Dense and Futuristic Drawings

By Lee Sankey, amazing futuristic sketches in a notebook,. Via the folks at Doodlers Anonymous, who rightly refer to these as “freaking bad-ass!”

See more at Blog: The Future is Drawn – Doodlers Anonymous.

Review and Giveaway: Word. Notebooks from Cool Material

The folks at Cool Material sent me a nice batch of their recently introduced “Word.” notebooks. These are a staple-bound notebook in the vein of Field Notes and the Moleskine cahiers, but with a unique page format.

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First impressions:
I love the cover designs, in cool colors and camouflage patterns. They came packaged very beautifully in a box with brown crinkly paper filler, and I think I actually said “ooh!” when I opened it up!

The covers feed sturdy and the whole notebook seems well-made. The staples are aligned correctly on the spine, and nothing is crooked, except for the corners, which are nicely rounded but cut a bit diagonally in some cases, as if the notebook slipped a bit while the corners were being cut. The corners are rounded to a larger diameter than Field Notes or Moleskine.

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Inside the front cover there is space for identifying info, and a guide to how the page layout is meant to be used. The designers of these notebooks meant for them to be used to help manage task lists. Each page has 18 lines with a dotted circle at the left. You can indicate the status and importance of the task by circling or slashing the circle. It’s a pretty simple system, and not original to this notebook (see here for one example) but for those who like to manage their task lists this way, it will be handy to have a preformatted page that makes it easier.
The inside back cover has a list of fun facts, just to fill space, I guess.

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The paper feels great to write on, nice and smooth. Most of my usual pens worked beautifully, though the Pilot fountain pen seemed to feather out a bit. Bleed-through was slightly worse than average for most pens, though for some reason, the Super Sharpie, always the worst bleeder of all, bled slightly less than I would have expected. Show-through was about average. The paper is acid-free.

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The format on these is a standard 3.5 x 5.5″, shown below next to a pocket hardcover Moleskine.
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At $9.99 for a 3-pack, these are priced in line with the competition. If you are a list-maker, check them out– you can buy them at Word. Notebooks | Cool Material.

And of course you can also try your luck in the giveaway. I will select 3 lucky winners from entries received in the following ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing “@coolmaterial” and “@NotebookStories, and follow “@coolmaterial” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page  and the Cool Material page, and post something containing the words “Word Notebook” on the Notebook Stories wall.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday May 10 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.

A Real Picasso Sketchbook

The Moleskine mythology of having been the notebook used by Picasso, Hemingway, and Chatwin is, of course, not true, as the Moleskine brand didn’t exist until the late 1990s. But since the Moleskines we know today were modeled after similar notebooks used by these and many other artists and writers in the early 20th century, I’ve always wanted to see some examples of these original “carnets moleskines.” Unfortunately, Moleskine’s online presence is so dominating that if you search for “Picasso sketchbook,” all that comes up in Google are the modern day capital-M Moleskines that he never used.

But after some diligent searching, I did find this:


According to this blog post and this one, this is one of Picasso’s actual sketchbooks as displayed in the Musee Picasso in Paris. You can see that it’s a pocket size notebook, with squared pages, and there seems to be a sign of an elastic closure at the bottom edge. On the right edge, there seems to be a pen loop– I’m not sure if this is the kind of “moleskine” the Moleskine brand is modeled after, but it doesn’t bother me that they left out that feature. I do like the red edges, though.
I’ve found some other examples of similar notebooks used for sketchbooks, such as the one on this page, shown below:
Again you can see the same pen loop on the edge and signs of an elastic, though this artist used the book flipped over so it was on the left.

Here’s another one:

According to the description at, it belonged to William Adolphe Bouguereau.

Here, you can see a small sketchbook of Van Gogh’s, but it doesn’t seem to be the same type of notebook:

I wish it was easier to find these images online… but not being able to is a good excuse for a trip to some museums in Europe!

Notebook Addict of the Week: Rachael at Calm Banana

This week’s addict wrote a blog post several years ago about her little problem with notebooks:

I have an addiction to notebooks.

I can’t stop buying them!

I haven’t counted up exactly how many I have, but I think it’s around the 20 – 25 mark. I have all sorts of notebooks, and I don’t even have anything to write in them! I’m not a student anymore so I don’t have any lecture notes I could use them for.

I really should stop buying notebooks, because I have no need for them. I keep seeing new notebooks I like though, so let’s outline some of my favourites.

Here’s some of the collection:

Read more and see more photos at Calm Banana » My notebook addiction.

Sketchbook Pages by Designers and Illustrators

A cool gallery of some great sketchbook pages, from the book Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators, and Creatives.

This one is by Lauren Simkin Berke:

And this one’s by Andrea Dezsö:

See more at A Look Inside The Sketchbooks Of 10 Terrific Creatives | Co.Design: business + innovation + design.

