Author Archives: Julie Paschkis

Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido

I have a new book out! Flutter and Hum, Aleteo y Zumbido.Flutter Hum coverI am not a poet and I my Spanish is awkward, but somehow I wrote a book of poems in Spanish and English. Here’s how it came about.

In 2009 I illustrated a biography of Neruda written by Monica Brown. In order to understand and illustrate Neruda I needed to learn Spanish, so I started classes right away. I loved learning Spanish. I loved the structure of the language and the sound of the words. I illustrated Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People using pictures and words. The words, which are integrated into the art, are in Spanish and English and were influenced by the words of his poems.PabloNerudaWhile I worked on this book I swam in the Spanish language and in the poems of Neruda. That experience changed my life.Paschkis neruda by seaSince then I have taken many more Spanish classes including immersion classes in Guatemala and in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I have visited Chile, Guatemala, Oaxaca, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Spain. I would like to return to all of those places! I continue to study and read and write. My vocabulary is large and I understand the grammatical structures, but my speech is slow and simple.Flutter&Hum snake But in a strange way, my awkwardness with Spanish is what allowed me to write these poems.
When I hear a word in English my mind leaps right to the meaning of the word, bypassing the sound. I am ABLE to hear the sound but I have to make myself listen.Paschkis word birdWhen I hear a word in Spanish I notice the sound and feel of the word first, and then my mind gropes for the meaning.palabra

For example the word PALABRA (which means word), sounds like a shape to me. I hear the beauty of the word before the meaning. I see a shape like this:finialThe poems in this book often started with me rolling a word around in my mouth. The word for moth is polilla – such a soft word. And the word for lightbulb is bombilla. Bombastic! I put together words and ideas in Spanish until I had the beginning of a poem. That is how I began all of the poems. I always started in Spanish. Then I would work back and forth in Spanish and in English until I had a poem that I liked in both languages. I threw myself at the light – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.Flutter&Hum mothWhen I painted the illustrations for the book I had another chance to play with words in both languages – to pick words in Spanish and English that bounced off of each other and added shades of meaning and emotion.

I submitted the poems to Noa Wheeler who was then an editor at Henry Holt. She liked them, and Holt offered to publish them. It was a leap of faith on her part and I am grateful.
We eliminated some poems and I wrote some new ones. We tried to keep them juicy.Flutter&Hum fresa copyI showed the poems to Marta Seymour, my first Spanish teacher (who is from Costa Rica) and to my friend Fernando Larios (who is originally from Mexico and is married to Julie Larios). They read the poems and pointed out my most egregious errors. Ingrid Paredes also proofread the poems for Henry Holt and offered specific and helpful criticism. The book is dedicated to Marta, for igniting my love of Spanish and for her generosity in reviewing the poems.Marta Seymour

My joy in creating this book was playing with language in Spanish and English, and in painting with words and images. My hope is that the poems and paintings will encourage others to approach both languages playfully and with pleasure, whatever their native tongue.Flutter&Hum parrotIn Spanish you would say that I am a principiante. A princess? No – a beginner.

Flutter&Hum heronP.S. If you are in Seattle please come to a signing for the book at the Seattle Art Museum book store (SAM Books) on September 26th from 1-3. Some of the original art from the book will on display at the SAM Gallery Shop, along with paintings by my husband Joe Max Emminger and some drawings that we did together. There will be a reception for the show from 3-5. And the museum is free that day! The show will be up until October 16th.

P.S. Here is a review of the book by Julie Danielson at Kirkus., and here is a review from Deborah Stevenson at the BCCB . (The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books).


It’s been hot in Seattle this summer. Luckily we have lots of places to swim. You can head for  a river…

Chris Raschka - Fishing in the Air

Chris Raschka – Fishing in the Air

a pond…

Soviet Lithuanian illustration seen on the blog 50 Watts

Soviet Lithuanian illustration seen on the blog 50 Watts

a lake…

Beatrice Alemagna

Beatrice Alemagna

or the ocean…



Ivan Bilibin

Ivan Bilibin

Jump in!

