Tag Archives: japanese album

BLACKBOOK by Nuria Mora

Absolutely stunning notebook art, by Nuria Mora, a Spanish artist based in Madrid. It looks like it was made with a Moleskine Japanese Album.

See more at: BLACKBOOK | Nuria Mora


Moleskine Monday: Paper Weights Revealed!

Moleskine has always been rather cagey about revealing the actual weight of their paper, unlike rival notebook makers such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Fabriano and many others who specify their paper weight in GSM (grams per square meter). GSM isn’t the only factor in how a paper performs, but it’s a good indicator, as thicker paper will usually have less show-through and bleed-through.

A while back, I linked to this blog post, which does a very detailed analysis to arrive at an estimated measurement of Moleskine’s paper weight. The author Steve DeLong just updated it to let everyone know that he’s been proven right! Moleskine released the information below about their various paper types (this actually dates back to February 2014, but I guess we didn’t notice at the time!):

Paper and item guide.

70 g/m² – 47 lb paper


The classic, ivory-coloured Moleskine notebook paper, suitable for dry media, pencils, ballpoint pens.
Items: Music Notebook
100 g/m² – 68 lb paper


A heavier version of the notebook paper. Appropriate for fountain pens and dry media, pencils, charcoal, pastels.
Items: A3 Plain Book
120 g/m² – 81 lb
sketch-grade paper
Smooth, ivory-coloured paper. Ideal for sketching and drawing with pencils, charcoal, fountain pens, markers.
Items: Sketch Album
165 g/m² – 111 lb
sketch-grade paper
Pigmented directly in the pulp itself, this paper guarantees colour stability and resistance to eraser and marker use. It supports all dry media, pencils, pastels, charcoal, fountain pens and markers.
Items: Sketchbook, Japanese Album, Storyboard Notebook
200 g/m² – 135 lb
watercolour paper
Cold-pressed watercolour paper with cotton for better water absorption on both sides of the page. Created exclusively for Moleskine, it is suitable for watercolour washes and supports large quantities of water.
Items: Watercolour Album
200 g/m² – 135 lb
black paper
This multimedia paper makes the perfect base for photos, scrapbooking and collages, as well as drawings with bright-coloured pencils, pastels, gel pens and Moleskine fluorescent and metallic inks.
Items: Black Page Album, Black Page Japanese Album

The surprises here for me were that there is an in-between 100GSM weight used in the A3 plain notebooks, though it makes sense that the very thin standard paper might not hold up well at that size. I was not too surprised to see that the softcover Sketch Album has lighter weight paper than the regular hardcover Sketchbook, Japanese Album and Storyboard notebooks– I bought a Sketch Album a while ago and have had it in my queue to review, and my first impression of it was that the paper seemed lighter. It will be interesting to do some actual tests now knowing that it really is a different weight.

Thanks to Steve for the heads-up about Moleskine’s press release!

Behind the Scenes with Diana Balmori and Her Notebooks

Remember this lovely little book? Reviewed here: Diana Balmori Notebooks

When I posted about it a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of Diana Balmori, and found myself very intrigued by this unusual little book, as it presented the pages of her notebooks almost in facsimile, without any commentary about what the drawings represented or meant. I never thought I’d have the chance to learn more, but via the magic of the internet and social media, I was given the opportunity to interview Diana by email, and even share some exclusive photos of her notebooks behind the scenes!

NS: How long have you been keeping notebooks/sketchbooks? Do you save them all when you are done with them?

DB: Consistently for about 15 years. Before that I had all sorts of loose papers, notepads, drawing books, in which I drew, mainly when I was traveling. I save them all.

DB Figure 1


NS: Do you use one notebook at a time, or many? How long does it take you to fill one?

DB: No, I grab whatever notebook is around. Sometimes it is blank, sometimes it has some drawings, sometimes it is nearly full, I draw in whatever blank page there is. This causes a problem as to dating because I seldom date the drawings and then you look at a notebook and it has drawings over a long span of time. I’ve been more consistent lately about putting dates on the sketches.

NS: Can you tell us a little bit about your habits of using notebooks? Do you carry one at all times for sketching when the mood strikes? What purpose does keeping a notebook serve for you?

