Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Crankie

As I get older I get crankier.
By that, I mean more interested in small theaters with moving panoramas- also known as Crankie Boxes.
Like picture books, they tell stories through images as well as words.

Moving panoramas were popular in the mid 19th century and they ranged in size from small to enormous.

Last October I went with Mare Blocker to a Crankie Fest at the NW Puppet Center. I liked the show so much I went back the next night. Mare and I were both inspired to make crankie boxes of our own.

For information on all things crankie there is an invaluable website – The Crankie Factory. It includes history, videos, instructions on how to make a crankie box and the scrolls. Thank you Sue Truman. thecrankiefactory.com

On the Crankie Factory Website were miniature crankies made by Paul Fleischman. Here is a movie. What a wonderful surprise! I have had the privilege of illustrating three of Paul’s books. It is a small and crankie world.

The shows at the Crankie Fest were a combination of moving panoramas and shadow theaters. My niece Zoe visited in October and we experimented with shadow theaters in cardboard boxes.

Zoe’s Haunted Hat Shop

my witch in the woods

I asked artist and woodworker Michael Zitka if he would build me a real wooden Crankie Box, following the instructions on the Crankie Factory website. A few weeks ago he delivered it. These are the innards.

I cut out a piece of cardboard to show the outside shape and our cat Ruby approved. Mike then cut it out of wood.

The Crankie is now named, painted and ready for the curtain to go up. Here is the front of Teatro Paprika:

and the sides:

I have the cart and am ready to put a horse in front – I need to get crankin’!

painting by Tatiana Mavrena

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………p.s. On Thursday March 12th Margaret Chodos-Irvine and I will be celebrating our new book Where Lily Isn’t at the Secret Garden Bookstore , 2214 NW Market St. in Ballard. Please join us there at 6:30, and bring an anecdote to share about a pet you love or have loved. Thanks.

 

Where Lily Isn’t

For 17 years my husband Joe and I had a little dog named Lily.
When she died her absence pressed against me. I missed her in general, and I missed her specifically and strongly in all the places where she had been.
Our house was full of all the places where Lily wasn’t.
 

Laura Godwin, my editor at Holt, suggested that I write a book about that. So I did, from the point of view of a child.  This is how it began:

Where Lily Isn’t

Lily ran and jumped and

barked and whimpered and growled

and wiggled and wagged and 

licked and snuggled.

But not now.

Now, next to my bed in the morning 

there is a little rug

where Lily isn’t.

I showed the manuscript to Laura Godwin. She was interested in publishing it, but wondered how I would illustrate it.

I had painted Lily before.
She was a model in Here Comes Grandma –

and in The Great Smelly, Slobbery, Small-Tooth Dog.

She even graced a label for pickled green beans.

But I found myself unable to illustrate this book.

Luckily I knew who could. At that time Margaret Chodos-Irvine was living in London. We had been sending each other wordless letters (you can read about those letters in her blogpost here and in mine here). Margaret sent me this wordless letter when Lily died.

She knew Lily – and me. I asked Margaret if she would be interested in illustrating Where Lily Isn’t. We submitted it to Laura Godwin as a team and we were accepted!

In her art Margaret conveys the loss and the love that I wrote about.
Her illustrations are spare but warm. She manages to show what is there, and what isn’t there.

There is a lot of white space which conveys a sense of loss.

The stencil and brushed shapes are expressive.

Margaret hid little references in the book – such as mugs made by my mother on the kitchen shelf, and reference to a drawing by my nephew Benji.


This is the first time that I have written a book without illustrating it. Now my friendship with Margaret is also part of this story of Where Lily Isn’t.  It is a stronger book for being told with both of our voices.

I am not particularly religious. Religion doesn’t help me to understand death. But I truly believe that animals and people live on in our memories and through our stories. Love lasts longer than any physical presence.

This is how the book ends:

The house is quiet with all of the sounds that Lily isn’t making.

The house is full of all the places where Lily isn’t.

But here inside me –

that’s where Lily is,

and where she always will be.

I hope that children and their families will see themselves and find comfort in this story.

p.s. Here is link to a blogpost that Margaret wrote about illustrating this book. And here is a link to buy the book at Secret Garden Books in Seattle, or from Amazon. Thank you.

Japan

Last month I was in Japan. 
I saw great beauty and order in gardens, art, buildings, and food.

It wasn’t just surface beauty. It was/is an approach to life that manifests in outer beauty. That approach involves going slowly, taking care, learning something totally, following rules, mastering a craft, respecting process, being aware.  It means spending your whole life learning to do something well, and then giving that thing your whole attention every time you do it.

One result of such mastery is freedom. Looseness and ease are paradoxically the result of discipline, of doing something with all of your being. (As in this painting by Nagasawa Rosetsu 1754-1799)

At the Miho Museum, in the forests SW of Kyoko, there was a show of Bizen pottery. The potters understood their clay and kilns perfectly. They allowed the spirit of the clay to shine, decorated with the natural residue of the firing process.

