Finishing a Couple of Sketchbooks

I’ve had a few sketchbooks in various stages of completion for a couple of years, and I just put two of them to bed. One was a Moleskine sketchbook that I used almost entirely for lunchtime sketches while sitting in parks in NYC– mostly quick pencil sketches, with watercolors added to a few later. After a few months, I ended up taking the sketchbook with me on trips to Arizona and the beach in Delaware. Here’s a few favorite pages:

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This other sketchbook, a HandBook Artist Journal, was started on my first trip to Paris. I think I was a bit intimidated by the artistic heritage of Paris, or perhaps by feeling it was a bit of a cliche to sit around sketching in a small notebook in Paris! (At least it wasn’t a Moleskine.) I only used a few pages in Paris,  after which it just became a receptacle for weekend doodles, sketches and collages, most of them pretty lame… it was good to just play around and see what I come up with, but I’m much better at just drawing things that are in front of me.

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After finishing these, I’ll be on to more of the same! A fresh Moleskine sketchbook, and another half-started HandBook that I first used for a few not very good drawings on trips to Istanbul and Lisbon, and then in Corsica, where all I drew was a few ridiculous caricatures of the people I was traveling with. Now it will be my new weekend doodle and collage book. I’m always trying to force myself to keep drawing and doodling and creating something– anything– even if I’m not always pleased with the results.

Vintage Office Supplies

I recently went to a wonderful little stationery store in Montclair, New Jersey, a lovely town not far from NYC. The shop, which is just called “Montclair Stationery,” is a bit of a time warp, as it harks back to the days when most towns’ main street had an independent stationery store that carried a little of everything. And this shop not only has a little of everything, some of its everythings have probably been on the shelves for decades! I bought a couple of notebooks there, and their notebook selection was pretty good, but not as exciting as all the vintage staples! I couldn’t resist taking photos of all these wonderful old boxes of staples and staplers that are all probably long out of production. Even if they’re still made, you know the packaging is nowhere near as cool now!

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If you’re ever in the area, please stop by this lovely little shop. I’m so glad they haven’t been put out of business by Staples and Amazon, and hope they never will be!

Pat Perry’s Sketchbook

A great find via Doodlers Anonymous. I love the color and the fine lines, not to mention the enigmatic subject matter.

See more at Blog: Inside the Sketchbook of Pat Perry – Doodlers Anonymous.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Wendy MacNaughton

I was already familiar with Wendy MacNaughton’s work from her books, so I was happy to see her featured on the wonderful website In The Make, which offers fascinating behind the scenes tours of the studios of West Coast artists. Based on the photo below, I thought Wendy definitely qualified as a sketchbook addict!


And here’s where some of Wendy’s work ends up:

Read more at Wendy MacNaughton | In The Make | Studio visits with West Coast artists.

Assorted Notebook Tips

Vadim Gordim has invented a pen loop called the Sidekick, available here.


Jeff has invented a titanium notebook cover, available here.


Dave wants you to check out his site They sell Japanese notebooks and the same Tomoe River paper that is used in Design-Y notebooks.

seven seas tomoe river paper notebook


Lara recommends you check out a Portuguese stationery site called Fine & Candy.

Katherine suggests you spark your creativity with The Idea Book, a combination book/notebook available at Amazon:

“The “book part” consists of 63 different chapters on how you can develop new ideas. Every chapter ends with a practical activity, or exercise, where the reader can practise the lesson of that chapter. The book is full of stories, anecdotes and quotes about how to generate ideas.

The “notebook part” is a place for your to work on, and store, your best ideas. Follow in the tradition of the long line of creatives that have used a small, black notebook to catch their ideas.”


Justin has designed the notebook of his dreams, and you can buy one too! The Object Series notebook has a flexible black leather cover and gilded edges, and is only $16.


Will is another notebook enthusiast who started his own company making notebooks. Check out Poplar Leather.


Keep the good notebook news coming!

Review and Giveaway: Rendr Sketchbooks


Rendr Sketchbooks are a new product from Crescent Artists. Their main claim to fame is that the pages are 100% bleed-proof. Now that is a pretty audacious claim. The only sketchbook I’ve ever found to be almost completely show-through-proof and bleed-proof was the Stillman and Birn 270 GSM Zeta series, which has a very thick almost cardboard-like paper, and only comes in larger hardcover sizes starting at about 5×8″. Rendr Sketchbooks have a relatively thin and flexible paper, and come in a very pocketable and flexible 3.5 x 5.5″ size, so I was very excited to get some samples from the manufacturer so I could give them a try.


