Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Julie Paschkis

h1 May 14th, 2008 by Eisha and Jules

Julie PaschkisJules: Eisha, Julie Paschkis is visiting for breakfast this morning! I’m thrilled she’s here, especially since it was a real delight to read her interview responses.

I remember during Blogging for a Cure last year when David Elzey at the one-and-only the excelsior file featured Paschkis’ beautiful 2008 snowflake and did this great, little write-up about her work as an illustrator. I think he summed up the appeal of her art work well when he wrote:

“. . . there is something in her illustrations that draws me to them. It’s a strange magnetism, a quiet attraction not unlike the way a whisper can pull you closer and cause you to pay more attention over the din that surrounds it . . .”

And, in talking about her illustrations for Julie Larios’ Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary (Harcourt, 2006), he described her art work as having “a warm glow from within.” I love that. He nailed it.

And, hey, he also talked about her Boston Globe–Horn Book Award acceptance speech for Yellow Elephant and how she shared a detail of one of her paintings with the audience — in lieu of a long speech. Nice. And you were there, weren’t you?

Cover for Yellow Elephanteisha: I was indeed, and it saddens me to no end that I didn’t know David yet. We could have hung out. But yeah, she did unroll a big poster-size print of a painting she’d done when she’d gotten the news that she’d won the BGHB Honor, and it was just as lovely as you’d expect. He’s right — her work just glows. I adore her use of color — those bright, intricate, swirly figures and flowers really pop against the black backgrounds she often favors. He’s also right in that her images can tell a story all on their own — it’s amazing how much detail she can pour into a single illustration.

Also, I remember she had on some very cool tights. Lacy, I think. Possibly purple.

Jules: Well, let’s get right to it, shall we? I know we’re both so honored she stopped by for a cyber-breakfast. And what is Julie’s breakfast of choice? “I have oolong tea — fragrant and floral. About an hour later, I have a huge bowl of homemade granola with yogurt and whatever fruit is in season. I am addicted to Straus Family Farms plain yogurt. It is so good I wrote them a fan letter.”

Julie's breakfast. Yum.

While we’re setting the table, let’s get the basics from Julie:

7-Imp: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Julie: Illustrator.

7-Imp: Can you list your books-to-date?

{Ed. Note: Julie attached her books-to-date to her interview responses and told me — Jules, that is — to feel free to edit. OF COURSE I’m going to list all of them at the bottom of this interview, since we here at 7-Imp believe that seeing Julie’s art work will improve your quality of life. So, see below for Julie’s bibliography.}

7-Imp: What is your usual medium, or -– if you use a variety -– your preferred one?

Julie: Gouache on paper.

7-Imp: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Julie: I tend to use smaller brushes and put in more details for older readers.

They've got style.

The Paschkis/Emminger household at Easter

7-Imp: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Julie: I live in Seattle, Washington with my husband, Joe Max Emminger, who is a painter. We have a cat (Clementine) and dog (Lily).

Joe Max Emminger

7-Imp: Can you briefly tell us about your road to publication?

Julie: I took a class from Keith Baker in 1991 on how to illustrate children’s books. At the end of the class, I went to New York with my portfolio and dummies -– one of which became So Sleepy/Wide Awake {1993}, published by Henry Holt. I quit my teaching job, and I’ve been painting and illustrating full time since then.

7-Imp: Can you please point us to your web site and/or blog?


7-Imp: If you do school visits, can you tell us what they’re like?

Julie: I am a studio rat. I want to spend all my time painting, so I say no to most school visits, speaking opportunities, etc. This probably hurts my career and helps my life.

7-Imp: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell us about?

Julie: I am working on a picture book about the architect Antoni Gaudi, written by Rachel Rodriguez (who also wrote Through Georgia’s Eyes).

* * *

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, the table’s set, and we’re ready to sit down and talk more specifics over coffee with Julie (we’ll adjust and make it Six Questions Over Breakfast, since she opted out of the ask-herself-a-question question!) — and Pivot her, of course. Here’s our coffee, but…mmm. Julie’s fragrant, floral tea sounds tempting.

1. 7-Imp: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Julie: After I get a text, I let it percolate in my head for a while before I do any drawings. I think about how to approach it in general terms. For example, when I illustrated Glass Slipper (Henry Holt, 2007), I decided to approach it through the metaphor of textiles -– the words were woven together, so I would weave the pictures together. I looked at lots of folk textiles from the cultures that the story takes place in and painted a sample page in the style that I was considering. Then I draw a VERY rough storyboard. Next, I do tighter sketches for a dummy. After I get feedback from the publisher and a rough layout with text, I paint the finals. As I finish each painting, I pin it to the wall so I can see the book as a whole. Here is a photo of the Twist paintings on the wall.

