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ABOUT US

ABOUT US

We are Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr - a writer/ illustrator, husband/wife duo who live in a barn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with our three small kids and a goofy blue dog. We make books together, all day, every day. Click the image above to learn more about us.

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Ten Years and Counting

The other day, at approximately the same moment, Robbi and I glanced over at the calendar, saw that it was 2016, and did a bit of math.

It turns out we have been in Chestertown for ten years now. Even though it seems like we got here five minutes ago.

After the shock subsided, Robbi and I launched into a reminiscence of that day, about eleven years ago, when we realized we were sad. We had what we were supposed to want: great jobs at a fancy design firm, a row house in trendy Baltimore neighborhood, an elegant blue dog named Iggy.

But we didn’t have time to make stuff together. And all we really wanted to was make stuff together.

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And so we decided to make a change.

Plan A was grad school (MFA in fiction) for me. Robbi had gotten a lot out of her MFA. Maybe if I got one, too, we could go somewhere and teach together, and write and make art and that would make us happy. We were full of hope as I sent out my applications.

But the powers that be had other plans. Plan A was a bust.

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And so we came up with Plan B: quit our jobs, sell our house, and move into the hayloft above Robbi’s mom’s pottery studio. Our parents did not think this was a good idea. They were probably right. We were chucking our jobs and our health insurance for the prospect of certain financial ruin.

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But it didn’t matter. We knew we needed to try something different. And so we took a long, hard look at the hayloft in question. On one hand, it was unoccupied. On the other hand, it was full of 30 years of dusty stuff: lumber, broken pottery, cardboard boxes, various branches, old tires, ancient furniture, and other glorious debris Robbi’s dad (the ultimate pragmatist) couldn’t bring himself to throw away.

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And yet we had a plan. And the will. And Robbi’s parents’ permission to proceed.

So we spent our weekends for the next six months clearing out junk, one van-load at a time. Eventually we could see the floors and walls. And so we hung some insulation and some sheetrock.

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And made ourselves a brand-new home.

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The heart of Plan B was to make books until we ran out of money. To make sure we’d actually do it instead of lying around watching TV, we set up a subscription service. People gave us money and we promised to make and send them 10 books in the year to come. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea how to make books or publish books or sell books. But we decided to do it anyway.

We gave our venture a name. It was a terrible name. It was our name.

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Armed with our terrible name, we rolled up our sleeves and made some books (https://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/).

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(We made them on our dining room table.)

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We sent them out into the world. We had no idea if they were any good. But we were having a good time.

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Making books was the end of our plans. We had zero expectations or even hopes of anything beyond the making.

But things started happening.

For example, local painter Marc Castelli (http://www NULL.marc-castelli NULL.com/) showed our books to local bookseller Tom Martin (http://www NULL.bookplate NULL.biz/), who started carrying our books in October and asked us to do our first public presentation in December.

Suddenly, we were standing in front of a (admittedly tiny) crowd who expected us to have something to say. (We had nothing to say.) We mumbled and fumbled and yammered, and afterward sold a few books and even signed our names. It was at that moment we discovered that beyond the pleasure of MAKING books is the pleasure of sharing them with people.

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We got an opportunity to do more of the same a few months later when Carla Massoni of Chestertown’s own Massoni Gallery (http://www NULL.massoniart NULL.com/) included us in a group show of young artists.

Our central piece was a narrative mural that rose up from one of our books and wound its way up one wall, across a ceiling, and back down the opposite wall. But we also showed some framed illustrations from our books and some of Robbi’s clay monoprints. The show put our work in front of a bunch of new people. It made us feel like actual artists. Also, we sold a lot of books. We doubled our subscribership. We met some amazing fellow artists.

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One of them, a painter named J.T., asked to us paint a mural on the wall of a gallery in DC. We arrived on a Friday afternoon, brought sleeping bags, and painted and slept throughout the weekend, finishing in the wee hours Sunday morning. It was a panel from our book For the Love of God (https://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/products/for-the-love-of-god). It was extremely large.

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We reached our goal of making ten books together that first year, but (as we had anticipated) we pretty much burned through our savings. It was time to contemplate a return to the “real” world.

But then, at just the right moment, I got a miracle of a phone call from my old boss Clifford, asking if I might like to come back to work half time, from home, as a writer.

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I said yes. (I might have said “hell yes.”) Suddenly fortified with a predictable income, we kept on making books. Because we hadn’t yet run out of ideas.

Inspired by the fun we’d had with our first halting performance at Tom’s bookstore, we started refining our act and taking it on the road. As it turned out, we DID have something to say. We were living a story that people found interesting. And slowly we figured out how to tell it.

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Part of telling our story was finding ways to meet other people who cared about the kind of work we were making. Our Idiots’Books titles are best described as “odd, commercially nonviable picture books for adults.” They are not comics, but we found an approximate relevance and kinship at a couple of small press and comic shows.

About nine months into our adventure, we applied for (and were miraculously granted a table at) the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts Festival (https://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/MoCCA_Festival) in NYC. The first day, we charged way too much for our books and sold almost none of them. The second day, we made minor adjustments and fared much better. But the real takeaway from the show was that there was this army of other people who were also interested in combining pictures and words in unexpected ways. We were excited and energized.

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Another part of telling our story has been sharing it with students who are, themselves, interested in being creators of some sort. In the winter of 2008, we returned to our alma mater for our first joint teaching gig, where we spent January leading six writers and six visual artists through a monthlong exploration of collaborative book making. They made astonishing stuff. Stuff that they probably would not have made if we hadn’t been there. Our mission evolved from just making books to figuring out ways to empower other creators to make books (or really any creative product), too.

