Untold Fairy Tales at the Art Supply Store

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 21st, 2014

art by J. Polanshek

The only kind of retail store I would want to open besides a bookstore is a stationery /art supply store. I have a huge weakness for thick, toothy paper and glass pots of ink, tidy rainbow displays of colored pencils and watercolors, a wide array of acrylics and oils and watercolors and brushes, left-handed nibs and microscopically fine pens, soft piles of handmade papers hanging over dowels, and all of those delicious sketch pads, waiting to be filled. Plus, goache.

What I wasn’t expecting when I wandered into the Artists’ Medium store in Williston, Vt., was to find, well, art. Especially art that made my children’s book lover’s heart beat. There was a table filled with delicate, sometimes haunting prints that hinted at stories untold, fairy tales and legends just waiting for the right words. The artist was listed as Polanshek of the Hills.

art by J. Polanshek

I picked up three of the prints, two for gifts and one to keep. As I checked out, the young staffer at the counter ringing up another customer glanced down at my purchases and said, “Hey, thanks.”
“Are these yours?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes,” she said.
“I pictured you older,” I confessed. She was all of, perhaps, 23.
“Most people do. Especially because I go by Polanshek of the Hills. They usually think I’m a guy.”

Truth be told, I had actually pictured the artist as a woman in her 40′s, someone with a rich north woods life, maybe someone with a wool poncho and sensible, muddy boots outside her studio in the forest. Instead, she looks like a student. She probably is one.

art by J. Polanshek

I told her how much I liked her artwork, how it evoked fairy tales I hadn’t yet read. Her birds hold conversations. Her mice and deer are wrapped in mysterious, decorative capes, or cocoons, in a series of images she calls the “Quilted Forest.” I want to see Jess Polanshek’s work in a picture book, or an illustrated novel. She is just beginning her artistic career, and is already so talented.

art by J. Polanshek

It turns out that Jess Polanshek HAS illustrated a children’s book, Edward Saves the Forest (available on her website, published via Createspace). It is lovely, but uses a simpler, less detailed illustration style than the work of hers that so arrests me.

What a delight to wander into an art supply store and discover a young person with so much artistic promise. I can’t wait to see where her art takes her. And I’ll get to pick up some watercolor paper, Rapidograph cleaner, and size 2 brushes at the same time.

art by J. Polanshek

art by J. Polanshek

8 thoughts on “Untold Fairy Tales at the Art Supply Store

  1. HawaiianLibrarian

    Mahalo for sharing the works of this young artist – reminds me of Jan Brett, don’t you think? with all the fine detailing. I’m following her work now.

  2. Terry Caszatt

    Wow, these are wonderful drawings, full of mystery, intrigue, magic. Nothing makes the heart beat faster than to discover an artist working so diligently, so alone sometimes, so vulnerable in many ways, yet bravely working on. It’s always a moment of surprise and delight, but it takes a certain sensibility on the viewer’s part to make the magic complete. I think of Updike’s fabulous art essays in Always Looking and Still Looking… It takes that roving, attentive eye to make it all come together. Elizabeth’s small essay on Polanshek of the Hills reveals the power and magic of that moment.

  3. gail

    Jess is a fabulous artist! I have had the privilege of watching her talent bloom and take off into all sorts of directions that I never dreamed possible – not because she doesn’t have the talent – for she has enough talent for 10 artists – but because she has evolved and grown SO much and SO quickly that there was no way to predict it all – and she just keeps going strong – an artistic force to be reckoned with – always producing beautiful creative haunting art far beyond her years. She is a talent to keep your eye on – she is young and talented and I can’t wait to see where she goes on this beautiful journey.

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