From the In-Box

Catching up on various tips  and questions people have sent in!

From S, a link to an old episode of Fresh Air Weekend:
‘Let’s Explore’: David Sedaris On His Public Private Life: The best-selling author and humorist has kept journals for 36 years. Those diaries have been the jumping-off point for the personal essays that appear in his collections, including Me Talk Pretty One Day and now Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

From Mike, a story about what may be the world’s biggest diary:


Meet Mr. John Gadd, 83, of Fontmell Magna in Great Britain. He keeps a diary. He keeps the most incredible diary I have ever heard of. It is huge,  as in 21,000 pages, filling 151 volumes, and also contains some 33,000 photos and ephemera. The diary dates back 66 years to 1947 and contains some four million pages.


From another Mike:

“I am trying to find the maker of a sketchbook that had a blue (or gray – they made both) with a black binding. They came in standard sizes but the size I’m looking for is 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″. I bought them from New York Central Art Supply in NYC and they no longer carry them nor could they tell me who made them. Any ideas?”
The closest thing I could think of might be these sketchbooks, which come in a gray color with a black edging, though they are bound with wire.

Holbein Multimedia Books, Gray
Rowland asks “sometime ago I saw an interesting notebook which I think was made in Hong Kong.  It consisted of a single A3 sheet whihc ingeniously folded into an A6/Moleskine sort of size.

I think he means this sketchbook called “Spaces for Ideas

Don shares these photos of an old notebook he found at an estate sale:

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Jade invites you to visit her Etsy shop:
“As well as notebooks, I sell origami paper, greeting cards, postcards and bookmarks all featuring patterns I’ve designed.”
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Review: Blackwing Slate Notebook

Here’s the latest notebook offering from the folks who also bring us Blackwing pencils: the Blackwing Slate Notebook. Let’s take a look at the sample the company shared with me.

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I immediately noticed that it was in a similar style to a Notes & Dabbles notebook I reviewed not long ago, as well as the Fabio Ricci “Goran” notebook. The front and back covers have a stitched edge, and the spine is separate, with a loop for  a pen. I like this all black design– it’s attractive and feels very solidly constructed. The Blackwing pencil that’s included complements it nicely.

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When you open the notebook, it lies flat. There is a back pocket with an extra little slit where you can tuck a business card. On the inside back cover, there is a page of Blackwing brand mythology– I could live without this. It seems like they’ve tried to follow Moleskine’s lead in associating their product with a long history of famous users, as well as being the pencil of choice in cool contemporary situations like fashion week or “in Brooklyn. Just about anywhere.” That one is a double strike as I’m really sick of everyone talking about Brooklyn all the time too! (I live in Brooklyn, and I have never spotted anyone using a Blackwing pencil.) Anyway, I just wish companies would realize that a well-designed quality product can appeal to people on its own merits, without marketers trying so hard to make up these ridiculous stories, which can end up backfiring. Blackwing pencils look great and write great and I love them for those reasons, but I don’t want people to look at me and think “look at that poser who thinks she has to use trendy pencils just because they say all the cool kids use them too!”

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The paper is lined (a version with unlined pages is also available) and feels great to write on. The paper is very smooth, and performed a bit better than average in terms of show-through and bleed-through. Fountain pens seemed to dry relatively quickly despite the smooth surface.

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Bottom line, it’s a very nice notebook and despite the rant above, I am sure many people will be able to ignore that one page in the back and use it very happily! I hope they make a pocket size version someday too– the Fabio Ricci Goran notebook already comes in a pocket size, and there seems to be a relationship between Fabio Ricci and Blackwing’s parent company, which also owns You can buy a small black Goran, but the stitching along the spine seems to be white– nowhere near as nice-looking as the all black look of the Slate. offers some other Fabio Ricci notebooks that also look promising, and I love the Fabio Ricci notebook I bought in Turkey. I thought the Palomino Blackwing Luxury Notebook was really nice too, and I hope they continue to expand their notebook offerings under either the Blackwing or Fabio Ricci brands.
The Blackwing Slate Notebook is available at or on Amazon.

Marbled Notebooks

Some very cool-looking marbled notebooks from Paper Chase Press:

See more at Retail Goods – Paper Chase makes an array of retail goods in our LA shop | Paper Chase Press.

Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): The JournalCEO

This week’s repeat addict was featured about a year ago with my first ever video submission. Now she’s back again with another great video documenting her growing journal collection and some of the life experiences that have been documented in those journals. See more at TheJournalCEO – YouTube.

Here’s what the JournalCEO has to say:

“I just reached 7.5 years of a journaling anniversary, and took out my collection today.

These are my used journals. I have more blank journals than I do used journals, but these used journals span 7 years… and quite a ways up my wall. Somehow I was expecting my stack to be taller after 7 years, but this is it. Maybe I’ll have to add in the blank journal collection one day too.

There are a few photos of it at:


I love all those densely filled and collaged pages! Both the video and the photo of the stack are impressive. Thanks for keeping us up to date on your growing addiction, JournalCEO!