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Feeling bold (and somewhat lonely), we hosted a festival, Subscribers that Rock (http://www NULL.thebarnstorming NULL.com/archives/2007/11/subscribers_tha NULL.html), and invited our talented creative friends to come do their thing. Thanks to Drew, Brian, Rich, other Brian, Victor, Aidan, and Jim for making the trek and dazzling Chestertown with two days of literature, music, stand-up comedy, and string theory.

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Feeling even bolder, we decided to embrace responsibility and welcomed the first of our three (and soon to be four) children into the barn. Alden was extremely small. Every time I carried her to the changing table, I feared that I would break her. The good news: I did not break her.

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Time passed. We changed a lot of diapers. We kept making books. We kept finding new ways to share them. We kept telling our story whenever and wherever people would listen.

People started asking us to do stuff. People who worked in the real world of books. An editor named Liz asked us create a series of DYI, single-sheet recombining narratives (http://www NULL.tor NULL.com/2009/03/09/one-page-wonders/) for the Tor.com website. We called them One-Page WondersI remember getting her email asking if we’d be interested in taking on the project. I remember running around whooping with Robbi, so thrilled were we with the opportunity.

Not long after, essayist named Kim, who we met at a literary conference, asked us to speak at a symposium celebrating the essay.

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We gave a 12-minute talk with lots of illustrated slides. We were sharing the stage with a bunch of real-live writers who had published real-live books and won real-live awards and actually gotten their MFAs. But we made the audience laugh and even inspired a person or two (or so we were told).

After that, we really got the speaking bug. And so we were thrilled when an illustrator named Jaimie stopped by our table at the Small Press Expo and asked us to speak at the illustrious ICON7 (http://www NULL.theillustrationconference NULL.org/). ICON is a huge, international illustration conference where the biggest names in the field convene to share ideas and swap nicely drawn business cards. Based on our (utter lack of) contributions to date, we had NO BUSINESS speaking at ICON, but Jaimie was on the board, and there was an effort afoot to include “up and coming” creators alongside the titans and legends. And so we came and told our story. And made a bunch of new friends.

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It was around that time that an editor named Dan (who we’d also met at SPX), decided to include us in the New York magazine Approval Matrix (placing us, to our delight, in the Brilliant and Lowbrow quadrant).

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(Because who wants to be despicable and highbrow?)

It became our unofficial motto.

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Doing our best to live up to our adopted quadrant, we kept making books. And sharing them with people.

The merry men of Bombadil (https://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Bombadil_(band)), who we met one night after one of their gigs, visited our studio, checked out our stuff, and asked us to create the art for their next album. We felt like the people rock stars turned to for their album art. Because, suddenly, we were those people.

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The same editor named  Liz (she of the One Page Wonders fame) wrote us again and asked us to create chapter illustrations for the online release of Cory Doctorow’s book Makers. This was our biggest commission to date. It was a vast and audacious project to begin with, but we saw an envelope and wanted to push it. Liz indulged our idea to design the illustrations as 81 interchangeable “tiles” (http://boingboing NULL.net/2010/01/19/makers-tile-game-the NULL.html) that recombine in more ways than there are atoms in the universe.

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Our friend Joshua Wolf Shenk, who was then the director of the literary house at Washington College, commissioned us to create a mural on the ceiling and four walls of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. Called Six Degrees of Frances Bacon, it was a huge web of literary greats (and Kevin Bacon), each connected with satirical phrases. It became the anchor for a profile about us in Baltimore Magazine (http://www NULL.baltimoremagazine NULL.net/old-site/arts/2010/07/nobodys-fools).

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On perhaps the most coincidentally important day of our lives in books (though we had no idea at the time) a guy named Jesse, who worked for Disney, bought one of our self-published mix-and-match books at a small press show in New York City. Instead of forgetting about it, some many months later, he shared it with an editor named Erin who worked at Little Brown, and who called us up and asked us if we might like to make a book with her.

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No matter that it was a book about kid-friendly superheroes who aren’t allowed to do anything more untoward than glare at one another. This was our proverbial “big break.” I wish I had a video of the jumping and yelling we did that day.

Working within the narrow creative parameters of the Disney/Marvel universe, we rolled up our sleeves and made the best book about pacifist super heroes that we possibly could.

This book provided the occasion for a writer named Lela Moore at the New York Times to write a little piece (http://artsbeat NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2010/11/10/the-idiots-guide-to-publishing/) about Robbi and me, Idiots’Books, and our first foray into commercial publishing.

And it gave us a chance to show our editor Erin that we were willing to work our butts off, that we always met our deadlines, and that we were fun to collaborate with.

It was around this time that Bridget, an editor at Chronicle Books—yes CHRONICLE BOOKS (http://www NULL.chroniclebooks NULL.com/)—offered to publish a gorgeous hardcover version of our self-published book Ten Thousand Stories (https://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Ten-Thousand-Stories-Ever-Changing-Happenings/dp/1452114072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474818851&sr=8-1&keywords=ten+thousand+stories).

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About which, Pulitzer-prize winning book critic (and all-around stellar human being) Michael Dirda wrote a glowing review (https://www NULL.washingtonpost NULL.com/entertainment/books/ten-thousand-stories-an-ever-changing-tale-of-tragic-happenings/2013/12/11/9d664514-60fd-11e3-bf45-61f69f54fc5f_story NULL.html) in the Washington Post.

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In what is perhaps the peak moment of her past decade, Robbi had the opportunity to interview the legendary Robert Crumb, live, on stage, a block from our house. Apparently unaware of Crumb’s reputation as a difficult interview, Robbi did her research, came loaded for bear, and stood toe-to-toe with this legendary creator. While winning his heart in the process.