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham

Undine by Arthur Rackham

Undine by Arthur Rackham

Who knows what you will find?

Linley Sambourne illustration for The Water Babies, 1888

Linley Sambourne illustration for The Water Babies, 1888

Claire Nivola, Life in the Ocean

Claire Nivola, Life in the Ocean


Kimi Ga Yo 1925

Edgar and Ingri Parin D'Aulaire - Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D’Aulaire – Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D'Aulaire - Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D’Aulaire – Ola

JiHyeon Lee - Pool

JiHyeon Lee – Pool

Sylvia Earle says that going 3000 feet down is like diving into a galaxy.

Clare Nivola biography of Sylvia Earle - Life in the Ocean

Clare Nivola biography of Sylvia Earle – Life in the Ocean

Or if you want to stay indoors you could read a book.

The Water Babies illustrated by Sambourne, 1888

The Water Babies illustrated by Sambourne, 1888

Always remember the wise words of Derek Zoolander – “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” Splash!

The Pursuit of Happiness


Paschkis choose peace

In 2000 I made this card and sold it to benefit the American Friends Service Committee. It was inspired by my desire for peace, and by the Peaceable Kingdom paintings of Edward Hicks. I also made a series of cards celebrating the bill of rights which I sold to benefit the ACLU. When I painted them I read the constitution and the bill of rights and I was surprised at how unfamiliar the words were to me.  So today I offer you those images and words in honor of flag and country.

Paschkis pursuit of happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.

The Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by the law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witness against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

These images came to the attention of Patti VanTuyl at the National Endowment for the Humanities and over the next few years I painted some posters for an NEH program called the We the People Bookshelf.

In 2008 the NEH bookshelf celebrated the idea that all men are created equal. I took that to mean men and women, black and white, apples and oranges.

paschkis created equal

In 2009 the theme was A More Perfect Union. The NEH sought to promote reflection on the idea of the United States as a union. In what ways is America a One as well as a Many? I used cake as a metaphor. All of the states as of 1861 are part of the cake.

The United Cake of America

The United Cake of America

I hope you have a good Fourth of July celebration. I hope you take some time to ponder what America is and what about it you want to celebrate, or to work to change. And I hope you have delicious food tomorrow. Here’s to the Red, White and Blueberries!

Paschkis red white and blueberries

Shadows and Reflections

Margaret’s post last week made me the think of shadows and reflections. The shadow of the creative leap is the terrifying fall. The reflection of being stubborn is persevering. We struggle to keep the light and dark in balance.
This week I will shadow her post, adding a few light reflections, digressions and pictures.

Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg




shadow cartoon


In her book The Language of the Night Ursula LeGuin wrote an essay about The Shadow, by Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen’s story is about a man who becomes separated from his shadow and then overtaken by it.

Honor Appleton's 1932 illustration for Andersen's The Shadow

Honor Appleton’s 1932 illustration for Andersen’s The Shadow

LeGuin reads the story as an allegory about creativity: creativity comes from acceptance of and cooperation with the dark side of the soul. The shadow is dangerous without the soul, and the soul is weightless and empty without the shadow. The shadow is the guide to the journey of self knowledge and to the collective unconscious.

Edward Gorey is an artist who accessed his dark (and light) side with wit and style. He drew this shadow, and this non-reflecting bicycle.

gorey shadow

Gorey unreflecting bicycle

In this photograph is the shadow a prison or a release from prison?

I-phone ad

I-phone ad

Suzy Lee made a wonderful wordless picture book called Shadow where the shadows take on a life of their own.

shadow cover
suzy lee shadow1
suzy lee shadow2

suzy lee shadow3
Words as well as pictures can have shadows. The author and critic Gerald Vizenor said that shadows are the silence that inhabit heard stories. Talking about haiku, he said that the dissolved word is replaced with a shadow of the evoked sensation.  I end with this haiku by Ichihara Masanao from the Muki Sajiki.

ichihara masanao haiku



Color Full

Recently I found a tube of Cobalt Blue gouache and I swooned.
Paschkis parrotsI painted several blue paintings.
Paschkis Everything-is-connected

Painting is always a matter of choosing one color to go next to another, and lately I’ve been carried away by the sheer pleasure of doing that.