Mixtape Notebooks

Super cute! I love how the elastic closure on this Nuuna notebook looks like the tape unraveling out of the cassette. That’s one aspect of using tapes that I am NOT nostalgic about!

Via Retro To Go: Mixtape Notebooks by Nuuna.

Lineaturen Notebook

Here’s something similar to the Grids and Guides notebook I posted about a few weeks ago. It’s called “Lineaturen” in German, which seems to translate to “line structures.”


I spotted this notebook at the Centre Pompidou store and thought it was quite neat, not just as a notebook but as an exploration of the various types of notebooks people use around the world. Here’s the description from the publisher:

Rimini Berlin has been collecting exercise books, notebooks and writing blocks from different countries for years, and each culture has developed it’s own ruling system. From this collection, we have created a notebook with 50 different rulings, from the trusted DIN format to that used for mathematical notation to traditional chinese writing blocks.

As a collection, the ruled paper is no longer seen as a blank page to be filled. Instead the diverse rulings inspire a different way of thinking, writing and ideating.
The rulings can be used as a matrix for taking notes, sorting information or sketching ideas, allowing for a spontaneous visual journey through different cultures. In the indes you will find the efinition of each ruling system. The notebook is printed on recycled paper.

Berlin 2011, 192 Seiten, 13 × 17 cm, einfarbig, broschiert, INDEX in englischer Sprache! 3. Printing 2013!!!
ISBN 978-3-86895-078-6


You can buy it at the publisher’s website, or via Amazon.



Alibabette Editions

I spotted this brand when I was in Paris– they have some very cute designs:

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See more at their website.

Review: Watercolor Sketchbook Comparison

I’m often dabbling with watercolors in sketchbooks that aren’t really made for using them– regular notebook or sketchbook paper can deteriorate a bit with wet paints, or wrinkle and buckle a lot as it dries. So I’ve been experimenting more with using actual watercolor paper in hopes of better results. I’ve had various watercolor pads over the year, and I’ve reviewed larger-size Stillman and Birn sketchbooks that work beautifully with wet media, but for the sake of fitting more closely with my more frequent daily notebook form factor, I decided to try a Moleskine watercolor book in the pocket size. As is typical with Moleskines made in the last few years, it did not seem as well-made as it could be, and I’ve seen complaints online about a change in quality in Moleskine’s watercolor paper, so I decided to check out some other alternatives in the same format. Let’s take a look!

Here they all are, the Moleskine, as well as the Pen & Ink watercolor sketchbook from Art Alternatives, and the Pentalic Aqua Journal.

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In close-up of spines below, from left to right: Moleskine, Pentalic, Pen & Ink.
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In photos below, from top to bottom: Pentalic, Moleskine, Pen & Ink.
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They are all very similar in terms of packaging, size, and features, but each has some features that differentiate it.

The Moleskine is the thinnest, mainly due to having thinner cover boards. The spine is a little crooked and loose, as if it was glued to the book block a bit unevenly. The binding is nice and flexible, though, and opens totally flat, except for the spreads between signatures where a little glue keeps the gutter from opening all the way down– it’s still quite flat, though. You can actually fold the cover back about 270°. Each signature is 3 sheets of paper, 60 pages total. The pages are not perforated (though I have heard that at one point Moleskine watercolor books did have perforated pages, I think). I’ve done various sorts of doodles and sketches in it with varying degrees of wetness, but the pages have all dried nice and flat. Moleskine says the paper is “heavy” but does not specify a paper weight in GSM or lbs. For my purposes, it is perfectly fine although as always, I wish Moleskine had not started to let the cover edges stick out so far from the pages. The list price for the pocket size watercolor book is $13.95. Other sizes are available.

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I bought the Pen & Ink watercolor book after being so pleased with their heavyweight page sketchbook as a Moleskine alternative. I like their slightly soft cover material and nicely rounded spines. Art Alternatives sketchbooks always seem very well-made, especially given their low prices.  This watercolor book includes a ribbon marker, which I could live without– it has a lot of extra length dangling out. Every page is perforated. The paper seems of a similar weight to Moleskine, but is perhaps very slightly cooler in tone, and the texture of it seems to have a more linear grain than Moleskine’s. Each signature is 2 sheets of cold press 180 GSM paper, 56 pages total. There is glue between the signatures here too, but it’s hard to compare how it opens flat because the perforations cause a bend before you even get into the gutter, and you probably wouldn’t want to paint across a spread with the perforations in the middle anyway. Again the whole book can be opened more than flat, almost but not quite bending all the way back on itself. Again the pages seem to hold up well to wet washes without buckling or deteriorating, but my pH test pen seemed to indicate the paper is not as acid-free as the other watercolor notebooks. The pen should look purple on acid-free paper, but it came out more a brownish-yellow on several tries, which indicates acidity. The list price for this sketchbook is $10.99, but discounted prices can be much lower. A larger size is also available.

