Though Brooklyn-based artist Jenny Belin has been painting portraits of cats and dogs professionally for 15 years, her love affair with her chosen subject matter goes back way further—like all the way back. Growing up in a cat-centric family in sunny California, her muse was Shu-shu, a “big, orange fluff-ball with tiger stripes and tiny freckles on his pink nose,” as Belin describes him. She drew pictures of him “all the time,” and still has a Crayola sketch she drew when she was just five years old.
Belin’s first big artistic influence was her mother, Daisy, who painted cats on Belin’s roller skates and kindergarten lunch box. With this free-spirited upbringing, it’s perhaps no surprise her grownup inspirations are iconoclast Yoko Ono and fellow cat loving kindred spirits Karl Lagerfeld and Grace Coddington. In fact, Belin is behind a Facebook page devoted to Lagerfeld’s spoiled kitty, Choupette. [Check it out at facebook.com/choupettelagerfeld.]
With Belin, it’s not all whimsy, however. Her artistic education was traditional; she studied painting at Skidmore College and undertook right of passage pilgrimages to artist-meccas Paris and New York City before delving into professional portraiture and finding her niche with animals.
Why pet portraits? Belin is “enchanted by the personalities” of her feline and canine subjects. Before she starts a canvas, she does several preliminary drawings, from quick sketches to the more involved, a process that helps her form an emotional attachment to the pet she’s painting and capture both the pet’s likeness and unique character. Life experience has taught Belin to “keep drawing and to keep looking for new inspiration.” If she’s wondering if she’s got it quite right, she can always turn to her muse for approval, her own resident feline inspiration, Edye, Belin’s seven-year-old tortoiseshell cat that loves to sit with her while she’s painting.
With her multitude of inspirations and unique style, we thought we’d let Belin describe her work herself. Her summary?
“Rich in colour, expressive in personality, stylish, chic, and fun.”
Sounds right-on to us.