Notebook Addict of the Week: Nairobi Queen

The journals I have here with me in England

This week’s addict posted this photo on Flickr with these comments:

“The journals I have here with me in England

I have no idea where the rest of my books are, but here is a pretty good spread.”

From that, I deduce that she was just traveling to England or living there temporarily, and I was impressed that she brought so many notebooks with her! And she has more elsewhere… I’d love to see the whole collection! There are a few more notebooks and interior pages shown on her Flickr photostream.

The Sketchbook / Memorandum Book of W.G. Read

I just love this. A beautiful old notebook with wonderfully drawn little sketches. I’ve come across a few other examples of these T. J. Smith’s “metallic memorandum books” online (and posted about one here). I just wish I’d find one in a junk shop somewhere so I could own one of these treasures myself!

A Glimpse At Life A Century Ago Through The Sketchbook Of W.G. Read - Print Magazine

A Glimpse At Life A Century Ago Through The Sketchbook Of W.G. Read - Print Magazine

A Glimpse At Life A Century Ago Through The Sketchbook Of W.G. Read - Print Magazine

Read more about the sketchbook and the artist, and see lots more images at A Glimpse At Life A Century Ago Through The Sketchbook Of W.G. Read – Print Magazine.

Diana Balmori Notebooks


I spotted this at McNally Jackson Bookstore in NYC and couldn’t resist: a small paperback book/facsimile notebook full of drawings by landscape architect Diana Balmori. From the publisher’s website (which seems to be the only place to buy the book online):

“Notebooks is a record of sketches by Diana Balmori FASLA. Reflecting twenty years of thinking, drawing, and crafting, the book provides a window into the personal practice of landscape design.

Diana Balmori is an internationally renowned landscape and urban designer and the founder of the landscape design firm Balmori Associates.”

The original notebooks seem to have been mostly Moleskine Sketchbooks and Japanese Albums. Inside the book, you sometimes get a photo of the whole notebook page, sometimes even a fold-out spread. Other pages just have drawings. The whole book is just slightly larger than an actual pocket Moleskine, so you really feel like you are flipping through someone’s sketchbook as opposed to browsing through an art book.


The drawings themselves are very simple, quick sketches in pencil or crayon. Occasionally there are some notes added, but they are mostly just sketches without any explanation. I almost didn’t buy the book because the drawings seemed so rough– they’re not the kind of sophisticated sketchbook pages that you look at and aspire to imitate their design and skill level. But the more I looked at them, I thought that was a good thing. So many examples of sketchbook art seem too perfect, too finished. Instead of being inspiring, they can seem daunting to others who look at them and think “my sketchbook pages will never look that good!” Sketchbooks are supposed to be for experimentation and capturing ideas. They should be full of scribbles and mess and exploration– they should be about the process, not just the results, and they don’t have to be perfect.


That said, I wish there was a little more commentary with these sketches (as opposed to none)– if you’re going to put your sketchbook work in a book to be shared with the public, it helps to give the reader some idea what they’re looking at. But despite that, I’m glad I paid the rather steep price of $29 to add this unique little book to my collection.



Canson 180° Sketchbook Review

I found this sketchbook at Lee’s Art Shop in Manhattan and was intrigued by the concept: the Canson 180° Sketchbook promises to open completely flat, thanks to a unique binding.

Canson 180 Art Book01

When you first spot this on the shelf, you might think it’s a fairly typical Moleskine-ish notebook– the black pseudo-leather textured cover, the 3.5 x 5.5″ size, the paper band with branding info encircling it. But when you look closer, you’ll note a couple of differences. First there’s the binding. Instead of wrapping around the spine, the front and back covers are totally separate, each attached only to the endpapers of the notebook. The spine exposes a black tape covering the sewn signatures.

Canson 180 Art Book04Canson 180 Art Book03

The idea is that without the extra spine material in the way, the notebook can easily open completely flat. Other notebook brands also claim to open flat– and in terms of being able to get into the gutter between the pages, many do. But their bindings don’t let them really sit flat on a surface. See below for an example– the Handbook Artist Journal (first photo below) can provide a flat 2-page drawing surface pretty well, but look how the binding bulges out. In comparison, the Canson notebook is much easier to use, especially when you have it open to the middle pages, as shown in the 2nd two photos below:

Canson 180 Art Book07Canson 180 Art Book06


The other major points of distinction between this and other similar notebooks are that it has a magnetic tab closure on the side, and grey endpapers. I love the grey endpapers, but I hate the tab closure. I’m sure some people will find it handier to use than an elastic, but I’ve never liked this kind of closure, on Filofaxes or wallets or any other notebook. There’s just no good way to get rid of it and it gets in the way. In other ways, this is a pretty standard notebook, though it lacks the ribbon marker and back pocket that others have. It’s almost the exact same size as a pocket Moleskine, shown above and below for comparison.

