Mr. O’Connell was raised on Long Island, near the Great South Bay. He attended the State University at Oswego from 1967-1971, with a major in German language, until he took his first studio art class and switched to an Art major, specializing in painting. He was forced to leave school one semester short of graduation, due to his father being diagnosed with an inoperable cancer. He was finally able to finish his Bachelor of Arts degree in Art in 1987, with minors in Anthropology, History, and Languages (German and French).
He was a portrait painter in oils, acrylics, watercolors and pastels for many years during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1983, Mr. O’Connell took a class in pottery at the Rensselaer County council for the Arts, in Troy, New York under the tutelage of noted potter Jayne Shatz. He subsequently completed an apprenticeship in Ceramics from 1983-1988, as a hand builder Mr. O’Connell worked at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany, performing direct client care from 1989 until 2007. He was unable to work in art for that period, due to the overwhelming nature of his job.
Upon retiring in 2007, he was able to return to his dream of being a fulltime artist. Wanting to return to working in clay, he took his first sculpture class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, New York. He has studied sculpture under the tutelage of noted artist John Visser from 2007 to the present. A detached retina in September 2012, and the subsequent surgery, left him unable to see three dimensions for ten weeks. During that time, he returned to painting in acrylics and oil pastels in order to chronicle his visual experiences in a series of paintings he calls “Ocularity.”
Since then, Mr. O’Connell has continued to paint as well as sculpt. Every time that something bad happens to me or in the world, that I react strongly to, I paint about it; it doesn’t change the situation, but I get a painting out of it, at least. His work is currently in private collections in New York, Virginia, Florida, and Connecticut.