Art Attack – Jenny Belin
Though Brooklyn-based artist Jenny Belin has been painting portraits of dogs and cats professionally for 15 years, her love affair with her chosen subject matter goes back even 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 Belin’s roller skates and kindergarten lunch box. With this free-spirited upbringing, it’s perhaps no surprise her grownup inspirations include iconoclast Yoko Ono, Karl Lagerfeld, and Grace Coddington.
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 canine and feline 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.
“Every time that I receive a commission to paint a dog’s portrait, I feel incredibly honored and inspired,” Belin shares. “Most of the time and without much encouragement, a dog owner will generously share personal and doting stories both funny and sad. Love and loyalty is a two-way street between dogs and their owners. This is what I love most about painting dogs. I feel that I am given the opportunity to pay homage to some very special ones.”
Life experience has taught Belin to “keep drawing and to keep looking for new inspiration.” She keeps scrapbooks filled with reference material, from magazine clippings to vintage photographs—Jean Harlow with “Nosey” the Dachshund, Pablo Picasso with his beautiful Afghan hound, Kazbec. She loves to paint “fine details like whiskers, chin hair and eyelashes. Painting the texture of a dog’s fur is also so much fun. And of course the expression in a dog’s eyes. Eyes reveal so much!”
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.
Commissions start at $600, jennybelin.com