ASHLAND As an artist, Jennifer “Jbird” Cremeans has found her niche and it’s quite unusual.
The Huntington artist creates prints, note cards, stationery, pendants, magnets, buttons and shirts bearing the images of cats and dogs dressed in vintage clothing.
“So, apparently there was a guy named Harry Whittier Frees who would take horrifyingly cute pictures of animals dressed up as people for children’s books,” Cremeans said. “These were the original cat memes before the internet ever existed. I fell in love with the concept, but decided to use my 20-plus years of Photoshop experience to create my artwork so I'd avoid getting my eyes clawed out.”
Using mostly stock photos, Cremeans also employs her training in animation from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to make her antique pet photos to sell at fine arts festivals in bigger cities, such as Pittsburgh, Columbus, Minneapolis and Ann Arbor, averaging about 15 festivals each year.
“I know it sounds super ‘artsy fartsy’ to say this, but I have to wait for the right vintage photo to ‘speak’ to me!” she explained. “Like I’ll find a picture and it just says ‘crocodile’ to me. So I'll put a crocodile head on it. I get a lot of requests for certain animals and pet breeds, but until I find the right vintage photo that would work, I just have to wait until I find that right combination.”
She said shoppers have their own reasons for being interested in her images, including seeing a favorite kind of animal or an animal that looks like their pet.
“I get a lot of people who buy an animal print because it's their ‘spirit" animal,’” she said. “Customers often say, ‘This looks just like my grandpa!’ so they'll buy it. But for the most part, it sparks a reaction that causes them to laugh out loud and they want it in their house to spark the same reaction from their guests. Humor never goes out of style.”
Her latest venture: a coloring book.
“Fantastic Felines: An Antique Pet Photos Coloring Book” contains more than 20 coloring pages.
“Coloring books have been very popular in recent years and I saw a few other artists making similar books featuring their art so I thought it would be a fun project,” she said, noting she recommends using crayons and coloring pencils.
“I love to color! I still remember the first time I decided that selling my artwork was the only thing I wanted to do,” she said. “I was 6 or 7 and my mom was driving me home from school when I saw a young man trying to sell his artwork on his driveway. I asked my mom what the man was doing and she explained he was trying to get people to stop and purchase his art.
“I was excited to learn you could actually sell something you drew or made! Of course, at the time I was busy with She-Ra coloring books (it was the ’80s, after all) and I told her I was going to go home and color everything from those books and sell them in our driveway! She politely informed me the best she could that no one would want to buy a colored She-Ra picture, but maybe when I was older I could do something similar.”
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