An Artist’s Vegan Journey


I love the artwork Tina displays on Expanding Circle like her above watercolor, McLovin’. I don’t know anything about art, but there’s something about her animal subjects that draws me in. Tina says that her vegan outlook is essential to her art, which intrigues me. Is that why her paintings are so compelling?

Curious, I asked her if she’d write something about this for my blog. She agreed and sent me a thoughtful write-up. It’s long, so I’ve broken it up into three parts: 1. An Artist’s Vegan Journey 2. Does Art Respect Animals?, and 3. Painting Animals with Dignity. Here’s part 1.

An Artist’s Vegan Journey

“My journey to veganism began in college when someone handed me a Farm Sanctuary brochure about veal. I had no qualms whatsoever about eating meat, but the nightmarish images of calves were my first inkling that all was not well on the farm. I decided that veal was easy enough to give up, so I did. This may seem like a small thing, but it was an important beginning. It was the first time I said “no” to eating something based on compassion.

Little by little over the years I came to repeat this. I gave up beef when I made the connection that I was responsible for the sadistic or thoughtless abuse I read about repeatedly in Farm Sanctuary’s newsletters. I didn’t do this from a sense that we shouldn’t eat animals, but because I didn’t want to pay the abuser’s salaries with my food dollars. Then I gave up eating pigs when I learned they were as smart as dogs and it wasn’t long before I became uncomfortable eating birds, the last animals on my plate. I gave up fish somewhere in there, mostly because I don’t really like the taste – that was a freebie.

I was beginning to view animals differently, but I didn’t feel my compassion bloom until I became vegan 15 years later. I knew the score on eggs and tried to eat them as little as possible, but I didn’t know about dairy until I heard a Compassionate Cooks podcast about it. That one podcast made it impossible for me to be who I thought I was without becoming vegan.

It was a painful decision – I agonized over it for weeks – but in the end the choice was obvious. Once I made the decision I was very happy and haven’t regretted it for a moment these past five years.

My single favorite effect of veganism is the universal compassion it’s unleashed in me. I think that as long as I was using animals at all, I needed to tell myself stories about them. I feel as though I’ve been freed from the need to justify my behavior that was necessary for me when I ate animals.

We have to believe all sorts of things about animals in order to feel OK about eating them or their “products.” They’re stupid. They don’t care. They’re happy on the farm. They don’t matter.  The stories I had to paste onto them got in the way of really seeing them.” – Tina Kolberg

That’s all I’m going to share of Tina’s write-up today, but come back tomorrow for her intriguing thoughts about how artists view animals and how this is revealed in their art.


I love Tina’s painting, Hallie, above. Just look at those eyes.


About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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9 Responses to An Artist’s Vegan Journey

  1. These artworks look gorgeous! Hallie’s eyes look so beautiful, too and very emotional! Thank you for sharing this! x

    • Thanks so much for your comment – I appreciate it! I love Tina’s art so much that I’m considering having her paint my dog. Money is an issue at the moment, however; so we’ll see. Celeste 🙂

  2. Beautifully written. Beautiful, soulful paintings.

    I love her line, “That one podcast made it impossible for me to be who I thought I was without becoming vegan.” I also relate to her line about fish being a “freebie”. Honey is my freebie. Aside from the fact that bees are amazing creatures (a post on bees would be cool!), I never cared for the taste of honey. When people say, “So wait, you don’t eat HONEY?!” I have to chuckle and say, “That is SO not a big deal!”

    • Hey cowgirl! I love Tina’s paintings (I’m even considering having her do a painting of Mambo). I was moved by her story too. It intrigues me how people come to veganism and how it often happens over time through a long progression of incidents. Fish was a “freebie” for me too, but I always loved honey. It cracks me up that you never liked it. To me, that’s like saying you don’t like chocolate – I don’t get it. I hope all is well with you and that you’re having a good week. Celeste 🙂

  3. Pingback: An Artist’s Vegan Journey « The Expanding Circle

  4. laurasmess says:

    This is such an interesting post. I love being able to hear other people’s stories, their thoughts and their reasons for making certain lifestyle choices. I’ve never heard of Tina’s art but I do love both paintings you’ve included. I hope you do decide to have Mambo painted! I think that art is such a worthwhile investment when the subject is something significant to you xx

  5. This is beautiful! And the paintings are gorgeous, as well!

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