Mysterious Thelonious

In Mysterious Thelonious, Chris Raschka matches the twelve musical tones of the diatonic scale to the twelve color values of the color wheel, then sets the paint strokes for notes and color washes for harmonies, creating an astonishing tribute to musical genius Thelonious Monk.

Raschka's illustrations in this book remind one of Paul Klee's 1918 watercolor painting Einst dem Grau der Nacht enttaucht, a compositional poem, possibly written by Klee himself. A talented musician and a trained violinist, Klee's passion for music comes through in his paintings, where he often arranges blocks of color like notes in a melody, set off with harmonizing shades as in a musical composition.

In this painting, Klee incorporated letters in color separated squares, cutting off the first verse from the second one with silver paper. At the top of the cardboard, which carries the picture, the verses are inscribed in manuscript form. Paul Klee was a Swiss-German artist, whose highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. Similarly, Raschka himself is also an accomplished musician. Notice the musical notes written by Chris Raschka on the outer edge of the painting.

Based on:

Mysterious Thelonious illustrated by Chris Raschka


  • Colored construction paper
  • Scissors


Create and study patterns similar to Raschka's and Klee's paintings through paper weaving.

Going About Your ArtWork
Cut a piece of colored construction paper paper into a square. Fold the square in half.Cut evenly-spaced slits starting from the folded edge and continuing up to about a half inch from the opposite edge. It may be helpful to draw vertical lines to use as guides while you cut. Open up the paper. Cut colored paper strips about 1 inch in width. The strips should be longer than the length of your square's side. Take one paper strip and weave it horizontally across the slits, going over and under the slits. Push the woven strip to the top and start with another one. The second strip should be woven in an opposite pattern as the first. If your first paper strip goes over and under across the slits, the second strip should go under and over the slits. Weave more paper strips in an alternating pattern until your paper weave is full. Flip the whole square weave. Apply glue at the ends of each paper strip. Fold the excess length of each strip inwards and press to glue them in place. Flip the square weave again so that the folded ends are concealed at the bottom.

Extension Activity
Chris Raschka has illustrated more books on Jazz music legends such as Charlie Parker, Sun Ra, and John Coltrane. Study these illustrations. Raschka has paid tribute to each these personal idols in a unique way.

Image © 1918, Paul Klee, Einst dem Grau der Nacht enttaucht, Watercolor. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright is the author's life plus 100 years or less.