Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

This just in: a photo sent by friend and former Idiots’Books intern Tilly.

Tilly now lives in Portland, and so I’m guessing this shot was taken while gazing at some storefront way out west.

I don’t know the specifics, but I’m happier not to. There’s something so poignant about this photo just as it is. It says so much about us.

First off, we are scrappy, industrious. Why merely discard your heap of broken cookies when you can sweep them into a plastic bag and sell them as a product?

But we are also forthright and straightforward about our intentions. We create clear signage that clearly explains the facts on hands. These cookies are available, but they are not intact.

We are shrewd consumers, always on the lookout for a deal. Broken cookies may not be quite as pleasing as their non-broken brethren, but they taste the same, right? They can still be chewed and swallowed. As long as they are not excessively stale. At this point we notice that the label says nothing about when the cookies were broken and how fresh (or not) they might now be.

We like to have options: scanning further to the right, I see that a smaller-sized option is available to those who might be interested in some broken cookies but not quite interested enough to fork out a full $2.50. Though some of us might see this lesser bag as half full, I tend to think of it as half empty.

And finally, looking past the cookies for a moment (I realize it’s hard to do), the rest of the store seems to be completely empty. A gloomy warehouse of no plenty. As if the apocalypse has come, the other consumables have all been carted off by the eager mobs, and nothing remains but these two bags of cookies, rejected by even the hungriest survivors on account of their being broken.

It was a bold move, creating this particular product. I would like to see the accompanying marketing blitz. Billboards? 30-second TV spots? A Facebook page?

Tilly, let us know if there is more to this story? Or don’t. I’m sure it could never compete with the story in my head.

A Visit to KidSPOT

A Visit to KidSPOT

For the past few months, Robbi has been working with a group of other creative, hard-working folks in and around Chestertown to imagine and create a children’s arts and craft space (called KidSPOT (http://chestertownriverarts adjacent to our community arts space, RiverArts.

Here’s the RiverArts logo (http://chestertownriverarts

Robbi and I put our heads together to come up with a compatible logo/work mark for KidsSPOT.

The grand opening of KidSPOT was at the beginning of April, but, unfortunately, it was the same weekend that we were in New York City for MoCCA

And, improbably, we were also busy the next two Saturdays. So the kids and I didn’t have a chance to even see the space until this past weekend.

It was worth the wait.

Robbi’s exhibit (imagined and produced in collaboration with fellow illustrator Nicole in den Bosch (http://www NULL.indenboschillustration is a free- standing wall that is actually a kind of booth. The wall is covered with paintings by a variety of famous artists, and each painting is accompanied by spot for a name plate.

The missing name plates are all magnetic. The idea is that kids look at the names of the paintings and try to match them to the corresponding images.

The clues are embedded in the names themselves.

For example, The Music Lesson (http://www NULL.ibiblio by Jan Vermeer.

Kato heard the name and contemplated.

And contemplated.

And got it.

Ditto The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.jpg) by Caspar David Friedrich.

I love Caspar David Friedrich. He painted my favorite-ever painting, The Monk by the Sea (http://www NULL.wikimedia NULL.jpg&imgrefurl=http://en NULL.wikipedia, which I just learned about from two breathless art historians courtesy Khan Academy (http://smarthistory NULL.khanacademy NULL.html).

Kato nailed The Last Supper (http://en NULL.wikipedia as well.

Georgia O’Keefe’s Blue and Green Music (http://en NULL.wikipedia caused him a bit of trouble by asking him to step beyond the concrete, but process of elimination helped him figure it out.

The verdict? He enjoyed it. It was fun. Robbi was gratified by first-hand evidence of her success.

But identifying paintings is only half the fun.

Next to the wall are three trunks, each of which contains a costume that appears in a famous painting.

The large frame in the center of the wall actually surrounds a cut-out space. Kids stand behind the wall in costume and become a famous painting.

Here is Alden as Frieda Kahlo in Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (http://fineartamerica NULL.html).

Note the leaves on the wall behind her. Note the monkey and cat on her shoulders. Note, particularly, the cat, which is made from one of my dress socks. 

Here’s the original painting.

And here’s my girl.

She’s a dead-ringer for Frieda, I say.

Alden’s assessment? More fun. Lots of fun.

How often do you get to dress up and be a famous painting at the same time?

But that was just the first stop on our tour of KidSPOT. In the back of the room, kids have the opportunity to do the unexpected. Indeed, they are invited, nay, encouraged to DRAW ON THE WALL.

