Professor’s animal rescue painting goes viral


By Dan Landau

When Janet O’Neil saw a news story about Caitlyn, a dog in South Carolina left to die after her muzzle was brutally taped shut, she felt moved to action. A designer and illustrator by trade, she whipped out her paints and painted a portrait of the dog (above) to bring awareness to the case.

She succeeded beyond her expectations as the image flooded social media and the story was picked up by CNN, NBC, ABC, and PIX11, among other news outlets.

janetoneil“I saw the story of Caitlyn on Facebook and knew I had to paint her,” says O’Neil, associate computer graphics professor and director of the graphic design program on the Florham Campus. “I posted the photo to the Charleston Animal Society's Facebook and tweeted it to ABC News. It was picked up by other outlets from there.”

The Charleson Animal Society asked people to use the painting for their profile photos and the picture and story quickly went viral with the hashtag #HopeForCaitlyn.

Caitlyn is not the first animal O’Neil (right) has painted. “I have been painting rescues for over two years to bring awareness to animal welfare cases,” she says. “It began with a New Jersey story about a cocker spaniel named Sammy. I painted him and posted it to Sammy's Facebook page. I became friends with the page moderators and began to follow their stories, painting one animal after another to bring some dignity to otherwise difficult situations.”

During the spring of 2016, O’Neil’s students will have the opportunity to create art with a social conscience in her “Graphic Design for Social Responsibility” class.

“Designers can learn to use their work to increase public awareness of a variety of social issues, across the globe, as well as on an individual basis,” says O’Neil. “Through a combination of craft and tools, students will learn how to communicate powerful messages with graphic design. Animal welfare will be one of those topics.”