Tag Archives: Julie Larios

EEK!

EEK! It’s a book.

A few years ago Julie Larios brought a new manuscript to our critique group. It was an alphabet book where each letter was a sound instead of a word. HUZZAH! I loved the idea and asked Julie if I could illustrate it. We both found the idea of random sounds delightful. I imagined an animal to go with each sound. 

My agent at the time felt that the book needed a story. UH-OH.

Julie L. and I decided that I would create a story through the art. So I invented a story with animals to go with and around the sounds. Because I came up with the story we are both credited as authors.

I kept the Mouse I had painted for ACHOO and sent him on a journey. The plot unfolds through the art and the sounds punctuate the story.

The story begins with Mouse picking a flower which he carries through the book. Each page introduces a new character (or characters).  A bird and the bee are the first characters to be introduced and they are on every spread until the flower at last is delivered to the mouse’s love: a Lion. All of the animals (except Lion) are hinted at before they appear and after they leave. The art is a kind of scroll.

If I couldn’t make a sequence work I went to Julie Larios and we reworked either the sound or the action. We changed many of the sounds through the whole alphabet, but always kept the idea of using sounds instead of words.

We sent the book out and it was accepted for publication by Peachtree. The wonderful editor Vicky Holifield guided the book through the next step of its journey. Every sound,  color  and image was considered carefully and discussed with many words. HMMMM. 
For example the sound for p began as PSST, became 
PHEW and ended up as PLOP. My magenta P was turned into a powder pink P.

We struggled at times to get the right words and imagery.

Sometime during the process I realized that my fantasy story was quite autobiographical. Raccoon had a bicycle accident – which I had had in 2016.

A big tree fell – just as a tree fell on my studio in 2019.

 A random marching band came by – which happened when I was visiting Golden Gate Park.

Julie and I hope that children and other readers invent their own narratives to go with the sounds. We want you to head off on your own imaginative journeys. ZWWOOP – Play with language and revel in sounds!

You can get EEK! at Secret Garden Books in Seattle , at Alibris , at Amazon or at your favorite local store. Thank you.

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.

frasconi011frasconi013

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.

Pencils, Pens and Brushes

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

Paper, Scissors

wycinankaIn high school I worked  at a Polish import store that sold wycinanka, traditional paper cuts. I was told that these delicate constructions were cut with sheep shearing scissors. I have loved cut paper ever since then. Here are some examples of papercuts and some examples of scissors.

XIX scissors

This Polish rooster is visiting with a Chinese bird and butterfly and with a rooster from Indonesia. Below are some Papel Picados from Mexico.

chinese polish papercuts

Mexican papel picados

In the 1920’s and 1930’s Lotte Reiniger made animated movies out of cut paper silhouettes. Here is a link to one about Papageno.

.Lotte Reiniger papercut

She cut with sharp knives, but I like to imagine her using these scissors:

french embroidery scissors

Nikki McClure and Rob Ryan have done amazing work in recent years, such as this piece by Ryan.

rob ryan

Here is a medal for him.hungarian coat of arms

Peter Callesen and Mia Pearlman have stretched the form. This dimensional whorl was made by Pearlman.

mia pearlman papercut

I have been snipping at paper for about 1o years and had a show of papercuts in 2006, which included Adam and Eve (5 feet tall),

Paschkis adam and eve

and these smaller fruit pickers (10 inches tall).

Paschkis baskets

I love the symmetry of traditional paper cuts, but illustrations for stories sometimes need unsymmetrical parts. Here is my illustration  for the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

Paschkis Snow Queen

and here is one for a juicy poem by Julie Larios.

Larios Paschkis Oranges

Here is a celebration of bicycling and hats.

Paschkis bicycle trick

If you are interested in working with paper please take a look at the book Creating With Paper by Pauline Johnson and Hazel Koenig. It was first published in 1958 and it is still fresh.

creating with paper

To wrap things up here is a poem by David Mason, followed by two more Polish papercuts.

Song of the Powers

polish tree of life

Snakes

Julie Paschkis Catkin illustrationFebruary 10th is the first day of the Chinese New Year, and 2013 is the Year of the Water Snake. Julie Paschkis from Imaginary Menagerie

Snakes are often feared and disliked, but they do have some good qualities.

