Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Ode to Steig

steig painter

Spring induces a feeling of joy, and in that spirit I offer this ode to William Steig. Steig was born in Brooklyn in 1907 and lived until 2003.
He was famous for his work in the New Yorker and for his many wonderful children’s books including Dr. DeSoto ,steig doctor desoto

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,steig sylvesterShrek,

steig shrekand Zeke Pippin.

steig zeke pippin

He was famous for his drawings and his language. Steig loved wordplay and even letter-play.

steig fn l

He came from a family of immigrants with strong (Socialist) political views. It was a wildly creative family. His parents, brothers, in-laws, wives, children and extended family painted, wrote, sang, made jewelry, drew and expressed themselves in myriad ways, as did Steig. He stitched…

steig stitcheryand he carved.

steig sculpture

Recently I spoke to students in Pocatello, Idaho. Over a few days and many talks I realized the nugget of what I wanted to say to them: that creativity is a habit, not a gift. Sometimes people say “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” But creativity isn’t a bone - it’s a muscle, and it grows stronger with use. Steig’s creativity,empathy, and wit were limber and strong.steig carnival Steig was a follower of Wilhelm Reich and believed in unleashing his energy,  sometimes sitting in an orgone box in order to do so.
His work vibrates with energy. He evokes a wide range of emotions, often starting with but not always ending with humor.

steig eternal sea

steig insect

steig turkeysteig axolotl

 

I am grateful for all of his work, but most blissfully for his images of bliss. Who could not love this painting of a Sweetheart, a Swain, a Swine and Some Swans?

steig sweethearts

 

If you are hungry for more Steig you can read The World of William Steig, written by Lee Lorenz.

steig gorky rises

Mosaics

picasiette exterior

Last week my husband discovered a book at Goodwill about Picassiette. From 1938-1962 Raymond Isidore covered his home and property in Chartres, France with mosaics.

picasiette summer house picasiette patio picasiette interior

He was given the nickname of Picassiette which means both “plate stealer” and ” Picasso of plates.”

picasiette coupleHe created beauty from materials that would otherwise have been thrown away.

picasiette detail

In 2004 I illustrated a book by Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker called Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey. (It is out of print now, but still available used.)

Bottle Houses coverTessa Prisbrey also created a world out of materials that she scavenged – bottles, old dolls, pencils and broken dishes. She called it Bottle Village. You can see a video about her on line.

Bottle Village 1973

She made buildings from old bottles and filled them with her collections.Paschkis Prisbrey pencils

Paschkis Prisbrey pencil house

I visited Bottle Village before working on the book. Much of it was damaged by an earthquake, but much of it survived. While we were there a hummingbird followed us through the site, so I included it in many of the illustrations.

Paschkis Bottle Houses p.15

I didn’t get to see the kittens that she dyed with food coloring but I could imagine them.

Paschkis Bottle Village wall

Grandma Prisbrey transformed trash into treasure. Her life included a lot of sadness, but she seemed to transform that grief into creativity.

Prisbrey portrait Paschkis

Here in the NW corner of the map, Tim Fowler is creating a wondrous world.
Here are some of the figures in his yard.Tim Fowler mosaicTim Fowler mosaic

Tim Fowler sculpture

He has been working on a great mosaic wall for years.

Tim Fowler wall

Tim Fowler wall

Eventually the wall will surround his lot, but it includes windows.

Tim Fowler wall

If you are out of town you can visit Tim through this videoIf you are in Seattle, wander by 26th and Howell in the Central District and say hello.

Tim Fowler sculptureI hope this post will inspire you to make mosaics and to be happy when a beautiful dish breaks.  Here is a how-to video for a mosaic picture frame;  you could adapt the technique to other surfaces.

Tim Fowler gate

Giddy-up

Apple Cake 2012, Julie Paschkis

illustration from Apple Cake 2012, Julie Paschkis

Today is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
2014 is a Year of the Horse in Chinese astrology.

Yuri Vasnetsov

Yuri Vasnetsov

When I was little I shared a room with my older sister. She told me that after I was asleep a large white horse would fly into our room and take her away, and that if I was awake when it appeared I could go with them.

Tatiana Mavrina 1969

Tatiana Mavrina 1969

But I was never able to keep myself awake, and I never got to go.

