Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Art Lady’s Mobile Art School.

Here’s a story to warm your heart.

My niece, Anna VanRooy, 30, has an art and education background. She worked as the art teacher in an afterschool program in Portland, OR, and loved her job. But the position ended with the end of the school year.

So she dreamed up her own summer art program for kids. She worked out a plan to teach art in four different Portland parks, setting up before and after federally-funded lunch programs for underserved kids, two parks a day, four days a week for eight weeks. She figured out what funding she’d need for supplies, her own wages, and a motorized tricycle to get her from park to park. Then she put it up on Kickstarter. It was quickly funded. And the Art Lady’s Mobile Art School was born.

It’s been going four weeks now, eight projects. Here are some photos:

3D Paper Sculpture.


Action Paint Project.


Color Mixing Project.


Mixed Media Repeat Paintings.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff. You can read all about the Art Lady’s Mobile Art School, more photos too, on the blog Anna created so that others can try the same projects. (Which is exactly what my nine-year old grandnephews and I are doing here in Seattle).

What a force she is, our Anna B., all on her own inventing an amazing art program and using her creative energy and teaching skills to bring it to the kids in the parks. I raise my paintbrush to her.

O, A-mazz-ing

What is a book without a reader?
It could be a doorstop, an aspiration, dry paper.


What is a book with a reader?
It can be a living thing, a friend, the start of a conversation.

1825 Punctuation in Verse

This week I was lucky to be part of two communities of readers where books are opened, explored, read, shared and celebrated.

On Monday I was a guest speaker at Oakland University in Michigan, where Dr. Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski run an amazing program. On Tuesday I spoke at the summer conference at the Mazza Museum of Findlay University in Ohio, which is well run by Ben Sapp.

In both places I felt deeply appreciated for what I do – in fact I felt like Cinderella at the ball.

Paschkis, mazza, oakland ball

In both places I was inspired by the work of other authors and illustrators. Oakland had an exhibit of Ashley Bryan‘s work, including sketches, prints and paintings.

Ashley Bryan Mountain

At the Mazza Museum I saw original art from Maud and Miska Petersham, Wanda Gag and scores of more recent artists, such as Chris Raschka, who will be speaking at Mazza today.

gag, raschka

Jon Klassen was leaving as I arrived ( and yes, he had his hat). James Dean spoke about the origins of Pete the Cat. Michael Hall gave an elegant presentation which made me see shapes and letters in different ways.

dean, klassen, hall

I felt especially lucky to meet and hear Ed Young who spoke about his life and work with candor, calm, wisdom and grace.

Ed Young, Julie Paschkis photo by Barbara Katz

When I create a book I start my work alone. I collaborate with many others along the way. But the final collaboration with the reader is often abstract. It was a pleasure to be among readers, teachers, students and librarians who care so much about children’s books and who share that passion with the world.

paschkis penguin

Now I am home from the ball. Unlike Cinderella, my daily life is pretty good. But the memories of Oakland and Mazza will  feed me as I get back to work.

Paschkis glass slipper ball

Studio Housekeeping

BB 26-27 final 150

Since I last posted here, I have sent off the art for BOOM BOOM, a 32-word picture book (each word is repeated once so it’s really 16 words, twice) by Sarvinder Naberhaus. It was a mad rush towards the end (it always is) and after I shipped it out, I felt joy, relief, and just a touch of fear (what if they don’t like it?…). Then the next day I came back to this:



What a mess!

Because the techniques I use involve many different tools and materials, things tend to spread out a bit.


My workspace gets kind of cluttered.


Pretty much every surface gets covered with something.


When I run out of horizontal space, I go vertical.




Since I usually am printing more than one image at a time, I need to have a lot of colors available on my inking table.


I try to keep them from drying out with saran wrap, and in order to keep track of what detail is which color, I started labeling the saved colors with a marker (and to keep track of the nine children I feature in the images, I gave them all names). All this needs to get scraped off and wiped clean.


And then I have to clean all my tools.


Plus there is the added detritus left from mounting the art and packing it up.