First impressions: a nice plain black notebook with squared corners. Once you take off the shrinkwrap and the paper insert, there is no branding other than the word Crescent on the back cover. The cover is scored near the spine to make it easier to bend it all the way around. The paper is a cool, slightly greyish white, and when you first open the notebook you will immediately notice a rather strong smell. (It fades over time, but not completely.) The wrapper also touts these as having a lay-flat binding– I did not find it as totally lay-flat as they claim, due to some glue in the spine. It’s a bit smaller and thinner than a pocket Moleskine (shown below for comparison).


But what about the bleed-through? Can this paper truly take anything you throw at it? I’ll just say it: yes. It is downright freaky how bleed-proof this paper is.

I attacked it straight away with my Super Sharpie marker, which bleeds through pretty much anything. I drew a line and flipped the page: nothing. I even scribbled back and forth over the same spot and held it down to force as much ink as I could into the page: still nothing! I tested a bunch of other pens: no bleed-through. No show-through. Nada. The only way I was able to see anything through the paper was to hold it up to very bright direct sunlight, as seen below. I don’t know what kind of deal with the devil they’ve made to create such ink-proof paper, but it works! The paper does feel a bit thirsty and I found that fountain pens seemed to soak in and spread out slightly, though not with the feathering out fibers that you get with some papers. I also tested a watercolor wash, which the paper handled just fine without much buckling. That said, I’m not sure I’d recommend this paper for watercolors, as the paint had a weird grey tone when it was wet and the texture seems a bit flat compared to watercolor paper. The only other caveat is that the packaging states that “limited show-through may occur over time with heavy application of Xylene markers.”



You can buy Rendr sketchbooks and paper at Amazon or Blick: Crescent RendR No Show Thru Paper. Or you can enter the giveaway for the extra samples I received!

Two random winners will be selected from entries received in the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Rendr sketchbook @crescent artists @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @crescentartists.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Crescent Artists page and post something containing the words “Rendr sketchbook” on the Notebook Stories page.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday September 12, 2014 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.

I Keep Looking at My Notebooks

I have built up a nice little stash of notebooks in one of my desk drawers at work… the problem is that I keep being distracted from my job by having to open the drawer and peek at them…


Notebook Addict of the Week: The Well-Appointed Desk

This week’s addict is the blogger at the Well-Appointed Desk, who says:

“I was pulling everything out of my bag this morning to get situated at work. One, two, three… four… five! I found five notebooks in my bag and realized that maybe I had too many notebooks going at one time…”

Five notebooks sitting on one’s desk is not necessarily a sign of a major addiction, but five notebooks carried around in one’s bag is pretty impressive! I usually carry one or two.

Read more about what she’s carrying and why at How many notebooks is too many? | The Well-Appointed Desk.


Re-Starting a Fizzled-Out Notebook?

A commenter named Thao had this question in response to my post about hoarding notebooks for the future:

“My question for you is how do you repurpose a notebook after its initial use fizzles out? Like projects that never finish or die out and you’ve already devoted 10% of the pages to it. Do you tear those pages out? Do you cover them over? Or can you calmly ignore those pages and continue using the rest of the notebook for a new purpose?”

Great question! I’ve had many notebooks over the years which started out being dedicated to some specific project but then quickly fizzled out. I have sometimes torn out the pages. I have sometimes taped them together so it was easy to flip past and ignore them. If I had written a subject on the front, I just stuck a sticker or label over it. When I was a kid I also repurposed some spiral notebooks by twisting the wires out and then combining some of the pages together and twisting the spiral back in, sometimes even reusing the extra covers to make section dividers.

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But in other cases, the notebook was just abandoned and sits in one of my many boxes in a still uncompleted state…

How about you, readers?

“The Pressures of a Really Good Notebook”

I quite sympathize with this person– it’s nice to get notebooks as gifts, but on the other hand they are very personal and what do you do if someone gives you one and you don’t know what to do with it?

“When your family knows you’re a writer you get notebooks for presents, especially when you are goddamn impossible to buy gifts for because you don’t really want anything, except maybe books, but you work at a bookstore so it is folly to try to buy books for you. I still start a lot of projects by hand even though my penmanship is awful, so, it’s pretty handy to get new notebooks roughly biannually. But notebooks are also very personal items. A notebook could be with me for years. I could be in physical contact with it for hundreds of hours over that time. When I’m writing in it, it is the most important object in my life. And if I think I have lost a particular notebook, the lexicon of my panic is equal parts “Ahhhhhhh! The words I have written!” and “Ahhhhh! The thing I have written my words in!” I’ve also been doing this long enough to develop habits, idiosyncrasies, and preferences, so that, though I always appreciate gifted notebooks, sometimes I get one and think “What the hell am I going to use this for?” (More on that later.)

But sometimes the opposite is just as difficult. When I get a really good notebook, I feel pressure to write something that uniquely fits into the physics of that notebook….”

In this case, the writer received a few customized Moleskines that were given to attendees of an annual independent booksellers’ conference:

Read more at In Order of Importance: The Pressures of a Really Good Notebook.

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