Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

First Light, First Life

Hot off the presses- here is First Light,First Life: A Worldwide Creation Story, written by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by me, and published by Henry Holt.
Paul wove together creation stories from 24 different countries. My job was to connect these stories visually. I did that with form and with color.
The book/ the world begins in darkness.
The story moves from land to land (and sea) as the world begins and becomes populated with people and animals. On each page I looked for the visual connections between the cultures. The paintings become lighter as the book progresses, and there are also gradations of light within each painting.
This book took a lot of research. Every page took me down a different path, and every page was worthy of a lifetime of study. These are not merely stories from different cultures: they are often sacred stories. I treated them with care, and I hope I did not blunder.
first-light-14-15 I drew on the folk art of the various cultures – including textiles, sculpture and painting. I tried to be as true and respectful to each culture as possible, while interpreting that inspiration and making the pictures my own.
For every page I gathered books; they piled up in my studio. I visited museums when it was possible. I also collected images from the internet  and compiled several pages of images for each painting. For example, this is one of the pages of reference for Peru.
peru research
I read about Peru and it seemed that Paul was referring to Inti, the sun god, along with Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo.  Reading Greek myths, I realized that Paul was referring to Prometheus and Epimetheus, and I looked at Greek vases to figure out the style.
first-light-22-23 greek vase

There are parts of the creation story that are joyful as life unfolds, and there are parts that are scary. The devastation reaches across cultures and takes many forms.

The style of the page from Mozambique is based on batiks and on Shetani carvings found there. The spider refers to the myth of Mulungu climbing to the moon on a spider web to escape the rampaging humans.The idea of faces in the lightning bolts was from a mask from the Kwele people of Gabon. The faces in the bolts are Kwele and Fang masks.

Here Coxcoxtli and Xochiquetzal are being warned by Titlacahuan (Tlaloc), and on the other side is Noah’s ark. The flood pours from one culture to another.
Redemption and rebirth also take many forms. Here is the aftermath of the flood in California and in Iraq.
I couldn’t tell if Condor was a person or a condor (bird) in the myth, so I contacted the Wiyot tribe and they told me that both ideas are true: Condor was a man but also a bird. So I drew Condor and his sister/wife with bird heads, but sitting like people. I referred to traditional Wiyot basket patterns and echoed them in the water. While researching Condor I also learned of the true and terrible massacre of many members of the Wiyot tribe in 1860.
Here are some images from Iraq.
flood utnapishtim

As I delved into the research I was amazed by the richness in the stories, and the peculiarity of the details. I was impressed by Paul’s ability to create one unified tale out of so many sources, and by the way he compressed the myths without flattening them. I hope I was able to honor his text and the myriad stories within it. Just like the creation myths, life contains light and dark. This book celebrates the way those strands are woven together, within and between various cultures. I hope that when you look at this book you will be inspired to look further into all of the myths, stories and history that are included. I hope that we have planted some seeds.
firstlight-31 firstlight-32

…the back cover sums it up.

You can buy First Light, First Life at your local bookstore, or click here to order it from BooksInc., or here to order it from Amazon.

There’s an idea…

Coming up with ideas is the nub, the hub and the rub of what I do. But where do ideas come from? I don’t have a simple answer. Paschkis-If

But I do have ideas about ideas. Here are a few of them:

Ideas come from looking outward. Everything I see, hear and feel goes in.
Paschkis a far reach

All that input swims around inside, mixing with memories. That collision of the outward and inward can make ideas.
Paschkis open seas

Ideas like company: the more ideas I have the more I get. They bounce off of each other and multiply.
19 accordian
Sometimes ideas don’t like company. Voices from the radio, tv, friends and family can overwhelm them.
Paschkis dolls
Starting is hard. When an idea is new it is tender and needs to be sheltered. It is easy to kill a new idea.paschkis drawing

Ideas often visit when I am barely awake or barely asleep. Sometimes those ideas disappear in the light of day but sometimes they stay.
Paschkis time
Ideas never turn out as planned. I picture something new and beautiful, but it always changes in good and bad ways when it becomes real. What happens is often not what I expected.
My hands have different ideas than my head.
Paschkis drawing

