Robbi and Matthew at KCPL: SAVE THE DATE

Robbi and Matthew at KCPL: SAVE THE DATE

Hey, folks! We are busily preparing a new talk, which we plan to debut at the Kent County Public Library (in beautiful Chestertown, Maryland) on Wednesday, October 7 at 6:00pm.

I am telling you this because: 

1) we want you to mark the date on your calendar using your most colorful sharpie

2) October 7 is two weeks from today, and we have a lot of practicing to do

If you are the sort of person who likes to know what a talk is about before deciding whether or not to come, I can tell you that 

1) It is called The Accidental Entrepreneurs and

2) It tells the story of our long, winding, improbable journey from sad people to people who make books – using the development of our picture book Babies Ruin Everything as a narrative through-line

3) It contains more than 100 hand-drawn illustrations in the style of the one below

4) After we conclude the talking, we will answer questions and sign books, should you be inspired to buy them from us.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 7.01.08 AM (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Screen-Shot-2015-09-23-at-7 NULL.01 NULL.08-AM NULL.png)

That is quite enough for the moment. We will do our best to remind you again. But please do come. It would be a shame to share our timeless wisdom with an empty room.

Robbi and Matthew at SPX 2015

Robbi and Matthew at SPX 2015

Friends and supporters (and lovers of independent publishing who neither like nor support us), we write to let you know that we (and hundreds of other eager creators) will be on hand this coming weekend for the Small Press Expo (http://www NULL.spxpo NULL.com/), in North Bethesda, MD, just north of Washington, D.C.

tumblr_nsxqi3Rubg1qztifro1_1280 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/tumblr_nsxqi3Rubg1qztifro1_1280 NULL.jpg)

SPX is a gathering of people who make comics, illustrations, objects, and other wonderful stuff. There are panels and such, and then there is a double ballroom full of tables and tables of creators just dying to share and sell their stuff and to talk to you about what you do. It’s a rare and inspiring gathering that we are honored to be a part of and look forward to all year long.

If you are in the DC or Baltimore environs and have some free time on your hands, we would love to see you either Saturday from 11-7 or Sunday from 12:00pm-6:00pm.

SPX is to be found at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at 5701 Marinelli Road in Bethseda. You can get there via the Metro (White Flint station) or via a short drive from Baltimore or DC.

If your name is Lindsay and you are trying to figure out whether or not to bring us delicious cookies, please know that we will love you regardless, but that we will love you .05-.07 percent more if you arrive with cookies in tow. This goes for people not named Lindsay, too.

Hope to see ALL of you there.

MoCCAFest 2015

MoCCAFest 2015

On the eve of departure, I write to let you know that Robbi and I will be spending the weekend at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts Festival (http://www NULL.societyillustrators NULL.org/Events-and-Programs/Special-Events/2015/MoCCA-Fest-2015/MoCCA-Fest NULL.aspx) in New York.

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There you will find us from 11-6 on Sunday and Saturday, standing bravely behind our table covered with books, daring people to take note and inspiring (Robbi’s job) them to hand us some money in exchange for a book.

Here are the books in question. A few of them, at least.

DSC06753 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/DSC06753 NULL.jpg)

We will have a six-foot table at our command and will aim to use the real estate as well as possible.

We have made a few changes this time around:

1) Simplification. In years past, we have lugged along an unholy mountain of stuff—t-shirts and onesies, posters, far too many books, long aluminum poles, various attention-seeking banners. We’re leaving most of it at home this year, opting for a spare and simple presentation. We have convinced ourselves that the decision is born of aesthetic development. But I wonder if, instead, we have just gotten a little too old (read weary) for all the bells and whistles.

2) Children. All three kids have been to MoCCA fest, but only as infants strapped to our bodies. Upon learning to walk, they all have been banned. But this time, for god knows what reason, we have decided to bring Alden and Kato along. It may be the worst mistake we’ve ever made. At the least, it should lead to some bloggable moments.

As a result of these changes, our packing was both easier and harder. We are bringing 4 boxes this year instead of the usual 15.

DSC06758 (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/DSC06758 NULL.jpg)

However, we are bringing two additional suitcases, one pink and one blue with orange accents.

DSC06759

We would love to see you, of course. Here are the details.

Center548
548 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011
*Note that this is a new location for MoCCA

Saturday and Sunday
April 11, 2015 – April 12, 2015
11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Table 438 on the 4th floor

And here’s the MoCCA website (http://www NULL.societyillustrators NULL.org/Events-and-Programs/Special-Events/2015/MoCCA-Fest-2015/MoCCA-Fest NULL.aspx), should you care to see who else is exhibiting and presenting and sponsoring, etc.

