SAN ANTONIO – With bright colors and sharp lines, Paola Sanchez lets the world know exactly who she is.
She uses her artistic talents to paint her name, front and center, in many of the murals she creates.
“I just like to break those norms of what women should be doing and shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “We’re brought up in a way where we’re supposed to be prim and proper.”
For decades, Sanchez has been painting outside those lines, one of a growing number of women in the male-dominated world of mural painting.
Her interest in the field began in her native Puerto Rico where she painted graffiti.
Even then, she felt like an outsider among male counterparts.
She says they often hassled her and made her feel unwelcome.
“I ended up getting a Great Dane,” she said. “So whenever I would go paint, I would take him with me. So no one ever bothered me.”
Soon she became known as the woman with the Great Dane, or Dane for short.
The nickname stuck, and this is the name she still uses in her paintings.
Although she now is worlds away from those days, she says she feel like she is between two worlds.
Sanchez is a trained artist and art teacher, yet her graffiti roots run deep.
She is quick to defend the art form against those who may see it as a criminal act.
Sanchez says graffiti, which is different from tagging, helped to give birth to other forms of street art, including murals.
“You wouldn’t have any of this,” she said, pointing to colorful wall paintings. “You wouldn’t have any of the famous clothing brands that people pay hundreds of dollars for.”
“When people tell me, ‘Oh. I like big murals and pretty things but I don’t like graffiti,’ that makes no sense to me because that’s where it came from,” Sanchez said.
Just as important to her as painting these days is giving others an opportunity.
Sanchez runs The Paint Yard, a business largely online that sells paint and other tools that street artists need.
She also makes it a point to create opportunities for others to paint, which is something she didn’t always have.
“A lot of time I go to events and people don’t even want to give me an opportunity to paint,” Sanchez said. “So I just started creating my own events.”
One of those events led to a colorful collaboration, called “Content Under Pressure 2021,” which decorates a wall on E. Houston Street near downtown.