Robbi Draws

Robbi Draws

We all know what happens when I draw. Children cry. Grown men curse the heavens. Fortunately, this family also has an actual illustrator, and she spent yesterday doing what she does.

We are at work on the next Bobbledy title, called Hole in this Book. I’ll get deeper into its stunning philosophical depth in a future post. For now, let’s focus on the book’s main (and only) character (unless you count the goldfish and dozens of cheerful rubber duckies that fall from the sky.

Robbi created most of the book’s illustrations on her computer, building set pieces from sampled watercolor washes painted in advance. And the main character himself was born of sketches on Robbi’s tablet.

10425866_10153270089534187_1470325675481212933_n (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.jpg)

But, for the final version that ends up in our books, Robbi likes the main characters to be actually drawn with pen and ink. And painted with watercolors. As good as the drawing tools and digital brushes on Photoshop have become, there’s nothing that can quite imitate that unpredictable, splattery line of a metal nib scratching its way across the porous surface of a piece of watercolor paper.

And so she prints out a copy of her sketches, places it on a light table, and places a piece of watercolor paper on top of it. The light illuminates the line beneath, offering a guide as Robbi creates a final inspired by, but inevitably different from, her original sketch. If Robbi has done her work well, there is something free and breathing about the line as it emerges from the actual pen. It’s that freedom, that inimitable expression that makes her unwilling to forsake the nib entirely.

11140753_10153270101794187_8087304784324102276_n (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.jpg)


And if you are wondering why Robbi is drawing so many versions of this boy on one page, it’s because each of these, once scanned, will be placed on a different page. Once they enter the digital realm, anything goes.

But before they leave the paper, they need to be painted. For the sake of consistency, Robbi paints all the faces at once. Then all of the shirts at once, etc.


11156146_10153270315224187_7604421212176308354_n (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.jpg)


And all of the cheeks at once, etc.


Behind the hair is a little bit of blueish black.


Presumably this boy will earn the right to colored pants and shirts at some point. I’m guessing that might happen later today.

But for now, the illustrator is at rest. For now, this boy lives on a single piece of paper, his various moods and thoughts, his observations and discoveries all waiting to be freed from the page and sent out across the story.

Introducing Mobley

Introducing Mobley

Hello folks! Just a quick update on the “What’s-Robbi-Up-To” front. I’m working on the next Idiots’Book, you see. Because yesterday I drove over to Columbia (MD) to pick up the many boxes of Bobbledy Books Volume 15, The Luckiest, (http://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew which we’ll be packaging up and sending out tomorrow. So, of course, that leaves today full of nothing but the next thing to do.

Matthew has written an odd tale about a kitchen sponge, whose working title is “Mobley the Kitchen Sponge”. Or maybe it’s “Mobley the Kitchen Sponge Goes to the Moon”. Before we started Bobbledy, he tried to write a children’s book a day as an experiment to see if he actually had enough ideas to make Bobbledy happen. Mobley was one of the bad ideas that is definitely not a children’s book, but the story just charms me. And so I’ve willed him into being, more or less:

mobley (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.jpg)

Now, it was only after I drew it that I realized that SpongeBob Squarepants is actually a sponge. How could I not have known that? For some reason I thought he was a piece of toast or something. Ah well. This is not a book about SpongeBob.

I’ve started thumbnailing, which every good illustrator does, but which I never did until I started working on the version of Babies Ruin Everything (http://shop NULL.robbiandmatthew that will be published by a real, live, big-time publisher.

thumbnailing (http://robbiandmatthew NULL.jpg)

It turns out that good illustrators know what they’re doing. It saves me a lot of time. Mostly, it saves me from getting way too type A working out the details of a composition that Matthew ends up telling me stinks (he’s usually right).

With all that time I’m saving, I could probably finish a couple more books. But don’t tell Matthew. I’ll be eating ice cream and looking at hedgehogs on youtube instead (OMG THEY ARE SO CUTE (https://www

News From the Front

News From the Front

Alright. You haven’t heard much from me lately. I’m on sabbatical, after all. And what does this mean?

Well, a whole lotta this:


And yes, a fair amount of this:

junk food

While Iggy does this:


That’s pretty much what my days have looked like, all day, every day, for the past month.

There are occasional times when I have to go pick up my eldest child from school. I usually bring Iggy along, which means that sometimes when I am trying to take a photo of my child joyfully skipping along the sidewalk, I instead take a bunch of pictures that look like this:


The moments with my kids are so rare these days that sometimes I indulge in a longer stop than usual at the climbing tree on the way home:

tree climbing

And then when I get home, I force them to help me with my work, just so I can steal a few more extra minutes:

Photo shoot

And then I rush back down the street to my computer and my many waiting projects with a little bit lighter heart, and a renewed sense of purpose to do a whole lotta this:

kick ass

Wish me some ass-kicking luck. This sabbatical thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Meanwhile, Two Blocks Down the Street

Meanwhile, Two Blocks Down the Street

Sorry, people. Although the Matthew Draws drawings are done, the survey is not yet set up because of backlog on the Robbi front, so today we’ll shed some light on that situation, which continues to unfold around the clock approximately two blocks from here.

We have just entered the second month of Robbi’s sabbatical. She has not, as she had hoped, caught up on her work. Mostly because her work keeps piling up as each new project she attempts to finish spawns eight more projects demanding her attention.

Robbi currently dwells in that piece of exquisite hell known as web design.

To be clear, she is currently in the process of designing five new websites, all of which need to be finished by October.

