BY PATRICIA DUFF
Whidbey Art Source editor
Local artist Anne Belov challenges anyone to look at baby pandas playing on a slide and to not get hooked on their radical cuteness.
Belov has been in love with pandas since around the time of the Beijing Olympics. She combined her childhood pastime of cartooning with that panda love and took the form to a new level. Now the professional painter and printmaker has turned her hobby as a comic strip doodler into serious strip-girl with a collection of panda cartoons titled, “Your Brain on Pandas: The Panda Chronicles.”
“The pandas entered my life in December of 2007; not through the cat door, but through a magazine article about pandas in China,” the artist said, remembering the start of her obsession.
“One thing led to another and soon I was spending WAY too much time watching panda videos, and suddenly the cartoon ideas started springing into my head, quite uninvited.”
In addition to a long career as a painter and printmaker, Belov has been drawing “Your Brain on Pandas,” for almost five years. These cartoons, she said, are not about your run-of-the-mill bamboo-munching pandas. Protagonist Bob T. Panda and his friends (including a cat with the excellent name of Mehitabel) compete in the Olympics, appear on talk shows, news programs and game shows, and have “Fezbook’ profiles.
Presently, a Kickstarter campaign is underway to help Belov reach her goal of raising $6,750 to enable her to publish a collection of the chronicles in book form.
Bob T. Panda has seen his share of stardom, thanks to the artist’s blog, “The Panda Chronicles, from the Institute of Contemporary Panda Satire” (note that it’s contemporary as opposed to ancient panda satire, which is totally different) and Facebook.
“I started my blog, http://yourbrainonpandas.com, in February of 2009, because my friends got tired of me chasing them down the street with a stack of cartoons clenched in my fist yelling, ‘Tell me they’re funny! Please! Hey! Wait, you didn’t read the one about the panda kindergarten yet!’” Belov said.
The blog reached the desk of science and nature writer Henry Nicholls. In 2010, one of her cartoons appeared in his non-satirical book, “The Way of the Panda – The Curious History of China’s Most Political Animal.”
“That helped my blog get a little more traffic,” Belov said.
But it was Facebook that really sent Bob T. Panda into the limelight.
“One of the really fascinating things is that the connections and friendships that have sprung up because of a mutual love of pandas,” Belov said of the Facebook folks who followed the adventures of Bob T.
“I didn’t know when I first started posting my cartoons on Facebook, if people who loved pandas would respond to the humor of my cartoons. They loved them, and I think I can say that some real friendships have developed as we interact on Facebook, while watching panda toddlers on slides, pandas on horsies…oh…sorry,” she said, checking her unabashed panda love.
Fundraising to get the chronicles published has been on Belov’s to-do list for a while.
“I finally felt I was ready,” she said of getting the Kickstarter going.
Maybe now she’ll be able to clear up a few things about the Institute for Contemporary Panda Satire.
“People say to me, ‘I think you are making that up.’
Bob T. Panda keeps ‘em guessing.