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We kept making books, but without making it our explicit mission, we also started spending more and more time on stage talking about them. Through our appearance at ICON7, we met illustrators Melanie Reim and Anelle Miller, who gave us the ultimate honor of presenting the keynote address at the Society of Illustrators (https://www NULL.societyillustrators NULL.org/) Educator’s Symposium.

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One day at the AWP conference (https://www NULL.awpwriter NULL.org/awp_conference/), we met a guy who, after leafing through our Idiots’Books offerings, suggested that if we were to offer a subscription-based book club for kids, he’d buy ten club memberships on the spot. We thought about that for a while (our initial thought was, “no way, that’s too much work”) and launched Bobbledy Books. (Our subsequent thought was “this is too much work, but we will find a way.”)

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Bobbledy gave us the opportunity to ask our friends Drew Bunting and Brian Slattery, genius musicians and songwriters, to pour their heart and soul and musical wizardry into three incredible children’s albums.

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And the chance to collaborate with composer, actor, singer, songwriter, puppeteer, and one-man-band Jordan Allan White (http://jordanallenwhite NULL.com/) on a fourth. (For anyone in the Atlanta area, Jordan’s musical puppet show Loggerhead Island is about to open at the Georgia Aquarium. It’s amazing. Check it out.

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Another notable project came from fellow Williams College alum Ashley Weeks Cart (http://blogalacart NULL.com/), who commissioned us to create a poster-sized illustrated bucket list (https://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/products/ephropology-101-the-williams-bucket-list) of the Williams College experience.

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It was an extraordinary amount of work, and we’ll probably never do anything like it again, but it was an opportunity to push ourselves in yet another creative direction. (If you are keen to get your hands on one of these, we still have a few left (https://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/products/ephropology-101-the-williams-bucket-list).)

The election of 2012 came around. The cast of characters seemed too odd and problematic to resist the opportunity for satire. And so we created a three-panel mix-and-match book that allowed the reader to recombine the physical characteristics and position platforms of the ten most prominent candidates into 1,000 possible candidates. Our good friend Josh created a slick interactive version that you can still play today (if you are nostalgic for days when folks like Herman Caine and Rick Santorum were the leading edge of nutty.)

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And then there was our letterpress adventure, a flurry of exploration of an entirely new medium in partnership with our friend and printer Jodi Bortz. We made cards and invitations and family trees and stationery. Even though Robbi and I are taking an indefinite vacation from the letterpress game, Jodi has created her own enterprise, Blue Canary Letterpress (http://bluecanaryletterpress NULL.com/), which still offers many of Robbi’s designs in addition to plenty of Jodi’s own. Her shop is about a block from the barn, and you can swing by to see the Chandler in Price in action most days.

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We must give thanks to Elise, who gave us a chance to take the stage at TedX. (If you decide to watch the video of our talk (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=Vqx7qMPyYG0), take heart to know that my microphone issue gets sorted out about a minute in.)

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And to Gabby Blair of Design Mom fame, who asked us to come speak at Alt Summit (http://www NULL.altitudesummit NULL.com/), and who recently paid us the ultimate compliment of featuring our picture book Babies Ruin Everything (https://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Babies-Rudrin-Everything-Matthew-Swanson/dp/1250080576/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1469307003&sr=8-1&keywords=babies+ruin+everything) among her Four Picture Books You’ll Love column (http://www NULL.designmom NULL.com/category/childrens-lit/).

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The blogger, innovator, and conference creator Laura Mayes saw our dog and pony show at Alt and asked us to come speak at Mom 2.0 (https://www NULL.mom2summit NULL.com/).

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It was there that, wandering around the exhibitor halls one afternoon, we found our way onto the TODAY show set and accidentally discovered that we enjoy sitting together chatting on video.

And then there’s design director, Lisa Kelsey, who we also met us at ICON7 (see what a big deal THAT turned out to be, thank you Jaime Zollars (http://www NULL.jaimezollars NULL.com/)!), and offered us the opportunity to be profiled (http://www NULL.familycircle NULL.com/family-fun/relationships/modern-life-matthew-swanson-and-robbi-behr/) in an issue of Family Circle magazine.

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And let us stand up and shout from the rooftops about how much we love and trust and would be nowhere without our magnificent advisor/truth teller/literary agent Meredith, who has (so far) boldly sold five of our book projects to Macmillan.

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And this seems like the perfect moment to (re)introduce our (very nice) editor and publisher Erin Stein (she of Super Hero Squad fame), who a few years ago started her own imprint at Macmillan and, in a dramatic flourish of believing in us, promptly acquired five of our book projects.

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Erin gave us the thrill of publishing our first hardcover children’s book (https://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Babies-Rudrin-Everything-Matthew-Swanson/dp/1250080576/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1469307003&sr=8-1&keywords=babies+ruin+everything) this past July.

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Erin gave us the thrill of making and anticipating the arrival of our second hardcover picture book Everywhere, Wonder (https://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Everywhere-Wonder-Matthew-Swanson/dp/1250087953/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1250087953&pd_rd_r=FX8AB8XKTBXFFK5Z0RG6&pd_rd_w=xQJOn&pd_rd_wg=ukjd8&psc=1&refRID=FX8AB8XKTBXFFK5Z0RG6) this coming February.

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And she has given us the truly mind-boggling thrill of working on and publishing our first illustrated novels, a middle grades series called The Real McCoys, the creation of which is currently occupying the lion’s share of our waking moments (and plenty of our non-waking ones, as well), and which will arrive on bookshelves sometime next fall. Here are the main characters, Milton and Moxie. 12378001_10207973449206382_7050087709629606737_o (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/12378001_10207973449206382_7050087709629606737_o NULL.jpg)

Beyond the books and gourmet donuts (Erin really knows how to host a production meeting), Erin won our hearts during our first official visit to the Macmillan offices in the Flatiron building (yes, the Flatiron Building that we always stop to gaze up upon and take pictures of ourselves in front of and wonder what’s happening inside of) by taking us on a private tour of the 18th-floor balcony and letting us know we have a second home in New York.