They are:

  • A brand-new umbrella website for all of our various enterprises, which will be home to our brand-new blog.
  • A brand-new Idiots’Books homepage and blog design.
  • A brand-new Bobbledy Books homepage and blog design.
  • A brand-new Idiotsbooks/Bobbledy Books combined store (which will allow you to buy subscriptions and other stuff from BOTH presses at once and which will [in response to popular demand] allow you to purchase recurring subscriptions so that you do not have to remember to renew; a win for you and for us!)
  • A brand-new Haywire Letterpress site (so that you can, you know, buy stuff from Haywire Letterpress when it launches later this month)

I stopped by yesterday afternoon to make sure Robbi was still conscious and to get a pulse on her mood.

I thought a little company might make her feel better.

I was wrong.

Rest assured, she is not going hungry. As far as I can tell, if the old saying is true that you are what you eat…

…Robbi will soon be a granola bar.

And a bear naked one, at that.

Right after this photo was taken, she grumpily sent me away with a homework assignment.

The horizontal lines represent words that need writing. And so I will write them.

It seems the least I can do.

In spite of the abovepictured gloom, I am happy to say that Robbi is making great progress. Far more than she can see from the depths of her misery. It is exciting to see all these new designs and sites take shape. I daresay we will emerge on the other side of this ordeal looking far more polished and professional than we do now. You might not even recognize us.

If in doubt, just look for the grumpy granola bar.



We spend a lot of time coming up with ideas. Some are good and useful, and a lot are really bad and should be immediately sent to the Death Star dump. It turns out we do our best brainstorming in the car, when we’re supposed to be enjoying time away from the studio. Apparently, “enjoying time” means “thinking about work.” So be it. We’re not going to fight it. So, on last weekend’s trip to the zoo (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks, we brought along the manuscript for our next Bobbledy Book. Matthew drove while I sat in the passenger seat with my red pen and the next book, titled (at the moment), The Imaginary Dragon. Spoiler alert: it’s about a dragon. Matthew usually writes ideas for illustrations into the manuscript, some of which I agree with, but a lot of which I don’t. This makes for some good red pen action.

But even the ones I agree with need some tweaking, so we talk about each little section and I take notes, so I can remember what we talked about when it comes time to draw. We also talk about refining the writing, so there is definitely some moving around of text and some very red-pen-appropriate demands for rewrites.

I always do the note-taking at this stage, because I need to be able to make sure that the ideas that we have during the brainstorm are the same ones that pop into my head after reading the notes. I have such a terrible memory that even sometimes just writing, “Draw the dragon standing on the mountain here,” isn’t enough. So I end up with weird little seemingly cryptic notes and pictures that look like this:

but that generally do the trick when it comes to remembering. You wouldn’t know it, but those little pointy lines coming in from the left are spears pointed in the direction of the dragon, who is that sideways lightbulb-shaped thing on the right, and the little bunny ear with the scribbles around it in the top right hand corner is supposed to be a bunch of burning trees. At least it’s clear that the king with his crown on is poking his head in from the left. Clear as a bell.

Matthew saves everything that we do, even if it’s a bunch of indecipherable doodles on the edges of a manuscript. So he was not pleased when over the course of our trip to DC some sort of sticky drink was spilled on the manuscript and stuck all of the pages together. The pages then needed to be surgically separated, and given the fact that neither of us is really a surgeon, the outcome was not ideal.

There were very few doodles hurt in the process, though, so we’ll chalk it up as a success. The manuscript will go at the top of a giant pile of such Idiots’ detritus, and we’ll just hope it doesn’t stick to whatever things get piled on top of it.

And now that that important part of the process is done, it’s time for me to get to work.

Head Shots

Head Shots

Coming up in the fall, we have ourselves signed up to give presentations at eight different colleges. This is very exciting, but also a little daunting. For the most part, we’re given an hour – the expectation seems to be we do a 45-minute talk with a 15-minute question and answer session at the end. 45 minutes seems like an awfully long time. We’ve made a tactical decision to try to keep folks from completely falling asleep by showing them lots of slides while we tell our story.

Here’s a little condensed version of it for you:

Matthew and I make stuff like crazy, pretty much all the time:

Making stuff (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

It’s nice to get to work in your pajamas:

Pajamas (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

Even though it sometimes means that you fall asleep at your desk, never having taken off your pajamas all day:

Email (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

When we’re not working, Matthew generally is wrangling the kids:

Matthew with kids (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

And I spend a lot of time making sure our ice cream stores never run too low:

Ice Cream (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

Though sometimes all of this crazy chaos that is our lives can feel tiring (especially the keeping tabs on the ice cream part), we feel like we’ve gotten more than our share of good luck:

Lucky (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

And we love very much what we do, even if it sometimes makes us feel like we’re crazy:

Crazy (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

That’s the basic idea, with some sage advice, creative rabble-rousing, and general dog-and-pony-show-ing thrown in. The slideshow that we’ll be taking on the road this fall has 266 slides in it. About 3/4 of those slides are slides I have to draw. This means that for the last very LONG time I have been drawing our heads into different scenarios. I have two files on my computer that pretty much stay on my desktop so I can look at all of our different expressions and try to make the best fit.

many heads (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.53 NULL.57-AM NULL.jpg)

Sometimes none of the heads quite captures the expression I’m looking for, and I have to call Matthew over and say, “Look like you’re frustrated that Twitter only lets you use 140 characters”:

frustrated (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

or, “Look pathetically hopeful that someday you will be allowed to ride a motorcycle”:

pathetically hopeful (http://www NULL.bobbledybooks NULL.jpg)

Luckily, Matthew has a strong background in theater (https://idiotsbooks and film (https://idiotsbooks that’s kept this project running smoothly. As it is, I’ve only got 18 drawings to go. Hopefully I can get them finished before our first presentation at Drake University (http://artsci NULL.drake in Iowa. I’ve got two and a half weeks – here’s hoping!