Ideas take their own sweet time. They develop while I am doing other things and not thinking directly about them.
Paschkis Big Turtle
Ideas like motion. They unspool when I’m bicycling, swimming, walking.Paschkis open road  

Good ideas can come from bad ideas. Or not.
Paschkis scissor twins paper dolls

Sometimes I fear that I will never have another good idea, or that every idea I have is stupid. The only way that I have found to deal with that fear is to ignore it – to just plow ahead and make something (a story, a painting, a poem) for the pleasure of the making. Because once I start I don’t know where an idea will take me, and that is what keeps me going.
Paschkis stencil
These are some of my thoughts about ideas – I’d like to hear yours.

p.s. All of the art in this post will be in my show next month at the Bitters Co. Barn in Mt. Vernon. The opening is September 17th from 12-4. Please come if you can!

Ode to Bicycles

Oh, bicycles! Let us speak of spokes. bianchi poster
You could ride a bicycle to summer with Saul Steinberg.steinberg bicycle122
Salute the finest form of transportation! steinberg bicycle123

Have some wheel fun ( a papercut I made in 2012).Paschkis bicycle trick
Bicycles are good for all species, as you can see in these Polish circus posters.cyrk bicycles
Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad share a bike. Sweet!
frog and toad
But they aren’t the only cycling amphibians.
gorey bicycle018
The above creature is from The Broken Spoke – Edward Gorey’s 1976 book of bicycling cards. gorey bicycle001
Each card is inspired by a different school of art, but essential Gorey-ness shines through in every picture, and in the text.gorey bicycle spyglass  gorey bicycle003 gorey demon cyclistgorey bicycle015gorey bicycle011 gorey bicycle012   gorey bicycle008
Here Gorey shows us bugs on bikes.
gorey bicycle121
Pablo Neruda had a similar idea with a completely different mood in this excerpt from his Ode to Bicycles.Neruda ode to bicycles
Today I finished this painting/drawing of bicycles. I’m not sure if it is really finished, but I don’t want to paint right now. It’s time to take a bike ride.
out for a spin

Zuleika and the Strange Bean

In February I was given the seed of an idea by Jennifer Kennard of Letterology.

zuleika and bean

One crafternoon at her house I made a paper doll with articulated appendages. Over the next month or so I made a lot of them at home.

Paschkis paper dollsPaschkis crocodile

It was fun to make them move.


I wanted to make a movie but I had no idea how to do it. Once again Jennifer planted a seed. She suggested contacting Seattle Central College and seeing if a student there could help me.  Enter Sam To!Sam ToIMG_1438

Sam is a design student at Seattle College. (He graduates this week). He knows how to do stop motion animation, 3-d animation and many other kinds of design. He is comfortable with technology. He is efficient and responsible and flexible. We met, and I explained that I wanted to make a stop animation movie where my characters danced around. He suggested that we make a story – not just a dance. So I made up a story about a character named Zuleika. I cut some new dolls. Sam came to my studio.
Lights! Camera!  Rearrange lights! Rearrange camera! Try again!

The table had to be dismantled and the camera tucked into the rafters. Then Sam took many many pictures while I rearranged the dolls. A few weeks later he made the images into a movie called Zuleika and the Strange Bean.  The seed of an idea had sprouted.

paschkis paper dolls

Click on the title here to watch our movie Zuleika and the Strange Bean . (The music starts a few seconds after the visuals…)

Now I would like to plant a seed. Sam has just graduated. Hire him!
If you are looking to hire someone at your design firm you couldn’t do better than Sam. He is capable, creative and responsible. He has lots of ideas and can make them happen. You can see his portfolio  here at or contact him at Thank you.

