Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Albert the Fix-it Man

My father, Albert Ernest Paschkis, died at the end of September at the age of 94.

He was born in Berlin in 1928. His family left Germany in 1933 to escape the rising power of Hitler. They lived in Italy, Switzerland and Holland before coming to the USA in 1938. He spoke 5 languages when he was 10 years old!

He arrived in New York City and saw CARS everywhere. For the rest of his life he loved cars.

And motorcycles.

And bicycles.

He became a mechanical engineer. He had a long work life where he invented test and measurement devices and solved all kinds of problems. He built things and fixed things at work.

And he built things and fixed things at home – including the house we grew up in. He was often making things in his basement workshop, or fixing the cars. Everyone around knew they could turn to him for help.

In 2008 my sister Janet wrote a book about him called Albert the Fix-It Man.

In the book Albert is part of a community. He is never too busy or too tired to help anyone.

In the late 1980’s my father designed a studio/addition to my house. He came out and built it together with my husband, friends and with me. I sat in that studio and illustrated this book. I am sitting in it now writing this blog!

There were similarities and differences between real Albert and the character Albert. In the book Albert is short, bearded and almost roly-poly.

In real life he was tall and thin.

In the book he ended every day with a bowl of corn flakes.

That was true. He always saved the last sip of milk for the cat.

In the book he lives alone. In real life he was married to Marcia Iliff Paschkis for 72 years. They were a team. They had four children, a niece and nephew, and a large and loving extended family.

In real life Albert invented things as well as fixed them- including an elliptical bicycle gear, a long lasting lightbulb, and a tide clock that shows the tide and time on the clock face.

In the book he builds community through fixing things. Truly true. In his life he also built community by building and living in interracial housing, by counseling draft resisters during the Vietnam war, and by leading workshops in nonviolent problem solving at Graterford Prison.

The character Albert gets a cold and all of the many people that he has helped get together to help him. They bring him delicious food and he recovers.

In real life many of the people who knew him and loved him gathered together to remember him last week. There was a Quaker memorial service at Foulkeways where he lived, and where my mother still lives. Following the memorial there was a gathering at Gwynedd Friends Meeting where he had been a member for over 60 years. The family made delicious food – homemade soup, bread and cheese, gugelhopf and lebkuchen. Family and friends connected, drawn together by our love for him.

A few days after the memorial I returned to Gwynedd Friends Meeting. The room where we had gathered after the memorial had reverted to its usual function: a preschool. (I attended preschool there in 1961.) Gwynedd Friends School is a wonderful thriving place now. I read Albert the Fix-it Man to the current crop of bright eyed preschoolers.

I hope that I can live up to the ideals of generosity, kindness and inventiveness that my father quietly exemplified. And I hope that telling his story to kids will carry his spirit forward.

written by Julie Paschkis, November 2022

Calendar Link

Hi All –

I just posted about Crocodiles, Crockodockles and Calendars and forgot to include a link.

Please CLICK HERE for a link to this year’s calendar. Thank you all for your vigilance in finding the missing link!

Julie Paschkis

Crocodockle

For the past six years I’ve made a calendar which I sell to raise money for the ACLU.

This year’s image includes a crocodockle snapping at the American Eagle.

I have never seen a crocodile in real life, but they populate my imagination.

On the Go , collage, J. Paschkis

I call mine crocodockles because they are inaccurate representations of the noble lizard Crocodylus.

Crocodockles can be scary

Illustration from Artist’s Book ALPHABABBLE by J.Paschkis, bound by Claudia Cohen, Two Ponds Press

but they like to go to parties.

Collage, J. Paschkis

They can help point the way

Ms. Weathervane, ink and gouache, J. Paschkis

or lie below the surface unhelpfully.

Voyage, Ink and Gouache, J. Paschkis

Some crocodockles like eating chickens

and some crocodockles prefer the taste of words.