Miho had a great gift shop! I bought a small rough creature made of clay.

I also bought a children’s book. When I got home I discovered that they were by the same artist – Kouichi Maekawa. 

In his art I see freedom, playfulness, and a love of this world.
Here are many of the pages from the book, enough to tell the tale.

 

The acorn of an idea that I took home from Japan is that the process is as important as the result in a piece of artwork: my life and work can’t be separated. I don’t know how that acorn will grow in the years to come.

Idyll

I have illustrated many books, but I’ve never created the illustrations for each page of every copy of a book by hand. Until now!
I teamed up with Claudia Cohen, an amazing and talented bookbinder.
Together we created a limited edition artist’s book called Idyll.

We met several times to figure out our subject matter and technique. For subject matter we settled on this fragment of a poem written in the 3rd century BC by Theocritus, creator of bucolic poetry.

IDYLL

Many an aspen, many an elm
bowed and rustled overhead,
and hard by, the hallowed water welled
purling forth of a cave of the Nymphs,
while the brown cricket chirped busily amid the shady leafage,
and the tree-frog murmured aloof in the dense thornbrake.
Lark and goldfinch sang and turtle moaned,
and about the spring the bees hummed and hovered to and fro.
All nature smelt of the opulent summer-time,
smelt of the season of fruit.
Pears lay at our feet, apples on either side, rolling abundantly,
and the young branches lay splayed upon the ground
because of the weight of their damsons.

……………………………………………………

For technique we decided to stencil the images. Together we figured out the size, shape and length of the book. I sketched out all of the illustrations and cut the stencils. Claudia selected and folded handmade rag paper.

Each Tuesday for 15 weeks I went to Claudia’s studio where I would stencil 20 copies of 1 page. She handed me the papers and kept everything in order. That got more complicated as we completed more pages.

I used gouache paint (opaque watercolor in tubes) and Korean stenciling brushes made of badger hair.

The stencils were held in place with small heavy weights.

As I finished each page Claudia would press it between wood.

I would take the pack of wood and pages back to my house and hand letter the words during the week.

Each page is unique; there are variations in the stencil print and in the lettering.

Here are a few of the other pages:



When all of the pages were stenciled and lettered, Claudia stenciled endpapers and hand lettered the colophon (last) page.

She bound the books in goatskin vellum with gold embossing.

She made a case for each book.

It was fun to spend the time with Claudia in her studio which is a treasure trove for bibliophiles.
It was a privilege to work with someone with such expertise.

Idyll is available from Two Ponds Press in Maine, although it might not be up on their website yet.

Claudia and I are starting to plan our next adventure. We won’t be idle for long.

You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You

Following the poem-posts of Julie, Bonny and Margaret, here are a few tasty morsels of poetry from my childhood. I loved the book “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You.” Recently I found it in paperback.

I especially liked Ciardi’s poem “Little Bits”.

Another favorite book was Ounce Dice Trice.

It might not have been called a book of poetry, but it was and is all about savoring words (and pictures).

My last word goes to Margaret Wise Brown from her book “Where Have You Been?”, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. This poem roosted inside me when I was about 5, and it has lived there ever since. I recite it to the crows in our neighborhood.

In the comment section I welcome any of your favorite poems or words from childhood. Thank you.

p.s. In my newsletter I mentioned the wonderful book Forgotten Words by Robert MacFarlane. It is actually called Lost Words.

Studio

Yes, Virginia. It does make a difference to have a room of one’s own.

illustration by Carson Ellis from her book HOME

About 30 years ago I got my first studio, an addition to our small house. My father designed it. He came out and built it along with my husband, family and friends.  It changed my life to get a studio – to take my aspirations to be an artist seriously, to have a place to work.

Over the years the studio filled up with projects in process and completed, with supplies to make new things, with paper, with cardboard, with fabric, with pictures that I pinned up for reference or inspiration, with pets. It was too full, but I never wanted to stop creating long enough to make it clean and organized.

This spring nature intervened. A tree fell through the roof of the studio.

Luckily it missed me by about 6 inches. Luckily we have good insurance. Luckily it missed most of my art and equipment.
Movers packed up and removed 164 boxes of art, objects, supplies and books from my studio and the adjacent bookshelves. After a bit, Greater Seattle Construction got to work and rebuilt.

Four months later the studio was repaired, repainted and empty. GSC did a great job.

The movers brought back all of the boxes.

I went through every item and ruthlessly discarded things. I unpacked and sorted, shelved and organized.
Now my studio is airy and clean. At least for the moment.


A clean space is no guarantee of fresh ideas or creative flow. But it does allow for the possibility.

It feels good to be back in this room of my own, heading into the future.

 

 

Picnic

Summertime is Picnic time. Today I am reposting a blog I wrote six years ago, celebrating picnics. I’ve thrown a few new images in the hamper.

Feodor Rojankovsky

sip the roses, anonymous artist, 1809

In 1809 John Roscoe published The Butterfly’s Birthday which included the following advice (still good today):

roscoe advice

Beautiful summer days are meant for pleasure.

kite and garland 1825

Find someplace comfortable to spend an afternoon.