Paschkis paper doll

Toys in Prague

Come with me to the Czech Republic, to Prague.
Czech railway poster
Cross the street.
czech street sign
Walk on stone streets past statues, signs and stores.IMG_1755
Go all the way up the hill to the castle.
Inside the castle walls you will find the Toy Museum.
And inside the toy museum you will find delight.
– the shapes and shadows of childhood.
IMG_1653Toys poem


A while ago I went to dinner at a good friend’s house. When I arrived the table was spread with coloring books. She was embarrassed for me to see them, thinking I would disapprove. I didn’t. I wanted to color too! Coloring is fun. Paschkis pencilLast summer another friend was at my house and saw a painting that I was working on with a limited palette (red). She thought I should illustrate a coloring book. I agreed!Paschkis Hat WearersI have been painting black and white images for years. I pulled them together and painted some new ones too. I put 21 images together into a collection called Imagination Unbound. Many coloring books consist of abstract patterns. But I like telling stories, so these images are narrative. You can make up your own stories to go with the pictures.Paschkis travelersThe current coloring book trend is communal; it is pleasant to sit and color with others. So I decided to make a coloring book that could be shared. Instead of binding the pages, I gathered them in a clear envelope. The lack of binding inspired the title. Here is the cover. imagination unboundI placed all of the images into a square format (8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″), signed them, and left a place for you to sign them too. Here are a few of the pages.Paschkis curiosityPaschkis underwaterPaschkis BouquetPaschkis riderThe paper is 100 lb. card stock. Heavy. At first glance it looks shiny, but that is just the black ink. The paper is good for colored pencil, markers, chalk or watercolor. There is a lot of black ink, but there is still plenty of room for coloring. Here is the cover, drawn with colored pencil.imagination unbound colorImagination Unbound is for sale at for $12. If you get a copy, please email me photographs of your finished drawings so that I can share them on a future blog post. Please feel free to color outside the lines. I hope that you will have fun with my drawings, and I hope that you will be inspired to draw your own from scratch too.




GPS has changed my life. With the push of a button I no longer get lost and can find the quickest route anywhere.Paschkis rapid doodleJoe, my husband, dislikes GPS. He doesn’t mind getting lost and isn’t in a hurry. He likes to see what he will see.Paschkis dawdle doodleLately I’ve been trying to disable the GPS in my work. I’ve painted a series of accordion books that are basically long doodles with no destination in mind. Paschkis pencil doodleIn high school I bought a book of sketches by Maurice Sendak. Sendak played music and doodled and let his mind run free.sendak sketchessendak doodle Sendak said that you take other people’s vegetables and make your own soup. Some of the vegetables that went into my doodle soup are Pennsylvania Dutch fraktur,fraktur george speyer copya visit to the Art Brut show at the NY Folk Art Museum where I sketched,art brut inspirationa doodle correspondence with Margaret Chodos-Irvine in London – this is her drawing,chodos irvine doodlea trip to the wonderful Tail of the Yak in Berkeley,tail yak cardMargaret’s toy blog post in December,P1030411My hero Saul Steinberg,steinbergAll of these images and ideas swim around, find their way out of my head, through my hand and onto the paper  – surprising and entertaining me.paschkis crocodoodlepaschkis house doodlepaschkis falling dolls doodleWho knows where they will take me? I just want to enjoy the ride.Paschkis open seasLaura Kvasnosky sent me this poem several years ago:a man lost by a river

Happy Trails!




Tile Tales

Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) told stories with tiles.  Mercer tileIn  Doylestown, PA. you can find three museums: The Mercer Museum, Fonthill (Mercer’s house) and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works (founded by Mercer and still in operation). I’ve been visiting these places for all of my life, most recently in December. Pile in for a quick tour of the Moravian Tile Works.moravian tile worksMercer was a scholar, an artist, an archaelogist, and a world traveler. He seemed curious about all things, and he built curious and unique places.  The Moravian Tile Works was made of poured concrete and built in the style of a Spanish mission; somehow it fits right into Bucks County, Pennsylvania.Moravian Tile WorksBefore founding the tile works Mercer apprenticed with a German-American potter. He used local clay. With this local clay and from this specific place he told tales that ranged the world and dipped into all his areas of knowledge and interest.IMG_0812

