Landscape Art in Notebooks

I love the art and the art supplies on display at the blog of Nathan Fowkes:

See more at Land Sketch. He offers online classes too!

Review and Giveaway: Archer Planner

Here’s a new entry in the growing market for highly formatted planners. The Archer Planner from The Active System Co. comes in a 3-pack of stapled booklets. The 3 notebooks are differentiated by the colored block that wraps around the spine, in red, yellow or green, but they are otherwise identical.

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Each notebook is designed to be used as a planner for a single month.  The outside of each notebook has space at the top where you can date and number it. The inside front cover has space for a sort of index of project codes or abbreviations and quick reference notes. Then you get a 2-page month-to-view spread where you can lay out events or deadlines for the month ahead. Then you have a few monthly log pages that have space for notes or sketches, as well as lists for things like “cities,” “restaurants,” “books,” “sports/games,” “people met.”

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Then the main body of the notebook has 2-page spreads, each for one day, subdivided into spaces for tracking all sorts of things. You have slots for appointments– these are numbered rather than broken up by specific hours, which will work well for people who don’t keep 9-5 hours. Some of the suggested items for logging are rather amusing, like “hair” in a section with circles to tick to rate each item from worst to best. There’s also a box for “vices,” to force you to track your consumption of cigarettes or alcohol or worse! Other items are more typical– expenses, meals, weather, action items.

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At the end of the book are a couple of blank pages for notes, and a page where you can recap the past month with some prompts.

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The design of the notebook is really nice– very clean and straightforward. It seems uncluttered despite having a lot of items on each page. The 6×9″ size is lightweight and portable while being large enough to lay out on a desk and fill with lots of daily items.

The paper used inside is a bright cool white. It feels great to write on with fine point gel ink pens– but these and pencils may be the only pens you’d want to use– I found that many of my other pens bled through. Even my pH test pen bled through, which I don’t recall seeing on any other notebook! But other than that, showthrough was average with the pens that didn’t bleed.

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This system will undoubtedly work well for some people but not others. I like the idea of being prompted to log certain things, but for my personal needs, the formatting would be overkill. The advantage of a totally blank page is that each person can use as much space as they need for the things that matter to them– once you’ve got lots of boxes to fill, the ones that are irrelevant to you will just be wasted space. But if you really want to log your life in great detail, there’s not much that this notebook leaves out!

My only other complaint was the number of page spreads. There are 20 2-page daily planning spreads per notebook. The makers say that is enough for a month’s worth of working days, but what about weekends? If you are committed to tracking your hair and meals and exercise, etc, why would you only want to do that on weekdays? And a 31 day month would have more than 20 weekdays. And if you are going to use a monthly planner booklet, it’s probably easier to have one notebook per calendar month rather than having to start a new one a few days before the end of the month because you ran out of pages.

I couldn’t help comparing this to the Moleskine Color a Month Planner that I reviewed several years ago. Monthly planners are nice when you don’t want to carry around the bulk of a whole year’s worth of daily pages, but they work better as log books rather than forward-looking planners where you’ll have to copy a lot of stuff forward into the next month’s booklet. The Archer notebooks will probably work better for backwards-looking logging unless your career and life are more ruled by short-term planning than longer-term scheduling and appointments. Given that they have included a feedback page at the back of each booklet, I hope the makers (who sent me these free samples to review) are considering improvements and updates that might address some of these concerns.

You can buy the Archer planner 3-packs at Amazon. And if you want to try one out, you can also enter my giveaway! Two lucky winners will be randomly selected and each will receive one Archer notebook. Enter in any or all of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Archer Planner @theactivesystem @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @theactivesystem

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Active System page and post something containing the words “Archer Planner” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Archer Planner” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday April 15 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.


Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): Heather

This week’s addict is the blogger at A Penchant for Paper. She’s been featured as an addict before, with a post about how she uses her various notebooks, but I’d somehow missed an earlier post with these yummy photos of her collection of notebooks and pens. These are from 2009, so I’ll bet she has a lot more now!

Read more at A Penchant for Paper: Many Notebooks and Pens


prev addict

Weathered Notebooks

Another cool Kickstarter project– notebooks made from wood and leather. Available for preorder here.

Theodore Roosevelt’s Field Notebooks

Theodore Roosevelt kept field notebooks on his travels, including the ones pictured below from a safari trip. He seems to have had a talent for sketching the animals he saw… and shot! 🙁

See more at: Pages from Theodore Roosevelt’s field notebooks recording animals killed on safari

Notebook Addict of the Week: Mary

This week’s addict emailed me photos of her notebook collection:

Hi, my name is Mary and these are my notebooks:


I guess you could say I’m addicted to them. I mean, everybody needs a notebook sometimes, right? If I didn’t have these, I wouldn’t have anyplace to write stuff down.

I wrote something in this one a while back, I think it was something about a septic tank so I tore out that page and threw it away when I didn’t need it any more.


There’s nothing written in this one right now. There probably used to be, but I must have torn out those pages too. Or maybe I just bought it for my nephew to doodle in, I can’t remember.


I keep my notebook collection in a special spot, nice and handy:


I don’t remember where I bought them… or when… or why I picked these particular ones. I mean, they’re just notebooks… whatever!

Many thanks to Mary for sharing her addiction! So glad I could feature it on this special day… 🙂

Designers’ Favorite Notebooks

Co. Design asked 16 designers to share their favorite notebooks, and some of their contents. Here’s a few of my faves:

Designers from Ikea, Pentagram, Ideo, and more tell us what makes a great notebook.

Read more at: 16 Famous Designers Show Us Their Favorite Notebooks | Co.Design | business + design

Bob Dylan’s Secret Notebooks

“For years, Bob Dylan scholars have whispered about a tiny notebook, seen by only a few, in which the master labored over the lyrics to his classic 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks.” Rolling Stone once called it “the Maltese Falcon of Dylanology” for its promise as an interpretive key.

But that notebook, it turns out, is part of a trinity. Sitting in climate-controlled storage in a museum here are two more “Blood on the Tracks” notebooks — unknown to anyone outside of Mr. Dylan’s closest circle — whose pages of microscopic script reveal even more about how Mr. Dylan wrote some of his most famous songs.”

Read more at Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive – The New York Times

Paul Klee’s Notebooks

The page above is from one of the artist Paul Klee’s notebooks, thousands of pages of which can be viewed online here.

“These works are considered so important for understanding modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance,” says Monoskop. Their description also quotes critic Herbert Read, who described the books as  “the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist – it constitutes the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton’s in the realm of physics.”

The notebooks are also available in book or CD-ROM form here.

Source: 3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Are Now Online, Presenting His Bauhaus Teachings (1921-1931) | Open Culture

Notebook Addict of the Week: Kristin Cashore

This week’s addict is the award-winning author of the bestseller Graceling, among other books. She wrote the first draft of one of its sequels, Bitterblue, in seven wire-bound notebooks, with some serious editing happening on many of the pages, as you can see from her photos below!


It’s a fascinating view into a novelist’s process. Read more at Kristin Cashore’s blog: This Is My Secret: Pictures of a Book Being Made

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