Does being vegan impact how an artist paints animals? Tina Kolberg, who painted Chumly, above, says it does. Here’s what she has to say:
Painting Animals with Dignity
“When I paint an animal, I try to really look. I don’t assume I know what it’s like to be this animal, I don’t assume he thinks like me and I don’t assume our interests align. This isn’t a coldness, to distance myself. Rather, it’s curiosity, respect and just knowing how little I know.
And I really know little as I learned when spent some time with a turkey named Whisper and took some video of her seemingly cooing to me. When I showed this to the Farm Sanctuary staff, they said she was aggressive and that was her warning, like a growl. I think it’s funny, how mistaken I was!
I accept animals for who they are and I accept that I don’t understand. I barely understand my dog, and I definitely don’t get my cat.
When McLovin’, for example, came running over to check me out, I didn’t assume he really liked me even though that would have gratified my desire to connect with him. It’s just as possible he was annoyed I was there.
So if I don’t project my own beliefs onto animals and can’t really know what they’re thinking and feeling, what’s left to paint?
I paint what I see. And what I see is inherent dignity, the kind of dignity that doesn’t depend on circumstances. Whether the animal is curious, annoyed, happy I’m offering back scratches, or oblivious, they have the dignity of their own thoughts, their own body. McLovin’ doesn’t have to look like he loves us (he is rather fierce-looking!); he just is who he is.
My art usually zeroes in on the face and the eyes, because I’m more interested in what the animal is thinking than what it looks like. There’s someone in there, someone worth painting, someone with his or her own thoughts that are valid even though I can’t understand them. I could not have this insight if I wasn’t vegan and I needed animals to be a certain way in order to feel better about my own choices.” – Tina Kolberg