Tag Archives: book

Moleskine Monday: The Revenge of Analog

A new book called The Revenge of Analog has a more detailed version of the Moleskine origin story with a twist I’d never heard before:

During the summer of 1995, [Moleskine’s now-VP of Brand Equity and Communications Maria] Sebregondi was sailing off the coast of Tunisia on the yacht of her friend Fabio Rosciglione. He consulted with the distribution company Modo & Modo, owned by another friend, Francesco Franceschi, which distributed design items and T-shirts around Italy. One night over dinner, under a sky bursting with stars, Franceschi started to talk about what kind of products Modo & Modo could manufacture on its own, rather than importing the designs of others.

The conversation shifted to a question about who would buy those goods, and then to the changing nature of the world, which had just emerged from the Cold War into the heady dawn of globalization. International travel was not only less restricted but more accessible, thanks to low-cost airlines. Technology, including inexpensive cellular phones, websites and email, allowed independent thinkers to become entrepreneurs and pursue their dreams unbound by geography. Speaking late into the night, the three realized that a new global creative class was emerging, driven by curiosity and passion. Sebregondi proposed that Modo & Modo create a toolkit for this individual, whom she labelled a “Contemporary Nomad.”

Back in Italy, Sebregondi thought about what this nomad’s kit would hold. There would be a great bag, a versatile T-shirt, the perfect pen and maybe a utility knife. At the time, she was reading the book The Songlines by British travel writer Bruce Chatwin, an embodiment of her prototypical consumer. In one of the book’s essays, Chatwin wrote about his preferred notebooks, which he bought in a particular stationery shop in Paris. “In France, these notebooks are known as carnets moleskines,” Chatwin wrote, “‘moleskine,’ in this case, being its black oilcloth binding.” The last time he returned to Paris, Chatwin discovered, to his great horror, that the family firm in Tours that had made his beloved notebooks was now out of business and the carnets moleskines were no more.

Any version of this story always went straight to the notebook– I don’t remember ever hearing about this nomad kit full of other stuff, in which the notebook would just be one item among many. But of course that works well with Moleskine’s more recent expansion into making pens, bags, wallets and smartphone cases, etc. I’m sure T-shirts and knives are next!

Read more at Take note — how Moleskine succeeded in a digital age and buy the book:


Franz Marc’s Sketchbook from the Battlefield

If there’s one thing I love more than a notebook, it’s a facsimile notebook! I have been building up a small collection of books that reproduce artists’ notebooks or sketchbooks and they are among my favorite art books to flip through for inspiration.

I’ve already reviewed a few of them:

Lynda Barry’s Syllabus (buy here)

Diana Balmori Notebooks (buy here)

Brice Marden’s Notebooks (buy here)

Basquiat Notebooks (buy here)

My latest obsession is this gorgeous little volume, which I couldn’t resist buying when I came across it at the Rizzoli Bookstore in Manhattan:

Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 1Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 2Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 3Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 4Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 5Franz Marc Sketchbook from Battlefield - 6

Franz Marc was a painter associated with the German Expressionist movement and the Blue Rider group. He fought on the Western Front in World War I, and made these drawings in a sketchbook during the year before he was killed. The drawings look like very fully worked-out studies for his paintings. A few of them have words or titles written in the margins, but they don’t feel sketchy or tentative at all– each one feels like a perfect little work unto itself, with nothing missing except the bright colors of Marc’s paintings. The book is beautifully produced– about 4.5 x 6.5″, fully cloth bound, with 36 drawings and a text at the back.  I love the way it captures the intimacy of a pocket sketchbook, and there is something very poignant about the idea of him having this sketchbook at hand and creating these beautiful works during horrific months at war.

I paid the cover price of $30 at Rizzoli, but as of this writing you can get it for more than half off at Amazon: Franz Marc Sketchbook from the Battlefield

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

In Praise of Wear and Tear

From a lovely essay about appreciating the worn, torn, lived-in-ness of books and notebooks, the “messiness of creation”:

“For about fifteen years now I have been keeping a notebook, or multiple notebooks actually, ostensibly with the intention of jotting down ideas or thoughts before they escape off into the ether. Occasionally these thoughts result in something concrete but more often than not the scribblings are promptly forgotten about, never to be reread or pored over for long-lost inspiration.In reality, this incessant note-taking is just another form of procrastination, no different nor more tangibly constructive than the 47,000 or so tweets that I have managed to post over a much shorter period of time. Dozens of the notebooks are piled in a drawer at home, ranging from neat little Moleskines to cheap spiral-bound jotters that I can’t remember buying. There are even some loose pages that were posted back to me by a conscientious thief who ripped them out and kept the rest of the book (upon later recovering the bag they were in and which had been left on the Metro, I found the same thief had ignored a number of valuable items but took a copy of Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia and a Paris A-Z – it was as if I had been robbed by a latter-day Raymond Queneau).