Hope to see you there.

Day in New York; Night at the Society

Day in New York; Night at the Society

As many good days do, last Friday (October 10) began with a very good breakfast. Surveying the menu at the hole-in-the wall West Village restaurant, the choice was instantly clear. The proprietors had even done me the favor of putting a box around it.

When presented with the option, one does not turn down the opportunity to enjoy a proper English breakfast.

I took this shot approximately 45 seconds after I took the one above.

From there, we walked north admiring various shop window displays, including several that included puppies.

I love the hodgepodge of New York, especially all the treasures nestled in the space between the newer growth.

And the treasures left behind on the sidewalk, for no other reason than to create moments of discovery for the next passerby.

I am grateful to Robbi’s red pants. If they had been grey, the photo would have had less punch.

I recall the feeling of awe and profound smallness I felt the day my dad and I hiked down into the Grand Canyon.

Certain moments in New York are not dissimilar.

We passed the New School. Their latest building has depressions that look to me as if they were formed by the fingers of curious giants.

We walked west and then north, stopping a while at Union Square…

…so that Robbi could attend to the beautification process in advance of our talk that evening at the Society of Illustrators.

The beautification process is a daylong affair.

As we made our way through the city, we pulled a large American Tourister suitcase full of our handouts for the Society talk.

It did not stop Robbi from stopping to admire every necklace in every store front. The girl does love her bling.

And every large bronze hippopotamus.

And I couldn’t quite escape the feeling that certain features of the city had been put in place to remind me of my overall significance or lack thereof.

Along the way, we had a number of meetings. We won’t get into the details. The point of the day was our visit to the Society of Illustrators, where we were to give the keynote address for the biannual Educator’s Symposium.

The Symposium is a gathering of illustration professors from across the country and around the world, coming together for a weekend of professional development, idea sharing, and good company.

The Society of Illustrators is also home to a very nice shop that just happens to carry a number of books whose titles you might recognize.

And a couple of shirts that bear the mark of Robbi.

We were presenting in the main gallery. At 5:00, the crowd assembled.

At 5:30, we went on.

The first part of our talk was the story of our creative beginnings, with an emphasis on the various modes of collaboration we’ve experienced over the years.

Passive collaboration: In in which you respond to someone else’s work but don’t actually work with them on a joint product. There’s a prompt and a response, but no dialogue. This is how Robbi and I collaborated in the very beginning when, basically, she would take my manuscripts to her studio and draw pictures without discussing them with me.

Directed collaboration: In which you work under the guidance of someone whose job it is to curate a final result that involves your work. Two people work together, but one is in charge. It’s not an equal exchange. This is the type of collaboration we do with art directors when we get hired for freelance projects or are working with a publishing company. There are downsides (loss of creative freedom) to this type of collaboration but also definite benefits, such as getting to work with people who have expertise or experience in an area you’re not as familiar with.

 

Active collaboration:  When two people join in equal partnership to bring about a desired result in which both have shared ownership and authority. This is the type of collaboration Robbi and I engage in most often and like best and the style we use to make all of our Idiots’Books and Bobbledy Books titles.

In addition to these professional-looking diagrams, we showed several slides (such as the one below) with a more editorial feel, but which nevertheless provide real insight into our collaborative process.

 

Once we were done with the first part of our project, we paused to play the Micro-Flash Picture Book game (which is not unlike a game of visual telephone).

We’ve played this game with graduate students, professional bloggers, and social media mavens, but this was our first time playing it with professional illustrators.

They took the task seriously.

And were incredibly gratifying in their reactions.

After people were finished writing and illustrating their books, we took a few minutes to read some of them aloud.

It is amazing to behold the hilarious, surprising, imaginative stuff that comes from the brains of nine people coming together to create a book in less than 8 minutes.

We concluded with another short talk, basically a distillation of our TEDx talk from last spring, the main ideas of which can be summed up with the following.

If you want more detail, feel free to watch the entire talk (https://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=Vqx7qMPyYG0).

The talk went well. The audience clapped in a gratifying way. In the immediate aftermath, we were invited to come speak at five campuses in various states. Which is to say, our speaking engagement dance ticket is full for the foreseeable future.

I came to find out that the best thing about presenting to illustrators who are sitting at tables with buckets of writing implements and signs encouraging them to draw on the tables is that they actually DO draw on the tables.

And the things they drew were flattering and wonderful.

I may take issue with certain editorial decisions, it is just plain exciting to be drawn by someone.