Here is a family portrait with snake by my husband, Joe Max Emminger.Joe Max Emminger painting

Snakes are fun to draw. This pen drawing was done by John Coates in 1916.John H. Coates snake 1916

Snakes move beautifully. This illustration is by Ivan Bilibin.The pattern gives the snake direction and dimension; without it the snake would almost be a blob.bilibin snake Snakes fit into small spaces.wolfli snakeThis drawing is by Adolf Wolfli who fills up every space.

Snakes survive in harsh environments, and they take care of themselves. J. Paschkis 2006Colonial Americans had a flag with the slogan “Don’t tread on me.”. This is my 2006 version.

Here is a poem by Julie Larios which celebrates snakes, dumplings and the street food of Beijing. I illustrated it with cut paper. I painted the paper before creating the paper cut.Paschkis and Larios

So in honor of reptilian virtues let’s welcome the Year of the Snake. Please comment with your thoughts about snakes in life, snakes in art and what the Year of the Snake will bring.

A Writing Lesson at the Museum

Artisans Preparing the Moroccan Courtyard at the Met

Is it true for many of you reading this  – as it is for me – that when you travel, it’s not places on the pre-planned itinerary which your remember longest, but the small discoveries presented to you by serendipity – rounding a corner or two, you see them there, unexpected and mesmerizing?

I just got home from a ten-day stay in New York City – purely tourist time, not professional development with editors – filled to the brim with inspiration. I did everything on the Master Plan: Saw the Delacorte Music Clock at the entry to the Central Park Zoo, went to the West Side greenmarket, saw two Broadway musicals (Wicked and Newsies), one serious play titled Grace – got Michael Shannon’s autograph at that one), bought dumplings at Prosperity Dumplings in Chinatown after visiting the Eldridge Street Synagogue, visited the 9/11 Memorial (those layered and sunken waterfalls which just keep going down and down, inspiring thoughts of Dante and the nine levels of Hell), walked into Grand Central Station simply because I can’t be in New York without re-visiting and re-viewing the stars on the ceiling there….

Grand Central Station

So many things on the list – the Jewish Museum (thrilling exhibit of Vuillard paintings), the City Museum of New York (candid street shots of people in NYC and London), went to the Main Library near Bryant Park (special exhibit detailing Lunch Hour NYC – this was my favorite of the pre-planned items) and the Folk Art Museum (exhibit of tinsel painting, along with a mid-day concert by jazz guitarist Bill Wurtzle and singer Sharon Fisher), saw “The Adoration of the Magi” at the Museum of Biblical Art, had some great meals (including Turkish, French, Szechuan and – oh, yes, a hot dog from a street vendor)….

Hot Dog Vendor of Yesteryear – New York

….and – of course, absolutely – visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art several times. Saw the Guggenheim again, love the building, didn’t care for the exhibit. That’s okay – not everything has to inspire us. Rode city buses the whole time, much more fun than the subway or taxis, because you meet talkative New Yorkers on a bus; they love to ask where you’re from and love to express their opinions about EVERYTHING – what they think of Seattle, the cost of living, old age, having the guts to live in NYC, poor street illumination, your shoes, you name it.  What a wide-open town it is! I love New York and New Yorkers.

But to get back to serendipitous discoveries, I have to say that I was lucky to be at the Met on a day when one of the exhibits I had on my Master Plan (the Temple of Dendur – at night)  closed for renovation, and an eager guard (even museum guards in New York City have opinions) suggested I spend my last hour in the museum that day seeing the Moroccan Courtyard up in the new Arts of Arab Lands galleries. “You’ll love it, it’s wonderful,” he told me, and he was right. I did love the courtyard itself, but I also loved the videos of the artisans at work on the courtyard. The Met flew these artisans in from Fez, Morocco, and had them work with tools and material comparable to those which would have been used in the 1300’s. Don’t fail to watch the videos (one of them pans all over the room – you can see everything) here and here.

At Work on a Carving

Oh, my. Oh, oh, oh. Oh, wonderful!! And this wing of the Museum was not even on my list. It had been closed eight years for a total re-imagining. As I stood and looked at the small fountain at the center, the elaborate patterns of the tile work, the magnificently carved arch, I made a couple of notes about processes and techniques to look up (marquetry, carved stucco, zillij/mosaic tile) and notes about what this kind of craftsmanship takes. It’s not unlike writing, in some ways. Here are my notes – read them in terms of writing and you’ll see what I mean.

