Dr. Nicholas DiRusso Balances Art and a Veterinarian Career in Eastchester

When he’s not tending to Westchester’s fur babies, a longtime local vet unleashes his creative inner beast with pencils and paint.

A veterinarian for nearly half a century, Dr. Nicholas DiRusso of Eastchester has loved animals for as long as he can remember. “I was shy and withdrawn as a kid,” he says. “I related to animals better than I did to people.” He also loved science, and although his parents encouraged him to use natural-born abilities to become a physician, DiRusso discerned his own future following a summer job at an animal hospital in New Rochelle. “I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

A zoology degree and a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) from Cornell University followed, and it wasn’t long before DiRusso discovered that house pets were the perfect fit. He’s been in business for himself since 1984, running an old-school vet’s office in Eastchester, where he’s cared for countless animals — from infancy to old age — as if they were his own. Yet when all his patients are safe in the arms of their pet parents, he nurtures his other first love: art.

animal artist

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“Someone put me in front of an easel in first grade and I didn’t want to leave,” DiRusso says. “I did these elaborate abstract drawings with big shapes and colors for my teachers.” And then in high school, he picked up an art book on how to draw animals. “I have two mistresses: animals and art.”

Once he felt firmly established in his veterinary practice, DiRusso made the decision to officially pursue his passion for art with classes from a local teacher, which eventually led to a master’s degree in fine arts and painting from the New York Academy of Art — and a waiting room plastered with life-like portraits of cats, dogs, birds, and more. “I painted for the love of it, but people started asking me to do commissions,” he says.

Dr. Nicholas DiRusso

“I related to animals better than I did to people. I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
—Dr. Nicholas DiRusso

While animals are his muse, DiRusso doesn’t restrict himself to the four-legged and feathered set. “I paint my grandchildren, reproductions of the old Italian masters…DaVinci, Michelangelo. Also, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and some religious art.” The creative process typically begins with a picture or a photo shoot, then a pencil sketch, and finally, an oil painting.

In addition to commissions from cat dads, dog moms, and the like, “I still paint for myself, and I can’t help but doodle. Art is therapy for me,” he says, particularly when paired with eagerly wagging tails and sloppy wet kisses.

Related: Follow These Paint Color Tips to Make Your Westchester Home Pop

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