Illustration from ZigZag, by J. Paschkis coming soon from Enchanted Lion Book

If you would like to order a crocodilian calendar please click here. They cost $15 each: all $15 goes to the ACLU.

Hurry before they are all snapped up!

Aurinko by J.Paschkis, ink and gouache

Thank you.

Julie Paschkis

p.s. I am not the only crocodile enthusiast. Here is a link to a wonderful blog post by Andrea Immel about crocodiles in children’s books.

What Crocodiles Eat for Dinner Besides Clocks, Pirate Captains, and Elephants’ Children

Heat Wave

Seattle is in the thick of a heat wave. Here are some images to make things even warmer.

Sun by Brian Wildsmith

Brian Wildsmith’s sun is powerful, yet benevolent.

Antonio Frasconi made a Book of Many Suns in 1955. Here are nine Frasconi woodcuts of suns. Each small sun has a large personality.

Enough sun you say? There is always more sun.

More, More, More by Julie Paschkis 2018

Here are some images that are not specifically of suns but are hot with color and imagery.

Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire show the making of the world in their book of Norse Gods and Giants. A volcano erupts. Hot.

Joohee Yoon shows the beginning of the world in her illustration of Walt Whitman’s Hummingbird from the book Beastly Verse. With a controlled palate the world is erupting with heat and light.

There is more volcanic heat on Wm Steig’s Rotten Island. Steig was a master of beastliness including beastly heat

…and beastly beasts.

Is the heat making you feel beastly? Maybe you feel like this She Goat or Bear, from a late 19th centurty Russian Lubok.

Cool off with an early morning bike ride! Here’s a jaunty cyclist illustrated by Mariana Malhão in the book Uma Rosa Na Tromba de um Elefante by António José Forte.

A jump in the water is another good option. Orlando the Marmalade Cat, by Kathleen Hale shows how. The gentle drawing and the lithographic process make the water soft and inviting.

Whatever you do – keep cool!

Hands

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Italy and France with a group of friends. This poster by Scorpion Dagger for the Musee de Cluny sums up the experience.

In some museums or churches I became overwhelmed with all of the images. I decided to focus on hands. Here are some of those hands.

Solange Pessoa, at the Venice Biennale

A feast!

Pencils, Pens and Brushes

I wrote this post in 2014.  I’ve added some new images and thoughts at the end.

Here is the original post:
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

New thoughts:

I still work by hand although I use the computer to send and store my work. Technology has advanced so much in the last 8 years. I often can’t tell when I look at a book if the art was created digitally or manually.

prisbrey pencils heart copy

I still prefer drawing and painting by hand because all of my senses are engaged. I might be able to recreate a dip pen line with a computer, but I like the feel of pressing on the nib. I can’t imagine this drawing (from 2015) deciding to come to me on the computer.

accordian l004

Sometimes I will use photoshop to edit out a blob, change a background, or change the scale of my sketches. But my ignorance might be keeping me from seeing the possibilities of the new tools.

I recently heard an artist explain how ProCreate allowed her to work more directly from sketches and make her work more free and intuitive. It made me want to try it.

Paschkis blue author

If you are an artist how does the medium affect your creating?
If you are a reader do you care or notice how the work was created?

Have your habits or creative processes changed as technology has developed?

I welcome your comments.

Easy, Tiger

Time of the Tiger by Julie Paschkis, gouache and ink on paper

February 1st is the start of the lunar new year – The Year of the Tiger.

Every year the artist Dorit Ely creates a collage card showing the spirit of that year’s animal.

Year of the Tiger by Dorit Ely

In the year 1789 William Blake published The Songs of Innocence. His tyger still burns bright.

The Tyger written and illustrated by William Blake

Joohee Yoon relights the burning tiger in her book Beastly Verse from Enchanted Lion. Yoon’s tiger pulses with energy. She uses a limited palette – the colors vibrate. The shadows of the forest become the stripes of the tiger. The page folds out. First you see mostly the forest, then open the gatefold to reveal the rest of the tiger with fearful asymmetry.