Paschkis small possibilities and parrots



Sometimes when I look at other people’s paintings I can feel the artist swooning from the pleasure of the colors. (Angel by Paul Klee).

klee angel899

This image by Borghese di Pietro Borghese was painted in 1448, and the pink still astounds.                                                                                                     .



In Melissa Sweet’s illustration from Firefly July each shade of pink adds to the ones around it . The greens are gifts to the pinks and vice versa.                          .

melissa sweet moonlight


Georgia O’Keeffe experienced synesthesia. She heard colors. This is a collage illustration from Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez. Rachel said that O’Keeffe walked through the hills, humming the colors she saw.                                     .

Through Georgia's Eyes paschkis

Do you hear the reds in Margaret Chodos’s illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong?
chodos irvine buzz
The little red triangle says AHA to the orange and yellow/green in this paintingby Douglas Florian.                                                                                               .

Radio Lab has a podcast all about COLOR, rich in information. One fact: butterflies (and pigeons and lampreys) have pentachromacy and can see many more colors than people .                                                                                                  .

paschkis butterflies see
In addition to the physical capacity to see a color (rods and cones etc.) your brain and your eye also need practice and coordination. When you learn a new language it takes time for your brain to learn the sounds that it hears. The same is true with visual perceptions. If you have never seen the color blue you will not be able to see it even if you have the physical ability to do so. Here is a landscape without blue, by Paul Klee- just lush oranges, reds and greens.

klee with the eagle
In Seattle right now there are blossoming trees, bushes and flowers everywhere- a profusion of color, light and shadow. Are humans hardwired for these colors and contrasts to give us joy? These cherry blossoms are from Maira Kalman.


This painting by Klee (below) is called Blossoming.                                                   .

klee blossoming

The podcast used a choir to illustrate the harmony and depth of colors. The bass note of  dark colors brings out the soprano yellow and white. Bright boats and buildings sparkle in the alto fog in this illustration by Melissa Sweet.                     .melissa sweet fog

Pink and green add harmony to the red and blue duet in this bouquet by Joe Max Emminger.

joe max emminger bouquet

And finally here is a swooping, swooning, humming landscape from Matisse.

matisse acanthes

I hope you have a color full week.

p.s. I am having a show at the Bitters Co. Barn in Mt. Vernon, WA , opening on May 9th. Please come by if you are in the area.

Which Came First?

I’ve hatched a new book! It’s about a chicken named P. Zonka.Paschkis Zonka cover

But an egg came before this chicken – many eggs.eggs

Every year my sister Jan and her husband Greg have a huge party where we (family and friends) decorate eggs – also called pysanky. And Jan and Greg keep chickens. I started to wonder what it would be like if one of those chickens laid a pysanka. Hence P. Zonka was born. This is a painting I made of P. Zonka before the text was written.Paschkis zonka study

Where do ideas come from? I think partly from indirection, from wandering. That is where P. Zonka’s eggs come from. Everything she sees goes into her eggs.When I worked on the book I went back and forth between the text and the pictures. Sometimes the text was the chicken and the art was the egg and sometimes vice versa. Paschkis Zonka painting

If you have ever tried to make a pysanka you know that mistakes are inevitable – at some point when you least want it a blob of wax dribbles onto your egg and it cannot be removed. The trick is to think of that blob as a blobbortunity.Here is an example of a blob transformed into beauty by my friend Aliza Corrado. When her egg was completed it was impossible to tell which part was a blob and which was intentional.aliza's egg