1. Negative space, positive space: What gets removed just as important as what gets left. 2. Patterns – for the eye, for the mind. Surface pattern. Spirit pattern.  3. “Mosaic” – from the Latin word “musaicum” – meaning of the Muses. 4. Precision – “One tap at a time” 5. Eight years to renovate the Islamic Arts wing of the Museum – entirely re-imagined. Not chronological, but geographical.

Precision, Pattern, Patience, Structure

Of course, rationalizing the reason I loved it came after the fact. I just knew it was wonderful. Sometimes, with travel and with writing, you have to trust your plans – you stick with them, see how that works. Nothing wrong with having a plan. Other times, you have to trust luck and stray off the path.  You have to listen to someone else’s advice, stay flexible, revise the Master Plan. Sometimes you’re patient and you respect tradition. Other times, you peek around the corner, see what you see, and love what you love, even if you’re not quite sure why you love it.

The Nejjarine Fountain in Fez

Distractions

“Foolish Fashions” – from the Library of Congress website.

When I decided to write a little bit today about writers and “distractions,” I went straightaway to the Oxford English Dictionary to check out what the pronunciation of it looks like ( “/dɪˈstrækʃən/” ) because – well, because it’s pretty – it’s the phonetic equivalent of an ideogram. A word, but not a word.  I also checked out its etymology (<from “the Latin distractiōn-em, n. of action < distrahĕre to pull asunder”) and I confirmed different definitions (all basically dealing with the pulling asunder of something – severance, dispersion, stretching, extending – either mentally, emotionally or physically – ouch.) The different definitions all emphasize how a distraction is seen in an “adverse” light, though one definition pushed the word toward a rosier definition, one of diversion and relaxation. While I was at the OED site (thank you, wonderful Seattle Public Library, for your research databases, which save my bookshelves from having to accommodate all 11 volumes of the OED) I also took a look at  some of the earliest examples of the use of “distraction,” such as this one in William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: “While he was yet in Rome, His power went out in such distractions, As beguilde all Spies.”

The New Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, London, 1909.

Of course, then I looked up “beguiled” since it’s such a lovely word. The OED is a poet’s equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole. You find yourself in a strange, swirling, distracting and beguiling world, and it’s difficult to find your way back up to the surface. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction.”

All eleven volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary

Let’s hear it for distractions like the OED and even Browning herself. What would the world be like if we always stayed on task? What would clear our palates, and when would we make room for the new? I believe in distractions, a fact my students all know, since in addition to sending them assignments, I send them enough website distractions to derail them from their work. I do that to encourage them to let in the fresh air of new ideas from time to time.

Every so often here at Books Around the Table I’m going to offer up a few websites that I consider good generative distractions – generative in the sense that they lead to new story ideas.  Here are three Alice-in-Wonderland-style rabbit holes (aka distractions) that I’ll send your way today in case you suspect  the air around you is getting a little stale.  Click on the website name below – and get distracted.

Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of Alice in Wonderland

1. Brain Pickings – It’s the “brain child” of Maria Popova, and its stated purpose is to a be a ” human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” A typical post has many subjects, such as this one about the artist Maira Kalman.

Maira Kalman and Pete

Or this one about the “sculptural soundtracks” of Nathalie Miebach: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/12/nathalie-miebach-musical-weather-data-sculptures/

A 3-D rendering of the soundtrack of a storm – Nathalie Miebach

2. TYWKIWDBI – yes, that’s the name of the site. It stands for “Things You Wouldn’t Know If We Didn’t Blog Intermittently.” It is self-described as “an eclectic mix of trivialities, ephemera, curiosities, and exotica with a smattering of current events, social commentary, science, history, English language and literature, videos, and humor. We try to be the cyberequivalent of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities.” For example: Did you know that Cleopatra lived closer chronologically to the moon landing than to the building of the pyramids?

Marble Bust of Cleopatra – 30-40 A.D.

3. The Library of Congress – very dangerous site. You can get so distracted you never get tracted again. Maps, manuscripts, prints, photographs – and a search engine that brings up everything in an instant. The next best thing to actually living at the Library of Congress.

Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

More distractions soon. Whenever I discover them, I’ll pass them on.

Horns, Magic, Metaphors, and Me at the Gate

19th Century Austrian Postillon

By way of introducing myself here at BOOKS AROUND THE TABLE, I’m going to share this image of a postillon horn. Never heard of it? Me, either, until I went looking for something to serve as a metaphor for “beginnings” or “openings.” As a poet, I like metaphorical thinking and the sneaky way it makes its point via indirection, in the same way a magician performs sleight-of-hand, making people look at one hand while the other does the actual trick. Look, a dove!

Instinct usually tells me to go with a poem or an image, since one or the other of those will be sufficient. I generally leave explanation to the people who write fiction or non-fiction. But prose is the method of choice for blogs, so let me explain my thinking.

The horn pictured above resides in the Postal Museum in Prague. Postal carriers in the 19th century used it to “give different signals for having the town gate opened, warning the other drivers on the road to give way, calling for help in distress, announcing the post arrival and departure, changing horses, etc.” Note the horn hanging from the neck of the unabashedly jubilant postillon below. Looks like some of those letters aren’t going to make it to their destinations. I hope the news in the telegram was good news – maybe a prodigal son returning? A lost fortune regained? – and not news of cher Mama’s death. That image requires champagne after reading, no?

I don’t expect to toot my horn to warn the other drivers on this blog (Laura, Julie P. and Margaret) to “give way” – I rarely go above the speed limit, metaphorically speaking (Look, another dove!) Nor do I anticipate changing horses very often, though I’ve been known to do it, even mid-stream. But I do like the idea of a high clear note that asks for the gates of the city to open – after all, this blog is about sharing and building community among writers for children, and I hope to hear the hinges creaking, the doors opening and our voices mingling.

At the Gate- Porta Maggiore - Rome

From time to time I might blow the horn as “a signal of distress.” Writing is a strange business, and for many of us it is both exhilarating and exhausting.  There might be an occasional blast on the horn when I’m trying to figure out what keeps postal carriers – I mean writers – going when they’re bone tired. The Frenchman at the Cafe du Postillon pictured below doesn’t appear to be in a Pony Express mood. Maybe he’s a burned out writer. Some of you, I feel sure, have been there yourselves, leaning against that very door jamb.

Cafe du Postillon - Photograph by Aart Klein

Right now, I’m feeling energetic, and I’m here at the town gate with my trusty horn. Hope I’ve got some lovely bit of mail for you from time to time. I wish I could deliver it right to your door, and we’d have tea and talk about books around the table. But I’ll be satisfied with delivering the Books Around the Table part of that scene to your computer screen, 21st-century-style.

Postillon - Neckartailfingen, Germany

A Place at the Table…

Tea Party from ELLA SARAH GETS DRESSED

I am honored to be the first to write a post for our group blog, and I have chosen to begin by saying a bit about our group and its history.

This critique group originally grew out of a Children’s Book class taught at the Seattle School of Visual Concepts in 1994. Meg Lippert was also in the group at that point, but Julie Larios left in 2000, and I was then asked to join. Since that time there have been quite a few celebratory events around the table; Julie Paschkis has made it onto the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list a few times, Laura Kvasnosky has won a Geisel Award, and I have received a Caldecott Honor. Meg left us in 2010 to follow other pursuits and we miss her dearly. Julie Larios has rejoined the group and we are moving on.

We meet once a month, taking turns hosting. We start by laying out or reading whatever current project we are working on, and follow with updates on any back-burner items. All items are open for comments and input.

We have an implicit understanding that it’s okay to say we don’t like something as long as we articulate why. After all, one shouldn’t join a critique group expecting to avoid criticism. And, it’s okay to like something too, as long as we articulate why. We have lengthy discussions about writing and picture-making. Then we break for lunch.

To be in a monthly critique group is a good way to discipline yourself to keep your nose to the Kid-Lit grindstone. To be part of a group that knows your strengths and your weaknesses, and that those two categories are often interchangeable, is invaluable. To be working with people whom you admire, respect and trust, is something I am eternally grateful for. The fact that we all are good cooks is just darned good luck.

Here’s to beautiful and satisfying books and food–and sharing them around the table!

–Margaret Chodos-Irvine