This is the final resting place of the dry-erase paint fund raiser that Robbi ran a few weeks ago when she sold her castle and beach ball print for a good cause.

The good cause was the opportunity for kids to do the usually verboten.

And, boy, did they enjoy themselves.

Before we left, Robbi took a moment to pose for a portrait of the artist as her own subject.

Robbi, Nicole, and lots of other folks did a lot of hard work to make KidSPOT happen.

The best way to thank them is to grab your own small people and stop by KidSPOT (http://chestertownriverarts any Saturday between 10:00am and 2:00pm. RiverArts is located just off High Street in the Middle of Chestertown. Look for the Dunkin Donuts and then walk a bit further down the tunnel. Stop and see the gorgeous work of Chestertown’s own glass artists Dave and Patti Hegland (http://www NULL.heglandglass while you’re at it.

In case you didn’t realize it, Chestertown is pretty cool. Great things are happening here.



Okay, so we have a bunch of websites. A bunch you don’t even know about.

There this one that you’re on,

Then there’s the Bobbledy Books site (http://bobbledybooks

There’s also the old, original version of the idiotsbooks site, called TheBarnstorming (http://www NULL.thebarnstorming

And then there’s our misbegotten but not forgotten Daily Affirmations for Realists (http://www NULL.dafr site.

And then there’s my very very very old illustration portfolio site (http://www NULL.robbibehr

And the one that started it all, idiots’box (http://idiotsbox

And then there’s also my sister-in-law’s NewFarm store (http://newfarmstore, which we helped her set up and which is on our account (and which opened for business yesterday, CONGRATS LINDSAY AND CASEY!!!!!).

All of this is to say I spend a lot of time communicating with technical support over website shenanigans. Which is why I’m writing this post today, because I want to give a HUGE shout-out to my very best friends, the very best and most supportive group of tech support people I have ever dealt with, the SUPPORT TEAM AT NEXCESS.NET (http://www NULL.nexcess – our favorite hosting service (as their tagline suggests, they go “beyond hosting” – we buy our domain names from them as well).

But then, last week, they totally outdid themselves. I had been communicating with them back and forth about our new site, and, on a separate thread, moving idiotsbooks to a new server, and on a separate thread a bunch of boring mundane nonsense you will be more than happy not to hear about. And somehow in all of the back and forth, I accidentally opened a support ticket by accidentally forwarding Ian’s valentine’s day Bobbledy Books prompt response to them:

And they responded almost immediately to my support ticket with this:

This made me so happy.

So, if you are in the market for hosting services (or want to register a domain name) go to these guys, they are THE BEST. They are always happy to hold my hand when I don’t understand what I need to do, and fix things when I’ve completely f-ed up our site, thinking I knew what I was doing. I cannot tell you how much I love them.

And no, they aren’t paying me to write this. They know I don’t hold that much sway. That I’m small potatoes. That I’m a technically unsavvy webmaster (hilarious) who taxes their support team.

And they evidently know that I can be easily bought with a simple, shoddily drawn and highly pixellated valentine.

They know me SO well.

Cats, Illusions, Enthusiasm, and Love’s Infrastructure

Cats, Illusions, Enthusiasm, and Love’s Infrastructure

Hello all! It’s me, Robbi. While you have been busy going about your day, working hard, saving the world, what have you, I have been sitting at my desk drawing stuff. Yep! Cuz that’s what I do.

Lately, it’s been cats.


And the things they do.

Yes. The next Idiots’Book is about cats. I must say, it’s quite a challenge to draw “indifferent” in so very many ways.

And so, instead of facing the challenge head on, I find myself perusing the internet and going down google image search rabbit holes (“dead mouse in shower” came up with some pretty disturbing shit).

Some gems that are just too good not to pass on:

A crazy optical illusion. Even knowing it’s an optical illusion from the start still makes my head explode when I see how it technically works. I came across the video on the appropriately named Distractify, where they have a kind of half-baked explanation if you’d like to read it (http://distractify The comments are also particularly entertaining, if you ever feel like wondering why people go through the effort of typing something completely useless. Anyway, have a look, have your mind blown, and then make a point of writing something completely insipid in the comments, thanks:

In the same general department, here are some photos by Michael Paul Smith, who, using scale models of vintage cars, creates little old-timey scenes out of spraypainted plywood and careful camera work:

Magic!! If you have some free time while you’re supposed to be drawing cats, check out his Flickr feed HERE (http://www null@null N05/). I cannot tell you how I love the photos of his giant head popping up from behind the set or his giant hand reaching in from out of frame.

