Whenever I pass a piano, I get this twinge of longing, a desire to flip my tux tails up, settle in on the sleek black bench, and tease out some glorious classical tune or pound out Maple Leaf Rag. My muscles actually twitch and I think, “This time I’ll just do it…” — but then I remember I don’t know how to play the piano. And then I am very sad.
The same thing happens when I hear a singer who blows my hair back, watch a dancer tell stories through exquisite movement, or see a work of art so rich that I could practically live inside it. I think, “Wow, it must feel so freeing to be able to create that.” Given my intense love of performing and visual arts, I’ve often thought it a kind of cruel joke that I should end up a writer. Don’t get me wrong — I do loves me some words — but secretly I’d rather be playing, dancing, and painting. Maybe all three at the same time.
This wide-eyed appreciation of the arts hit me again when I recently began my picture book collection. After days of reading Amazon reviews, I found that the 563 books in my shopping cart had one thing in common — fabulous illustrations.
And that’s why, as of today, I will be featuring fabulous illustrators on select Poetry Mondays. That’s why I am stalking illustrator blogs and sending emails to strangers to ask them if I can write a poem to go with one of their portfolio works. Because kidlit art inspires me that much.
And since nepotism is alive and well here at No Water River, I’m starting with my younger brother, Dave — artist, musician, friend, illustrator of many of my early reader stories, and designer of my cool banner.
Featured Illustrator ~ Dave LaTulippe
Look at this pig!
What’s Up with Dave
Dave, who are you, where are you, and why are you drawing sad pigs?
I am your brother, and I currently split my time between New York, Chicago, and Elsewhere. I draw sad pigs to bring awareness to an issue that is dear to my heart — swinitus sadinitus.
How did you create Melancholy Swine and how long did it take?
I draw and paint sad pigs the same way I draw and paint sad meerkats…in Photoshop.
With Photoshop, you can create custom brushes to simulate different types of pencil tips and paper textures on the fly. You can go from a fine, dark pencil tip to a broad, soft paint brush in a flash, so you’re able to create, experiment, and edit very quickly. And as we all know, creating art as quickly as possible is the whole goal. 😛
The other tool I use is a Wacom tablet, which is a pressure-sensitive pen/tablet. With this you can truly simulate that pen and paper (or brush and canvas) feel, which is absolutely necessary for illustrating. Photoshop + Wacom = Awesome.
Do all of your animals have belly buttons?
What do you do when you’re not drawing depressing animals?
I spend a lot of time with my business partners and good friends, Jeff and Marla Sarris. Together we make up Spyr Media, a design house where we do high-end brand development, product design, photography, and anything else that strikes our fancy. In my downtime, I work some more, play guitar, do some urban biking, and hang out with my quacking cat, Janis.
Can we see other neat stuff you’ve done?
Sure can! You can check out recent work at SpyrMedia.com, see some of my personal illustrations and photography at DaveLaTulippe.com, and peruse some professional photography at six4eleven.com.
Do you like your sister’s poetry?
I feel pressured to say yes…?
Thanks for stopping by, Dave, and for lending me Melancholy Swine!
P.S. Dave also drew Jake the Snake, but without all the pomp and circumstance.
I hope you all enjoyed meeting my brother; he’s a pretty good sort, and his work always makes me smile.
Except this time, because it’s a sad pig. And what do sad pigs do when they’re down? Why, they flip up their tails, sit down at the pianer, and sing the blues, that’s what! Curtain please…”This Pig’s Got the Blues!”
This Pig’s Got the Blues
I once had a pig
(a melancholy swine)
known for his frown
and his high-pitched whine.
He’d mope and he’d mewl
’round the barn all day
but soon as night fell,
he’d rise up and say:
Chick, on the trumpet!
Cow, on the bell!
Play on — you’ve got nothing to lose!
Raise the roof high
and let the music swell
because this pig’s got the blues!
You see, the sad pig
had music in his soul!
He loved a mean riff —
let the good times roll!
He’d nudge the sheep awake
and make the donkeys bray,
then clear his piggy throat
and with a flourish say:
Horse, on the banjo!
Dog, on the drum!
Play on — you’ve got nothing to lose!
Raise the roof high
with a beat and a strum
because this pig’s got the blues.
They’d play through the night,
that bluesy barnyard tune,
till Pig called out
in the light of the moon:
Goat, sing it high!