Tiger by Joohee Yoon (closed spread, open spread, detail)

Morris Hirshfield’s tiger radiates energy through the curving stripes of the beast, framed by the curving lines of the sky. This tiger is bigger than any mere tree, bigger than the hills.

Tiger by Morris Hirshfield 1940, at MOMA

Straight lines can be energetic too. Tiger leaps with big paws onto this soft rug, this new year.

Tiger Rug courtesy of Honeychurch Antiques.

This quizzical feline might not be a tiger. He wonders.

Kotofei Ivanovich by Tatiana Mavrina

He is painted by Tatiana Mavrina. Her joyful style always reminds me to be free when painting.

Today’s tiger journey ends with another visit to William Blake.

The poet Nancy Willard was inspired by Blake’s Songs of Innocence, and created an imaginary inn belonging to him. She wrote A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. The book is subtly, delicately, delightfully illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. Their tiger will lead us into 2022 and the rest of our lives.

Art by Alice and Martin Provensen, from A Visit to Willliam Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard

Blake Leads A Walk on the Milky Way by Nancy Willard

He gave silver shoes to the rabbit

and golden gloves to the cat

and emerald boots to the tiger and me

and boots of iron to the rat.

He inquired, “Is everyone ready?

The night is uncommonly cold.

We’ll start on our journey as children,

but I fear we shall finish it old.”

The Barking Ballad

Woof! Please welcome a new book onto the shelf.

The Barking Ballad is a true pandemic puppy.

Before the pandemic I became interested in Crankie Theaters. I wrote about them HERE. I decided to make a crankie theater production of The Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog by Oliver Goldsmith. To make it more interesting the audience would bark along. But then the pandemic struck. Gathering to bark (or meow) around a theater was unwise.

It occurred to me that a bark-along children’s book would be just as fun.

Goldsmith’s elegy is wonderful (you can hear it sung HERE). But its gentle mocking of piety didn’t seem clear or interesting to children. So I took one stanza of his poem and wrote my own story using Goldsmith’s structure and rhythm. Thank you, Oliver Goldsmith.

The book opens with instructions on how to bark and meow along.

The new story is about a lonely cat…

…who eventually meets a particular dog. Read the book to find out how.

They become true friends and companions. They travel paw by paw.

There are more dogs. More barking ensues…

and even more. Cacophany!

Just like it takes many dogs to make a chorus, it takes many people to make a book sing. I was lucky to work once again with the editor Reka Simonsen and the art director Michael McCartney at Simon & Schuster.

This book is best read aloud with lots of barking. For story hour you could cut out a large red circle and yellow diamond to use as cues.

Have fun. Woof!

P.S. The Wordy Book came out in September. It was expected earlier but supply chain and shipping issues delayed its arrival. So The Barking Ballad came fast on its heels, although the creation of the two books was more spread out.

The two books are quite different. Thanks for looking at them both.

You can find The Barking Ballad at your local bookstore, at bookshop.org or at Secret Garden Books in Seattle.

Distelfink

Distelfink is the delightful word for the birds in Fraktur. (The literal translation is thistle finch.)

Fraktur is folk art made by the Pennsylvania Dutch, mainly in the 1700 and 1800’s. I grew up in Pennsylvania and saw a lot of Fraktur. The ink seeped into me.

The word refers to the type of script which was used in baptismal and other documents in Germany. In the new world the Fraktur included script, and became increasingly decorative.

Fraktur were drawn with ink and watercolor and often included flowers and distelfink.

In 2016 I was in a bicycle accident and broke my arm. I was despondent because I couldn’t draw, until a friend suggested that I draw with my left hand. My left hand drawing was slow, wonky and pulled me from my sadness. I did a series of paintings I called Fracture Fraktur.

That fall I made a calendar to support the ACLU, drawn left-handed in my fracture fraktur style.

I included the lion and the lamb – made famous by Edward Hicks’s paintings of The Peaceable Kingdom.