Julie's 'Twist' wall

Cover of Through Georgia's EyesEvery book has something about it that is hard for me -– there is always a moment when I am terrified that I can’t do it or there is some aspect that feels overwhelming. There is usually a turning point where I can turn that fear into creativity -– I can figure out how to approach the problem in a way that is interesting. For example, when I illustrated Through Georgia’s Eyes, I was shaking in my knees at the thought of painting O’Keeffe’s paintings. She had already done it -– much better than I ever could. I called Reka Simonsen (the editor) to see why they didn’t just use her artwork, and she explained that they wanted O’Keeffe herself portrayed in the book -– not just her work. I went to Santa Fe to do research. At the folk art museum there, I had a Eureka moment when I saw a Polish Papercut -– I could portray her work in cut paper.

Polish papercuts, or Wycinanki

That method gave me a way into the project. And that interest in papercuts led to making my own papercuts and to the paintings in Glass Slipper. I think if you are open to it, everything in your life can feed everything else.

Julie's own papercuts

Spread from Glass Slipper

2. 7-Imp: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.

Julie: It’s about sixteen feet square and is overflowing with stuff. I usually shovel it out after I finish a book. I have a long table that I paint on. In the winter, I can see the Olympic Mountains (peeking over rooftops) out the window over my table. In the summer, I see my neighbor’s trees. I also have a window that looks out into the back yard –- there are a lot of squirrels and birds there that make their way into my paintings. Here are three photos. One is my table on the west side of the room -– I’m working on the Gaudi book.

Julie at work

The second is the east side of the room -– I tend to have a lot of different things going on and they pile up. On the table are some embroidered linen pieces I’ve been making. There are some paintings/papercuts on the floor.

Do you think Julie will adopt us and we can live in her house around all her art?

The third picture is the north wall of the studio with the computer and scanners. I don’t draw on the computer, but I use it to send scanned images, for research (Google), for e-mail, and for wasting time.

More of Julie's studio

3. 7-Imp: As book lovers, it interests us: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Julie: The Poppy Seed Cakes by Maud and Miska Petersham, Chanticleer by Chaucer {and} illustrated by Barbara Cooney, Stuart Little by E.B White {and} illustrated by Garth Williams, The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, Norse Myths and Legends by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire.

Andrewshek from The Poppy Seed Cakes

Andrewshek from The Poppy Seed Cakes by Margery Clark and
illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham; 1924.

Julie's painting of the Flimflam Man

Julie: “My painting of the Flimflam Man, who I think is Andrewshek grown up.”

4. 7-Imp: If you could have three (living) illustrators or author/illustrators — whom you have not yet met — over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose?

Julie: Maira Kalman, Alice Provensen, Lisbeth Zwerger. I deeply admire the work of all three of them, and I would imagine that they are interesting people. Sometimes after I’ve looked at their work, I feel like I have the privilege of briefly seeing the world through their eyes.

5. 7-Imp: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Julie: I need quiet when I’m coming up with ideas, but I listen to music and podcasts when I’m doing things like painting patterns. This was the hardest question to answer, because I am fickle -– I have a different favorite song every day. At this very moment, I’m listening to the song “Cloud Room” by Laura Veirs.

6. 7-Imp: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Julie: I lived in Norway for a year between high school and college. I had a burning desire to go there -– I think it came from looking at the d’Aulaires’ illustrations when I was little. I spoke Norwegian then.

Nasty 'ol trolls from Imaginary Menagerie

Trolls from Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures,
written by Julie Larios (Harcourt, April 2008)

The Pivot Questionnaire

7-Imp: What is your favorite word?

Julie: “Mazurka.”

7-Imp: What is your least favorite word?

Julie: “Infomercial.”

7-Imp: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Julie: I like making things -– paintings, soup, embroidery, illustrations, paper cuts, pies.


Julie’s dove

7-Imp: What turns you off?

Julie: Sanctimony -– secular or religious.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Julie: “Well, pothole me.” (I heard someone say that at a Kinko’s once.)

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you love?

Julie: The call (whistle? song?) a redwing blackbird makes. It includes two notes at once.

7-Imp: What sound or noise do you hate?

Julie: Anthem rock.

7-Imp: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Julie: I’d like to be a deep sea diver — in a made-up world where I don’t need tanks or equipment.

7-Imp: What profession would you not like to do?

Julie: Accounting.

7-Imp: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Julie: “Well, pothole me … I was expecting you a while back.”

* * * * * * *

Note: To see more of Julie’s art work here at 7-Imp, visit this post—a review of Imaginary Menagerie with some illustrations from the book—and this Sunday feature in which Julie stopped by to show us some never-seen-before-at-her-site paintings and papercuts, too.

