Artist Monroe’s Oil Paintings Illustrate the Dark Children’s Fable

SNOHOMISH – If your kids love Disney’s ‘Frozen’, they might also love the as yet unpublished ‘Hjilmer and The Fire Witch’ children’s book.

Hilma Josal de Monroe illustrates Mark Blair’s dark fable of children with oil paintings. She will have about 16 illustrations when she is done.

Arts of Snohomish, on the corner of First Street and Avenue B, is showing Josal’s paintings for “Hjilmer and the Fire Witch” through February 28. At an artists’ reception scheduled for February 27 at the gallery, Josal will reveal Blair’s story in full. You will have the opportunity to pre-order the book during the event.

Blair, 64, wrote “Hjilmer and the Fire Witch” in ABCB rhyme almost 40 years ago. In a poem with the ABCB rhyme scheme, the second line rhymes with the fourth line, but the first and third lines do not rhyme with each other.

“I have two daughters, Heila and Silver, and when they were really little I decided to write a children’s story for them – and then I sat in a drawer for about 40 years,” Blair said. , adding that his daughter Heila, now 38, is working to get it published.

In the story, Hjilmer and The Fire Witch are brother and sister. Hjilmer wishes she could cast spells like her sister, so she grants his request, but not without a warning: you have to be careful with magic. As Hjilmer casts spells here and there, he begins to get careless. When Hjilmer’s magic becomes dangerous, the fire witch is forced to kill her brother.

“It’s a lot of character designs and impressionistic landscapes with a neon color palette,” Hilma Josal said of the illustrations for “Hjilmer and The Fire Witch.”

“It’s kind of like ‘Frozen,'” said Josal, a former music teacher for K-12 students in the Snohomish School District. Although, with its dark storyline, “Hjilmer and the Fire Witch” might be closer to Hans Christian Andersen’s “Frozen” than Disney’s loose adaptation of the fairy tale.

Josal, 37, specializes in oil painting, but she also likes to illustrate with charcoal and colored pencils. She has been an artist for three years.

“It’s a lot of character designs and impressionistic landscapes with a neon color palette,” Josal said of the book’s illustrations.

The characters in the book, Hjilmer and the Fire Witch, are painted in the image of Josal’s daughters, Ayla and Lana. Lana, 7, is Hjilmer and Ayla, 9, is The Fire Witch. She needed her daughters to pose for her to get the perfect character designs. Especially their faces and their hands.

“They’re very supportive,” Josal said of his daughters. “They draw me and cheer me on every day. They are my biggest fans.”

The fable was originally titled “Bimbo and the Fire Witch” – until Blair suggested naming the main character “Hilma”, after the illustrator. They compromised with “Hjilmer”, which is a Norwegian nickname that Josal’s singing teacher gave him years ago.

Josal said she didn’t know many artists painting in oils to illustrate a book. “It’s pretty rare,” she said. “Oil painters are a dying breed. We are the last of the unicorns.

It took about six months for Josal to illustrate “Hjilmer and the Fire Witch”. You can watch her paint every other Saturday at the gallery. She plans to finish illustrating the last page of the book on February 27.

“I’m painting my last page right now,” Josal said. “The first draft will be completely finished.”

The characters from the book, Hjilmer and the Fire Witch, are painted in the likeness of Hilma Josal's daughters, Ayla and Lana.  Lana, 7, is Hjilmer and Ayla, 9, is The Fire Witch.

The characters from the book, Hjilmer and the Fire Witch, are painted in the likeness of Hilma Josal’s daughters, Ayla and Lana. Lana, 7, is Hjilmer and Ayla, 9, is The Fire Witch.

She quit her teaching job in 2017 when she realized she wanted to be an artist. Josal, who earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Washington, decided to further his education by taking courses there in figure drawing and oil painting.

“I turned out to be really good at art,” she said. “Everything I tried to be, I kind of forced it as a music teacher, but when I painted before or after school, it was natural. That was who I was, but I I didn’t realize it. It burned me. I found myself as an artist.

In addition to having exhibited his paintings at Arts of Snohomish, Josal has exhibited his work at the Shelton Rotation Art Gallery, the Northwest Pinball and Arcade Show in Tacoma, and the Equine Life Solutions Medieval Fair in Snohomish.

“My students come to visit me at the Snohomish Art Gallery,” Josal said. “I have done paintings for many families.”

Blair, who lives in Tahuya at the southern end of the Hood Canal, has written two other books which he hopes his daughter Heila will also publish. These are “Beads on the Half-Shell,” featuring reimagined pearls of wisdom, and “The Coleman Indian Story,” a fictionalized story of a Native American tribe that created the hardware company of Coleman campsite.

He was supposed to go to college on a scholarship to become a journalist, but instead he became a bricklayer and a tiler.

Blair broke his neck in 2001 when the truck he was driving overturned. He was coming home from work to take a nap when he fell asleep at the wheel. He said an undiagnosed sleep disorder caused him to crash his truck. Although he was not paralyzed in the accident, Blair now suffers from short-term memory loss.

“I have the same injury as Christopher Reeve, except I got out of my truck and walked away from it,” he said.

Blair’s daughter and granddaughter were helping re-tile a bathroom in Josal’s house – the elder Blair was giving them instructions – when they started talking about the book “Hjilmer and the Witch of fire”. Heila suggested that Hilma illustrate her father’s story.

Heila and Hilma were best friends when they attended Hawkins Middle School in Belfair. They met because Heila played saxophone and Hilma played trumpet in the band.

Mark Blair cried when he first saw the illustrations for “Hjilmer and the Fire Witch”.

“If you see the artwork, that’s great,” he said. “I’m super impressed with what this lady is doing.”

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; [email protected]heraldnet.com; @sarabruestle.

If you are going to

February’s featured artist at Arts of Snohomish is Hilma Josal, who illustrates a dark children’s story called ‘Hjilmer and the Fire Witch’ by Mark Blair. An artists’ reception is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. on February 27. The gallery, 1024 First St., Suite 104, Snohomish, is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Call 360-568-8648 or visit www.artsofsnohomish.com.

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