Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

On Board

At the end of every year I look back. I think about the shape of the previous year. I look at my decisions – good and bad, and see where they took me.
Each decision leads me somewhere, and each year has a different shape. Some of what happens is beyond my control and some isn’t.
Like a board game!

Here are some board games from long ago. I hope you will enjoy looking at them. Maybe you’ll be inspired to play a game, or to make up your own.


in 1804, this game was “Designed for the amusement of Youth of both Sexes and calculated to Inspire their Minds with an Abhorrence of Vice and a Love of Virtue.” (My generation had Twister.)


You could climb the Mount of Knowledge in 1800.


100 years later you could climb to Klondyke and search for gold.

Snakes and Ladders is a game based on Moksha-Patamu – an Indian game used for religious instruction, which has 12 vices but only 4 virtues. Some later versions also include moral consequences,

and some don’t.

When my niece Zoe was little she made her own version.

with vivid details.

Some game boards have squares.

And some are round.


Here are instructions for Mu Torere in case you would like to play.

Sometimes a game (or life in general) can feel like a wild goose chase.

Sometimes the box sums it up.

Here is a game from Roman times, with advice, as translated by R.C. Bell.


To Hunt, to Swim,
To Play, to Grin,
This is to Live

Lavari might be translated more accurately as “to wash”, but swimming is more fun.
Happy New Year! May you be awash in good things.

p.s. What was your favorite game growing up? I liked Chinese Checkers because of the star shaped board and marbles, and Milles Bornes, because we got to shout Coup Fourre! I still don’t know what that means.

p.s. Most of the games in this post came from two books: The Boardgame Book by R.C. Bell, and A Collector’s Guide to Games and Puzzles by Caroline Goodfellow.16 5x5 board

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Ideas Beget Ideas

I’ve been asked “Where do ideas come from?”

For me, ideas beget ideas. It’s hard to begin anything. Every idea can seem stupid and dismissible. But once I start working even a slight idea can take root and grow. To put it another way – whatever I am making has its own ideas and talks back to me. I just try to start a conversation.

That is true within any individual painting or illustration. It’s also true from painting to painting. The more work I do the more I want to do – the ideas bounce off of each other. When I am busy I have too many ideas to implement. When I actually have time the ideas sometimes wither or run away, and I am bereft. They like being part of a crowd.

I love illustrating books because the words take me to new places, and each book is a complete journey. But the finished work has to deliver on the promise of the sketches. For my whole life as an illustrator I have continued to paint pictures that are not part of books – just because they (I) can wander off in new directions. This feeds back into the books and allows me to grow. It is also just plain fun.

Here is the cover of a new book – VIVID – that will be coming out next summer.

Painting that cover led me to these explorations of color.

I bought some white ink for those paintings, and that led to more explorations with black and white ink.

sisters 8x8

 

stretch 7 x 19

The act of painting points me in new directions.
ms weathervane 15 x22 All of the art in this blog post will be in a show at the i.e. gallery in Edison, WA from December 2-24th. The gallery is open every Friday-Sunday, and by appointment.
I hope you can come to the show (opening Saturday December 2 from 4-6 PM).

I’m not sure where ideas come from – but for me they multiply when they can bounce off of each other. I’d like to hear your comments on whether your ideas like to be in crowds, or whether they flourish more in solitude. What stops you? What keeps you going?

Here is a poem by Anne Stenzel, from her new collection called The First Home Air After Absence.

combustion stenzel

Greek Sketches

Last week Margaret talked about sketching Lily. Her myriad sketches refined Lily.

This week I am talking about a different kind of sketching – sketches as note taking. When I travel I take lots of photographs – it’s easy with a phone/camera. I like to look back at the pictures.
But on recent trips I’ve also started sketching what I see. I carry a mini notebook and make rough drawings which are neither refined nor beautiful. But somehow the things that I sketch stick with me more than the photographs that I take. Just using my hand helps to embed the images into my brain. Here are some pages from the sketchbooks that I filled in Greece and Turkey in September, followed by some work that sprouted from the sketches.

The sketches became raw material for drawings,  for embroidery, and for paintings.

 

Sketches help me go back to the places I’ve been and to sail out to new places.

Maybe you would find it fun to include more sketching in your life – rough sketches, working sketches, sketch diaries or sketchy adventures.

Here is a poem called Sketch by Carl Sandburg from 1915.