Likewise, wanderings and errors enrich our work. Whenever I finish a book I see all the ways it could be better or different. P. Zonka’s creativity is spurred by digression and synthesis. So is mine, but there is also a strain of dissatisfaction – the sense with each project that I could have gone further or been freer. These wishes for something different are somewhat painful, but they are also great big blobbortunities. They push me  to make another painting or book, another chicken or egg. And so the process goes on.Paschkis Zonkapaschkis pysanky
p.s. If this post makes you want to decorate eggs, here is a guide to having an egg party. Peachtree also made an activity guide with a whole range of egg-tivities, available here. And if you are in Seattle, please come to Secret Garden Books in Ballard this Saturday, March 21 at 2 PM for a book party. I’ll be reading and signing books. I will give away one of these pysanky and also a print from the Julie Paprika website. And there will be cookies!paschkiseggsIMG_0075


I have a cold that has lingered for far too long.

dame dearlove ditty 1805

from Dame Dearlove’s Ditties, 1805

I need soup!
Julie Paschkis - Get Well Soup In 1991 I took a children’s book illustration class from Keith Baker. He told us to take other people’s vegetables, but make our own soup.

Yury Vasnetsov Turnip

Yury Vasnetsov Turnip

Good advice! The Russian illustrator Yuri Vasnetsov makes a heady broth, rich in vegetables. I’ll have a sip of that.

Yuri Vasnetsov Magpie

Yuri Vasnetsov Magpie

The colors are nourishing in Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert.

Lois Ehlert: Growing Vegetable Soup

Lois Ehlert: Growing Vegetable Soup

Marcia Brown suggests getting the community to help cook. This lesson has stayed with me since preschool, although the story of Stone Soup seems different when I read it now. I had remembered the soup but not the soldiers.
stone soup cover
Alice and Martin Provensen are serving a meal to the King of Cats at William Blake’s Inn. Who knows what kind of soup is in the tureen? The drawing contains vitamin E (elegance) and vitamin C (charm).
provensen king of cats
Mulready’s (1809) offerings in Grimalkin’s Feast might appeal more to cats than to humans.mulready grimalkin 1809
Eat up!

Old Mother Hubbard -1889

Old Mother Hubbard -1889

When it comes to soup, as when it comes to anything, Sendak says it all.sendak soup

chicken soup with rice
I hope my cold is soon gone and that you all are enjoying a good, soupy winter. Bone appetit!

Paschkis soup song

Paschkis papercut

E-Z does it

Happy New Year!
I am ! and ? about the upcoming year.
As we leap into 2015 here are some thoughts about punctuation, communication, letters, typoglycemia, texting and disemvoweling. K?
Paschkis on the go

Texting is convenient when you are on the go, and emoticons are convenient when texting. But I don’t particularly like them.
I do like emoticons that are made with punctuation, such as this double-chinned wink from Laura Kvasnosky,this mouse from Margaret Chodos-Irvine, or a shruggie from the internet.

punctuation emoticons

I just love punctuation. Period.

Paschkis punctuation Ampersands can be especially lovely.ampersands

Marc Johns wants them to be portable-

Marc Johns
If you have created something interesting with punctuation please put it in the comment section! Thanks.Punctuation

But why stop at punctuation? Much can be said with just letters. These are from the book C D C? by Wm. Steig.steig aliensteig  a y-l ssteig cdc

Letter play is often seen on vanity plates.license plates

Vanity plates (and businesses, musicians and content managers) sometimes disemvowel words, but you still knw wht they are saying. It is amazing how much you can understand even when letters are scrambled. Gary Sweeney illustrated this idea, called typoglycemia (which is the opposite of C-D-C.)

Gary Sweeney

There is something delightful about reading letters, words or punctuation and only being able to understand them with a little mental leap. That leap is XLR8N.

Here is a poem for today which lives in those leaps:



And to close here is another image by Gary Sweeney. In this piece he doesn’t scramble the letters, but he deep pens the meaning through typography.Gary Sweeney Bacon

May you have a wndrfl & xi-10 year to come.


Big and Little

Last week Bonny ended her post with photos of gigantic head sculptures. They made me think about things tall and small.Paschkis tall and small

In real life there is something delightful about objects that are wildly out of scale – think of Oldenburg or Slinkachu.