Rabbit, sing it deep!
Sing on — like you know you should!
Raise the roof high
then sing me to sleep
because this pig’s feeling good…
Raise the roof high
and sing me to sleep
because this pig’s feeling good.
See more poems in my poetry video library.
Video Location: San Vincenzo, Italy, I think. Back road by someone’s horse farm, next to mean dogs.
Poem © 2012 Renée LaTulippe. Illustration © 2012 Dave LaTulippe.
Fantastic post! LOVE the pig – SO cute! Dave is very talented (it obviously runs in the family :)) Your interview was so funny! And I love the poem and your notes on location below!
Well, thanks, Susanna, for your comment full of love! Dave and I have been lucky enough to work on quite a few projects together, and we always end up laughing, for sure. How can you not when working on something as fun as a children’s story?
I love the sad pig illustration and your poem. I play the video and read along at the same time.
I loved it. Wish I could have been there and heard his piano plaing blues. 🙂
@ Stacy – That’s a good way to do it!
@ Brenda – Thanks for listening! If I could play the blues myself, I would have added a soundtrack to the video. Alas!
This was very fun and imaginative. Both of you are really talented.
Just LOVE this post. What a fabulous idea to write your poems inspired by an illustrator’s piece. It was all a lot of fun! Great combo: video/ poem text, illustration and interview. A winner!
@ Penny @ Joanna – So glad you both liked it. This one was lots of fun to put together! Keep an eye out for the next featured illustrator — she’s one of ours from 12×12… 🙂
Wow — what a fantastic post. Your brother’s pig illustration was perfect for your poem — you should collaborate. He is so talented.
I know how you feel — my dream would be to be an opera singer, but i have a choir voice, and have lost my voice. I was a pianist, but an injury ended that. I would love to draw, but have no talent. But, we write and we do have that unique talent.
Love illustrators — so continue to feature them!
Glad you enjoyed it, Patricia! My brother and I do collaborate every now and then…the problem is that we have so many ideas, we don’t actually get any of them done, haha.
Ooh, an opera singer! Sigh…I guess we’ll have to content ourselves in the noble pursuit of wordsmithery — I guess it’s not so bad!
Yup, stay tuned for more illustrators!
Ha ha! I LOVE your brother’s pig. Such eyes!! And your poem is very clever. What a talented family.
Aw, shucks — thanks, Barbara. I guess it must be in the genes!
Thank you all for the kind words, so glad you like. 🙂 And, thank you Renee for this opportunity. I hope we can do more of these in the future because it was a lot of fun.
The big question now is…what sad, belly buttoned animal do you want to write about next?
Well, now that you mentioned meerkats…
Wonderful post. You can tell you really love what you do, and you do a great job at it! I really like how you have a video to go along with your poem.
Wow, thanks so much for saying so, Jennifer! You just made my day! Glad you enjoy the videos — those are lots of fun to make, even if I’m constantly interrupted by crazy dogs and cawing birds and the odd goat!
You and your brother are both talented. I loved the poem and the pig.
Gee, thanks, Rena! Glad you enjoyed it. I’ll pass on the kudos to my brother. 🙂
Fantastic! I want to put music to it and hear the blues!! Will you let me? I’m so glad I found No Water River, Renee!
Miranda, if you are able, by all means go for it! It would be so much fun to hear some music on this one. I’m glad you found NWR, too, and likewise your blog. 🙂
OK Renee, the challenge is on. I’ve got a few days of subbing this week but I’ll sneak a few moments at the piano and microphone and come up with something…maybe for your ears only…we’ll see!
HA! Exciting! I do a little singin’ myself, so if you lay some good tracks we might just have a jam session on our hands! My brother plays guitar…might have to drag him in too. Awesome!
Lovely poem Renee and great illustration too. Really enjoying your blog.
Thanks so much, Anna! Love the name of your blog, and I’ve been around to browse and see what you and your lovely daughter are up to. Will definitely be back!
THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! I laughed out loud (literally). You guys should write a book together! Ms. LaTulippe, I felt like I was in the barn with the animals – Great poem!
Mr. LaTulippe, Your depressed pig is cool! I can’t believe you can make something like that in photoshop!
Question – Can you draw a depressed clown fish and would it have a belly button?