On the Go

Drago Jurac

I’ve just returned from a sea voyage. Travel refreshes.
What’s your favorite way to get away?
You could hop on a bike.

by William Steig

Or a bug.

by Hedwig Sporri-Dolder

Ride a swallow, a pale blue cat or black dog.

by Eleanor Vere Boyle

 

by Julie Paschkis

 

by Lisbeth Zwerger

 

Float in a boat

Ola by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

 

or a balloon.

by Alice and Martin Provensen

Ride a truck, a car, or a train.

by Margaret Chodos-Irvine

French Advertising Card 1920

 

by William Pene du Bois

Or just head out on foot.

The Disorderly Girl 1860

by Arthur Rackham

by Yuri Vasnetsov

 

Enjoy the ride!

from A Visit to William Blake’s Inn, poems by Nancy Willard, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen

 

 

Many Moons

I just returned from a week in Maine. In addition to visiting my family, the sea, and the rocky shore, I also got to visit old friends whom I had not seen in many moons. I’m referring – of course – to books.



 

Shelves and shelves of books. I could remember just when I had met most of them. These books connect me to my family, to my younger self, and to the world.


 

Time moves in only one direction, but books are time machines. They take us back to when we first read them. They take us to new or old worlds.

Across seas,

The Story of Vania, Helen Pons

 

and under trees.



They take us home even if home no longer exists.


They take us on unsettling adventures.

Dare Wright

Eudora Welty said “The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily – perhaps not possibly – chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”

Alice and Martin Provensen

The art and stories I have read, seen and loved (or sometimes disliked) provide intermittent sparks of revelation and inspiration. What books are sparks for you? What books offer time travel?

The Great Quillow by James Thurber, illustrated by Doris Lee

I hope that the my work will spark someone else. I can never create with that in mind; thinking about how something will be received is a quick way to kill the joy of making art. But in the abstract I hope that before croaking I can make time machines for someone else to ride.

Ed Emberly

Go Outside!

It’s July. It’s good to be outside.
Step out!

illustration by Rudolf Mates from A Forest Story

Ride your bike.

Edward Gorey

Julie Paschkis – Out for a Spin

Everything is better outside. Eat outside.

illustration by William Steig for Sylvester

illustration by Hedwig Sporri-Dolder for Hinderem Bargli

Climb up high.

illustration by Alois Carigiet for Florina

Dive down.

illustration and poem by Julie Paschkis for Vivid

Dance around.

Yevgeny Rachev 1900

Baba Yaga by Ivan Bilibin

Maybe go fishing,

illustration by Chris Raschka for Fishing in the Air

or explore an island.

illustration by the D’Aulaires for Ola

Read a book.

Charles Knight 1809

Or listen to a story.

illustration by Rudolf Mates for A Forest Story

Take a nap on the grass.

illustration by Hedwig Sporri-Doldi for Hinderem Bargli

Or sleep outside for the whole night.

illustration by Kathleen Hale for Orlando the Marmalade Cat

Stop looking at this screen or any other screen. Go outside! You might even float away.

illustration by Wm Steig for Gorky Rises

 

 

Drink Ink

Schreibmeisterbuch is a nice chewy German word that means Writing Master’s Book.

My friend Claudia collects them.  These books date from the 1700’s and were used to teach penmanship. Some are printed and some are manuscripts. They are filled with examples of beautiful script,

and ornament,

and playful doodles.

Here is lettering from another of Claudia’s books, from a different part of her library. The delicacy and rhythm of the line contrasts with the solidity and singularity of the rose.

Here the lines become the flight path of insects.

All of these images inspired me to fool around with my own fountain pen again.

With a pen I have to pay attention and let go at the same time. If I am too tight the line has no life or joy. If I am not paying attention the line has no purpose. In every drawing I can see where I erred in both of those directions, but that leads me to draw again.

When I am drawing I think with my hand as well as my mind. A pencil line feels different than an ink line. (For more on that subject please go to this older post: Pencils, Pens and Brushes).

Today I type more than write. But there is joy to be found in real ink.

Saul Steinberg

In his blog The Technium, Kevin Kelly writes that old technologies never die. They continue to exist in some form somewhere on earth.

Drago Juric 1974

The old technologies are often slower but still fulfill their original purpose, often in a more pleasing way than the more modern iterations. Care for a boat ride, a balloon ride or a trip on United Flight 3411? It depends on why you are going.

Utagawa Yoshitora

I like that I can use the new and the old.

I can draw pencils with a fountain pen and scan the drawing, or take pictures from a schreibmeisterbuch with my phone and send them to you. Please raise your monocle and take a closer look at your screen!

Magic Spell

I have a new book out called Magic Spell.

Magic Spell is a book about spelling in all senses: the spelling of words, the spells of magicians, and the spells that people cast over each other.

I have always liked puzzles and wordplay. With a flick of your pen a word can change meaning completely – night becomes light,  a toy turns into a boy, a ball becomes a bell.

In 2012 I drew the character Aziz – a magician who was a mighty speller.

I wrote a story where Aziz performed prodigious feats of spelling. But it wasn’t enough. He needed an assistant. And the story needed a plot. Along came Zaza.

The story became about their relationship and their struggle.

In the beginning Aziz is the star, the main attraction.

He has all of the power and his beautiful assistant doesn’t even have a name. She does all of the dirty work – such as picking up fish, wrestling with a hose that had been a rose, or putting out a fire.

She goes along with this until he turns her wig into a pig. That is too much.

She lets him know her name, Zaza, and tells him that she can spell too. They fight over the wand.

A series of spelling battles ensue.

Aziz turns a bug to a rug to a rat to a cat.

Zaza turns his coat to a boat to a boot to a book to a rook.

They cast spells back and forth. The argument escalates and things get bad.  Beads become beans become bears.

Aziz and Zaza must learn to work together pronto.

And they do. TADA! A new show is born.

If a magic spell is done well it seems effortless. The same is true of a book. But with both (with everything) there is usually a lot of work behind the scenes. I rewrote Magic Spell many, many times in an effort to strengthen the story and to make the word transitions smooth. Before it was accepted for publication my critique group helped,  Linda Pratt gave advice and encouragement and Andrea Spooner gave helpful editorial feedback. After it was accepted by Simon and Schuster, Kristin Ostby and Liz Kossnar were wonderful editors. Art director Laurent Lynn added his magic touch including SPARKLES. Katie Johnson consulted to make sure that the spelling changes and word choices were appropriate for learning readers. Many people waved their wands and – voila – five years after Aziz fell out of my pen a book was born.

You can buy Magic Spell at your local bookstore or click here to buy it from Secret Garden Books in Seattle. I hope you will enjoy it.

Pysanky

Pysaty is the Ukrainian verb for writing. Pysanky are decorated eggs: the decorations are written with beeswax which resists the layers of dye.

My family has dyed pysanky for years. My sister Jan and her husband Greg host an annual neighborhood egg decorating party. I was inspired by the party and the eggs to write a book about an eccentric hen (P. Zonka) who lays beautiful eggs. Here is a link to an earlier post about that.

Last spring I went to eastern Europe with my friend Ingrid. Her friend Vova took us many places, including a surprise visit to the Museum of  Decorated Eggs in the Carpathian mountains.

It was egg-mazing, egg-zilerating, egg-xactly the place to see pysanky: old, new, simple, intricate, subtle, colorful, masterful, plentiful.

Pysanky are rich in beauty and symbolism. To the sun worshippers, eggs were magical objects representing the rebirth of the earth. The colors and the patterns of the decorations all have symbolic meaning. For example: the spiral, or snake, is a strong talisman of protection. If an evil spirit enters the house it will get trapped in the spiral.

The Huzkuls of the Carpathian mountains believed that the fate of the world depended on decorating eggs. If not enough pysanky were made each year  a horrible monster named Pekun would break free from his chains and destroy the world.  So please do your part and decorate some eggs! Here is a link to a youtube video that shows how. Have fun (and save the world).

P.S.: Here is a  glossary of mouth pleasing egg words for those of you that are more interested in pysaty than pysanky.
Malyovanky: Painted eggs
Krapanky: Dot eggs
Dryapanky: Scratched eggs revealing white shell
Krashanky: Eggs dyed a single color
Nakleyanky: Decorations glued on
Travlenky: Etched eggs
Biserky: Beads embedded in the beeswax.

Wordless Letters, part two

Last week Margaret wrote about our wordless correspondence while she lived in London. This week I am posting some of the letters that she sent to me.

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When we hatched our plan we decided that we would each send a wordless letter every Friday. We stuck with that deadline although Friday sometimes became Saturday. Having a deadline made us actually follow through on our intentions.

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I loved getting something in the mail every week and I never knew what it would be.

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This one comforted me when our dog Lily died.

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Some explored new tools such as a pen nib.

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Here is the other side of the teapot conversation –

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and the squiggle

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Some were three dimensional, or collaged from scraps of labels, or made of fabric.

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I enjoyed the exchange as it happened. But yesterday when I gathered everything  to photograph, the accumulation of letters and images amazed and moved me. Our small idea grew into something bigger – a record and testament of our friendship and of time passing. Giving and getting were both gifts.

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