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, Alice and Martin Provensen 1974

Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, Alice and Martin Provensen 1974

I believed in that horse. I can still feel how I ached to go on those adventures and to see other worlds. I know what I missed.

paschkis black horse

Now I read in order to get that feeling of being transported. In some books an alchemy takes place. Suddenly you are not just reading words; you are in another place, another world, another person’s mind.

Hiroshige, Big French Circus, 1871

When I pick up a book I always hope that it will have the power to take me somewhere else, and I wait for the moment of lift off – when the world of the book becomes more real than the world around me. Sometimes it happens.

paschkis spring horse

Julie Paschkis, Spring Horse

Even after years of reading and some writing I don’t truly understand how it works. Yes, it has to do with language and character, with details that ring true, with plot development and tension. But is also has to do with a flying horse showing up and with being awake enough to take the ride.

Woodcut by Raoul Dufy 1910 for Apollinaire's Parade of Orpheus

Bestiary by Apollinaire , woodcut by Raoul Dufy 1910

Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire

Recently I was lifted away by the collection of O Henry Prize Stories for 2013, especially the stories by Kelly Link and Joan Silber.

In the comments section I welcome your suggestions for books that transported you.
Happy Reading in the Year of the Horse!

The Creation of the World from D'Aulaire's Norse Gods and Giants 1967

The Creation of the World from D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods and Giants 1967

Babies

In honor of the new year, which is only three days old, here are some pictures of babies and children.estremoz doll

This is a happy little sculpture from Estremoz, Portugal. Maybe the mother had arms once.

In very old paintings the babies often look peculiar. The face of Duccio’s  baby Jesus face is old, although his feet are young.  The same is true of the Giotto. Why?

Duccio_The-Madonna-and-Child

I have read that the babies look old because the society had a different conception of childhood, but this explanation never made sense to me. If you have ideas about this, please leave a comment.

GiottodiBondone_Madonna_and_Child

I think that maybe the babies look like the artists looked. Another possibility is that the more detail you put into a face, the older it looks.

I love these awkward children painted by Henri Rousseau.

rousseau

rousseau child

Why do her legs disappear into the meadow? Did Rousseau just run out of space?

henri rousseau

This serene child in red was painted by Ammi Phillips.

ammi phillips

When I draw babies I sometimes just do a shorthand baby – real features seem to weigh it down and make it unbaby like.

Paschkis the King and the Baby

Simple cartoonish drawings can feel real. Crockett Johnson makes Harold feel real and alive by his body language, even though the few details are odd.CrockettJohnson

Margaret (Chodos-Irvine) includes very little detail in this baby from Only You, but the body feels just right. You can imagine holding this baby.

chodos irvine baby

Maurice Sendak has lots of detail AND the babies in Outside Over There look like babies. Except that according to the text they are goblins, not babies.

sendak goblins

Neither babies nor years stay brand new for very long. Time flies.

And sometimes babies fly too, as in this devinette.

devinette

May you have a Happy New Year, filled with new projects and new hope, and maybe even new babies. (But not flying babies).

Demel

This is a good time of the year for sweets, so here are some sweets for your eyes. Bilibin painted this Tsar’s cake.

bilibin feast cake

For a lighter confection, perhaps a trip to Vienna is in order. A friend gave me a book about Demel, the famous bakery there.

demel book coverThe book includes photographs of the bakery displays and of confections.

demel cookie

demel theater

demel boat and cakes

It also includes these drawings (and many more).

familie confect

baron petit four demel

The Demel book inspired me when I was working on Apple Cake.  The Demel drawings also reminded me of some confections by other artists. This character is by Anita Lobel.

anita lobel lollipops

From the Danish artist Bjorn Wiinblad:

Bjorn Wiinblad Praline

wiinblad poster

And from Andy Warhol:

warhol ice cream dessert

I hope that you have a December full of pastries, mit schlag. You can start with a slice of this cake from Alois Carigiet.

carigiet cake

In a Minor Key

It’s November. The rain has come to Seattle.  I’ve been inside a lot, working on a new book of poems and paintings.crows  Paschkis

While painting I often listen to music,  especially music in a minor key. A sad song can make me quite happy.
Here are some thoughts on illustration in a minor key.

