Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inspiration Spotlight : John Robbins

Art, and creating in general, has always been something I have been drawn to. I can't remember a time when art didn't interest me. It is part of who I am. I don't mean to toot my own horn. There are plenty of things that I am not good at but I am confident in my ability to be creative and even more so, in the skill in generate new ideas.

I truly believe that all of us are born with some ingrained talents. Creativity is mine. It's through inspiration and study that we can nurture those talents and interests into something more. I feel blessed to have been inspired by various artists and mediums throughout my life.

If I try my hardest to think of who might have been my very first artistic inspiration, I am sent back in time to my early early childhood....before elementary school....before kindergarten even. I was just a little girl, possibly 4 or 5, sitting on the red shag carpet of my home gazing up in complete wonderment at the tv screen. It was the mid-80's.

The show? Well, it took some investigating on my part today to tell you the name, because I just couldn't remember off hand. Turns out, the show went through several name changes over the years and really it's not that important.

"The Book Bird" (1979) (for Children's Television International/PBS)
"Storybound" (1980) (for CTI/PBS)
"Read It with John Robbins" (1982) (Positive Image Productions)
"More Books from Cover to Cover" (1987) (PBS)
"Books from Cover to Cover (1988) (PBS)

Yes, it was a PBS show and most kids my age would have probably found it a little boring, but I just loved it.   (Watch episode #1 here and episode #2 here)

Something I do remember vividly was the artist/narrator of the show whose name, finding out through my research today, is John Robbins. A man with a plaid shirt, dark hair and a mustache, that's what I remember. Why was he so interesting? Well, he did have a great storytelling voice and the stories were great but what really got me was that fact that he drew a scene from the story as he narrated.

It was so much fun watching the few beginning ambiguous strokes slowly start forming a picture. First the outline and then some color and then some shading and then VOILA, a picture appeared. It was amazing to me. I enjoyed the story, was riveted by the process and carefully studied his technique. I just remember thinking, "I want to do that!" And so I did. Drawing pictures, making books, working on projects, those where my favorite pastimes.

Once I did start school, I made sure to incorporate art into every project assigned no matter what the subject. When it was time to choose a major for college, I found it hard to choose from what seemed to be a glorious buffet of art-centered courses. The solution? I chose a Multimedia Arts degree, a little of everything creative, from illustration, to photography, to graphic arts, to film making to a myriad of other art classes. I look back and know that it was that simple PBS show that really sparked something in me that forever changed my life.


  1. I have been looking everywhere for a place I can buy these episodes! They also had a huge impact on me as well. Thanks for posting these two!

    1. Thanks for your comment. :) I wish there was a way to let Mr. Robbins know how many people out there admire him so much. :)

  2. Nice post, Elizabeth. I too was greatly influenced by 70s and 80s educational television (myself becoming an author, artist, and sometimes photographer), and John Robbins various shows were always a highlight. He also did shows called The Word Shop (vastly different from Cover to Cover and its various remakes, though it too was about books) and Across Cultures, a show about sociology.

    @ House Mouse: Sadly, unless you get lucky and find someone on ebay selling copies, or find a fan who may trade (or just give you) copies, these shows are extremely hard to come by. I have managed to get a decent collection of educational series, but sadly have yet to find any copies of John Robbins' shows.

  3. Some of these episodes are available are available on youtube! Enjoy!


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