Joyce Pensato, whose endearing, scrappy pictures of cartoon characters made her one of the most exciting New York–based figurative painters during her time, has died, according to a representative for Petzel gallery, which showed her work in New York. She was 78.

News of her death was confirmed by her New York gallery, Petzel.

Pensato was born in Brooklyn in 1941 and attributed her early interest in art to her father, a Sicilian immigrant who moved to New York as a teenager and who she described as “like an outsider artist,” in an interview with Hyperallergic last year. However, it was seeing the 1956 Vincent van Gogh biopic Lust for Life, starring Kirk Douglas as the tormented painter, that sealed the deal for her. “I wanted to have a miserable, tortured life,” she recalled. “This is how I thought as a young teenager.”