The subject matter in this painting by Bilibin ( a visit to Baba Yaga) fits the somber palette.

ivan_bilibin_vasilisa

And this elegant painting by Arthur Rackham for Grimm is as grim as the story.

rackham grimm

But I remember being scared by all of the illustrations in the book A Holiday for Edith, by Dare Wright, even the ones that were supposed to be happy. The whole book was suffused with melancholy. I think that an artist brings many things to a book and some of them might not be brought there on purpose.HOLIDAY-for-EDITH-and-the-BEARS_large

Divica Landrova’s  illustration for Little Red Riding Hood is in a minor key, even though Redcap has not yet met the wolf.

divica landrova

Compare that to the same subject matter by Watty Piper.

Watty Piper

I always wanted a seat at the table in Barbara Cooney’s Chanticleer, even though the illustration is dark. It feels cosy, like being inside when rain is falling on the roof.

chanticleer

Yuri Vasnetsov’s style and colors are similar here, but the room is lonely and frightening.

vasnetsov dining room

In this illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger, the text says that the feast is merry, but it feels desolate. Maybe the robbers are sad that their iPad fell on the floor.

zwerger robbers

This feast by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire describes a happy mayhem. It is in a major key.

daulaire valhalla

I will end with my favorite feast of all, by Yuri Vasnetsov. The cockroaches put it firmly in a minor key. This is from the Magpie, shown on this blog before.

magpie

Enjoy the rain and sad songs!

p.s. If you would like to curl up under a quilt, please check out my new blog Mooshka - a Patchwork.

Paper, Scissors

wycinankaIn high school I worked  at a Polish import store that sold wycinanka, traditional paper cuts. I was told that these delicate constructions were cut with sheep shearing scissors. I have loved cut paper ever since then. Here are some examples of papercuts and some examples of scissors.

XIX scissors

This Polish rooster is visiting with a Chinese bird and butterfly and with a rooster from Indonesia. Below are some Papel Picados from Mexico.

chinese polish papercuts

Mexican papel picados

In the 1920′s and 1930′s Lotte Reiniger made animated movies out of cut paper silhouettes. Here is a link to one about Papageno.

.Lotte Reiniger papercut

She cut with sharp knives, but I like to imagine her using these scissors:

french embroidery scissors

Nikki McClure and Rob Ryan have done amazing work in recent years, such as this piece by Ryan.

rob ryan

Here is a medal for him.hungarian coat of arms

Peter Callesen and Mia Pearlman have stretched the form. This dimensional whorl was made by Pearlman.

mia pearlman papercut

I have been snipping at paper for about 1o years and had a show of papercuts in 2006, which included Adam and Eve (5 feet tall),

Paschkis adam and eve

and these smaller fruit pickers (10 inches tall).

Paschkis baskets

I love the symmetry of traditional paper cuts, but illustrations for stories sometimes need unsymmetrical parts. Here is my illustration  for the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

Paschkis Snow Queen

and here is one for a juicy poem by Julie Larios.

Larios Paschkis Oranges

Here is a celebration of bicycling and hats.

Paschkis bicycle trick

If you are interested in working with paper please take a look at the book Creating With Paper by Pauline Johnson and Hazel Koenig. It was first published in 1958 and it is still fresh.

creating with paper

To wrap things up here is a poem by David Mason, followed by two more Polish papercuts.

Song of the Powers

polish tree of life

Back To School

Paschkis ABCXYZ

I haven’t been a full time student for more than 30 years. I haven’t been a full time teacher for 20. But September still feels like the beginning of a new year. It’s time for a fresh start; it’s time to go back to school.
Here are some images for your edification, whether or not September brings you back to a school building.

This alphabet come from ABZ, edited by Julian Rothenstein.

ABZ Alphabet

But where did B,C and F (and many other letters) go?
Maybe they are dancing.
This Czech Modernist alphabet was designed by Karel Teige in 1935.

