Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Bugs Abound

The world is thrumming with insect life. In the summer I feel more aware of all the bugs around us.Paschkis Summer Birds p6When I illustrated Summer Birds by Margarita Engle I got to spend some time with insects. When I began the book I knew it would be fun to illustrate imaginary creatures and misconceptions about metamorphosis, but it turned out to be equally entertaining to draw real insects.Paschkis Summer Birds p30-31

In a field of one square mile you will find as many insects as there are people on the entire planet. The Smithsonian Institute estimates that there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects on earth. That means there are 200 million insects for each human being.

Raul Dufy 1911

Raul Dufy 1911

There are roughly 900,000 different kinds of living species of insects, fascinating in their particulars. Check out the website What’s That Bug to see some of them.

Here is an unscientific selection of some bugs that have buzzed through children’s books, in chronological order.

In 1807 John Harris came out with the Butterfly’s Ball. It was one of the first books made to delight children as opposed to improve or edify them.butterfly ball

The success of that book spawned The Butterfly’s Birthday in 1809, illustrated by William Mulready.Mulready Butterfly

Palmer Cox (who created the Brownies) painted this is 1890. .queerie queers 1890

Kafka published Metamorphosis in 1915. In 1927 you could have tea with Fly Ratter Tatter, illustrated by Vladimir Konashevich.fly ratter tatter

Some bugs are easier to love in art than in life. This lone cockroach and the swarming mosquitos below are from Alyonushka’s Tales, illustrated by Yuri Vasnetsov in 1935:
vasnetsov kitchenvasnetsov bear mosquitos

John Langstaff wrote Frog Went A-Courtin in 1955 and Feodor Rojankovsky won a Caldecott for the illustrations. The book teems with bugs in minor and major roles.
Rojankovsky frogRojankovsky flyRojankovsky fly pie593Rojankovsky snakeNext to come in was a little chick,Rojankovsky chick591

Wm. Steig’s Presumptuous Insect is not from a children’s book but it begged to be included.steig insect

Doug Florian is a modern master of the insect. Check out his books Insectlopedia from 2002 and Unbeelievables from 2012.drones

…I’ve got to fly now.
Don’t bug out!
Bee well!

Margaret Chodos-Irvine illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong 2000

Margaret Chodos-Irvine’s illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong, 2000

 

 

Pencils, Pens and Brushes

Recently a friend suggested that I consider working on some of my illustrations in photoshop for the ease of trying out different solutions to a problem. I saw her point, but I prefer the point of a pencil, or the flow of a pen.

paschkis inko

When I am illustrating or painting I start with an idea in my head. But once I start working on it other things kick in – my hand and the materials with which I am working. A line drawn with a pencil is different than line drawn with a brush. A line drawn with my hand is different than a line drawn in my head. Although a computer can recreate the looks of various media, I want the physical experience of interacting with real materials. I want to eat paper and drink ink.

Ink leads to scratches and blots, like this gongozzler by Ben Shahn.

ben shahn ounce dice trice

Ink leads to elegant script and crosshatching as in this drawing by Saul Steinberg.

steinberg nose

…or to elegant script and scratchy lines as in this Pennsylvania Fraktur for a Sam Book (psalm book) from 1809.

fraktur

Ink is tempting, as in this drawing by John Coates.

John coates

A pencil will take you to an entirely different place.

Paschkis Point

Saul Steinberg‘s pencil still life feels intimate, yet airy.

steinberg still life

Garth Williams illustration has warmth, weight and softness.

garthwilliams

James Edward Deeds ( 1908 – 1987) was an inmate of State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri. He was also known as the Electric Pencil. He left behind an amazing trove of subtle and haunting pencil drawings.

edwarddeeds2

edwarddeeds Don’t miss the upper left corner of Rebel Girl…edward deeds rebel girl

I want to make art, but I don’t want to be the total master of the material. I want to see where the brush or pen or pencil will take me.

Paschkis brush

Paschkis word bird

P.S. Here is a pencil poem by Todd Boss which I first saw on Julie Larios’s blog, the Drift Record.

todd boss poem

Lake Forest Menagerie

Recently I made a wooden menagerie for the children’s section of the Lake Forest Park Library, a branch of the King County Library System.

paschkis lake forest park

Public art is something new for me and it was an honor, opportunity and pleasure to work on this project.

Last year I illustrated Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? by George Shannon. In the book George celebrates all of the people who make cookies possible  including the farmers, the bakers, the truckers, the cookie sheet manufacturers and more.

Cookie Jar front cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought of the book while I was working on this project. Many hands helped bake these cookies.

IMG_0186Bruce Schauer, David Scott-Risner and Deirdre Miller of the King County Library System chose me for this project: to create a piece of public art that went above the bookshelves in the children’s section of the library.  I knew right away that I wanted to make a parade of wooden animals. David sent me measurements of the space which is roughly 40 feet long by 4 feet high.

.lfp-chldrn1lfpchldrn2

I made a tiny sketch – one inch equaled one foot. Some of the animals in the sketch are real and some are imaginary, because children’s books lead you into both of those realms.Paschkis menagerie sketch

Kinkos enlarged the drawings which I then redrew at scale. I taped up the drawings in the library to see if they fit. Yes, phew.

IMG_1154

Then I drew the animals on big sheets of plywood at Pioneer Woodworks. Wally Meyers cut them out, beveled the edges and added dowels as needed.

Wally Meyer

AND he let me complete the project in the basement of his woodshop because my studio is too small for a menagerie.

IMG_1243

Linda at Maple Leaf Hardware gave me technical advice about gesso, paint and varnish.Linda

Ralph mixed the 17 cans of paint. The people at Maple Leaf Ace are so friendly and helpful; this business could happily exist in a picture book.Ralph

I painted the animals in layers: 2 layers gesso, 2 layers color,  layers of details, and then 3 layers of varnish.

paschkis lion underpainting

paschkis lion

paschkis cat

T. Michael Gardiner and Ben from Art Tech picked up the pieces and put French cleats on the back of them. Roger Waterhouse and Ben installed them at the library.

Roger and Ben

paschkis menagerie

paschkis horseAfter the project was up I began to wonder if I should have done something else – baked different cookies entirely. That is not part of Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? But it seems to be part of my process for all projects big and small. But now these cookies are baked, and it is time to enjoy them.

Paschkis party cookie jar

The book ends with a party and the Lake Forest Park menagerie will start with one. Denise Bugallo and Kalee Shearer are the wonderful librarians at Lake Forest Park. There will be an opening celebration at the library on May 17th. I hope that you can come if you are in the Seattle area.

lake forest invitation

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