Actually, depressed clown fish are a bit of a specialty. And for the sake of anatomical accuracy…yes, there will be a belly button. 😉
HA HA 🙂
That’s right, Erik — I believe Dave already has a couple of clown fish on his website.
We have done some books together, but I’d love to do some more! Glad the pig and the poem made you laugh. 🙂
I checked out the fish on Mr. Latulippe’s website – very cool! That’s neat that you wrote books together! Sorry I didn’t know – I just saw them on your picture book page 🙂 Cobweb the Cat looks especially nice!
Cobweb the Cat was actually my very first story, and the first one Dave and I collaborated on! These books are early readers, so Cobweb and the other blue books are for kids age 5-6 and the green books are for ages 6-7 more or less.
I found myself smiling through the entire reading! I pictured myself reading this to my students. And yes, I can imagine music with this as I read to my early learners. WONDERFUL!
Pam, I would love it if you read the poem to your students or even shared the video with them. And if you do, please let me know how it goes! I’ve got another reader working on the music, so we’ll keep you posted….:)
I loved following along to the text of your poem as you read. Great idea! And I just put my daughter into bed and she is reading your book! Thanks so much!
Thank YOU, Eric. I hope your daughter finds a poem or two that she likes. 🙂
You get a brother that is an illustrator—And I get a brother that is a……..computer scientist??????
What gives!!!! 🙂
Lovely poem, beautiful illustration, and fantastic video as always—
No Water River is officially my favorite Monday hangout! 🙂
Heh…my other brother was a sound technician for a band for many years, so maybe we should fly him to Texas to oversee your filming! Thanks for hanging out!
Hi, Renée! How fun that you wrote a sweet poem to go with your brother’s illo! Great idea, you two make a great team! 🙂
Thank you, Nina! And can I tell you how much I love your dragon on your blog? Adorable!!
I am repeating others’ words, but I just have to say how cute the pig is, and the poem/story is good, too, and I can already envision a loud, splashy picture book! I was a little stumped at first with the interview, but then realized the artist is your brother! What fun! Thanks for stopping by my blog, too. I’ll keep looking for you!
Glad you enjoyed it, Linda! I don’t think we’ll be doing a pig picture book, but you never know….:)
I don’t think I’m going to get tired of listening to your poems any time soon so I hope the mean dogs leave you alone.
I really enjoyed this combination of illustration and poetry. Can’t wait until next Monday. 🙂
Hi Dana! I’m going to put together a blooper reel with the mean dogs (and the dump trucks, and the bees, and the…). The things we do for art!
LOL. That’ll be a riot, Renee. Seriously though, you do a great job on those videos.
What a great site and light-hearted atmosphere. Great work!
Thank you, Helena! I really enjoyed looking at your work, too. 🙂
OH! I’m with Erik, I lol. Just sounds so fun and giggly. What a great combo. One thing you should be aware of is that pubs don’t like material once it’s been published on the web. They consider it already published so won’t touch it. Though of course you’ve heard of Julie and Julia. But know that’s the rare case. Coming of course to my point:
You two should submit this. It’s that good!
Thanks for sharing.
Hi Clar — No, I don’t intend to submit anything that appears on the blog. No Water River is just my little playground that I hope others will enjoy playing in, too. 🙂
Fun post! You and your brother make a great team :). Oink!
Oink right back atcha, Jama – thanks for stopping by the pigpen!
Wow, your following gets bigger and bigger every week! And your little brother is all grown up and an artist too. Love that pig.
Thanks, David! I do hope people like the poetry vids and that they bring their kiddies around to read and listen. The pig loves you too!
Hi Renee, I am so glad to have discovered your site (and your brother’s works) thru Poetry friday. I love the repartee masking as Q and A between you and him. Talent definitely runs in the genes!! I also have a Wacom tablet (which I havent touched for years) and Photoshop which i enjoy playing arond with – but it takes a different kind of mind to create such an adorable swine (with a cute pout and a belly button at that). And your poem is so lyrical, I can hear music and melody with it. Thanks so much for sharing!
Likewise, Myra! So glad you enjoyed the art/poetry combo. Hoping to do much more of this in the future, and have my brother back as a regular contributor. As for the repartee…yeah, that’s just how we roll. 🙂
I love the way you tied all of this together – the painting, its fabulous artist the video and the poem….I was rooting for your pig to find some respite from the gloom!
Aw, thanks so much, Tara! I admit I had an awfully good time putting this post together!