Canson 180 Art Book02Canson 180 Art Book05Canson 180 Art Book08

As for the paper, this is marketed as an “art book” or  sketchbook. The paper is bright white and has a slight tooth to it, which makes it nice to use with pencil. It feels good with all other pens too, even fine point roller balls, although you do hear a bit of scratchiness with these. But given the 96 GSM paper weight, I was expecting it to be a little bit more substantial and was disappointed when I saw how much show-through there was– almost the same as Moleskine paper, though bleed-through wasn’t quite as bad. The paper is made in France, though the notebook is assembled in China.

Canson 180 Art Book09Canson 180 Art Book10

The list price for this sketchbook is $10.99, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I paid. For the quality of what you get, I think that’s fair. Oddly, Amazon sells these for $19.78, but Blick has them discounted to $6.99, which is a very good deal. Larger sizes are also available: Canson 180 Degree Hardbound Sketchbooks. I”m sure a lot of people will find these a nice sketchbook option, but I hope they’ll beef up the paper a little. If a sketchbook that truly lies flat is your highest priority, these do deliver on that promise!

Notebook Addict of the Week (x3): Kara

This week’s addict has been featured twice before: Notebook Addict of the Week (again): Kara, and Notebook Addict of the Week: Kara. Her collection keeps growing and I love seeing more of it!

kara notebooks

“My boxes of composition & spiral notebooks, blank or filled. They’re so heavy they can barely be lifted. Ugh!”

Make sure you use proper lifting techniques with those heavy boxes! Notebook collections can be hazardous to your health!

How Many Notebooks at Once?

Here’s a bunch of people talking about how many notebooks they are using at once:
How many notebooks do you have going right now?
I found the page via a search that resulted in this image, though the image doesn’t appear on that page. I love all these piles of notebooks, all labeled and dated and lined up by type!

See the original image here: Google Image Result for

Lisa Congdon’s Sketchbook

Another great Sketchbook Sneak Peek from Design Sponge, this time with Lisa Congdon, whose Collection a Day blog was one of my faves.

Why do you use a sketch book?

My sketchbook is almost exclusively for my personal doodling, idea generation, and, of course, stress relief! I feel like it’s important to have a space to go to get my ideas out, like when I have a flash of inspiration I record it in my sketchbook. I used to not keep a sketchbook, but I have found that it is really useful and after awhile it can become addicting. I also use my sketchbook to work through any angst I’m having. I tend to make really detailed drawings in my sketchbook as a way of meditating.

Read more at Sketchbook Sneak Peek: Lisa Congdon | Design*Sponge.

Moleskine Monday: They’re Out There…

I had a fun find over the weekend. I was in a small art supply store that happened to have a nice selection of notebooks, including some gorgeous sketchbooks from Bison Bookbinding, which I’d never heard of. I think this store must have decided to focus on these more unique items instead of more generic brands like Moleskine, as the larger selection of Moleskines they once carried had dwindled down to a few random ones on an out of the way shelf. But I was thrilled that among those stragglers were 3 old Modo & Modo pocket sized squared notebooks. I almost jumped for joy when I picked them up and saw the nice tight corners with no cover overhang, and that je ne sais quoi that differentiates them from what Moleskine is churning out now. And they weren’t even over-priced– $12 each, less than they list for now. They weren’t marked, so I was expecting the store to be one of those places that jacks up the price– I’ve seen some places asking $15 for the standard pocket size notebooks.

I was very pleased with my find. It’s happened in a couple other places, often dusty and cluttered office supply stores where artsy fancy notebooks aren’t their bread & butter. Every time I find some “original” Moleskines, I think it will be the last time, but I keep having these nice surprises. I’m sure there are still more gems out there to reward patient searchers!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Ian

This week’s addict has a lovely and emphatically titled website: Pens! Paper! Pencils! All 3 are suitably celebrated there, including these notebooks:

This beautiful collection includes Moleskine, Rhodia, Muji, Calepino, Field Notes, and Monsieur Notebook. I really love those nicely worn-in leather covers, from Davis Leatherworks. (where they are only $17!)
Read more at Notebooks.

Thanksgiving Place Card Mini Notebooks

What a cute idea, just in time for the holiday!

Learn how to make them at Thanksgiving Place Card Mini Notebooks | House of Earnest.

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