His love for vintage cars almost matches this guy’s unmitigated enthusiasm for vintage trains. Almost. This guy talking about a train and its horn completely makes me love humanity:

And finally, I just learned that our boys of Bombadil (http://bombadil NULL.squarespace are going to be performing in a show that is described as “a marriage of concert, puppet show, music video and live film.” They’ve been collaborating with a puppeteer for the past year and will be doing three shows in Durham next weekend. If you are anywhere near there – GO SEE IT. They are fantastic live performers, and I think the show will be something really special. For more info about the shows, see Duke Performances here (http://bit

Love’s Infrastructure (http://vimeo from Jon Haas (http://vimeo on Vimeo (https://vimeo

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Hello All!

Well, it’s that time of year, and because I always like it when someone else does my holiday shopping for me, I’m going to do you all a favor and tell you just what to buy. And since time’s a-wastin’, we’d better just get down to it. Here we go, ho ho ho!

1. So, I don’t actually have this book and I actually haven’t even seen in the flesh, but oh boy howdy do I really want it: Flying Eye’s Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space (http://www NULL.flyingeyebooks

It looks BEAUTIFUL. I haven’t gotten it yet because I don’t want my awful children to see it and ruin it and am waiting until they are less inclined to scribble all over it and wrinkle the pages. I imagine us in some beautiful future time, sitting contentedly reading it, fawning over the print quality and amazing science factoids. Someday. Someday!

2. Tom Gauld is one of my favorite comics artists. Dry and witty and clever, with beautiful controlled linework. I’m kind of in love with him.

You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack

Which is why his latest book “You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack” (http://www is on my wishlist. I’ve gotten to see bits and pieces of it on his tumblr (http://myjetpack NULL.tumblr which has just made the anticipation all the greater.

3. Sugru (http://sugru is this crazy repair putty that is the new duct tape. See the video below to see how cool it is, or check out their blog (http://sugru for some cool diy inspiration.

Incidentally, I see that they have a special xmas offer, 4 packs for the price of 3 with coupon code “sugruxmas”. I’m working on a secret project with my sugru and will keep you posted.

4. If you’re the crafty sort, you might want to buy a set of Blank Russian Nesting Dolls (http://rompstore NULL.php?productId=323&categoryId=&productItemId=1496&optionId=) and paint them up for a thoughtful Christmas gift. Or, you could leave them blank and give them to your most vividly imaginative friend and tell her to imagine how beautifully you could have painted them if you hadn’t run out of time. I plan on painting a set for each of the kids, but don’t have high hopes for actual completion.

5. Speaking of crafty sorts, if you are at all like me, you will become instantly addicted to (http://www NULL.jetpens I confess, I get their email newsletter and pore over all the new products that come in. I’m one of the people who makes their click statistics on their email campaigns very gratifying. They don’t just have pens (though oh how I love pens) – they also have lots of cool stuff that is frankly hard to find anywhere else. Like crazy cute masking tape (http://www NULL.jetpens

Nami nami masking tape

These would make great stocking stuffers, for, you know, people who get all excited about masking tape. (I know there are a few of you out there who are going YES!!!!)

5. Okay, since we’re on a JetPens roll, how about these fricking adorable post-it notes (http://www NULL.jetpens

JStory Post-its

I actually have a weird fondness for all kinds of office supplies – going back to my youth when I would dreamily browse for hours in our local stationery store. There’s such beauty in utility.

6. Alright, to wrap up the JetPens trend, here are some more great office-supply-type stocking stuffers: paper clips. Yep, you heard me. But have you seen paper clips like these (http://www NULL.jetpens

Midori d-clip paper clips

And they come in such cute little boxes!! I am literally so in love with these it is impossible for me to say which one I love the most. And if you’re super picky about your office supplies and wire paper clips aren’t for you, how about these ones that are actually made out of paper (http://www NULL.jetpens

Paper paper clips

I’ll stop now, in case I’m the only person in the universe who gets so excited about paper clips.

7. This one might sound equally weird to you, but it is something we use every day and love it SOOOOOOOOOO much.

Stakich Raw Honey

Yep. Honey. Raw Honey. Stakich Raw Honey (http://www Five whole pounds of it in one jar. They have multiple varieties, but I prefer the regular version because, well, I haven’t tried any of the other ones. I like what I got and I just keep ordering it by the five-pound jar.