It feels good to be done with a large project like this at last, but also a little sad. I’ve enjoyed working on this book. I’ve lived with it for many months now. I will miss these characters and their world that I’ve made up, but I look forward to seeing them again, in a year or so, in their new home – the book itself.

BB 32 final 150


When I was almost 7, my family moved from the Seattle area down to the Santa Clara Valley, about an hour south of San Francisco. Before it became “Silicon Valley,”  it looked like this:

Old Photo Postcard of Santa Clara Valley's Cherry Orchards

Old Photo Postcard of Santa Clara Valley’s Cherry Orchards

It actually did look like that – it’s not just nostalgia playing tricks with my mind. It was so beautiful, such a generous landscape. Of course, we moved into a house that was part of a development that was one of dozens of developments that would eventually wipe out the orchards and pave over the farmland and replace it with freeways and suburbs.  But my family got there before too much had been destroyed – 1956 – there were still great fields of garlic and artichokes to the south of us, with cherries orchards surrounding my neighborhood

Each spring, walking home, we watched the cherries ripen. Mustard plants grew at the base of the trees in late spring, and if you wandered far enough into the orchard, you could look in every direction and not see anything but mustard blooms and fruit trees.

Mustard and Cherry Trees in San Jose

Mustard and Cherry Trees in San Jose

Then, in June, the cherries were ready.  I picked them every day – we all did, everyone who headed home that way,  and we ate them until we couldn’t eat any more.  I like to think the farmer knew that the school kids would eat all the cherries from the row of trees nearest the road. We felt like there was enough for everyone, and then some.

Even a decade later there were still enough orchards in the valley that high school kids could make their summer money in the canneries. The heady smell of hot tomatoes and ripe fruit would drift out all summer from the Contadina and Del Monte canneries in the Bay Area.

Reading Laura’s post from last week, about the weddings of her son and her daughter, and the lovely poem by Li-Young Lee about peaches, I started thinking about those cherry trees, and the Santa Clara Valley. I thought about orchards and summer, and about happiness and abundance.

Rainier cherries from east of the mountains have gone on sale in the farmers markets, and I have been buying a lot of them. The person selling them lets you try one or two first:

Rainier Cherries - The Absolute Best Cherries in the World

Rainier Cherries – The Absolute Best Cherries in the World

So you buy some, but only a handful, because they cost a lot:

A Handful of Delicious Cherries

A Handful of Delicious Cherries

But before you go home you decide a handful is not nearly enough, and you wander back to buy more:


A bowlful….

and the next day, when you can already see the bottom of the bowl, you go back for more:

...and a basketful.

…and a basketful.

What I’m really trying to do, of course, when I eat those cherries is to conjure up that delicious abundance I once experienced in the Santa Clara Valley. Not just conjure it up, but take it into me, cherry by cherry.

Northrop Frye once described the genres of literature according to the seasons. Fall, according to Frye, is tragedy – fatalism, the hero pushed toward ultimate failure. Winter is irony and satire – the final absurdity. Spring is comedy – new beginnings and light-hearted endings. But summer is romance – the season when belief is in full bloom. Summer is abundance.  No wonder that in the summertime, I want to write something wholehearted, something unrestrained. Not a sample-cherry story, not a handful-of-cherries story, not a bowlful-or-a-basketful-of-cherries story, but an orchardful-of-cherries story. A story that measures up to this:

Abundance, Summer, Belief, Cherries

Abundance, Summer, Belief, Cherries

So when it’s cherry season, I think about the Santa Clara Valley. If I’m in a writer-ish mood, I think of Frye. I strive to write something worthy of summer, something from the heart, full of belief.

If I’m feeling more like a teenager than a writer, I think (unbelievably) of George Carlin singing “Cherry…cherry pie…cherry…cherry pie….” Click here to listen to Carlin on YouTube. Less literary, but sweet, glorious and openly sensual. Like those fields of mustard, with the trees rising up out of them.

And since I’m talking cherries, and since I’m going for abundance, check out this George Gershwin song – Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries – sung by Dean Martin and Gisele MacKenzie. A little cherry to put on top of the sundae. Enjoy.