'Attorney, Artist, Activist'
Preetha Suresh Rini lives her Twitter bio out loud
Published in 2022 North Carolina Super Lawyers magazine
on January 13, 2022
Updated on March 2, 2022
If you were to ask Preetha Suresh Rini’s mother, she’d tell you her daughter ought to be sending her artwork to Michelle Obama. “She really wants me to do that,” says Rini, laughing. “But I have never sent my work to anyone who inspired it.”
The Robinson Bradshaw business litigator-slash-artist has cultivated quite the mailing list over the years, selling prints of iconic figures like Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“The RBG I made after being on a team that filed an amicus brief at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rini says. “I was just so inspired.”
What started as a doodling obsession has turned into a full-on small business, Prints by Preetha, thanks in part to her business partner and husband, Woody. “He said, ‘That’s it. We’re doing this for real,’” Rini says. “I do the art, he does literally everything else. Every five-star Etsy review is solely because of him. I get to do something that brings me joy because of his support.”
It’s not just legendary figures. Prints By Preetha offers whimsical nods to U.S. skylines and landmarks, dog breeds, libations, coffee and more. She’s inspired by all-things North Carolina, particularly UNC. “We were a collegiate licensed UNC artist, so that’s been really fun,” Rini says.
There’s an advocacy element to her art, too. When COVID-19 ravaged India, she designed a Women of India print, and donated a percentage from each sale to the country’s COVID relief program. The same went for her Black Lives Matter collection, which includes prints, bookbags and tees.
“I think of myself as attorney, artist, activist,” Rini says. “With the print shop, I get to combine all three.”
She’s graduated from doodling on paper to using Procreate on an iPad. “I can’t believe this app is only $10,” she says, then adds, “but now I find myself hitting ‘undo’ for three hours trying to perfect the art. I should probably go back to paper.”
Art and law combine on a few levels for Rini. “A lot of the things I get excited to draw are lawyer things, like my RBG print or my Constitution print,” she says. “But I’m also running a small business, and now truly understand the small-business things a lawyer would handle—licensing, insurance, vendor agreements. It really informed my lawyer sense.”
She’s looking to add some casework that mingles the fields too, particularly when it comes to the First Amendment, an area of law she geeks out on. “I’m very interested in protecting artists’ freedom of expression, especially when it comes to social media,” she says.
As Prints by Preetha continues to rise, Rini treads lightly. “I like the idea that the printshop stays small, so I can pursue my other career aspirations,” she says. “The worst thing I can imagine is that something I do for joy turns into something I hate.”
As for her own self care? “I switch to painting moments from my life that are so personal,” she says, “there’s no way someone else would want to hang it on the wall.”