a mural on the outside wall of the business and although O’Connor had never touched a wall before, he accepted the challenge. He researched proper wall preparation and paint systems experimenting with different kinds of paints and clear coats learning which would resist fading in outside conditions, and drew up several rough sketches.

The preparation paid off. The mural, featuring killer whales, manatees, fish, and turtles, lasted 15 years and stopped many passersby in their steps as they took the time to look and enjoy.
Word began to spread about O’Connor’s talents and the job offers grew. He created one of Canada’s largest murals of its time: the Dorian Memories Mural, featuring wolves, a bear cub, strawberries, the world’s largest brook trout, and other items of interest that Dorian is proud of. Unfortunately, the MTO purchased the building in 2013 and wasn’t able to salvage the mural when they tore it down. It can still be seen, however, on several websites including and

O’Connor’s work expanded and took him to Vancouver, Toronto, and outside of Canada, to almost every state in America. And as his travels expanded, so did his creativity and abilities. He began to do themed design integrating murals with sculpture, signage, and custom-made desks. These creative environments followed a specific theme: forests, jungles, sailing ships, space, and many more, for clients in churches, dental clinics, hospitals, pools, restaurants, including 24 Rainforest Cafes around the world, and tourist rest stops. He was now doing something he enjoyed and he was able to support himself and his family by doing it. He was living the artist’s dream.

And when you’re known as the best, only the best will do. Disney, Disneyland Paris, Elephant and Castle, Chapters, Molson, Paramount Pictures… they all came calling and Mike’s talents expanded again.

“Can you do 3D work?” they asked. “Of course!” O’Connor said. “Can you do a life-size Triceratops?” they wondered. “It’s been awhile,” Mike said. “But I can do it.”

He experimented again. Concrete, welded metal, styrofoam, hot knives, chainsaws, fibreglass, and epoxy resins were added to his list of tools, and 3D creatures, from ants to dinosaurs, came to life. One may say O’Connor takes a few risks in his career.

“In order to be a successful artist,” O’Connor says, “you need to be creative in many disciplines and you can’t be afraid to get your jeans covered in dirt instead of paint. My luck as an artist came from opportunities but also from hard work. I never turned a job down and when there weren’t offers, I learned to work outside the field.”

Certain “perks” also come with the job. O’Connor is now able to spend more time at home creating 3D pieces and then transporting them to their sites. He’s also developed many tricks during his 25 years of painting and is able to complete projects quicker and quicker, leaving more time to cycle or trail run, two other passions he enjoys.

“I play for a living,” O’Connor confesses. “If it gets stressful at work because something won’t come together as planned, I go cycling or running, or I go for a hike in the Norwesters.

And because of this attitude, O’Connor doesn’t see retirement happening any time soon, if ever. “There’s nothing to retire from,” he says. “It’s not a job, or even a hobby, it’s a passion. I like designing and creating because I need to be hands-on and I like feeling a sense of accomplishment. I tell my kids that being a creative person isn’t just being a creative artist. You have to be creative in all aspects of your life, whether you’re an electrician or a musician. You need to learn how to do research, problem solve, and execute efficiently. And if you have those skills, you can do anything.”

With this kind of mind set, a person can only wonder what is next in O’Connor’s list of talents. After all, the sky’s the limit when it comes to his imagination, creativity, and passion for art.

For more information about O’Connor and to see his work, go to You will be amazed.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.