* * * * * * *

First spread: Illustration from GLASS SLIPPER, GOLD SANDAL: A WORLDWIDE CINDERELLA by Paul Fleischman, illustration © 2007 by Julie Paschkis. Published by Henry Holt & Co. Posted by permission of Paschkis. All rights reserved.

Second spread: Illustration from IMAGINARY MENAGERIE: A BOOK OF CURIOUS CREATURES by Julie Larios, illustration © 2008 by Julie Paschkis. Published by Harcourt. Posted by permission of Paschkis. All rights reserved.

Third spread: Illustration from ALBERT THE FIX-IT MAN by Janet Lord, illustration © 2008 by Julie Paschkis. Published by Peachtree Press. Posted by permission of Paschkis. All rights reserved.

* * * * * * *


2008 Imaginary Menagerie: Curious Creatures by Julie Larios, Harcourt

2008 Albert the Fix-It Man by Janet Lord, Peachtree Press

Albert dreams of broken things.

A spread from Albert the Fix-It Man, Peachtree Publishers, March 2008

2007 Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman, Henry Holt (Winner: A New York Times Notable Book, an NCTE Notable Book)

2007 The Great Smelly Slobbery Small Tooth Dog by Margaret Read MacDonald, August House

Twist: Yoga Poems2007 Twist: Yoga Poems by Janet S. Wong, McElderry Books

2006 The Talking Vegetables by Won-ldy Paye and Meg Lippert, Henry Holt & Co

2006 Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary by Julie Larios, Harcourt (Winner: A 2006 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor Book for Fiction and Poetry)

2006 Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez, Henry Holt (Winner: A Top Ten Youth Biography, Booklist; A Bank Street Books Best Children’s Book of 2007; A Notable Social Studies 2007 Trade Book)

2006 I Have A Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum, Scholastic (Winner: A Sydney Taylor Book Award 2007 Notable Book)

2005 Here Comes Grandma by Janet Lord, Henry Holt (Winner: Platinum Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio)

Cover for Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile2004 Bottle Houses by Melissa Eskridge Slaymaker, Henry Holt (Winner: Aesop Accolade)

2003 Knock On Wood by Janet Wong, McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster

2003 Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Paye and Lippert, Henry Holt (Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award, an SLJ Best Book of 2003, NY Public Library Top 100, Chicago Public Library Top 100)

2002 Head, Body, Legs: A Story From Liberia by Won-ldy Paye and Meg Lippert, Henry Holt & Co (Winner – Aesop Accolade Award, ALA Notable book, CBC Blue Ribbon Book)

2001 The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, Chronicle Books

2001 Fat Cat: A Danish Folktale by Margaret Read MacDonald, August House (Winner- Parent’s choice award, A Georgia Picture Book Award)

Cover for Night Garden2000 Night Garden: Poems From the World of Dreams by Janet Wong, McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster (Winner — one of the N.Y. Times 10 best illustrated books of 2000, NCTE notable Book, Riverbank Review Books of Distinction Finalist)

1999 First Steps by Lee Wardlaw, Harper Collins

1996 Happy Adoption Day! by John McCutcheon, Little, Brown & Co.

1996 Fortune Telling: Palmistry and Tarot by Dennis Fairchild, Running Press

1995 So Happy/So Sad by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt & Co.

1993 So Sleepy/Wide Awake by Julie Paschkis, Henry Holt & Co.

31 comments to “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Julie Paschkis”

  1. Fantastic interview, good job you Imps.

  2. I love this interview. I love her work. Thank you. Thank you. I don’t suppose you found out how to get the fabulous poster she did for the King county Library. (you had it on the blog a month or so ago)

  3. I always appreciate so much seeing the work and lives of artists. It’s weird — there’s always the image of the “tortured artist,” or people who are “tortured for their art,” yet children’s book illustrators? Some of the happiest looking and most well-adjusted people ever. With cute husbands, even.

    Julie’s art really does speak — because there are such tiny details that you can lean in and examine, and feel like she put little secrets and surprises inside of them, just for you. It truly does draw you in with a whisper, but even backed up and far away, it has a voice that also sings. Just. SO. Gorgeous. I’ve thought so since I saw the book on Georgia O’Keefe! Thank you again for finding awesome people to share with the world!

  4. Jone, there is a contact email for Julie at her site. I suppose you could ask if anyone is selling those King Co. posters?? Perhaps you could just ask her and see if they’re available some where. That was a great poster, huh?

    TadMack, you put it well.

    David, I love being an imp.

  5. It was nice to have breakfast with all of you! The web is a strange and wonderful thing – I feel like I have a web of new friends around the country now. If you are in Seattle come by for real tea – not virtual.
    Thanks for all of this –

  6. Faboo interview. Love love love Julie’s work. Great photos and spreads! She drinks tea! She makes soup and pies! *Swoon*

  7. Thanks, ladies, for this wonderful interview with one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE picture book illustrators. I love Julie’s art. She has a unique style. I thought the illustrations in YELLOW ELEPHANT and TWIST were absolutely gorgeous!