Recently I sewed a giant quilt. It was a ridiculous and entertaining project which I write about here.J. Paschkis on big quilt

It is easier to create a giant in a painting, through context or distortion. Here is a small gallery of illustrations that play with scale; I hope that you will find them curious and curiouser.

Alice, illustrated by Tenniel

Alice, illustrated by Tenniel

telescoping alice

Swamp Angel is the story of a heroically large girl, beautifully illustrated by Paul Zelinsky.from Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

Swamp Angel, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky

I especially love the ankle bones and saggy pants of Zwerger’s giant. Everything in this illustration feels lonely, from the pale colors to the empty dollhouse.

The Very Selfish Giant, illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerger

The Very Selfish Giant, illustrated by Lizbeth Zwerger

Note the evil expression of the Snorrasper! Sendak said that his monsters were inspired by his relatives.

Maurice Sendak's Snorrasper

Maurice Sendak’s Snorrasper

This illustration of Gulliver is from 1890.1890 gulliver These pictures of tiny Thumbelina and Hans Thumbling in a golden world are also from the late 1800’s.thumbelinahans thumblingFranz Wacik’s giant is carrying the Brave Little Tailor, whose adventures included scale based humor – beginning when he killed seven in one blow.franz wacik

In Fat Cat by Margaret Read MacDonald the gluttonous cat eventually grew too large to fit on the page.Paschkis fat catIn Summer Birds by Margarita Engle I drew the luna moth out of scale to show the strength of the interest that Maria Merian had in insects.Paschkis Summer Birds p30-31And I painted this Tall Boy just because I like creatures with long legs. He had to bend to fit into the picture.Paschkis Tall Boy

I get bogged down in Ezra Pound’s Canto 81, but I love this line from it:
The ant’s a centaur in his dragon world.

The lesson of scale is that everything is relative.

Mouse Club Rules by Louis Wain b. 1860

Mouse Club Rules by Louis Wain b. 1860

And the last word comes from Lewis Carroll:
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”


Paschkis ABC

In mid October I went (along with Paul Owen Lewis and Laura Kvasnosky) to visit elementary schools in eastern Washington.

I had to leave my studio for a week, speak to hundreds of children in assemblies and do lots of things that were scary or hard (and good) for me. I had to think about what I valued and about what I wanted to say to kids. I boiled my message down to a single line: Everyone can make art.Paschkis inkoI elaborated on that line. You have to spend time on art to be able to express yourself. It takes practice and hard work and a kind of perfectionism. But it also takes imperfectionism and playfulness, especially when an idea is first developing. And you have to look inside and outside of yourself.Paschkis point no pointHalf of my time there was spent giving art classes. These schools do not have art teachers or art rooms so we worked in the libraries or lunch rooms. The lack of art education in the world feeds the idea that people are either good or bad at art. I wanted to have a project that allowed for success and showed that everyone can make art. But I didn’t want a formula – I wanted each child’s work to be unique.


Steinberg drawing

I decided to focus on line – that most basic building block of drawing.We looked at lines in the world:tree-branches-silhouette-14238037knotted-aspen-bark-703029-sw

and we looked at lines in art:RandyTwaddleowl-and-pussycatwarhol drawingcalder wire

We looked at these drawings done by children (from the book Creative Drawing by Rottger and Klante) and considered how powerful it can be to repeat a line.Creative Drawingcreative drawing

Each art class had 40-50 fourth or fifth graders and lasted for an hour. After looking at lines and talking about them the kids drew. They made a series of random lines collaboratively. Then they all worked on their own drawings to turn those collaborations into creatures of their own invention. We had markers and colored pencils. Here are some of the drawings that they came up with in that hour – some in progress and some completed. (Thanks to Melani Tackett for taking many of these photographs. )


Yes, the school visits took a ton of energy and made me leave my cocoon. But it was a privilege to spend time with children and watch them draw. I hope that they keep drawing. I hope the lines run off the page.

The visits were made possible the Literacy Connection, by the Kennewick school district and by the hard work of the librarians at each of the schools. I was bowled over by the generosity and energy and kindness of the teachers and librarians that I met. What is my line now? Thank you.