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What started out as a desire to not be sad has turned into an decade-long avalanche of creative opportunity. The range of things we’ve had the chance to make and do and experience over the past ten years defies belief, let alone my ability document them all.

In an attempt to remember, I just looked up at the shelf of stuff we’ve made. 70 books (https://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew NULL.com/) and counting. Four children’s albums. A handful posters and broadsides. A line of t-shirts and onesies. Various cards and postcards and invites and business cards and logos and websites and original art.

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A bunch of nice write ups in various newspapers and magazines.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-48-01-am (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Screen-Shot-2016-09-26-at-7 NULL.48 NULL.01-AM NULL.png)

Dozens of talks and workshops and class visits and critique sessions on colleges, schools, conferences, and libraries across the country.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-48-20-am

 

 

It’s impossible to hold in our heads at one time. And so we wrote it down here. To remind ourselves that it happened. To remind ourselves that it’s only the beginning.

A million thanks to the people mentioned throughout this post, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Without the rest of you, we probably wouldn’t have made it past the first few projects. Our creative lives have been possible because of the army of other people who supported our adventures these past ten years by:

  • subscribing to Idiot’sBooks or Bobbledy Books
  • buying our books at shows and online
  • hiring us to do do custom books and illustrations
  • reading our blog
  • watching our children
  • making us dinner
  • helping us stuff envelopes
  • sending us care packages
  • giving us hand-me-downs
  • putting up with our nonsense
  • helping us fish in Alaska
  • simply showing up and living this story with us

Thank you, thank you, to all of these people.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, what an amazing retrospective! We missed you guys at SPX this year but it’s great to see all the world-conquering you’ve been up to since last year. Excelsior!

  2. Beautiful! What an amazing ride its been. Congrats on 10 years!!

Matthew Draws 45 – The Answers

People, I am in a hurry. We leave for Alaska in ten days. I have 20 days worth of things to do. Forgive the brevity, but I know all you want is the eye candy, anyway.

This…

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.45.03 AM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Screen-Shot-2016-06-14-at-8 NULL.45 NULL.03-AM NULL.png)

…is not

  • Al Gore
  • Dan Rather?
  • Howard Cosell (on a good day)
  • Ronald Reagan!
  • Jerry Orbach
  • Marc Albert
  • Howard Cosell
  • George W Bush
  • Howard Cosell
  • Ross Perot. Purely by the ears.
  • John Boehner
  • This is Howard Cosell.
  • I rather think this is Dan Rather
  • Ronald Regan? He has a 1970’s newscaster vibe too.
  • One of the Bushes . . . with a sagging chin
  • Please let this newscaster know that is face is melting (can’t think of his name!)

A good many of you guessed Reagan. This is not Reagan. It is not even “Ronald Reagan if he had been an unsuccessful boxer,” though that answer delights me.

No, as three of you people correctly guessed, this is Ted Cruz.

ted_cruz6 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Annex-Garland-Judy_NRFPT_09 NULL.jpg)

 

In retrospect, this drawing is unfair.

And yet, Matthew Draws is not about fairness. It is about truth. This is a true drawing by me. Of who?

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.45.12 AM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Annex-Garland-Judy_NRFPT_09 NULL.jpg)

  • I really hate to say this, but Michelle Obama? Sorry Michelle!
  • Blossom all grown up?
  • Loretta Lynch
  • Oh wow a penny for her thoughts.
  • I have no idea but I am very afraid.
  • Serena Williams
  • Dennis Rodman Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • You know that toy that’s a plastic man’s face and you put your fingers in the back and move them around to make him make terrible faces? This is his wife.
  • No idea
  • Audra McDonald?
  • Condoleeza Rice
  • An unflattering Donna Brazile
  • I totally know who this is.
  • Sandra Burhhart or whatever her name is. She’s so annoying
  • Stumped. No idea.
  • eeek. she looks mean. My 7th grade Home Ec teacher?
  • Cruella De Ville
  • ?!
  • Toni Morrison
  • Snarl-mouth Scribble-hair. No freakin’ clue, dude.
  • I think it’s a woman – Condi Rice??
  • Ivana Drumpf
  • No, it’s not bad. It’s terrible. Or I am.
  • Sandra Bernhard
  • Dunno, but she’s fierce!
  • Oh gosh . . . I’m going to name her Leona.

Here’s the thing people, the worse I draw, the better your answers are. So where’s my incentive to improve?

Exactly zero % of you correctly guessed that I was drawing Judy Garland.
Annex - Garland, Judy_NRFPT_09 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Annex-Garland-Judy_NRFPT_09 NULL.jpg)

And here is a drawing I’m really rather proud of. But will that matter?

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.45.18 AM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Annex-Garland-Judy_NRFPT_09 NULL.jpg)

Let’s see.

  • Lazy Eye Lena Dunham
  • Monica “lip sperm” Lewinsky
  • Amy poehler
  • She’s so cute but I’ve no idea whatsoever.
  • Monica Lewinsky
  • Drew Barrymore (& Harvey the Invisible Rabbit to her left)
  • Frances Bean Cobain
  • Monica Lewinsky
  • Kylie Jenner
  • Jenna Bush
  • Lena Dunham?
  • Amanda Bynes
  • What the fuck happened here?
  • Jojo the Bachelorette?
  • Drew Barrymore. At a hypnotist show.
  • Caitlyn Jenner/this doll when it grows up: https://www.flickr.com/photos/starling67/4837784855
  • Tina Fey
  • Maria Bamford
  • Um…Anna Farris with uncharacteristically voluminous hair?
  • Definitely a woman. Amanda Seyfried.
  • Ann Hathaway
  • Hello. It’s me. I was wondering if after all these years you’d get to drawing me. -Adele
  • maybe Cecily Strong?
  • Maisie Williams? Maybe Adele?
  • Honestly, I have no idea, but she needs an optometrist.

