Because I am an information hound and like to keep my arsenal of animal knowledge stocked (and because I like to win arguments), I'm reading a beautiful book you should read, too, called Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us by David Neiwert.
If you loved Blackfish, you'll gain heaps more in-depth, but easy-to-read knowledge from this book, which is full of absolutely stunning information about the minds and lives of these animals, both free and captive. It's the kind of reading that makes your heart soar/ache and fills you with a sense of solidarity with other activists and a (re)commitment to veganism.
SIDE NOTE: Every time I post something like this that advocates for a specific species, I always get comments from people who have to poo on the parade by asking, "What about cows and chickens and pigs?" Can we agree not to do that anymore?
Even if I understand the sentiment, I don't want us thinking that gaining peoples' compassion is a zero sum game—as if it cancels out the possibility of gaining their compassion for other species. It's no doubt a healthier outlook to think of compassion as an endless resource instead of a limited one if we are going to go on with any activism at all.
Duh, it can be maddeningly annoying when people love some animals and eat others, but winning a piece of anyone's heart/brain for any animal opens a small crack through which other information might seep in.
It's great to be critical, but let's never hate on a win, please. They're not easy to come by (though it helps if you have solid arguments...which brings me back to this book!).
Let me know what you think of Of Orcas and Men, happy reading!
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If you haven't heard, I've been holed up and sequestered, busy designing the layout for my next book, Help Yourself: 60 Easy Plant-Based Recipes Kids Can Make to Stay Healthy and Save the World (April 2016)—I'm telling people it's also for busy/lazy adults. Join me on Instagram to get a sneak peek from the photoshoot....I can't wait to show you more!
Do you know LAIKA MAGAZINE yet? It's the most beautiful vegan lifestyle read—one that can compete with any other mag on the racks these days!
The founder, Julie Gueraseva, asked me to be involved in their brand new fifth issue and I got to do two amazing things:
Illustrate a fashion trend spread (see above; this represents the whole other "adult" side to my artwork that came before the children's books. You probably didn't even know! More at Draw Or Die).
Interview the amaaaaazing hardcore, longtime vegan artist and activist in an artist-to-artist conversation. Her dedication to her vegan work, especially at the cost of money or acceptance or fame, hit me really hard. I've never known any artist quite like her.
In this fifth "Strength" issue, LAIKA has really hit a new level of beautiful and smart. I hope you'll subscribe to LAIKA (digital and print copies available) and check out all the amazing visuals and articles on people and happenings you should know about...your subscription helps support a whole network of vegans in different fields, it's an amazing little economy to bolster.
I am boggled and honored to have my children's books academically analyzed by two university lecturers, Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart.
Their book, Our Children and Other Animals: The Cultural Construction of Human-Animal Relations in Childhood, includes quite a discussion of my work—the imagery and representation of animals, my illustration techniques, compositions—how they all help young readers conceptualize their relation to animals.
I've taken many art history courses and have always been leery of my teachers' analyses of artworks. As an artist, myself, and having drawers full of unfinished work I'd never want anyone to see, I imagine that maybe even Degas would have scoffed at the heavy meaning assigned to any one of his works—maybe a painting he would've wanted to throw in the garbage.
Having my work in the hot seat, though, I have to say, Cole and Stewart shocked me with their accuracy. I was stunned at the clarity with which they perceived not only my intentional illustrative strategies, but subconscious decisions, too.
They captured emotions I felt while painting these books, unspoken messages I wanted to relay to my potential young readers, and they beautifully articulated many of the underlying, tacit motives for designing the book as I did—from the animals' eyes to the composition of racing animals running to an implied, but invisible end.
A couple excerpts (edited here for length):
"...Roth eschews both photorealism and anthropomorphism. The latter is evident in the depiction of animals with small eyes, and the absence of mouths in many cases...foreclosing the anthropomorphic trope of the loving dewy/baby-eyed gaze and the grin directed towards a human view/consumer. Instead, Roth's illustrations emphasize snouts or tails; less 'human' aspects of other mammal's embodiments. Roth's animals, then, are resolutely 'other.' The illustrative style asserts an inaccessibility to objectifying knowledge but also their fascination; their capacity to inspire wonder. Children are tacitly enjoined to take lasting pleasure in the living beauty of other animals..."
In other words, where I don't draw a big, anthropomorphized smiling mouth on a cow, or giant "cute" eyes on a bunny, it forces the reader to relate to the animal on the animals' terms. Kids can wonder about them without the animal serving any need—to be cute or entertaining, for example, as animals most often do in children's books, movies, and toys.
On the illustration in Vegan Is Love, of a silhouetted crowd in a dark room of a marine life park, staring in on a live orca behind glass:
"The humans are depicted as emotionally distanced from the animals as spectacle or experimental tool. Humans' capacities as empathetic subjects are shown to be stunted through their very engagement with objectifying practices. The implicit message is therefore that we confine and kill some part of ourselves as we confine and kill others."
Nailed it. Visiting business where animals are used for entertainment shuts off a part of ourselves, beginning in childhood.
If you love sociology and the study of veganism, too, this academic book is a fascinating look at how we come to relate to animals and what we need to address in order to change the status quo. It'll exercise your mind and help you discuss veganism even more intelligently with others, too. Especially kids.