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

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.


  1. I like how you know you are awesome, and this post is mainly about underlining that point, but you are still humbly charming about it. There is a lesson in there some place. Keep on being awesome (jerks!)

  2. We’re only as awesome as our doppelgängers.
    So, step it up, Haske.