Darn it, people. Again, you delight me. Again, we failed to understand one another. This person is none other than Mindy Kaling.

mindy-kaling-680x440

Which brings us to #4. We have an opportunity to tie things up with a little  understanding or to have this go down as one of the least successful Matthew Draws of all time (depending, I suppose, on your definition of “success.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 8.45.24 AM

  • Oh! It’s that guy that plays guitar or something! What’s up with his forehead? Is he okay???
  • Kris Kristopherson
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson
  • Someone suffering, someone pretending to be Van Gogh, a cross between Ryan Gosling and Tom Waits with a beard.
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Charles Bukowski (in need of a drink)
  • A hirsute waiter who just got a shitty tip?
  • Huh
  • Bearded, angry Brad Pitt? Bearded snarky Conan?
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Conan O’Brien
  • Sean Maguire
  • Werewolf Jack
  • Van Gogh
  • David Bowie. With a beard and a dapper tie. OR Richard Branson.
  • Lyle Lovett experimenting with facial hair
  • Brad Pitt
  • Fernando Castillo Saavedra in “Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish”
  • Ed Burns. No doubt.
  • Gordon Lightfoot when his music career ended, and he had to cut his hair and work in an office.
  • Jeff Foxworthy
  • Conan the Barbarian. I mean O’Brien.
  • Jon Stewart
  • Scott Green…I think.
  • I feel like I should know this one. I’m sorry.

I am sorry, too, my friends. And so is Benicio Del Toro, who wishes in vain that I had never heard of him and thus, never felt compelled to conjure his likeness.

Famous-men-beard-2015-64 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Famous-men-beard-2015-64 NULL.jpg)

My star rating this time around? 3.25. Which is, on one hand, awful. But which is, on another hand, a stunning success, given that out of all the answers issued on ALL FOUR OF MY DRAWINGS, only three of you were correct and a full of these resulted in zero correct guesses. Which leads me to believe your mediocre (as opposed to abysmal) ratings of my prowess suggest some glimmers of enjoyment of my drawings, if not recognition of my subjects.

And now for the BONUS QUESTION (cue mirror ball and “Take My Breath Away”).

If you were lost in the woods and had to skin a squirrel to eat with one of these people, who would it be and why? 

Matthew_Draws_45_lineup (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Matthew_Draws_45_lineup NULL.jpg)

  • Nobody looks like they could actually skin a squirrel, but I’ll go with number three because she looks like she actually might enjoy eating one.
  • The last guy because he’s insane and would have the know-how to take down and skin something much bigger than a squirrel.
  • Ethan Hawke looks pretty much like a scraggley wood squirrel, so I expect any such creature might mistake him for a long-lost cousin, so the capture would be quick and easy. And since he doesn’t look like he eats much, I wouldn’t go hungry.
  • Howard Cosell, since he’d provide the best color commentary throughout the process: “And now the squirrel’s cautiously approaching the trap. Step by stuttering step he inches ever closer, oblivious to the hideous fate awaiting him. But what’s this? He stands erect, alert, seemingly cognizant of an alarming presence, a dangerous predator, or simply a droning, nasal, self-important voice. Oh, yeah, guess that WAS me who scared him away. Sorry…
  • Obviously, the squirrel would have surrendered himself so The Gipper could eat. And obviously, I’d dine with him and ask him if he could get me into Canada or Switzerland if I needed to go expat on the fly.
  • Either of the two on the far right. They look like they could kill a rabbit with their bare teeth.
  • “Ted Cruz — have you seen him cook bacon on a machine gun? This guy would do all the work, and make it a point of pride to be sure we were fed and then rescued. Also, he’s the most likely to go get help, leaving me blissfully alone in nature to enjoy my roast squirrel.
  • If I were sure about who #4 was, I might pick him. He’s certainly more attractive, and with the beard I’d likely appreciate his politics more. But I can’t be sure of his squirrel-skinning skills. “
  • Clint. He seems like he knows his way around a squirrel.
  • Would Lena Dunham eat squirrel?
  • Werewolf Jack. Because he’s a good hunter
  • Since I only have Reagan, Jojo the Bachelorette and Van Gogh to work with here, it’s really a toss-up.
  • The third person because it looks like she could be easily distracted so I could get more squirrel meat for myself.
  • Cruella De Ville—because this isn’t her first animal-skinning rodeo. We catch the squirrel with some acorns under a box partially held open with a stick that has a string tied to it. Squirrel goes in, we yank the string, Cruella Goes to work. Duh.
  • #3 because her lazy eye would distract me from the fact I was eating a squirrel
  • The guy from Destinos so I could practice my Spanish.
  • Ed Burns seems like a resourceful chap. Assuming that # 4 is, indeed, Ed Burns.
  • Definitely Gordon Lightfoot. He’s Canadian, and I feel as though they naturally would have squirrel capturing skills. It’s simply part of their north country upbringing.
  • The squirrel would have been making a nest in Conan’s beard. He’d probably make the whole squirrel eating experience tolerably funny
  • Sandra Bernhard certainly seems the most capable of rage hunting, that’s for sure. But Dan Rather would be fascinating. Jon Stewart would be the best company BY FAR, but I’m pretty sure we’d have to survive on berries. In terms of how I’d capture the squirrel, I would employ my usual one-two punch of interpretive dance and hypnosis. It might get weird.
  • The last guy who I think is Scott Green is looking pretty were-wolfy (is he reliving his Buffy days?), so I would share the squirrel in hopes he wouldn’t eat me when he transforms.
  • Number 2 looks like she’d be a fair hand at squirrel-nabbing. She’d just stand there and stare it down, and while it was frozen, hypnotized, in her gaze, I’d grab it from behind. Then I would, of course, let her do all the squirrel-skinning; not really my thing, you understand. I can make a decent squirrel stew though.