IMG_0813Many of his original designs were based on Moravian cast iron stove designs – thus the name of the tile stoveplate

dance mercer tileHe was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement in England. His tiles are decorative and rich with pattern.IMG_0835

mercer tileThey often include words.Moravian Tile Works

Mercer tile

Most of all they tell stories. There are stories of workers and craftspeople.Mercer TileMercer TileMercer TileOf seasonal workMercer Tile

Mercer Tileof journeysMercer Tileof playMercer Tileand quarrels.Mercer TileThey tell old storiesMercer Tile

Mercer Tileand of new(ish) discoveries:Mercer tileThe tiles tell their stories on every available surface of Fonthill, and on many walls of the Moravian Tile Works and the Mercer Museum.Moravian Tile Works


IMG_0826The tiles are still being produced today.

Here is a quick peak outside and inside the Mercer Museum.Mercer Museum

Mercer MuseumThe museum is a treasure trove of tools and objects from America’s past. It is also a peek into the mind of Henry Chapman Mercer. His interests, passions and point of view are all evident in the structure and contents of the museum. All of these things also go into the designs of the tiles: the tiles are the specific expression and compression of who Mercer was.

What does this have to do with children’s books? Children’s books tell stories. A book tells one specific story, but all of the experiences and knowledge of the author and illustrator contribute to the depth of what is created. Mercer told stories with tiles. His travels and studies, his eye for beauty, his respect for work and workers, his love of history and his humor bring the stories alive. He used his head, hands and heart.

Thanks to Henry Chapman Mercer for letting us sip from his cup of knowledge.mercer tile sip


Ho! Ho! Ho!

Last week Margaret showed you lots and lots of toys. But who delivers them?


Look on the roof!rogerduvoisin
Roger Duvoisin illustrations 1954

Santa might come by sleigh.


Edward Bawden illustration

Or on a bighorn sheep. (by Miroco Machico, from the Art Room Plant)mirocomachikoOr with eight tiny reindeer (from my new fountain pen)paschkis tiny reindeeror holding a green tree (my painting of Father Christmas)Paschkis santa

or with two pink trees (by Nivea Ortiz, courtesy of the Art Room Plant)nivea

He might ride a bicycle (image from the collection of Marcia Paschkis)bicycle santaor call out to you (drawing by Gus Hoffmann when he was little).gushoffmannor travel with friends (William Steig)william-steig-new-yorker-cover-1974However he comes he won’t stay long.Roger Duvoisin

So, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Harald Wiberg illustration from Christmas in the Stable

Harald Wiberg illustration from Christmas in the Stable

Word Watching

paschkis wordwatching
Several years ago Julie Larios introduced me to the concept of chiming (as opposed to rhyming).
When two words rhyme they have  the same ending: river and sliver.
Chiming is looser. Chiming words bounce off each other in all kinds of ways. They could have similar sounds at the beginning, middle or end: sliver, silver, swindle, windless, windswept. Chiming allows you to experience the meaning of the words and the pure sounds.
Since childhood I have loved the book Ounce Dice Trice. Those words chime! The book is all about word-watching: delighting in words for their sounds and meanings.

ounce dice trice

ounce dice trice4ounce dice trice3ounce dice trice og ounce dice trice1ounce dice trice2

Learning a new language is a way to hear words from the outside as well as the inside. I wrote about that in this post about my new book Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido.

In 1955 Antonio Frasconi came out with See and Say – A Picture Book in Four Languages. Frasconi was born in 1919 in Argentina to Italian parents. He grew up in Uruguay and then settled in the US in 1945. His wonderful woodcuts shine a light on the words in all of the languages.frasconi 1955frasconi008frasconi006frasconi007frasconi005The struggle and delight of language is to describe things and evoke feelings that exist beyond language.  Here are two poems by Pablo Neruda, illustrated by Frasconi, that dip their toes into that river. I shiver.


p.s. -Thanks to Jennifer Kennard for lending me Frasconi’s See and Say. Please explore Jennifer’s wonderful blog Letterology.

p.s. -Please click on the events page to find out about upcoming events and sales.

p.s. – To read a blogpost about words on quilts click this link to Mooshka – a patchwork blog.