Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

First Light Thoughts: Paul Fleischman

I have been lucky enough to illustrate two books written by Paul Fleischman: Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal and First Light, First Life. The writing in them is gem-like: much information is compressed into something brilliant. Each word matters. Today Paul is a guest blogger, writing about how the many strands in his writing developed from his life.  The article shows how his writing is infused with more than you notice at first. It’s like a soup broth that has been made of many ingredients. You can no longer see all of the ingredients when the broth is done, but you can taste them.

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Here is Paul’s essay. For more of his writing go to  www.paulfleischman.net.

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With its braiding together of creation motifs from around the world, First Light, First Life might seem to have been rushed into print to counter the nationalism that’s erupted into political life.  If only my crystal ball were that clear.  In truth the book came from far in my past, and all our pasts.

“A man is known least to himself,” wrote Cicero.  The same holds true for our cultures.  Immersed in them, we can’t get an objective view and tend toward thinking they’re universal, or should be.  Many are the societies whose name for themselves means “the people.”  I accepted unthinkingly the white, upper-middle class world of Santa Monica, California that I grew up in.  We were “the people,” our lifeways confirmed by the programs we watched on TV.  Everyone lived in the suburbs, didn’t they?  But then I became aware of alternate possibilities.

They arrived through the air.  At eleven years old, I received a shortwave radio.  Suddenly my world’s boundaries shot outward.  My classmates got their news from Walter Cronkite; I got mine from the BBC, Radio Peking, Radio Australia.  I listened to the latest Beatles hits on KRLA but also to the pulsing, odd-sounding scales of music from the Middle East.  Each station was its country’s chamber of commerce and culture.  I heard programs from Norway in praise of saunas and Radio South Africa’s repeated explanations of the many benefits of apartheid.  English was one tongue among many here.  Listening to languages I didn’t understand showed me the purely musical side of words, something that would inform my writing style decades in the future.  Every house should have a shortwave.

Paul and his shortwave radio

Paul and his shortwave radio

And so it was that in high school I began slipping into churches for the first time in my life and sampling their services.  I watched my neighbors and did what they did, fumbling to find the hymn that was being sung, dropping down onto the kneeler when they did.  The same impulse must have led me to attend my first folk dance.  The small room was packed with college students dancing in lines to music from Bulgaria, Israel, Sweden, French Canada.  The songs were in 4/4 rhythm, then 7/8, then 13/16, some played on instruments I’d never heard.  I knew none of the steps, but I was hooked.

Though I concentrated on English and history in college, I found myself studying mythology and folklore on the side.  I memorized Greek myths, filling the hole left by my secular youth.  I pored over the bizarre customs and religions in The Golden Bough, James George Frazier’s tour of the world we’d all come from.  And then came one of those right-book-at-the-right-time moments: opening Patterns of Culture by the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, a portrait of the differing values encouraged by the consensus-minded Pueblo Indians, the belligerent Dobu of New Guinea, and the reputation-obsessed Kwakiutl of British Columbia.  For the first time I felt I had a view from above of my own society and its heavy weighting toward individualism and competition.

I finished college in multi-cultural Albuquerque.  Living there again years later, I attended the right party at the right time, during which a woman appeared with a loop of string and did the opening move of cat’s cradle.  She held it out to the man beside her and though none of us had played this string game since grammar school, he remembered the next move.  The string came to me.  I was surprised that I remembered as well.  The woman I turned to had grown up in Nepal.  Amazingly, she too knew the next move.  Though we’d come from many places, it was as if we’d had the same childhood.

These many tributaries flowed into Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal, a weaving of Cinderella variants from around the world into a single strand, a testament to diversity as well as the commonality of the human condition.  That book in turn led to First Light, First Life.  Cinderella’s story is folklore, but creation accounts are something more.  Believing or not believing them matters.  What matters for me is the larger truth: that our beliefs vary widely and that the culture around us is only one square in the quilt.  And what a marvelous, many-colored quilt it is.  Children are never too young to learn this.

The same goes for adults.  The urge toward group identity and exclusion of others is strong.  Borders, walls, and cultural superiority have always been an easy sell.  It’s easy as well to see where these lead when stoked: to intolerance, scapegoating, war, genocide.  Gaining altitude and perspective has never been more vital.  Books, like hot air balloons, can lift us above the walls we’ve built around ourselves.  I salute the writers who taught me to see beyond borders, and the teachers who brought me their books.

 

Vote Now!

Is worry about the upcoming election making you feel like this?

1825 British illustration

1825 British illustration

Well, stop worrying and vote now. Vote here! Today at Books Around the Table I am presenting you with an election.  There are two slates of candidates: Cats versus Mice. Each slate has 7 candidates (aka illustrations), picked because I like them. In the comments please vote for either the CATS or the MICE. You can explain your vote if you would like, or not. No photo ID is required.

Drum roll please: Here are the CATS:

Kazan the Cat: Russian Lubok 1700s

Kazan the Cat: Russian Lubok 1700s

Japanese woodblock, 1850's

Japanese woodblock, 1850’s

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Katherine Hale

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Katherine Hale

Paschkis Acrobaticats

Paschkis Acrobaticats

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag

Tiger by Morris Hirshfield

Tiger by Morris Hirshfield

Kotofei Ivanovich by Tatiana Mavrina

Kotofei Ivanovich by Tatiana Mavrina

Piccolo please, here are THE MICE:

Rudolf Mates

Rudolf Mates, A Forest Story

Paschkis Mouse

Paschkis, Mouse in Love

Maisy by Lucy Cousins

Lucy Cousins, Maisy

Lizbeth Zwerger

Lizbeth Zwerger, Alice in Wonderland

Arthur Rackham Rodents

Arthur Rackham Rodents

You know who

You know who

Ignatz

Ignatz

Thank you for voting. On Tuesday I will tally up the answers and declare a winner. The wait will finally be over.

Tuesday night results: Thank you for voting. It was a squeaker but the mice won the Books Around the Table election – 15 to 14. As I write this my heart is heavy from the results of the real election. It isn’t over, but it is dire. I am stunned. Where do we go from here?  What do we do now?

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Redemption and rebirth also take many forms. Here is the aftermath of the flood in California and in Iraq.
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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.
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Here are some images from Iraq.
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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.
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…the back cover sums it up.
first-light-cover-back

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

backbend

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 www.hieuto.com or contact him at sam@hieuto.com. 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
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Go all the way up the hill to the castle.
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Inside the castle walls you will find the Toy Museum.
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And inside the toy museum you will find delight.
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– the shapes and shadows of childhood.
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IMG_1653Toys poem

Coloring

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 juliepaprika.com 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.

 

 

Meandering

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 works.dance 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

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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