People, you delight me. These answers made my day. Thank you for riding this rickety coaster with me. I say we press on.

There will be a brief hiatus on the Matthew Draws front, as I am soon to depart for the rapidly melting permafrost. In the mean time, know that you are loved.

Matthew Draws 45

So here we go again. I can’t tell if the problem this week is whether Matthew chose to draw people completely unfamiliar to me, or whether he’s done a really terrible job drawing people I really ought to recognize.

Either way, he fully deserves the blame.

Have a gander:

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Matthew Draws 44 – The Answers

Yes, yes, I know I’m late in posting this post. You have told me. I have heard you. Apologies and so on. I am full of excuses but will keep them to myself. Let’s just begin. Right now.

I drew this person.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.34.50 PM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Screen-Shot-2016-06-03-at-1 NULL.34 NULL.50-PM NULL.png)

And most of you people were convinced, with all your hearts, that I drew Louis C.K. A few of you offered pleasing praise (or is it better described as shock?).

  • Louis CK in the house!
  • LOUIS! LOUIS! LOUIS!
  • Louis C.K.! It’s Louis C.K.!
  • Louis CK… I’m certain of it. Well done!
  • Louis C.K. with the slightest hint of Walter White.
  • Louis C.K. – how is that even a last name? Can I change my last name to 7.8. ?
  • Louis CK or that guy that’s always at the Royal Farms.
  • Either Louis CK or Louis XIV without his wig

There were a few dissenting opinions:

  • George Carlin
  • Paul Giamatti
  • Bryan Cranston
  • James Gandolfini
  • Richard Karn
  • James Lipton

But the most of you had it in a landslide.

Louis-C.K. (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jenner NULL.jpg)

Here’s where things got entirely murky.

I drew this person.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.35.07 PM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jenner NULL.jpg)

So many of you seemed so confident in your guesses.

There was a cluster of support for Katie Couric including “Katie Couric … Channeling Martha Stewart,” and “Katie Couric in a shampoo ad”. A number of you agreed that it must be Jennifer Aniston.

And then there were a bunch of one-offs.

  • (Unbreakable) Ellie Kemper!
  • Meredith Vieira
  • Nancy McKeon from The Facts of Life
  • Chew baca Mom
  • Hoda Kotb. Or not.
  • Bette Midler
  • Young Joan Rivers
  • Matthew’s mom
  • Renee Zellweger
  • Joy Behar
  • Amy Schumer
  • Mayim Bialik
  • It looks like a love child of Jennifer Anniston and Julia Louis Dreyfus?
  • Loretta Switt
  • The twinkle in the eye tells me its Jennifer Aniston.
  • Wow, she looks nice though!
  • Chelsea Handler
  • Rita Wilson
  • Kelly Ripa

One of you thought I’d drawn a man. Really?

  • George Zimmerman

But none of you, NONE of you figured out that I was trying to draw (obviously!) Neve Campbell.

neve_campbell (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jenner NULL.jpg)

Next up…

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.35.18 PM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jenner NULL.jpg)

Again, there was little consensus. The sheer array of answers was delightful.

  • With that jawline, it has to be Anjelia Huston!
  • Iggy Pop
  • Russel Brand on a serious day
  • Bill Nighy
  • It’s not Patti Smith, but I wish it was.
  • Yikes! Uh, um, ???
  • Iggy pop after a big meal
  • Mrs. Bruce (my vaguely racist grade-school music teacher)
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Hillary Clinton
  • If it weren’t for the strong chin, I’d say Meryl Streep. Maybe if she morphed with Voldemort’s snake, Nagini.
  • Kate Moncrief
  • Jay Leno’s mother?
  • Marilyn Manson
  • France’s McDormand
  • Tough one. I can’t decide between Iggy Pop and Annie Leibowitz sans glasses.
  • I’m not sure, but she seems a little scary
  • Some aging rock star
  • Alice Cooper
  • the witch that I thought lived in my basement when I was little
  • patti smith!! if it isnt it should be.
  • I don’t know but I love the shape of the left eyelid

A few of the guesses strayed in the direction of being correct:

  • Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent
  • Give me a hint … Man or woman? I give up.

But…three of you got it right, including the one of you who felt sheepish in placing your guess:

I kind of feel bad saying this, but Caitlyn Jenner?

Indeed. No need to feel bad. I’m just that good at drawing.

jenner (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/jenner NULL.jpg)

To bring us  down the home stretch, I drew this person:

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 1.35.26 PM

Again, your guesses followed no clear theme.

There was a flurry of enthusiasm for the idea that I had drawn Drake.

  • Idris Elba in overalls, apparently.
  • Joe Manganiello
  • Alan Iverson I guess
  • Scarface
  • obviously I should know this one but I don’t
  • Dwayne Wade
  • Michael K. Williams
  • Diddy?
  • The guy who was originally on Scandal but got kicked off
  • Dwyane Wade … Based solely on the tank top
  • No idea.
  • Jared Leto
  • Ummmm…
  • Ming the merciless
  • Zayn Malik
  • Paul Gaugin
  • Contemplative guy with cornrows
  • Kanye

Again, some of them made me laugh audibly.

  • The Black Phantom of the Opera
  • Corn Row Shakespeare
  • I’ve never seen this person. Ever.

Including this, my favorite ever guess in Matthew Draws:

  • spear carrier in an opera

I do not even know what that means. But I love it so much. And now I want to go to an opera.