Here is a solo effort of Robbi (I think).

And several more attempts to capture just my likeness.

I ask you this: if you were playing Matthew Draws, would you look at this illustration and guess Matthew?

I sincerely hope that this is not supposed to be a drawing of Robbi or me.

And I sincerely hope that this comment referred to something other than our talk (which came in below the allotted 90 minutes, I swear!).

After our presentation, the assembled crowd moved upstairs for a delicious meal and general merriment.

The atmosphere was heightened by the presence of a jazz band made up entirely of award-winning illustrators, including frequent New Yorker cover illustrator Barry Blitt on keyboards.

We are so grateful to the wonderful, talented Melanie Reim for always being our champion and for recommending us for this gig.

We also want to thank Melanie’s fellow organizers Anelle Miller, Dennis Dittrich, and Chuck Pyle.

Here is Chuck. In addition to being rather esteemed, he is rather tall.

We were feeling so good on the walk back to the Village that I briefly considered boosting this chromed Rolls Royce.

But Robbi convinced me that there were greater thrills to be had in gelato consumption.

It is frustrating how often she is right. Just then, she collaborated in keeping me out of jail. For that I am grateful.

This grand adventure of ours continues. Another fun chapter is in the book. Like most of the things we do, it has already revealed new forks in the road.

We look forward to seeing where they lead.

Good Day

Good Day

It was a very good day. An excellent day. A day that began with an outstanding breakfast and ended with rousing applause. Although the day was exciting in many ways, the heart of the matter was presenting at the Society of Illustrators, which is like a dream come true. We will cover all the excitement when we get back home on Sunday, but we wanted to check in briefly and let you know (had you been worried) that the day was not an awful one.

More soon. We must now go lose consciousness.

Field + Foundry Recap

Field + Foundry Recap

This past Saturday night, Robbi and I drove across the bridge to attend Field + Foundry (http://melissahope NULL.co/quick-look-field-foundry-bing-baltimore/), a gathering of Baltimore and DC creative types. The occasion was good food and conversation. The location was an empty storefront that had previously housed a fried chicken/Chinese restaurant.

We had been asked to speak, and so we volunteered to get there a bit early and help set up. When we arrived, a long table was set up for dinner. But there were still preparations to be made.

We volunteered to help. My task involved a tall ladder, some twine, and a long pole.

Robbi’s involved helping Laicie (of A Thousand Threads (http://1000threadsblog NULL.com/)) – baker, blogger and co-creator of Field +Foundry – assemble foliage into a kind of chandelier.

The pressed tin ceilings were decaying but beautiful.

My task (to hang a horizontal pipe that would support the crepe paper photo backdrop) was surprisingly successful.

Though at one point I did have to call in the cavalry in the form of the estimable Mark Heely, co-creator of Field + Foundry, husband of Laicie, and provider of all things alluringly edible.

The edible things started appearing long before it was appropriate to eat them. After all, the doors were not yet open to the guests-at-large. And yet I had to stare at exquisite cheeses, spreads, and great heaps of gin-cured salmon.

Robbi thwarted temptation by applying stickers to the backs of the books we would be giving away later in the evening.

As part of our current branding overhaul, we’ve recently developed a new R & M logo. The event seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a test run.

Because Field + Foundry is curated by people with taste and knowledge of all things lovely, everything was so nice to look at.

Even the beer was stylish.

It was the sort of setup one might expect to see in the middle of an open field in Tuscany. And not in an empty storefront on North Avenue in Baltimore.

But such is the wonder of Field + Foundry. Creating something wonderful in unexpected places.

Before the rest of the folks arrived, there was a bit of sweeping to do.

And there was the matter of personal beautification.

After some initial missteps, Robbi emerged quite lovely on the other side. (This is just my opinion, of course.)

Eventually the doors did open and the others did arrive. I might have taken photos of them were I not so utterly focused on the salmon, itself a collaboration between Robbi (who pulled it from the Pacific) and Mark (who exacted a ruthless campaign of culinary wizardry upon it).

I attacked my plate with my patented relentlessness and might have been content to remain grazing all night long.

But Robbi reminded me of the photo backdrop I had worked so hard to create.

And so we paused for the obligatory selfie.

The event was sponsored by Microsoft’s search engine Bing (http://www NULL.bing NULL.com/), which sponsors (if you did not know) lots of creative ventures and events in an attempt to fulfill their mission to create and promote beautiful experiences.

By way of saying thanks, they provided each of us with a Bing tote bag filled with various goodies, including a collapsable light reflector (for taking beautiful photographs, of course).