    It was interesting reading about how she got her inspiration for the illustrations for THROUGH GEORGIA’S EYES. My maternal grandmother used to do Polish papercutting. I wish our family had still had some of her wycinaki. My husband and I may be traveling to Santa Fe next month. I’ll have to check out that folk art museum.

  8. Thanks Jules, Eisha and Julie. I loved getting a glimpse of Julie’s work and world. Every time I look at an illustration of hers I wonder, how does she do that? They are so intricate and so detailed and yes so fluid and alive, too. But it’s the intricate part that floors me. I mean, who can cut out paper like that. It would take me a week and it would be a lumpen mess.

    I think Julie is destined to be one of the classic ones!

  9. What a cool studio. Every inch is covered with art in the making. And how fun to see Twist spread across her walls! If I were an illustrator, I couldn’t bear to part with anything I’d made.

  10. When I was at All For Kids Books recently, I saw a picture Paschkis had illustrated hanging on one of the walls. It had a small version of her dog in the photo– the very dog that was the model of The Great Smelly, Slobbery, Small-Tooth Dog. It made me laugh with delight.

  11. Um, could I just BE Julie??? I mean, pothole me, but she is enough to make a person green with envy. The studio, the books, the colors. Oi vey…

  12. Liz, my alt tag for one of her studio pics says that I’d like her to pretty much adopt me. I’d sleep on her studio floor, thanks very much, around all that art.

    (Yeesh, alt tags are actually supposed to convey information about the photo to people who can’t see the picture, and I’m wonking ’em all up with lame jokes. I hope the blind people of the world who read our blog will forgive me.)

  13. […] am ready for summer.  So in honor of dreams, I am sharing fro a discovery I made this year over at 7-Imp; Janet Wong’s Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams.  The illustrations are by Julie […]

  14. Hello,
    nice website! I will visit often in the future 🙂
    Eva Koltai

  15. hi julie – i love your work and imagine the day that i can bring one home….til then i have several of your books and cards. edie

  16. […] Several poets will stop by to share some never-seen-before poems, and I’ll have some lovely Julie Paschkis […]

  17. […] to Julie for sharing. If you missed her interview, posted about this time last year, by all means, go have a look. Her art makes me very […]

  18. Hi, it is funny: looking for polish motifs I found you again:):):)
    I make an animation, a cartoon of European folk tales 🙂

  19. […] I re-named this blog, I dunno, Seven Impossible Julie Paschkises Before Breakfast, I’m quite certain regular 7-Imp readers wouldn’t be surprised. (I […]

  20. […] so if you missed ‘em, go have a look. Today’s illustrations are from the one and only Julie Paschkis, who has graced this blog many a’times, seeing as how I’m a huge […]

  21. […] so if you missed ‘em, go have a look. Today’s illustrations are from the one and only Julie Paschkis, who has graced this blog many a’times, seeing as how I’m a huge […]

  22. […] up, Julie Paschkis’s illustrations (without the text) for Monica Brown’s stirring picture book biography, Pablo […]

  23. […] project of the week: My felt-board adaptation, let’s call it, of Paul Fleischman’s and Julie Paschkis’s 2007 picture book collaboration, Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide […]

  24. Hi Julie: Came across your nice website/blog by coincidence and saw an old guy I kinda remember, Hey Joe! Looks like you both have been very busy artistically, very impressive. I too took up painting in retirement and had one of my paintings accepted to the Minnesota State Fair Fine Art Show (300 out of 2,500 entries) very pleased. Now live with Kathryn half time in Sarasota, Fl & Minneapolis. Let me hear from you and Joe, Best Wishes, (Ray Young)

  25. […] of author/illustrator Margaret Chodos-Irvine, poet and author Julie Larios, author/illustrator Julie Paschkis, and author/illustrator Laura McGee […]

  26. […] released in March (not long from now), I highly recommend finding a copy, by hook or by crook, of Julie Paschkis’ Mooshka: A Quilt Story (Peachtree). What a beauty this picture book is. And Julie is here today to […]

  27. […] book with one finished pieceof art that sets the tone for all of the subsequent art.”– Julie Paschkis’ opening illustration from George Shannon’sWho Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? […]

  28. […] is a closing note in Julie Paschkis’ new picture book about how she and her family have an annual party where they gather together with […]

  29. […] to enlarge spread)   This morning over at Kirkus, I take a look at Julie Paschkis’ newest picture book. That link will be here […]

  30. […] I wrote here last week about Julie Paschkis’ beautiful new picture book, Flutter & Hum / Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de […]

  31. […] dear kickers. I emailed Julie Paschkis this weekend (she’s one of my very favorite illustrators), and I asked if I could post one of […]

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