Sales of the calendar raised a lot of money for the ACLU, so I have made one every year since then. I have continued with the same fraktur style, although I reverted to my right hand out of habit and ease.

Most of the calendar images have included the lion and the lamb.

I am currently selling the 2022 calendar called We Are All Connected. Thank you to the many people who have purchased them already.

My hope is to help heal the fractures of America with these odd frakturs. I hope you will get one by clicking here. Each calendar sells for $12, and all $12 goes to the ACLU. The printing is donated by G & H Printing, and Ingrid Savage contributes greatly to the shipping. Your many purchases add up to something larger.

Thank you for your help in this endeavor. Distelfink by distelfink!

P.S. Recently I took part in a live Instagram series called Art Out Loud OnLine, hosted by the Society of Illustrators and Enchanted Lion Books. It was archived. Please click here for a leisurely visit with me at my house and studio, along with Julian Snider and Madeline Feig.

Wordy

Hark! A new book!

The Wordy Book, published by Enchanted Lion is coming soon.

The Wordy Book, as you might have guessed, is bursting, babbling, mumbling and billowing with words, beginning with the endpapers.

The book is a collection of paintings that I made over many years. Each painting is paired with an open ended question.

A word can be savored for its sound and shape as well as for its meaning.

When you hear a word the meaning usually arrives first; sometimes the meaning obliterates the other qualities.

In paintings those other qualities have time to surface; meaning can be fluid. The words bump into each other and they bump into the images in the painting. They ask questions as well as giving answers.

Some of the paintings were created years ago, and they inspired new questions. The Sea of Words was used by the King County Library for their Playing With Words program. What do you sea?

In some of the paintings the question came first and I painted a response to it. What do you see?

Can the inside be bigger than the outside? The dragon has other creatures inside of it, as do we. All of the words in the dragon also have a second word embedded inside them.

In the Ouroboros the end of each word contains the beginning of the next.

Some of the pages are plain silly.

Some ask for more thought.

Is this book for kids? Yes. (Although adults are allowed to enjoy it too.) When I was a child I loved words. A favorite book of mine was Ounce Dice Trice and I itched to read it. I hope my book will scratch that same itch for kids now.

The Wordy Book can be preordered now from your local bookstore, from Enchanted Lion or from Bookshop.org. It will be available in mid August – a good time to notice words, bathe in words, play with words and go astray with words.

p.s. Can you find the tribute to Ounce, Dice, Trice hidden in the endpapers?


p.s.s. Here is what Kirkus has to say about the book:

THE WORDY BOOK[STARRED REVIEW!]

Words and pictures connect in surprising, stimulating ways.

Talk about painting with words. Author/illustrator Paschkis plays with them, too, and encourages readers to do likewise. In the process, she explores the elasticity and seemingly endless possibilities of language. The vividly colored, wittily detailed, folk-style paintings on double-page spreads organically incorporate words into the artwork in wondrous, creative ways. Words frequently repeat in different sizes and colors; illustrated images include words that sound or are shaped like them, are variations of them, rhyme or nearly rhyme with them, sort of resemble them, are sort of spelled like them, etc. A bouquet of flowers in a vase sports roses exuding the scents of slumbersultry, shush, and other evocative words beginning with S; on a daisy’s petals readers find dizzy, doozy, lazy, jazzylief, leap, life, and more decorate the leaves. Delightful words—many of which readers won’t know, and that’s OK—flex vocabulary and spelling muscles to the max and also enhance readers’ visual and auditory senses when the pictures are taken in. Furthermore, the spreads are connected to thought-provoking questions. Some inspired the paintings, or vice versa, and themselves contain examples of wordplay. Persons depicted have diverse skin tones. The book makes a great springboard for creative-thinking activities in writing and art units in classroom and library programs. Keep dictionaries handy. Endpapers abound with swirling words readers can savor (and look up).

In a word, a feast for the eyes, brain, and artistic imagination. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-10)