marlene's gang creates bright bespoke pet portrait wall art

Marlene’s Gang creates bright bespoke pet portrait wall art

Homegirl London pays homage to Marlene’s Gang.  This business was set up by Leila Talmadge who is inspired by her French bulldog and muse – Marlene.  This little dog has really shaped Leila’s life because she now makes bespoke pet portrait wall art in a distinct brightly coloured and illustrative style.  Her work features sugar skull tattoo designs which are influenced by Mexico’s day of the dead.  When the bespoke portrait has been finished your pet is featured on the website alongside other adorable cats and dogs.  You can also have the image printed onto cotton tote bags, cushion covers and tea towels.  If you don’t have your own pet but love the designs you can buy products featuring Marlene or someone else’s pet.  I caught up with Leila to find out more about Marlene’s Gang.

marlene's gang marlene print

Marlene’s Gang – Marlene Portrait

Meet the Marlene’s Gang Designer

Leila graduated from Central Saint Martins and more recently from an Interior Design MA at Westminster University, with a distinction.  She tells me –“I left university after my BA and worked for a few years in the Fashion industry.  After that I took a job in property which is an area I was keen on having undertaken my own refurbishment projects.  During this time I became very interested in how colour can affect a space and its mood.  Although, it was only when I got my French Bulldog Marlene and had my flat littered with her brightly coloured toys that I started to obsess about colour again.”

marlene's gang leila talmadge with marlene

Marlene’s Gang – Leila Talmadge and Marlene

It was a trip to Mexico which had a major influence on her design style.  Leila explains – “In Mexico you are surrounded by bright colour combinations and the Sugar Skull designs which originated from the Day of the Dead.  Despite not wanting to pick up any art materials for years and sketch for fun, it was this interest that got me drawing my first ever illustration of Marlene in this style.”

marlene's gang lenny

Marlene’s Gang – Lenny Portrait

The business officially launched in February 2014.  Prior to that Leila had been somewhat shy and tentative about her art work but as the interest grew, so did her confidence.  Leila explains the company name – “Marlene’s Gang is all down to Marlene so I named the business after her.  She was my muse, my first illustration and all the founding members are her best pals.  There is something very strange about owning a dog that comes everywhere with you.  I simply cannot travel anywhere without someone coming up to say ‘Hi’ – having a dog breaks all the rules of normal London unsociable commuting!”

marlene's gang pip

Marlene’s Gang – Pip Portrait

Leila is certainly very busy because this isn’t her only job, she explains – “I became a freelancer three years ago, working on graphic and interior commissions.  I also run a children’s charity.  Therefore, Marlene’s Gang fits in and around this in any given moment I can.  I work mainly from home, with Marlene sat on one side and a big pot of coffee sat on the other.  I am simply a ‘one women and her dog’ kind of company with my boyfriend helping me out on any event I attend as my official sales man!”

Marlene’s Gang Collection

Leila talks me through her portrait process – “All designs start as a hand drawn line illustration of the pet’s head or full body.  I then detail then with iconic Sugar Skull symbols – flowers, stars, hearts and crosses.  Bright, sometimes clashing colours are digitally added to the illustration to create a bold graphic image of each pet.  The website highlights all my work in sub categories such as; cat, dog, then specific breeds.  However, all designs are individual and not influenced by another.  They stand independently as they were created for the owners of each pet.”

marlene's gang portraits

Marlene’s Gang – Pet Portraits

The bespoke commission is print mounted with a white board in A4 size.  You can also add the design to additional products like tote bags, linen cushion covers and tea towels.  New products to look out for are iPhone covers, baby grows and dog bowls.

marlene's gang tote bags

Marlene’s Gang – Pet Tote Bags

marlene's gang cushions

Marlene’s Gang – Pet Cushions

marlene's gang tea towels

Marlene’s Gang- Pet Tea Towels

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Marlene is a major inspiration to Leila – “Obviously having Marlene enter my household has made me a big fan of anything four-legged.  I always grew up around dogs and remember them being a fundamental part of our lives and childhood adventures.  They are all such huge characters and beautiful in their own right and people’s relationships with their pets are really important in a family dynamic.  Having Marlene has changed our life greatly in such a small space of time – bringing lots of love and energy into the household.  On long walks we meet many other dogs and each one has that same influence in their home.  That is a huge creative inspiration for me.”

marlene's gang marlene cushion

Marlene’s Gang – Marlene Cushion

The Danish designer Verner Panton is someone that Leila admires – “The first time I saw an image of one of his experimental interiors, it stuck in my head as something truly bold.  His use of lines and pop colour aesthetic was truly innovative and he was a remarkable talent of 20th century design and architecture.  He seemed to embrace colour like no other designer I know – bold is beautiful when it is considered!  I suppose that those images of his work have always been in the back of my head when I am designing, encouraging me to use colour more and more in my life.”

Buy Marlene’s Gang Products

If you want to commission your very own pet portrait or buy any of the products go to the website at /  Bespoke commissions are £100, tote bags £15, cushion covers £30 and tea towels are £12.50. Everything is made and printed in the UK.  The company supports the charity ‘Dogs for the Disabled’ so 4% of all the sales are donated to this cause.

Author: Homegirl London.  Photographs: Marlene’s Gang.  Thanks: Leila Talmadge, Marlene the dog and Charlotte Brophy.