Jenny Hefczyc didn’t know if she could change the world with her art, but she knew she wanted to try.
As a talented illustrator and artist based in Germany, she draws under the name Jenny-Jinya, and she’s taken social media by storm with a series of comics she’s created that focus on animal welfare. She covers everything from pet abandonment to animal abuse and habitat destruction.
Click through the gallery above to see Jenny-Jinya's Black Cats comic in full.
“You make the good kind of sadness, which brings awareness and prompts people to act and help more than they would," one fan wrote on her Facebook page. "Your art has real power and [is] a good cause.”
At an early age, Hefczyc showed an interest in drawing. She says her mother tells her that she would start “obsessively scribbling” before she could even properly walk.
“Honestly, I can't remember a time in my life where I wasn't drawing,” she says. “As a quiet, introverted child, art was my way of connecting to the world.”
As she got older, she continued to draw and illustrate. When she started her Facebook page in 2012, she shared drawings and comics of her everyday life and one-off creations showcasing her artistic talent.
She continued to draw more and although some of her work was picked up by outlets, it wasn’t until one piece went viral in October last year that she realised she could perhaps be a champion for change after all.
“I basically woke up to a lot of sudden attention. I uploaded this one-page comic strip one day and it went viral overnight. I got dozens of messages and comments asking for a continuation of the comic,” she says.
The heartbreaking one-page comic showed an abandoned dog tied to a pole being comforted by the Grim Reaper as it waits for its family to return.
For her, the drawing signified that maybe her artwork could help reach people in ways that other mediums couldn’t. She always considered herself a huge animal lover and wanted to find ways to help them but until that moment, wasn’t quite sure how.
“Reading news and petitions about animal abuse and exploitation has always been heartbreaking to me, but as a poor student there wasn't much I could do. So, I started drawing about it,” she says.
Growing up, her close relationship with her uncle, who she says “felt like an older brother all my life”, also helped shape who she would become.
“He always picked up sick or injured animals and nursed them back to health. He taught me from an early age that animals aren’t toys and need to be treated with respect and care. I think he played a huge part in how I feel about animals nowadays,” she says.
After she drew a continuation of the one-off dog comic, which she titled Good Boy, she realised she could help give a voice to animals through her drawings, which often elicited emotional responses.
“I wanted to give a voice to those who have none in this world. There are statistics and infographics about the abuse, but I feel like they're quickly forgotten. I want people to feel something. I want them to develop a desire for change,” Hefczyc says.
She currently has more than 173,000 likes on her Facebook page and 266,000 followers on Instagram, but still finds that feedback to her work is mixed.
“There are people who like that my Reaper is gentle and friendly, or who found my comics comforting because they are mourning at the time,” she says.
“Some people write to me saying that they couldn't cry for years but my comics made them finally do so,” she adds.
“But there are also a few people who think that I just like to draw abused animals. They don't understand that I try to raise awareness and collect funds [to donate].”
For all the artwork she makes and sells, she donates 30 per cent to animal shelters and organisations every month. But for her, the most important aspect of what she creates is knowing she gets to help spread a message that's important to her.
“I want people to think about how they treat animals. I want people to understand that animals are neither machines nor decoration. They are sentient beings,” she says.
Some of her other well-received animal comics include Black Cats that focuses on a pair of homeless felines, a series about a family of ducklings and a newly released comic about a pet rabbit – all of which have had more than 20,000 shares each on Facebook.
As she continues trying to advocate for change, she keeps a positive outlook for the future.
"I hope I will always work in a creative field, ideally keep making comics and using my art for good causes. I would also find it exciting to run my own foundation one day," she says. "Let’s see where it will take me."