However, in the wake of all this glorious guessing, just two…JUST TWO! COME ON PEOPLE…of you correctly identified…

  • Oh man, is that Omar from the Wire?
  • Omar Little!

OmarLittle (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/OmarLittle NULL.jpg)

As for my star rating, out of a possible 5, you people gave me a collective 3.375. Do I aspire for greater heights? I do? Am I satisfied for today? You betcha.

And now, for the bonus question/smokebomb, carelessly lobbed by Robbi moments before she ran out of the room:

Please write a rhyming couplet honoring one or all of these fine people.

You fine people certainly didn’t disappoint.

  • Louis’ humor is the bomb
    Ellie’s smile shows her aplomb
    Anjelica, tall and divine
    Elba’s looking mighty fine.
  • Dead-eyed stares, dead-eyed stares,
    Matthew can’t draw, but no one cares.
  • Matthew’s drawing merely mars
    The flawless faces of the stars.
  • Ode to Louis CK XIV
    My forehead, so high,
    Escapes to the skyyyyyyyy
  • Bill Nighy, certainly not of science guy fame;
    Brought the magic to Harry that changed the game.
  • Louis CK, you made my day
    When you called out the Drumpf on his insecurité.
    He’s a bully, a meanie, and a narcissist, too,
    Who can’t tell the truth from a big pile of poo!
  • Matthew’s drawings aren’t rad
    They’re really, really bad
  • Matthew Draws is awesome
    Because all of the women he draws look like the actress who plays Blossom
  • Forehead as bright as the light of day
    Of all four I only knew Louis C.K.
  • “Matthew has some chin drawing issues.
    I laugh, I cry… Please pass the tissues.
  • Oh, to be a subject of “Matthew Draws”
    One must be willing to see their own flaws
  • I could win at Powerball
    Before correctly guessing these all.
  • I named Drake in this quiz
    But I’m not sure who he is.
  • I’ve got nothing left.
    I’m exhausted and I feel bereft.
  • Louis CK, whose bald head I’d like to rub
    To comfort him for that time that kid pooped in his tub.
  • Matthew’s drawings are sublime
    Not unlike this here rhyme
  • I feel pretty sure that the first is CK;
    The second’s eyeliner won’t give her away;
    The third gave me heebies, so onward I moved;
    Ending with Omar’s depiction? So rude.

And, just in case you were wondering if Matthew Draws is a global phenomenon,

  • Recht viel Glück und Judihudi wünsched s’Lineli und s’Trudi.

Apparently, the above is Swiss German. I would so appreciate if some kindly reader would translate. I hate to miss a single disparaging poem about my drawing acumen.

And that’s that. Sorry for the delay in posting. But here’s the good news. Because I am five days late in posting these answers, you only have to wait two days for the next batch of drawings. See you here on Wednesday, you enlightened army of extremely intelligent people who also love wincing.

Matthew Draws 44

Alright alright, so we’ve been a bit unreliable of late. But guess what? Matthew’s been using this time to really focus on his drawing skillz. Yeah, I KNOW.

So hold on to your seats and take some educated stabs in the dark, because Matthew Draws IS BACK.

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Matthew Draws 43 – The Answers

You know the drill. You’re grouchy and impatient. I have what you want, and there is no need to be coy.

Let’s dive right in.

 

MD43a (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Charles-Barkley NULL.jpg)

I’m proud of you guys! Many of you were right on track, though others of you provided amusing alternatives to the actual answer.

I did not draw:

  • Jennifer Lawrence in that thing that’s not Game of Thrones
  • Raging hyperthyroid starlet with broadsword on her back
  • Mrs. Smith
  • Raccoon Woman, the newest vigilante superhero
  • Someone from the Game of Thrones
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Obviously, kiz-atniss eviz-erdeen
  • Claire Danes
  • J-La, looking hungry & gamey

And then there was the bet hedger, who bridged the gap between wrong and right.

  • Either Anjelina Jolie or Rey in Star Wars

And then there was the person who got it right, but wanted to be sassy about it.

  • Well it’s obviously Rey from Star Wars.

And the person who got it right and wanted to be sassy AND cheerful about it.

  • Rey from Star Wars TFA, pretty clearly — hooray!

And then the rest of you, who just got it right (or almost). Kudos .

  • The Star Wars person
  • Daisy Ridley
  • Rey from the latest Star Wars? Someone else perhaps? Regardless, she’s a badass
  • Princvess Leia without the ear muffs
  • Daisy Ridley/Rey
  • Rey
  • Rey!

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 1.13.37 PM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Charles-Barkley NULL.jpg)

And then, this fellow.

MD43b (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MD43b NULL.jpg)

Most of you correctly identified the gender and ethnicity of my subject, so bully for you. The exact identity of this African American male person was more elusive.

First off, the arrows that failed to find the target:

Two of you guessed either a white male or a male ogre.

  • Billy Zane
  • Shrek in a suit

Or a Siamese monarch

  • The King of Siam??

As for the black dudes I did not draw:

  • Montel Williams
  • Don Lemon
  • Hannibal Buress? No, he usually has glasses and squints. Um. Dwayne Johnson? maybe?
  • Charles Barkley
  • Steve Harvey
  • Mike Tyson, after Evander Holyfield got even
  • Glynn Washington?
  • Cory Booker

A few of the guesses defied neat demographic classification:

  • Baldy McBeaverTeeth
  • Wow, OK…

But a blessed handful of you people correctly identified:

  • Charles Barkley

One with a pleasing mixture of pride and shock:

  • Charles Barkley (OMG I TOTALLY JUST PULLED THAT NAME OUT OF MY ASS!)