We set a smattering of our books on a bench so that people could get a sense of what we do.

And so they did.

And we set one Micro-Flash Picture Book at each table setting, in anticipation of the group exercise we had planned for later in the evening.

One of the many multiply-talented folks in attendance, Lindsay Ponta, happens to be a calligrapher (among other things, which you can find HERE (http://www NULL.shrimpsaladcircus NULL.com/)), and so she created this lovely sponsor board.

On which we were included.

Along with our Joshua Wolf Shenk and his publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which generously donated copies of Josh’s book Powers of Two (http://www NULL.shenk NULL.net/powersoftwo/) to every Field + Foundry attendee. It seemed to us like the perfect follow-up reading material to an evening devoted to collaboration. Since you probably weren’t there, you can buy your own copy HERE (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Powers-Two-Finding-Innovation-Creative/dp/0544031598). It’s a damn good read.

One of the evening’s activities involved a “make your own bitters” station. Laicie and Mark had spent weeks preparing various ingredients by soaking various fruits, herbs, and spices in grain alcohol.

Guests were invited to mix their own bitters blend by combining a bit of this with a bit of that (clove, lemon, cardamom, anyone?).

It was kind of like an elaborate chemistry experiment.

All the while, Mark was working away in a tiny non-kitchen in the back, preparing dish after breathtaking dish with surprising grace. Robbi and I both agreed that left to the same challenge we surely would have scorched everything beyond recognition while burning the place down.

We ate dinner.

It was superb. Crab cakes and fresh baguettes topped with homemade spreads and pasta salad topped with fresh ricotta and farm fresh tomatoes and kale salad with fresh figs. It was the kind of food so delicious that I forgot to stop to take photos. And so you will have to imagine it.

Then, suddenly, it was time for us to speak, and so I felt that obligatory moment of gut-leveling concern. Would they like me? Would I be funny? Did I have anything…ANYTHING…at all to say?

Robbi, cool as a cucumber that has been recently refigerated, squeezed my hand, and all was well.

We talked a bit about the three types of collaboration we encounter most commonly. Passive (in which one takes something created by another person, whether a piece of writing or an image or even an idea, and uses it as the inspiration or platform to create something new), Active (in which two parties come together in equal exchange to discuss, plan, and create some new thing drawing on the roughly equal contributions of both), and Directed (in which two parties come together to make or do something, but one of the parties has a degree of authority or ownership that exceeds the other; we most often encounter this when working with editors and art directors, who are, by definition beholden to agendas beyond the creative work itself, most often the need to sell a certain number of copies, but also the need to live up to certain editorial standards or sensibilities of the company they work for).

After all the blah, blah, blah, we ran the group through our tried and true Microflash Picture Book exercise. Robbi explained how it worked.

And then we dived in. As is usually the case, fun was had.

Laughter rolled throughout the room.

In the exercise, one person writes a sentence and passes it along to the next person, who must draw a picture (in only 45 seconds) that communicates as well as possible the meaning of the sentence. Then, in the next round, another person is asked to translate that drawing back into a sentence. And so on.

As the game continues, the original sentence becomes badly lost in visual to language to visual to language translation.

Robbi and I shared our books with the group at the end.

And a willing volunteer shared his.

Beyond the fun, the idea is this: even in this extremely passive collaboration (there is no discussing what one will write or draw with one’s partner) there is a great deal of energy and fun. Collaboration is a means of tapping into a central vein of inspiration. It has a way of moving that which is stuck. It is fuel, it is process, it is access to a greater world of possibility beyond one’s own.

Eventually, it was time to go home. We had a long drive ahead.

As we walked back to our car, we stopped to admire the murals on the outside of the building.

The area (in the vicinity of North Avenue and N. Charles St.) is emerging as a kind of arts district.

Looking at the variety of styles and the quality of the murals…

…it’s nice to see that things are off to a solid start.

And that’s that. Thanks so much to Laicie and Mark for creating Field + Foundry, for inviting us to speak, and for feeding us so very well. Thanks to Bing for providing the funding to make it happen. And thanks to Melissa Hope (http://melissahope NULL.co/journal/), who joined Laicie and Mark in curating the event and in assembling the group of creative folks who made it such a special evening – check out her much more beautifully photographed recap of the event HERE (http://melissahope NULL.co/quick-look-field-foundry-bing-baltimore/).

We drove back across the bridge inspired, remembering why we do what we do, excited to have had the opportunity to share our ideas with willing ears, and certain that it would be a long time before we would eat so well again.