Love Rhymes with Everything: New book by vegan artist and poet raises money for animal rescue

Artist Dana Feagin is an oil painter based in Ashland, Oregon, who uses her art to raise money for animal charities. Poet Kat von Cupcake spent her pre-retirement years working as a San Francisco police officer and now bakes compassionate treats for humans and donates her profits to animal charities. Dana and Kat collaborated with the boutique publisher Ashland Creek press to create Love Rhymes with Everything, a collection of poetry and paintings that will benefit animal rescue organizations.

Q: How did the idea for this book come together?

Kat: If I remember correctly, Dana was at my house, and we were admiring her painting “Sugar Rush” that I had just purchased, and I nonchalantly told her that I had a fantasy about pairing my quirky animal poems with her paintings for a book. I had just started writing again and was terrified about how rejection was about to feel, but Dana gave an enthusiastic “heck, yeah” to the idea. Dana sent me a slew of digital images of her paintings, and it took off from there. We thought originally we would self-publish, but then ACP liked our idea of donating all the profits to animal-related causes and offered to publish it. Talk about a dream team. And, a bucket or two of sweat later, this labor of love is ready to share.

Dana: When Kat suggested the idea, I was instantly all in. Although Kat’s initial suggestion was just about the book, I thought we had to exhibit the poetry with my paintings as well.

Q: Kat, what inspired your first ekphrastic animal poem?

Kat: It was almost immediately after I purchased my first Dana Feagin original oil. “Sugar Rush” is a painting of an adorable, wide-eyed black-and-white calf, and in the background Dana painted cupcakes dancing around her head. “Sugar Rush” is hanging so that I can see her from my kitchen when I am baking. Dana painted her with her sweet pink tongue sticking out, and she seemed to want to taste a cupcake really badly … so my anthropomorphic imagination wrote a poem about it.

Q: Dana, how did your art become all about animals?

Dana: I’ve always been interested in art and animals. As a child I always wanted more animals than my parents agreed to, and I loved to draw. At that time all of my drawings had an animal focus. As I got a bit older and more focused on school, I even considered applying to veterinary school, but was feeling burned out on all the studying.

Fast forward through a busy career in clinical research management, and I came back to art. I naturally gravitated toward animals as my subject. I tried to paint nudes, portraits, and landscapes — all the things that a classical artist should learn to do well, but I hated it. I finally decided it just didn’t matter if my animal paintings weren’t considered “real art” and went back to painting animals. Now I use my animal art as another way to help animals in need without depleting my savings — all of my proceeds are donated to animal charities.

Q: What is your favorite vegan treat?

Dana: I have to limit it to just one? Right now, I would have to say that I am hooked on a new recipe I found for peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies that I make vegan using aquafaba as an egg replacer and Miyoko’s vegan butter. My off-the-grocery-shelf indulgence is So Delicious Salted Carmel Cluster Cashew Milk Ice Cream, and if Kat is nearby with her chocolate cake pops, I could never say no to those!

Kat: That is a fully cocked and loaded question because I LOVE FOOD. If I had to choose just one singular vegan treat, it would have to be the California Roll from Shizen in San Francisco. Shizen is a fully vegan sushi/Japanese eatery (and also boasts a gorgeous eco interior). I was blown away by my experience there, and I heartily challenge any fish-loving human to differentiate Shizen’s tofu “crab” from the meat so savagely harvested from our hard-shelled friends.

Q: When youre the chef, whats your favorite meal to make?

Kat: Baking is my forte—cooking, not so much. I default to pastas with marinaras and mushrooms, mixed veggie and tofu stir-fries, rice bowls, and huge salads most days. I do make a wicked grilled cheeze though! Sourdough bread smeared with just the right amount of Miyoko’s ahhhmazing butter and then at least two slices of Follow Your Heart American and Provolone followed by a slowwww and low cook in a hot frying pan till golden brown equals ooey, gooey, stretchy yumminess! This sandwich impresses vegan and non-vegan friends alike!

Dana: I’ve been a bit over-scheduled lately and relying on some convenience vegan items, so I would probably go with spaghetti and meat balls, Caesar salad, and garlic bread. I love Trader Joe’s Basil Marinara and Gardein Meatless Balls. It’s fast and so tasty. I’ve even served it to a group of non-vegan guests because it’s such a familiar meal. No one ever guesses it’s vegan because the meatballs are so hearty with great texture — they are also excellent in meatball sub sandwiches! Follow Your Heart makes exceptional Caesar dressing and parmesan shreds, and you have to use Miyoko’s new vegan butter for the garlic bread! When I do have time to cook from scratch, a couple of favorite recipes are cashew-based fettuccine alfredo and green coconut curry with chickpeas and chard.

Q: What food or product do you most love to introduce to non-vegans?

Kat: Well, the ice cream choices abound, and Nada Moo’s flavors are outrageously good. And if folks ever get out to the Bay Area and can visit Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery, they are destined for deliciousness. But other than ice cream, Kite Hill finally managed to make this vegan’s cream cheese dreams come true. I even have my discriminating vegetarian mother addicted to this stuff.

Dana: Soy curls! They are so versatile and you can do so many things with them (fajitas, orange “chik’n,” barbecue sandwiches, Thai skewers with peanut sauce — and so much more. Most people think it’s chicken until you tell them it isn’t. I buy soy curls in a big bulk box directly from Butler Foods. I am also a huge fan of Miyoko’s cashew cheeses and everything from Gardein and Field Roast.

This year, I hosted a traditional Thanksgiving meal with a Gardein Holiday Roast, mashed potatoes, peas, corn, biscuits and home-made pecan and pumpkin pie with vegan ice cream. It got rave reviews and lots of discussion about what the substitutes were. The entire meat-eating family agreed that the Gardein roast was better than real turkey — so it was served again as our Christmas Eve meal at another family member’s house.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from reading your poems in Love Rhymes with Everything?

Kat: I think there are many ways one can spread the message of compassionate living and bring awareness to animal suffering. My idea is to do it with a softer touch and a bit of humor. My hope is that readers will find a spark of connection with animals when they look at those soulful eyes that Dana manages to effect on a canvas and when they read my heartfelt (albeit anthropomorphic) poems. If even one human flashes on their experience from the pages of Love Rhymes With Everything and chooses not to consume animal products or wrap their bodies, feet, or furniture in animal plight, this book will have done its job.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from seeing your portraits in Love Rhymes with Everything?

Dana: My hope is that they begin to look at all animals the same way many people look at dogs and cats — as individuals, each with different personalities, wants and needs.

Every penny of Love Rhymes with Everything will go toward helping animals, and the book is available at cost for all nonprofit animal rescue and shelter organizations for fundraising purposes. Visit www.AshlandCreekPress.com to learn more.

Midge Raymond is the author of the novel My Last Continent and the award-winning short-story collection Forgetting English. Her writing has appeared in TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times magazine, Poets & Writers, and many other publications.

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