Rudolf Mates: A Forest Story

Spread out your picnic.

August Picnic by Julie Paschkis

Picnics can be small.

Sylvester by William Steig

Sylvester by William Steig

Or big.

Faith Ringgold quilt: Church Picnic

You never know who might show up.

Don’t bring too much.

On Market Street: words by Arnold Lobel and pictures by Anita Lobel 1981

On Market Street: words by Arnold Lobel and pictures by Anita Lobel 1981

If you bring raspberry tarts, make sure there are enough for everyone.

Raspberries by Jay O'Callahan, illustrated by WIll Moses 2009

Raspberries by Jay O’Callahan, illustrated by WIll Moses 2009

Picnic food doesn’t need to be elaborate.Julie Paschkis fruitful

Sometimes you are the picnic.

Yuri Vasnetsov

A bonfire is the best way to end a summer evening.

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Kathleen Hale 1938

Orlando the Marmalade Cat by Kathleen Hale 1938

I hope you are having fun summer days filled with excursions and picnics. If you have ideas for the perfect food or book to bring on a picnic, please comment.

She Sells Sea Shells, Seymour Chwast 2008

She Sells Sea Shells, Seymour Chwast 2008

Shapes

Artists work with line, shape, color and texture. It can be hard to pull those elements apart.

Toni Yuly illustration from Gracias Abejas

Where does shape end and color begin?

Edouard Vuillard

When a shape is right it dances.

Suzy Lee

A shape can be positive or negative (i.e. created by the space around it.)

Ben Shahn

Ben Shahn

A well drawn shape gets to the essence of things, eliminating detail.

Lois Ehlert

Dick Bruna

Bill Traylor

With compression and distortion a shape can convey movement. Exaggeration makes it more active (and more delightful).

Bill Traylor

Margaret Chodos-Irvine – detail from Where Lily Isn’t

Mayumi Oda

As it moves toward abstraction a shape is enlivened by what is real.

Matisse papercut

Henri Matisse

Salud – here’s to this shapely world!

Bill Traylor

Bjorn Wiinblad

Mayumi Oda

Muchly

I love things – especially things next to things.

Shoe lasts at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown Pennsylvania

When you say a word over and over you lose the meaning and hear the sound. The same thing happens visually with these shoe lasts.

In the recent Troika show I put together lots of white poked- paper pieces. (To see more of the show please read Margaret’s post here: Still Life: The Show.)

In a previous show at the barn I had assembled paper dolls.

And before that, bread (at the Davidson Gallery in 2001).

The individual objects might be goofy. Together they have a conversation.

Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock is a master of drawing things next to things. He gives us multitudes of objects without irony.

The repetition creates rhythm and delight.

Please click here for a radio story about Blackstock, a man who was a dishwasher for many years before becoming a renowned artist.

Joelle Jolivet creates oversized picture books full of bold and informative illustrations. Click here for a peak at her studio and printmaking process (in French.)

In their book Crabtree Jon and Tucker Nichols give us objects with a dose of humor. Like Julie Larios a few weeks ago here, Crabtree is wrestling with the problem of what to do with all of his stuff. Here he assembles everything that begins with the letter s.

Even the captions are broken in this collection.

I used objects to tell part of the story in this illustration from the new book Fearsome Giant, Fearless Child by Paul Fleischman.

Humble objects like spoons and bowls and brooms can tell stories.

Brooms at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania

Pablo Neruda had three houses in Chile, all crowded with his collections. In his book Odes to Common Things Neruda wrote about buttons, onions, socks, artichokes, to say nothing of the hat. His ode, word next to word, says it all.

Here is my illustration from Pablo Neruda – Poet of the People by Monica Brown.

I leave you with these cardboard boxes from Crabtree. Where else are you going to put all this stuff?

Ephemeral

Last week Margaret wrote about the work she is making for our upcoming Troika show. You can read her post here.
As she explained, our common theme is Still Life. I began my explorations by painting with ink and gouache.

Still Life paintings celebrate ephemeral pleasures – light, flowers, food. Life.
Transience. Time passes.

I had been exploring similar themes in paintings for a show I will be having with Mare Blocker at the Taste Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum. That show is called Abundance.For the Troika show I began to play with cut paper.

This winter I was making pinprick lanterns – Froebeling. I carried this technique into paintings that are part pinprick and part paint.

I also made many pinpricked freestanding still life objects of various sizes.  The theme is ephemeral, and the medium is ephemeral.Some of my pinprick pieces wandered a bit away from traditional still life imagery.Our Troika logo is three wheels. They represent Margaret, Deborah and me.
Wheels roll! For all three of us the idea of a Still Life transformed as we worked.As an artist, a children’s book illustrator and as a human I try to stay open to new ideas and to let them roll. As the ideas roll by in this fleeting life I try to grab on to some of them.

Please come see the new work at Taste and at the Bitters Co. Barn. Thank you.