Random Giveaway!

Today, I just feel like giving away some notebooks. What the heck! I’m going to put together a lovely little surprise package for one lucky winner who I’ll randomly select from anyone who comments on this post by the deadline of Friday May 3, 11:59 EST. Feel free to spread the word via social media, but it’s not required to enter this time. Good luck everyone!

Whitelines Video

Cool video from Whitelines, telling the story behind their paper, and promoting their Indiegogo campaign to develop an Android version of their smartphone app.

via Whitelines Story V1.3 on Vimeo.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Susannah

Susannah’s blog post has lots of great photos of the 8 Moleskines she is currently using, each for a different purpose, including an art journal, prayer journal and “everything I want to remember for eventually” notebook.

See many more photos, including some closeups of her beautiful handwriting, at (life is too short not to) wear red shoes: moleskines..

“They remind me of my heart’s desire…”

From a lovely essay about using notebooks, by Elaine Fletcher Chapman:

Most writers I know work from notebooks. I carry mine with me, as Jason Shinder was known to advise, along with a folder of poems I am currently revising. Even on my shorter commutes, I carry the pair. They remind me of my heart’s desire no matter what I am doing or where I am going. Is there a difference between a writer’s notebook, a journal, a commonplace book or a diary? I really don’t think so unless the intent is so named. They address the everyday, the quotidian. They may record lists of books read and unread, grocery lists, quotes, receipts, reviews, found objects, letters, beginnings of poems, lines of fiction, descriptions of art, memories, arguments with lovers, photographs, the flow of tides, phases of the moon, words and their origins, and often momentos.

Read more at The Quotidian, Notebooks, Diaries, and Journals by Elaine Fletcher Chapman – The Best American Poetry.

Review: Piccadilly Softcover Notebook

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This is another notebook I bought about 3 years ago and then immediately shelved. When I first examined it after buying it, I pretty much hated it. I bought it because it was cheap and I’d never tried a softcover Piccadilly, though I’d liked using some of their hardcover ones with graph or plain paper. But this softcover notebook only comes in lined paper, which I really don’t like using. The reason I hated it, though, is that when I took off the shrinkwrap, I realized that the elastic was so incredibly tight that it was warping the whole notebook. The whole thing seemed stiff and warped and dented by the elastic, and I was just so disappointed by the quality that I’ve been putting off reviewing it ever since.

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But a funny thing happened when I did decide to review the notebook. I started opening it and closing it and bending it, and just turning it over and over in my hand. I bent the spine back and forth, flexed the covers, and tested all my pens in it. And somehow by the end of all this, I had gone from thinking the notebook was a piece of crap to wanting to buy a whole bunch of them, if only I could get them with unlined or squared paper.

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The stiffness I initially disliked is due to an extra layer in the cover that sort of makes these notebooks almost a hybrid between a hardcover and a softcover. It makes the notebook thicker and chunkier, and it seems like it would be much sturdier than the Moleskine softcover notebooks (shown below next to a softcover reporter-style Moleskine).

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The notebook feels great in the hand, as it’s the perfect size and heft. And because it’s a softcover, there’s no annoying cover overhang, just a nice little brick of paper. Below is a comparison to a hardcover Moleskine:

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It does seem like the layers of the cover could start to become unglued– one corner is already coming apart a bit, but it’s in a spot that has been stressed by the tight elastic.

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The paper is ok but a bit thirsty. If you stop for 5 seconds in one spot with a fountain pen, you get a pretty big blotch that soaks through to the next page. It felt good to write on with all my usual pens, but there was more bleed-through than average. Show-through was about average.

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There’s something about knowing how cheap these notebooks are that makes me more willing to forgive certain flaws. The Piccadilly softcover feels like it could be a scrappy little notebook, not precious, not perfect– just something you can beat up and abuse and still enjoy even if it starts to fall apart. But you may disagree– I showed this notebook to a friend and asked her what she thought of it. She said she didn’t like it because it felt stiff and cheap, but when I told her how cheap it actually was (typical retail price $3-5), she said “Oh! Well in that case…” and agreed that maybe it wasn’t so bad.

It all depends on your personal priorities and preferences. If you are a fountain pen user and very picky about paper, it may not be the best choice. If you don’t live near a store where you can buy these in person after checking them over for defects, Piccadilly may not be for you. But for someone like me, the definition of a perfect notebook is more about size and shape and the absence of a cover overhang. I can tolerate almost any paper that feels good with a fine-point rollerball as long as it’s not lined or with overly dark graph paper lines. If the Piccadilly softcover came in squared or plain or dot-grid paper, I’d be searching stores to see if I could find good ones without too many flaws. I’m still surprised at how quickly I went from loathing this notebook to seeing it as a potential new favorite.


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