They bear the marks of occupational carelessness – crumpled or worn covers, smudged ink, coffee and wine stains – contain fragments of stories, lists, recipes, potted film reviews, heartfelt confessionals after bad break-ups, the occasional bad poem, ill-informed first impressions of whatever city or country I happened to be travelling in at the time. Everything is written in my cursive handwriting, which has got smaller and increasingly illegible as the years have progressed (some entries also bear the clear imprint of drunkenness). The writing is in a variety of coloured inks, of varying thickness, sometimes in pencil, of varying degrees of sharpness. A couple of the early ones even have an index system, dating from a time when I seriously thought these scribblings would constitute a corpus from which my future work might be drawn.”

Read more at  The crack of the spine: why do we find wear and tear in books so comforting?.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Ben Hatke

This week’s addict is Ben Hatke, creator of the ‘Zita the Spacegirl‘ series. In a guest post at GeekDad, he talks about the importance of sketchbooks in his creative process:

“I can’t stress enough the importance of sketchbooks in my creative work. I think one of the most important things that anyone with an interest in visual storytelling can do is FILL SKETCHBOOKS. The act of filling a sketchbook is the act of becoming comfortable transferring your thoughts from your mind onto a page.

As your sketchbook fills up it will become as unique as you yourself are. Every artist will use a sketchbook in their own way, but when you become very comfortable in transferring your thoughts onto a page flipping through your sketchbook or notebook will look like a peek into your mind. I try hard not to be precious about my sketchbooks. I don’t expect my sketchbooks to be beautiful pieces of art; I expect them to catch ideas as they fall out of my brain.”

Here’s a generous pile of those sketchbooks:

And here’s a video flip-through of one of them:

Read more at Sketchbooks: The Secret Soul of Creativity by Ben Hatke – GeekDad

A Kids Book Illustrated Entirely in Ballpoint Pens

Not 100% notebook related, but pretty cool!

Lowriders in Space was recently named a best children’s book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. The illustrator, Raul Gonzalez, did all the artwork in Bic pens, and says “The reason I did this is that I wanted the book to have a very accessible book to youngsters out there that might be interested in becoming artists but not might have access to fancy art materials,” said Gonzalez.

I’d love to see his sketchbooks too!

Read more at NewsChannel 9: Former El Paso man illustrates best selling book entirely with pens.

Photographers’ Sketchbooks

Here’s another book I’ve been thinking about adding to my collection: Photographers’ Sketchbooks.

Since it’s photography, not all of the “sketchbooks” are traditional paper ones, though a couple are shown below.

From the review linked below:

“This book is comprised of over 500 illustrated pages featuring the tangible objects that help these photographers realize their visions. From the traditional Polaroid, to the more common iPhone test shots, the book showcases more than just on-site documentation. In addition to the visuals, each chapter begins with text about and from the photographer represented. Mechanics aside, Photographers’ Sketchbooks shows the diverse range of visual material photographers keep on hand to observe, record, and inspire. Found photos, collages of various imagery, contact sheets, and diaries all funnel into some stage of the creative process from concept to execution, presentation, and editing. Many of the series shown are works in progress, a fitting theme for book on process.”

Read more at  A Look Inside ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks’ – Feature Shoot.

Stocking Stuffer Drawing Books

Here’s something on my holiday wishlist: Peter Jenny’s Learning to See series. They’re lovely little pocket-sized books with exercises for those learning to draw, or re-learning, or looking for inspiration. The perfect companion to throw in your bag with a small sketchbook and pencil or pen, and list price is only $12 each.

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

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

I came across this book recently and fell in love with it for so many reasons. For one, the title is just brilliant. The art is brilliant. And then a few pages in, a bonus! The main character does a lot of drawings in notebooks. What’s not to love!?!

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The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil