Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Lobstervations

In August I visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine. 

Hanging in a hallway were many delightful paintings of lobster. They were painted by children.

The children had clearly thought (and been well taught) about the parts of a lobster, the colors of a lobster, the symmetry of a lobster.

These paintings made me think about the relationship between observation and creativity. 

Even though everyone was painting the same subject, each painting was unique. 

The artist was visible as well as the subject. 

Some lobsters were tidy.

And some were intense.

Each one had some especially pleasing detail such as these antennae that look like a beaded necklace.

Or this one with the varied legs, the rainbow shoulder, the fringe on the tail fins.

It is hard to draw something real. It takes looking with your eyes, and sometimes overriding what you think you know. Even though I draw constantly, drawing from life is always challenging.

It can take several tries.

Even the most careful drawing of the actual world is an act of creation as well as depiction.

And every act of imagination also benefits from close observation of the real world.

These lobster paintings are as strange and beautiful as lobsters themselves. And each painting is as individual and extraordinary as the child who painted it.

Here is an excerpt from The Lobster- Poem by Howard Nemerov.

To read, or to hear, the whole wonderful and haunting poem, please click here.

To find out more about the arts education at the Farnsworth Museum, please click here.

To experience the beauty and strangeness of the world, try drawing something you think you know.

 

 

 

 

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Vivid

Just out: VIVID- Poems and Notes about Color.

The spark for this book came in April of 2015 when I listened to a Radio Lab show about color. I already thought about color all the time. What a pleasure  it is to put one color next to another when I paint! But the podcast opened my eyes to the science of color. I painted this picture then.

Over the next 6-8 months I began writing poems about colors and squirreling away facts.When I had enough for a book I submitted with the manuscript with the sample illustration for RED. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt accepted it – hooray!

In the fall of 2016 I began to paint. But I had a bicycle accident and lost the use of my arm for 6 months. I was able to paint again in early 2017 and I struggled to find my way back in to the book. The joy of color eventually pulled me in again.

Did you know that the color pink was named after a flower (pinks – also called dianthus)? Did you know that it took 250,000 snails to make an ounce of purple dye which is why purple was a royal color? I didn’t.


You can learn about color with your mind, and with your eyes and hands. Even though a computer offers a huge palette of colors it is exciting to mix your own.What happens when you add a drop of orange to a lot of yellow and a little blue?
I hope you will play with color. And I hope that you will pick up a copy of Vivid. You can get it at Secret Garden Books: click here. Thank you.

I offer tidbits about color – but the science and poetry of color ask for deeper study. My goal is to encourage you and all readers to dive in headfirst.

p.s. I will be away this weekend – I will answer any comments next week.

Pattern and Story

For many years I have had one foot in the world of picture books and another in the world of textiles.

Question: Is this a textile design or a children’s book illustration?

Answer: This is part of a new line of textiles called Hey Diddle Diddle, designed for In The Beginning Fabrics.

Question: Is this a textile design or a children’s book illustration?

Answer: this is the dedication page from my upcoming picture book Vivid: Poems and Notes about Color (I’ll write more about Vivid next month).

I studied weaving in college at the School for American Craftsmen. I was a pretty bad craftsperson – my selvages were always crooked.  I wanted to tell stories with my fabric, but the emphasis was more on technique.

Magpie by Yuri Vasnetsov

I also took a drawing class where the teacher dinged me for excessive pattern and flatness in my work. He asked if I really needed to draw every leaf on every tree. Yes, I did.

I felt like a misfit in all arenas. But luckily I had one class where the teacher told me to consider the things that made me different as strengths and not weaknesses. I was ready to hear that advice, and he helped me find my own direction. 

Since then my patterns have been full of stories and my stories have been full of pattern.

I like to play with the balance between the decorative and narrative, and to search for new directions.

Here is a piece that I made in 2016. Question: How was it made?

Answer: The black was stenciled onto 4 pieces of paper. The colors were painted on. The papers were rotated and stitched together.

Recently I designed some cotton scarves for my webshop Julie Paprika: Menagerie, Be Mine and Yum. The original drawings were ink on paper, painted at full size. I rotated the paper while painting.

Question: Can you tell which side is up? Can you make up stories for them?

In addition to balancing pattern and story, I try to balance having a creative life and making a living. Julie Paprika is my attempt to do both things. It would be peachy if you visited the shop.
Thank you.

P.S. I am currently selling a Zero Tolerance poster at Julie Paprika.
Question: Why is our government treating immigrants with such cruelty?
Answer: There is no good answer.
A small action: Buy this poster and 1oo% of the proceeds will go to United We Dream. Click here. Thank you.

Portugal – Books, Livros, Livres

Ó – it’s a gallery!

Walking on a cobbled street in Porto, Portugal I wandered into the Ó Galeria – a light and airy room filled with the art of Portuguese illustrators.

They were featuring the art of Mariana Malhão. So free and playful!

She just illustrated her first book – poems by Antonio Jose Forte.

In Lisbon, the shop It’s A Book   was chock full of exciting books from Portugal and around the world. If Lisbon is too far, you can visit online here.

A feast!
I bought several books and hungered for more.

Sombras by Marta Monteira shows curious interactions between people, shadows and objects. The shadows have a life of their own. Things happen, sort of.

ABC do CINEMA by Editora Triciclo (Ana Braga, Ines Machado and Tiago Guerreiro is a graphic delight – handprinted (risografia).  Each page features trivia about famous movie directors, made even more intriguing because it is in Portuguese. 

La Visite by Junko Nakamura is a wordless book – subtle and moody. It tells a loose story of cats and christmas and people. Things happen, but the narrative is winding. The story could be interpreted in many ways.

L’Orchestre by Chloe Perarnau is an oversized book. Each page is a postcard from a city somewhere in the world with a member of the orchestra somewhere on the page.

Each page has many stories, plots and subplots. Can you find Lola playing the harp in Porto?

Traveling fills me up with images, ideas, sounds and flavors. Portugal is a visually rich country. The illustration that I saw there is exciting and strong, and grows out of that rich visual history.

This image from 1956 was at the Gulbenkian Museum.

and this is newly published by Planeta Tangerina.

The specific books I bought are filled with evocative imagery and are relatively plotless – a good description of my recent trip and possibly of life.

 

 

Curious Maps

In her poem The Map Elizabeth Bishop said ” More delicate than the historians’ are the map-makers colors. ”

The Curious Map Book contains many cartographic gems from the British Library.
Some are delicate and some are indelicate.

The Rose of Bohemia, (now the western part of the Czech Republic) was drawn by Christoph Vetter and engraved in 1668 by Wolfgang Kilian. Prague is the center of the rose.

This allegorical map of the Baltic Sea as Charon was created by Olof Rudbeck Jr. of Uppsala in 1701.

Geography Bewitched!  is a series of maps made by Robert Dighton, London in 1793.

This character seems to be suffering from loch jaw.

John Bull  is bombarding the Bum-boats in this  map of England and France by James Gillray of London in 1793.

Dame Venodotia – a map of North Wales is from 1851. Her torso is Gwynedd (the name of the town in Pennsylvania where I grew up.)
Peer closely at this image to see hidden animals and people.

This map, made in 1854 by Thomas Onwhyn shows the four main protagonists of the Crimean War as animals.

Eliza Jane Lancaster (also known by her stage name Lilian Lancaster) created this map of Spain and Portugal in 1868.

In recent times the tradition of allegorical and animate maps has been carried on wonderfully by Peter Sis. Here are some of his drawings.

And the last word on maps goes to Saul Steinberg in this conversation from 1963.

Postscript:
Alice Provensen died yesterday at age 99. You can read her obituary here. Her work is beautiful, smart, real, soul stirring and delightful. Thank you Alice Provensen.

provensen king of cats copy

 

Kalinka and Grakkle

It’s a book! It’s a beast!
It’s a book about a bird and a beast!

My new book Kalinka and Grakkle is a story about two neighbors: a tidy bird (Kalinka) and a messy beast (Grakkle). Kalinka thinks of herself as kind and helpful, but she is deluded. She goes into Grakkle’s house and offers him misguided and unwanted help. All he can say is GRAKK! He snaps.

kalinka grakk 18-19But eventually they find equilibrium in their friendship.

I hope you will get the book and read it, at your local library, or at Secret Garden Books in Seattle (you can order signed copies here), or at your local bookstore.

Even a simple book has a lot of backstory. Here is bit more about how Kalinka and Grakkle came to be.
Years ago I did a painting of a girl and a beast.


I wanted to paint more beasts, so I wrote a book about Beastly Behavior – a guide to bad manners. I tried many versions of the story, but it never quite worked.


My agent, Linda Pratt, suggested that I rewrite Goldilocks. I never understood why Goldilocks felt entitled to the bears’ porridge, chairs, and beds. Goldilocks became Goldibird – a small insufferable bird, and the bears became beasts. I painted these illustrations for Goldibird and the Three Beasts.


We sent it out and it was rejected – there were too many Goldilocks are in the world already.

Goldibird insisted on staying in the story, but I changed her name.
I rewrote the story as Kalinka and Grakkle. This time it worked! Peachtree Publishers accepted it for publication. But they weren’t crazy about the Goldibird art samples. So I drew many new Grakkles and Kalinkas.

We settled on how Grakkle and Kalinka would look. Next I worked on his house.


Peachtree thought this room was claustrophobic. Grakk!
So I repainted, and this is the version we used. Aah – more room to breathe.

Kalinka and Grakkle is about unwanted advice and help. I strive to balance my own thoughts with the advice of others – I want to stay open to good suggestions but also to retain my own core. Conversely I struggle to realize when I am over-generous with my opinions. I see some Kalinka and some Grakkle in myself!

Eventually Kalinka and Grakkle snuggle up for a nice nap. My advice: snuggle up with this book and enjoy it.

P.S. I will be at Secret Garden Books, 2214 NW Market St. in Seattle on May 12th  from 6-8 PM for the Ballard Art Walk. I will bring a lot of the original paintings from Kalinka and Grakkle.

P.S. I will be traveling next week. I appreciate your comments on the blog, but I won’t be able to reply immediately.

Kerlan

Last week I learned about the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota. How could I not have known about it before?

by Raúl Colón

The Kerlan Collection is an amazing, world class collection of children’s literature. They have more than 100,000 children’s books, as well as manuscripts, galleys, dummies and original art. It is a book orchard, laden with tasty images and fruitful information.

by Jesse Hartland

If you can’t get to Minnesota this week, you can still explore a lot of their on-line resources. I saw work by old favorites, and discovered new artists.
Here is a link to an article exploring the many ways that picture book art has been made. You can learn about color separations. You can see examples of illustrations that were created with drawing, printing, scratchboard, paint and collage.

by Leonard Everett Fisher

by Marisabina Russo

by Melissa Sweet

Another part features Melissa Sweet explaining how she illustrated Balloons Over Broadway. There are sections on how she developed the ideas: her research, meandering and techniques. There are curriculum ideas. Reading about Sweet’s process enriches the experience of looking at this buoyant book. Here is a link.


A third section compares versions of Little Red Riding Hood. I found this particularly interesting because of the books by Paul Fleischman that I have illustrated which combine multiple versions of fairy tales. Here is a link to the Red Riding Hood exploration.

Ames 1901

Platt- Munk 1924

Benji Montresor 1989

I had never heard of the artist Edgard Tijtgat before seeing his version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Tijtgat 1918

I found it so haunting and beautiful that I hunted down other images by him on the World Wide Web. (I wandered away from the Kerlan for this digression.)

 

I am grateful to the Kerlan for amassing such a collection and for sharing it with the world. I liked learning more about people I already admired such as Melissa Sweet, and discovering new artists, like Edgard Tijtgat. I am honored that I might be included in the Kerlan collection in the future.
Check out the Kerlan here! Who knows where your discoveries might take you.

Sendak

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

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.