8. Another kitchen item we can’t do without: the SodaStream seltzer-making machine (http://www NULL.sodastreamusa NULL.aspx). I can’t recommend a particular version because it looks like they don’t make the one we have anymore. Matthew drinks seltzer water like there’s no tomorrow, so it’s been totally worth it (no more hauling bottles and bottles of the stuff from the store). I wouldn’t recommend the flavor packs, though. The ones I have tried are kind of horrible. If you want to make something REALLY delicious, mix 1/3 C lemon juice, 1/3 C ginger juice, 1 T of that raw honey up there, give it a stir and fill the rest of your cup up with seltzer water. It is AMAZZZOING.

9. For any artists out there looking for recommendations of nice art supplies, I have to say my set of japanese watercolor pans is my go-to standby. You can often see it in the background of my auction item photos:

Japanese watercolors

What I like about them is that they are much more opaque than your typical watercolor so you get more color bang for your buck, much like gouaches. But they still mix very nicely with other colors like watercolors do. The closest set I could find short of sending you to Tokyu Hands (https://www NULL.tokyu-hands in Japan was this set (http://www NULL.jetpens sold on, you guessed it, JetPens.

Gansai Watercolor Box

And in case you can’t tell from the photo, this set includes gold and silver, which work better than any gold or silver paint I’ve used.

10. If you’re looking for something pretty, a dear friend of ours has opened a shop selling beautiful tumbled glass jewelry (http://shamanseaandsky The pieces of glass are from vintage glassware and are tumbled in holy water, and they’re really quite beautiful. I have two already myself (double proof that I’m not a vampire!).


11. I got this Question and Answer a Day (http://www book last year and love the idea. But, as with most things like this, I’m not so great on the follow-through. But, I’d still like to recommend it. Basically, it poses a question for you to answer each day of the year. When the year is over, you start over again, and it goes on for five years. If you actually do it, you can see on each page how your answers change as the years pass. Now that I think of it, maybe that’s totally depressing.

Also, it probably helps if you have better answers than I do.

Q&A a Day

12. Oh, in case you didn’t read the post yesterday, there’s also Playing With Sketches (http://www by Whitney Sherman. Aside from there being a brief mention of our five-minute drawings and Matthew Draws in it, it also happens to be chock full of really interesting and inspiring ideas for jump-starting your creative juices. For example, drawing a continuous mobius strip drawing:

Playing With Sketches

It’s a beautifully designed book and we’re proud to be included.

13. Another beautiful book to recommend is Danny Gregory’s A Kiss Before You Go (http://www I first discovered Danny Gregory through his book Everyday Matters (http://www – which is equally wonderful. A Kiss Before You Go is about his grief following the tragic loss of his wife, and it will cut straight to your heart. Both memoirs illustrated in sketchbook form – they are insightful, wise, and terribly heartbreaking, all wrapped up in a beautiful package.

A Kiss Before You Go

14. To counteract the heartache, you would be wise to purchase Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant (http://www Clever, deftly penned and hilarious, she examines such unexamined subjects as 1980s businesswomen wearing big shoulderpads and Jules Verne and H.G. Wells’s fisticuffs. Beyond the great comics (you can also get a sampling online HERE (http://www NULL.harkavagrant she often includes commentary that is equally hilarious.

One of my favorites is when she reinterprets Nancy Drew stories just based on their covers and titles:

Nancy Drew

Oh my they crack me up.

15. Okay, another weird one, but some people like getting appliances for Christmas, right? And rice? Maybe? Well, might I recommend the top-o-the-line Zojirushi Rice Cooker (http://www and its natural companion, Kokuho Rose Japanese Rice (http://www

Rice cooker and rice

If you are even only mildly japanese (as I am) you obviously already have these things and use them every day, but if you are not, well then GET ON IT. Always having a warm pot of rice at the ready is worth a million lunchtimes. I prefer the single button style shown here rather than the newfangled digital deals. Somehow with the digital one, I often think I’m setting it and it turns out I didn’t. The one button style is great because you click it down to cook, and it pops up when it’s done and keeps the rice inside warm till you’re ready to eat. And yeah, I linked you to a 5-lb bag of rice, but we buy that shit in 20-lb bulk (http://www

16. And, if you’re still not sure what to get, perhaps you should just purchase the Cool Tools catalog (http://www, based on the Cool Tools website (http://kk put together by Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired. It is chock chock chock chock chock full of really, well, cool tools.