Charles-Barkley (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Charles-Barkley NULL.jpg)

As for person #3, I must admit I threw you a challenge. Not because my drawing is so bad (which it surely is), but because this person is less well known to the general public than most of my subjects (though he is near and dear to me).

MD43c (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MD43c1 NULL.jpg)

 

I get the sense that you tried. And I thank you for that. But here the pursuit of truth was elusive. Steve Carrell was the closest thing we had to a plurality.

  • Swami Berman
  • ShrunkenHead RippedEar
  • Someone Russian
  • Nathan Lane?
  • Kevin Spacey
  • No idea, but he will haunt my nightmares tonight.
  • Some poor guy with a melting earlobe. Or Harvey Keitel.
  • Phil Rizzuto
  • That sportscaster who thought that nobody would notice his Salvador Dali melting clock ear
  • The ears are screaming Ross Perot.
  • No clue
  • His face is so frightening that his ear is trying to abandon ship. Or Robin Williams.
  • Steve Carell
  • No earthly clue, but, wow, he should have that ear looked at by a doctor
  • Howard Cosell
  • Steve Carrell
  • John Kasich

Am I the only one who thinks the incorrect guesses are so much more satisfying than the ones that hit the mark?

The one of you who got it right expressed hesitancy.

  • Is this Coach K? If it is, NC fans will thank you for making him look like the weird bird they keep telling you he looks like. Who, apparently, has also been attacked by a pit bull.

Please, people. All I ask is for conviction. When placing your guesses, go big. Go bold.

But I digress. Yes indeed. This person is none other than the coach of the greatest basketball team of all time. Mike Krzyewski. Of the 2017 national champion Duke Blue Devils.

149911_team_managers022 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Krzyzewski-Mike-2011-12 NULL.jpg)

You would think that subject #4, being a woman, would throw you all into a tailspin. My ineptness at rendering the female face has been documented for many years now. And yet! And yet…

MD43d (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/MD43d NULL.jpg)

Many of your guesses were spot on, filling my heart with something like pride.

We’ll start with the misses.

  • Shirley Mclaine?
  • Mia farrow
  • Lily Tomlin
  • The terrifying love child of Joan Rivers and Lily Tomlinson
  • Joan Rivers
  • Joan Didion
  • Angola Mourkle
  • A melting person
  • Muffy Crosswire (As a divorced, 49 year old, Sr. White House correspondent).

I love the Muffy Crosswire guess. For those of you who did not know (I count myself among this group), Muffy is a character from the world of Arthur, a children’s book series.

April_9th_67 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/April_9th_67 NULL.jpg)

But I did not draw Muffy. Not today. Not ever.

And then there was the proverbial waffler, who just happened to snare the correct answer in a too-large net.

  • Sissy Spacek or Mick Jagger. I’m having a really hard time deciding, which is probably not good news for either of them.

“But which one is it?” you may be asking. Your wait is over. Because why prolong the suspense?

Plenty of you nailed it, but I will pick my favorite version of the correct answer.

  •  Sissy Spacek! Way to go!

Sissy_Spacek_featured_photo_gallery (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Sissy_Spacek_featured_photo_gallery NULL.jpg)

As for this week’s star rating, I earned a respectable? 3.5 out of 5. Will I take it? Oh yes. It’s closer to the top and bottom. Am I satisfied? Hell no! I will keep drawing and drawing until I earn a perfect 5. And then, my friends. I will draw some more.

And now for my favorite part of the Matthew Draws experience, in which you answer a question or challenge posed by Robbi. This week, she served up a tough one.

Write an ode to the lips of one (or more!) of these fabulous people. We will use all of our Hollywood insider contacts to get them into the hands of the actual celebrities shown.

But man oh man did you people come through. Let me count the ways:

  • Would that you had lips, miss Spacek,
    I am sure they would thrill.
    Alas, I shall spend my days
    Dreaming of someone else.
  • Matthew what hubris
    in rendering these lips:
    wide, pursed or wary
    they’re all kind of scary.
    But none can compete
    with 3’s crescent and teeth
    pinning in place
    his entire sad face
    from beady pin eyes
    to what must be a tie.
    And what’s with the nose
    and the wandering earlobe?
    Enough of this morass!
    I must go teach class.
    Your collection of freaks
    would fit with those in Geek
    Love, the book we are reading
    (despite my students’ pleading).
  • J-Law’s lips are so divine
    Spacek’s lips are thin and fine
    Barkley has a pillow pout
    Mr. White’s lips often shout (Keitel in Reservoir Dogs)
  • Your lips are so weird and scary,
    One of you may be more hairy,
    Matthew has tried,
    We have sighed,
    And you’ve all been visited by the ugly fairy.
  • If Sissy Spacek’s lips were any wider
    Her parents would’ve had to hide her
    Lucky for her she’s smart
    And doesn’t give a fart
    For those who can’t abide her.

A couple of you wrote Haiku:

  • Lips are quite luscious.
    They kiss and they help us talk.
    Ross Perot’s ears kill.
  • You’re big, you’re small, you’re
    In between. The nicest lips
    I have ever seen.

And here’s to the person who had the good sense to know when the challenge was too great. I do respect a person who knows his/her limits.

  • Pass to next week… I don’t like the place ‘rhymes with lips’ is taking me…

For that, I shall also pass to next week. I have a life to live. Children to feed. Drawings to do. Thanks, everyone, for being a part of my favorite part of the week.

 

 

 

Matthew Draws 43

It’s that time of week again! Matthew is back with some doozies, but all things considered, I’m starting to worry that his drawing skills are just getting too good. I wouldn’t say he’s any better at capturing likenesses, but I do think I’m starting to see more evidence of technical savvy in some of the pinpoint pupils and collapsing shoulders. That odd mangled ear just shatters the rose-colored glasses, though. Steel yourselves for it now…

And guess away!

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