Czech modernist B

czech modernist F

Saul Steinberg took the alphabet for a walk in 1965:

Steinberg 1965

What to do with the alphabet? Make words.
These illustrations are from The Infant’s Alphabet of 1822:

The ArticlesNouns: An Infant's Alphabet 1822

Or perhaps you would like to learn French. These pages are from an 1814 primer painted for Alfred Bourdier de Beauregard by his uncle Arnaud.

for Alfred Bourdier de Beauregard

1814 French Primer

No education is complete without math and science. Number Friends was published in 1927.

Number Friends 1927

This Edible Frog is from The Art of Instruction, published by Chronicle Books. It is not a scratch and sniff poster and does not include the smell of formaldehyde.

Edible Frog

All learning needs to be synthesized. Here are two helpful pictures painted by Saul Steinberg in 1959.

Saul Steinberg 1959

Steinberg 1959

And how to end this post? With proper punctuation, of course. This is from the Good Child’s Book of Stops, published in 1825.

Punctuation

And the winner is

bilibin feast cake

Once upon a time (August 16th actually) this blog offered a painting to the person who could write my favorite fairy tale about that painting. There were so many good entries that I called upon trusted advisors from across the land to help me make a decision: my mother, Marcia Paschkis, in Maine, and my sister, Karla Paschkis, in Boston. We each read the stories and then discussed them. We read our favorites out loud, as fairy tales should be spoken. It was a difficult decision.

AND….the winner is Deborah Holt Williams. We liked that in so few words she created a plot using all of the elements in the painting in a way that made sense but was not predictable. Her fairy-tale language felt timeless but not cloying. Her ending was funny and a good piece of advice.  Congratulations!

Honorable mention goes to Karen Herc. We liked the way her story felt like a fairy tale but didn’t echo any fairy tale that we already knew. We liked the way she framed her story with “Bear frowned.” and “Bear smiled.”

And we would like to give a shout out to Ava Budavari-Glenn. Her story was fresh and delightful. She is only 13; we look forward to seeing more of her writing  in years to come.

Many thanks to everyone who took part. To see Ava and Karen’s stories (and all of the other wonderful entries) please look in the August 16th post’s comment section. Here is the winning story with art, in full. Please read the story aloud!

Paschkis fairy tale painting
Once upon a time, young Helga and her brother Hans followed their frisky hound into a deep forest and became hopelessly lost. A cloak of darkness fell upon the woods, and the children began to worry about wolves in the night.

“I shall sleep on top of the tree,” said Hans,”where I can see the wolves if they come in the night.”

“I shall tie myself to the tree with my hair,” said Helga, “so I will feel the tree shake if the wolves come in the night.”

The dog lay down with his nose to the ground, so he could smell the wolves if they came in the night.

But while they slept, a hungry and very quiet bear tippy-toed through the woods and ate them all.

“When you prepare for one misfortune,” said the bear, picking his teeth, “you may be surprised by another one entirely.”

Paschkis: For the queen

Ava, Karen and Deborah: Please email me your addresses so that I can mail you your prizes. My address is: jpaschkis@comcast.net 

Once Upon A …

Once upon a time.
That’s the way the story begins.

Tall Boy 2

Last week Margaret included many fairy tale motifs in her blog post. These forms of a fairy tale are familiar, and many  themes and stories repeat. 

Zwerger: Redcap

But the details differ.

Russian engraving

In 2010 I had a show of paintings that I thought of as illustrations for unwritten fairy tales. They looked like fairy tale pictures and there were characters who reappeared in different paintings, but the stories hadn’t been written or told.

Paschkis: The King and the Baby

That is where you come in: you bring your own story. This is always what happens with any painting, but it is explicit here.
…This week’s blog is a contest.
Please write a fairy tale for this painting:

Paschkis fairy tale painting
The winner will receive the original painting as a prize.
Please post your story as a comment (no more than 150 words please). All entries must be submitted by 6 PM,PDT on August 28th. Stories will be judged for brevity and wit.
New commenters might get stuck in the spam file for a little bit but all comments will be read and posted as soon as possible.
The winning entry will be announced and included in the blog on Thursday August 29th. That is the only place where it will be published or used.

I will mail the unframed painting (14″ x 20″, gouache on paper) to the winner.(That person can email me his/her mailing address.)
Relatives are encouraged to enter but not eligible to win.

Whoever wins will live happily ever after.

Tatiana Mavrena Carriage