It is also gigantic, which I particularly love.

Cool Tools

Though I can’t say that it offers better searchability than the site, I have to say I’ve become engrossed in flipping through the pages quite a few times since it arrived in the mail last week. The inside looks kind of like an old mail-order catalog, but includes useful things like links and QR codes.

Cool Tools

And look at that. I promise, it wasn’t on purpose, but it looks like I’m on the office supplies/post-it-note page. Anyway, it’s a fantastic and fun compendium of all things cool.

17. And of course, finally, we couldn’t possibly forget our very own Ten Thousand Stories (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB003-01)! If you order from us (HERE) (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB003-01) we will be more than happy to sign and/or dedicate your copy – just let us know. And, in case you’re worried we might run out – don’t worry. We have PLENTY to spare.

Ten Thousand Stories

And, for those of you who have patiently suffered through this long in-depth list, here’s the short version:

1. Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space (http://www NULL.flyingeyebooks
2. Tom Gauld’s “You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack” (http://www
3. Sugru (http://sugru
4. Blank Russian Nesting Dolls (http://rompstore NULL.php?productId=323&categoryId=&productItemId=1496&optionId=)
5. Post-it notes (http://www NULL.jetpens
6. Super cute paper clips (http://www NULL.jetpens and other equally super cute paper clips (http://www NULL.jetpens
7. Stakich Raw Honey (http://www
8. The SodaStream seltzer-making machine (http://www NULL.sodastreamusa NULL.aspx)
9. Japanese Watercolor Set (http://www NULL.jetpens
10. Beautiful tumbled glass jewelry (http://shamanseaandsky
11. Question and Answer a Day (http://www
12. Playing With Sketches (http://www
13. A Kiss Before You Go (http://www and/or Everyday Matters (http://www by Danny Gregory
14. Hark! A Vagrant (http://www by Kate Beaton
15. Zojirushi Rice Cooker (http://www and Kokuho Rose Rice (http://www
16. Cool Tools catalog (http://www
17. Ten Thousand Stories (http://store NULL.idiotsbooks NULL.asp?ProductCode=IB003-01)

And for those of you looking for ideas for kids, have a look over at the Bobbledy Blog (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks for another list of more shit to buy! (One of which is to purchase a Bobbledy Club Membership and get $5 off with coupon code HOLIDAY).

Good luck and a ho, ho ho!! We’re still working on decorating the tree while you do your shopping.


Playing with Sketches

Playing with Sketches

Yesterday’s mail brought an exciting arrival, the book Playing with Sketches, a book by illustrator (and head of MICA’s illustration MFA program) Whitney Sherman. The book is a collection of 50 creative exercises for designers and artists.

In part, we are excited because the book is full of beautiful illustrations, great ideas, and lovely design.

But we are also excited because the book contains…US. Yes, we Idiots were asked to contribute an idea, and, of course, we chose five-minute drawings, that mainstay of creative life in the barn. In case you don’t remember, we will periodically put down our work, take up our pencils, blurt out a topic, and spend five minutes (no more and no less) on a related drawing.

And…the rush of hubris makes it difficult to type…as a subset of the five minute drawing section, Whitney did a little write up of Matthew Draws. That’s right, your very favorite part of this blog has garnered the affections of a prize-winning illustrator.

Above I am pointing (can you see the pride? would you describe it as “palpable?”) at my response to the prompt “lotion.” Here is a closer look.

Yes, it is a breathtaking image.

In the spirit of magnanimity, I will also show you Robbi’s and Tilly’s drawings.

It is fine if you would prefer to look at mine again instead. You are, after all, a person of exquisite taste.

But wait! There is a third page of Idiots coverage in Playing with Sketches.

Here I am at my computer.

Here are my (nearly photorealistic) drawings of Lyle Lovett and Meryl Streep.


It is so exciting to finally have my artistic talents be recognized (and celebrated) by so esteemed a person as Whitney Sherman.

And it must be thrilling to you to know that, with a few clicks of your mouse (http://www, you could own my immortal linework. Try to tell yourself you don’t want to. Then try again.

And for those of you who are suddenly itching for heaping plate of Matthew Draws, I have it on good authority that the latest installment will be coming this Friday.