Today we are especially excited to feature an interview with Carlos Patiño, the author and illustrator of Vegan Publishers’ first children’s book, “Dave Loves Chickens.” Patiño talks about his punk/skater background, how he became a vegan and what motivates and inspires him.

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VP: Did you ever think you would be a vegan children’s book illustrator? Why children’s books?

CP: A vegan children’s book illustrator is a very specific category that I never thought I would be part of. I actually haven’t been vegan that long but I was a vegetarian for over 13 years and thought that the progression to veganism was the logical next step.

It’s good to have all the things I like into one. It should be like that for everything, as in drawing and my lifestyle. I think it’s important to be doing what you like and if you can do it while spreading a positive message then that’s a plus.

I never thought I would draw for a living let alone be a children’s illustrator. Why? Because kids have way better taste than adults when it comes to illustrations!

I think my style is very childish and children’s books are probably the category that my artwork is best suited for.

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VP: Tell us about your road to veganism.

CP: As I mentioned before, I thought it was the logical progression but it took me a long time to realize I should become vegan.

I am originally from Colombia (South America) and I have witnessed growing up, all the torture that comes with the “art/culture” of bull fighting and was always horrified by it. I am lucky I grew up within a punk/hardcore music scene where caring about animals was important. It’s how I got involved with groups that dealt with animal cruelty- specifically bullfighting. I would get up early every Sunday, when bullfighting season was on, and go outside the stadium to protest against it. Sometimes with placards and sometimes giving out flyers. I started this while I was eating meat, back in 97’ and a friend of mine asked me if I thought this might be a bit of a contradiction expecting bullfighting to be abolished while we were still eating meat. So from there on I decided I was going full vegetarian. That was the start of my vegetarianism but the veganism obviously started with me already having that strong vegetarian base.

I exercise a lot and I think it’s important to have a healthy diet. I noticed that a lot of the food I was eating had tons of dairy and it’s something that was probably the hardest to cut but I set my mind to it, with my wife as well, and we decided to go fully vegan. This has been the best decision we have made because now we feel so much healthier than in the past and I think it has improved my performance in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I honestly thought it was going to be “hard” to cut all dairy products (ice cream, cheese, etc…) but it was the opposite. It also really helps that a lot of our friends are vegan as well. So whoever thinks it’s hard, it really isn’t. It’s actually very easy.

VP: How did you conceive of Dave Loves Chickens? Where did the idea for the book come from?

CP: I was a bit frustrated from trying to contact big and small publishers asking if they needed an illustrator so I decided to get it done myself. Coming from a punk background with the “do-it-yourself” mentality, I realized that I could do anything I set my mind to. I had already started a record label in the past, and it is still running, so why not do a DIY children’s book that I can sell to my friends and other vegan/vegetarian parents? I am a graphic designer and I have worked directly with printers so I have all the knowledge of paper and the process of printing so I could literally do everything myself.

Then I heard about this crowd funding website called Kickstarter. I already had the book written and illustrated and all I needed was money so I made a video, because I can edit video as well, and then put it up on the website. Turns out there were a lot of people out there interested in my book so I got the money and got it done.

After completing the Kickstarter I decided that the book was good enough for the publishing world. I contacted the first publisher I found when I googled “vegan publisher” and Vegan Publishers was the first one to come up. I emailed them about my idea and sent them the video, expecting nothing in return. Turns out they were totally on board! I didn’t even have to ask anyone else and the name of the publisher totally sold it to me.

The idea for Dave Loves chickens came from me wanting to fuse what I like to do, with how I live my life. I know for a fact that there are tons of vegan parents out there that want their kids to live a healthy and cruelty free life as well, so I gave it a try and it paid off, at least to my expectations it did.

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VP: You are a self-described punk rocker. How does that influence your work?

CP: The do-it -yourself mentality has everything to do with this book. From start to finish, I focused on doing something myself to show to the world. Getting a contract with Vegan Publishers was the best part of it and it was one of the things that made me think that thinking this way always pays off.

I have helped bands with getting their records out for my non-profit record label. I have helped bands book tours and shows. I have helped bands with artwork for nothing in return and now I think that Vegan Publishers is doing for me what I have been doing for bands. So in a way, it all comes full circle.

I see similarities with the vegan culture and punk culture in that people help each other out in anyway possible. The great thing about this is that you can always rely on people helping out for nothing in return or for a trade rather than a monetary exchange. And I try to do this in punk, veganism, and sports. This is something that I hold very close to my heart and being able to do it in everything I love is probably the greatest satisfaction I can get.

VP: What are your plans for your next book, or books?

CP: When I wrote Dave Loves Chickens I wrote it so the character of Dave could be made into a series of books. For example Dave Loves Cows, Dave Loves Whales, Dave Loves Pigs, etc… And the plan is to do just that with Vegan Publishers. Dave gives us all kinds of information about animals that we may or may not already know and he always has a lot of GREAT and FUN facts so Dave has a lot to talk about!

At the moment I am working on illustrating another book for Vegan Publishers called “Lena of Vegitopia and the Mystery of the Missing Animals,” hopefully to come out early 2014. I hope 2014 also brings the new installment of Dave Loves… but that still under wraps.

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VP: Who is your biggest inspiration?

CP: I don’t really have an inspiration as such. I try to grab small things from things I see or from the art history I know. One of the design movements I always go back to is the Bauhaus which I think, in essence, was when design peeked. I try to incorporate this into my illustrations or at least its ideas. I guess my biggest inspiration is the DIY (do-it-yourself) mentality that the punk attitude has impressed upon me. I know I can do anything; I just have to keep on trying.

VP: Who influences your artwork?

CP: I really like the work of Ed Templeton (pro-skater, photographer, artist) and I think I have been influenced my whole life by skateboard graphics. I have skated since I was 14 or 15 and it has played a big role in my life, I wouldn’t say as much as punk has, but along those lines.

The great thing about skateboard graphics is that it is art done by skaters, for skaters. Skater art can be high-end, artsy or very bottom of the line but it’s always up to the person that buys it to determinate what they like. And the fact that you get to ride that piece of art is just an extra plus.

I have done over a dozen skateboard graphics now and hopefully more in the future so my biggest influence I think might be skateboarding.

The difference between skateboarding and punk is that it’s more fun rather than politically orientated, like punk is, and less macabre and with more funny monsters and silly characters- and that’s what I pretty much do.

VP: What’s your favorite book (aside from your own)?

CP: My favorite book ever has to be Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I got told to read this book in high school many years ago by my Spanish teacher. This book I think is what defined my way of thinking in many ways. This made me become aware in a social context as well as political. Since then I have always wanted to thank him for being a major influence but haven’t been able to track him down. I like that book so much that I have written songs about it, done illustrations about it, read it several times in Spanish and in English, and got “451” tattooed on my fingers; so that book is hands down my favorite book.

VP: Any last words?

CP: I would like to re-emphasize what I have said throughout the interview and that is: Find something you love doing, practice, get good at it, and do it! I never thought I was going to turn drawing into my career but I managed to do it because I believed I was able to do it. I think 6 years ago I would have liked to draw things a bit more obscure and sad but I am happy I went down the road I am on now. My campaign with the Kickstarter gave me the extra push to realize that if I think it’s good, there might be people out there that think it is as well and who might also be willing to help out.

My last words are… KEEP. ON. TRYING.

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A graphic designer by trade and an illustrator by heart, Carlos Patiño has always had an interest in children’s books. His veganism inspires his creative work. Dave Loves Chickens is his first book specifically aimed at parents who are interested in introducing their children to a more compassionate way of treating animals.