Monthly Archives: February 2013

Shopping For Art Supplies

Things are heating up in my cluttered, but lovely little studio. I am working on the finished illustrations for BOOM BOOM, and I need to replenish my stock of art supplies.

First stop, Daiso, the Japanese dollar-store franchise and my idea of a fun time.


This is what I call a good haul: a sink mat (“prevent slips without scratching dishes efficiently”), sink drain covers (“hair prevent sheet for overflow of a bath”), foam craft stickers, cellulose sponge cloth, plastic lace doilies, various shaped erasers, silicone container wrap, silicone hot pads, silicone coasters and a silicone cleansing pad (“It fits the form of the nose!”).

You see, as a printmaker, I can use whatever I want to make images. As long as I can cover the surface with ink and print with it somehow, it’s worth toting back to my studio to test out.


I keep my test swatches in a large binder. When I want to embellish an image with a texture or pattern, I look to see what I have that might work. I’m not sure which of these new supplies will end up being used for the images in BOOM BOOM, but I’m sure at least one of them will.

I also find items to print with at hardware stores, fabric stores, and thrift stores. I store the materials in drawers in my studio. You can see I’ve accumulated much stuff.




When I get to talk to kids about the books I’ve worked on, I like to show them some of my art materials and have them try to find where I used the textures in my illustrations. And I tell them that you don’t have to get all your art supplies at the art supply store. You can make art out of all kinds of things, you just have to keep your eyes open and think like a printmaker!

Through a Child’s Eyes


A couple of weeks ago my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law, my grandson and I all took a trip to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, to visit my husband’s family. I was thrilled to go – not only to meet all the new little grandnieces and grandnephews (in Spanish, I’m called “Tia Abuela” – Aunt Grandma!) but to do so with my daughter and her family in tow. The world is a whole different place seen through the eyes of a five-year-old, and that’s why being with Mary and Jackson is such a pleasure. Watching her look at him with delight, and watching him look at the world with wonder – well, there’s nothing better.

I’ve never seen much of note in Hermosillo – it’s not a beautiful old Mexican town, certainly not a World-Heritage site like some of the colonial towns in southern Mexico. There’s a pretty cathedral and a plaza with a bandstand. There’s a government office that’s been fixed up and looks like it might fit in to a tourist town.  But I’ve always thought of Hermosillo as Tucson South – strip malls, flat-roofed businesses, failing infrastructures, barren desert – not the moist, green landscape I’m used to in the Pacific Northwest. So when I go, I only care about seeing family (well, that and eating the wonderful food they put before us while we’re there!) But aesthetically, no, I’ve never seen anything I’d call exciting.  Hermosillo passes before me in a blur.

On the other hand, what you see above are the lists Jackson made of “Special Things” he saw. The long list was made on the drive over to Kino Bay – about an hour away from town, due west through the Sonora Desert to the Sea of Cortez. The short list was made during a quick car ride through the center of town.  Jackson has all the markings of a good writer – a sharp eye and desire to record what he is witness to. He keeps his head up and his eyes open.  I’m not going to explain everything on the lists – let some of them remain a mystery to you. But I can testify to the fact that he saw them.  If I told my students, “Write a story with five things on these lists,” I bet they could come up with some doozies. I made a copy and have it near my computer now – it reminds me that good writers always see the world with fresh eyes.

Below is a slightly more legible account – I was transcribing as we rode around, and we hit a LOT of bumps, so the handwriting is wobbly:

Around Town: 1. Crazy blue car. 2. Yummy food. 3. Fountain of mountain goats. 4. Blue truck with flames. 5. Palm trees. 6. Double long truck. 7. Dollar sign $$. Ostrich.

List of Special Things on the Way to Kino: 1. Buzzard on a light pole and two more on the grass. PAJARAZOS! 2. Heron 3.Vermillion flycatcher. 4.Cactus bush. 5.Mountains. 6. White rocks that say “I love you.” 7. Millions of orange trees. 8. Flying hawk. 9. Saguaros. 10. Seagull on top of a cactus. 11. Beach! 12.Shapes in the clouds. 13. Dead cow.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher

Zopilote (Buzzard)

Zopilote (Buzzard)

Orange Grove in the Desert

Orange Grove in the Desert

Kino Bay on the Sea of Cortez

Kino Bay on the Sea of Cortez

Shells on the Beach at Kino

Shells on the Beach at Kino

I’m going to keep the photo below as my new screensaver. It was taken in the plane on the way down to Mexico. This one reminds me that all a writer needs is a pen.  And a napkin.

Trip to Hermosillo 01-13 Jackson Drawing

The Kindness of Children

Last week when I visited the fifth grade where I volunteer, the kids were deep into a math/art project. They were each making a mobile that demonstrated something about fractions. It involved tying tiny knots and balancing cards hung from strings along a dowel. Soon it was evident that some kids were better at the knot tying and others at the balancing. Small groups gathered as they helped each other. Along with fractions came this other, more important lesson. A spirit of cooperation prevailed.

It’s just one reason I love hanging out with kids. That kindness thing.

I have benefited greatly from the kindness of children. Like the letter from a second grader who wrote: “Here’s an idea. Zelda and Ivy go to the movies. You can take it from there.”


Perhaps you are flailing around for a character. Here are some extra characters offered to me by a student at Sharpstein Elementary in Walla Walla, which I, in turn, offer to you:



I have been listening to Martin Seligman’s book on the psychology of happiness, Flourish. One of his ideas for increasing your happiness is to plan and carry out an act of kindness. Research shows that such actions boost your sense of well-being. I think the fifth graders whose nimble fingers tied knots and balanced mobiles experienced that.

I know that children also have a great capacity for cruelty. But today I am thinking about kindness and wondering if you have any thoughts or stories to add to mine.


Julie Paschkis Catkin illustrationFebruary 10th is the first day of the Chinese New Year, and 2013 is the Year of the Water Snake. Julie Paschkis from Imaginary Menagerie

Snakes are often feared and disliked, but they do have some good qualities.

Here is a family portrait with snake by my husband, Joe Max Emminger.Joe Max Emminger painting

Snakes are fun to draw. This pen drawing was done by John Coates in 1916.John H. Coates snake 1916

Snakes move beautifully. This illustration is by Ivan Bilibin.The pattern gives the snake direction and dimension; without it the snake would almost be a blob.bilibin snake Snakes fit into small spaces.wolfli snakeThis drawing is by Adolf Wolfli who fills up every space.

Snakes survive in harsh environments, and they take care of themselves. J. Paschkis 2006Colonial Americans had a flag with the slogan “Don’t tread on me.”. This is my 2006 version.

Here is a poem by Julie Larios which celebrates snakes, dumplings and the street food of Beijing. I illustrated it with cut paper. I painted the paper before creating the paper cut.Paschkis and Larios

So in honor of reptilian virtues let’s welcome the Year of the Snake. Please comment with your thoughts about snakes in life, snakes in art and what the Year of the Snake will bring.