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The Pentalic watercolor journal was my favorite in terms of how it feels in the hand– it’s a bit smaller and chunkier than the others, with slightly less cover overhang. The exterior is a dark blue, which is a nice change. Here you have 6 signatures of 2 sheets each, so only 48 pages, but the paper is 300 GSM and very noticeably thicker than the others. The spine is a bit too liberally glued, unfortunately, so the binding is a bit stiff and needs to be bent back and forth to loosen it. The end pages where the book block is attached to the cover are really heavily glued and the back cover doesn’t open totally flat. This is especially a problem because the back pocket comes up closer to the spine than on the other two notebooks, making it awkward to actually get anything into the pocket. There were some pages where the glue between signatures came pretty far out of the gutter and the residue is visible where I forced the pages flat. This was the only notebook to include a loop that could hold a pencil or brush (which I personally could live without). This also has a ribbon marker. The pages seemed to hold up well to my tests. I paid $12.95 for this, but I had a hard time finding this size for sale online anywhere and could not confirm if that is the official list price.

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Ultimately, I’m not enough of a watercolor expert to really judge these notebooks based on the performance of the paper– I muddle around with watercolors as the easiest way to color in some of my sketches, but I don’t know how to properly use them in any more sophisticated way.  For my needs, the paper in all of these sketchbooks works just fine, though I’m concerned that the Pen & Ink paper might yellow with time if it’s not acid-free. This comparison is more about the form and features of each sketchbook– every user will be different in their preferences regarding ribbon markers, pen loops, thickness, etc. I’m having a hard time picking a favorite– I lean towards the Pentalic because I love the chunky shape and thick paper, but the stiff binding , ribbon marker, pen loop, and awkward back pocket are negative factors for me. (I might just try to remove the ribbon marker and pen loop.)

FYI, the paints I’ve used in all these are mostly artist-grade Winsor & Newton— despite my lack of expertise, I splurged on an upgrade from the student-grade Cotman sets I already owned, partly because I liked the folding metal tin they came in. This set seems to have been discontinued, but you can buy the empty metal tin separately. It’s meant to hold 12 half-pans, but you can easily fit in more. Schmincke and Sennelier also make watercolor sets in this type of tin.

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I would love to hear from more experienced watercolor users– what are your favorite pocket size sketchbooks? What do you look for in paper? What other features do you prefer?

Links to buy all these sketchbooks at Amazon and Blick are below. I did not find the Pentalic for sale online in the 3.5 x 5.5″ size, but there are listings for a larger size. I bought my small one at Lee’s Art Shop in Manhattan.
Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Album, Pocket, Black, Hard Cover (3.5 x 5.5) (Classic Notebooks)
$13.95 at Amazon

Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks

$12.44 at Blick

Pentalic 100-Percent Cotton Watercolor Journal 5-Inch by 8-Inch
$15.48 at Amazon for 5×8 version, 3.5 x 5.5 not listed there

Pentalic Watercolor Journal and Travel Brush Set

$18.99 at Blick for 5×8 set including brush, 3.5×5.5 version not listed there

Art Alternatives Pen & Ink Watercolor Books – 5.5″x3.5″ – 56 122lb Cold Press Pages
$7.69 at Amazon

Art Alternatives Watercolor Books

$9.23 at Blick

Notebook Addict of the Week: Sarita

Sarita emailed me some photos of a great collection!
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Sarita says:
“I’m not even  sure if this number is accurate, but I believe I have about 25 unused & 35 used or briefly written in notebooks in this collection. I have a very bad habit of picking up notebooks that are cute and I end up feeling like I should never ever taint them, and the moment I write something in one of the notebooks, it feels “tainted” to me and I feel the need to replace it with a new notebook. Most of my recent additions have been bought from Target or from the Target clearance section 🙂
I think I’ve always been drawn to notebooks, but in these recent years I’ve really started to get into collecting them! (I’m not even sure if these are ALL the notebooks I own in these photos, I’m pretty sure there a few used ones hiding around somewhere…..haha)
I mainly use my notebooks for class notes, keeping up with to-do lists, brief writing ideas/planning out comic/art ideas, and sketchbooks!
I hope you like my collection! <3
Also I’m not sure if you’re aware of this new notebook brand, but I recently discovered Target put these in their shelves! The brand is called “Yoobi” and they are very similar to the Moleskine brand!
From what I saw, these notebooks were also available in the colors red and green, and I don’t think I’ve noticed any sketchbooks yet, just journals!”

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Sarita!

Coolest Book Ever: SYLLABUS by Lynda Barry

Notebook lovers and Lynda Barry fans (I am both) will just die of happiness when they see this book!

Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor

Not only is every page chock full of Lynda Barry’s unique art and the creativity exercises she developed for the classes she’s taught, plus examples of student work… the amazing thing is that the whole book is a facsimile composition book!


A single stitched signature, rounded corners, the exact size, and it even has the tape on the spine! It’s just a gorgeous object as well as an inspiring manual. I spent a few hours just poring over it when I first got it… and I know I’ll spend many more! Here’s a sneak peek of one of my favorite pages, with a pile of the composition books all the students used in one semester.



Check out Lynda Barry’s other wonderful books too:
What It Is
Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey Book

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