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.
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.
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.
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.