DB: I carry a notebook regularly. My jackets, most, have an inside pocket in which I carry a small Moleskine notebook. Purpose: to see. When you draw, you observe in a way that cannot be compared with just looking or with photographing. It is like getting inside what you are looking at, or better, you are becoming one with it. And you form an attachment to it.

DB Figure 2

NS: The sketches in your book are very loose and don’t have that “architect-y” sharp, finished  look that some artists and designers strive for even in sketchbooks.  Do you draw differently in notebooks than you do in other parts of your work?

DB: Notebook drawing is esquisse, or sketch, drawing. It is quick. Minutes. Drawing with a black 6B pencil it is an outline, and an interpretation of what you are seeing; and a synthesis. I have come to like the rawness and incompleteness of these drawings much more than the polished, completed drawings I have done with more time, and for other purposes. They get closer to something that I am trying to capture in the representation of landscape as a whole. That it is capturing the space and not the objects in it. Objects should not occupy one’s time, nor be belabored in the picture.

NS: Are the drawings in “Notebooks” directly related to particular projects for your firm? The book is presented without any explanatory text– can you talk about why you decided to publish it in that form?

DB: No, they are not directly related to projects in the firm. They may trigger a form for a project. But they are all related to the work in the office on how to represent landscape. I had no intention of publishing of these drawings, but in speaking with Matthew Stadler at Publication Studio, I thought it was a good way of looking at ground covered. Also, the very informal way in which it could be published attracted me, and it fitted the contents to a tee.


NS: Do you have favorite brands of notebooks and drawing materials that you use?

DB: Mainly Moleskine notebooks, I use the unlined small ones, in portrait and Japanese album forms. The accordion resolves the problem of the portrait format, because I can unfold the book and have a very large landscape format. As my ideas of landscape representation have evolved, I have become most interested in this horizontal format and the possibility of extending it laterally. Landscape is an art of the periphery. That is, it depends on peripheral vision for its power. It took me quite a while to discover that. And working with a vision scientist I also learned how reluctant we are to represent what we capture in our peripheral vision, a vision which only captures the most obvious traits, no detail, which is why these drawings, esquisse-like, represent for me landscape better and in a more modern mode.

As to materials I use a 6B pencil, or graphite bar, and if using color, Prismacolor pencils, they have the degree of softness I like.

DB Figure 3 DB Figure 4

NS: Do you enjoy looking at other people’s notebooks/sketchbooks? Are there any in particular that have inspired you?

DB: I love looking at other people’s sketchbooks/notebooks. I like the notebooks of anthropologists, to them notebooks are colossally important. I was surprised at how little drawing there was in them. I have looked at single notebook drawings mainly, as there are very few published collections of notebook sketches, more should be published.

NS: I’ve used the terms “notebook” and “sketchbook” interchangeably here, but your book is called “Notebooks.” Do you think of “notes” and “sketches” as being kind of the same thing, or does each mean something different to you?

DB: I’ve used the word notebooks and not sketchbooks because my drawings felt as notes on seeing. They are visual notes in looking and seeing. I am not sketching or drawing for the pleasure of drawing –– and for me it is a pleasure –– but also for helping me see, they are visual notes.


I am very grateful to Diana for answering my questions and sharing these photos. It’s so interesting to hear a creative person’s thoughts on capturing ideas, and she’s really nailed an important distinction between visual notes and other kinds of drawing.  I’m also fascinated by this idea of peripheral vision and the role it plays in landscape representations! I will definitely be checking out Diana’s next book to see how she expands on this topic: Drawing and Reinventing Landscape (to be published April 2014).


Review & Giveaway: Notez and Dayz by Less Thingz

It’s fun to review things that stretch the boundaries of “notebook” a bit. The Notez notebook and Dayz planner certainly do that! They are made by an Austrian company called Less Thingz, who were kind enough to send me these samples.

Less Thingz01

At a glance, you can see that these have a unique format. The outside covers are a double layer of cardboard. There is no spine, and inside is an accordion fold-out made of a heavy-weight card stock. The size is 6 7/16 x 4″– shown below with a pocket size Moleskine for comparison. I love the look of the outsides– they are very precisely cut with a slot in one layer, perfectly sized for a rubber band to sit flat in, one on each side. At first I thought the ends of the rubber band were glued inside the cover, but it’s actually just held there by the sandwiching of the two layers, and will slide in either direction if you pull on it. The only branding is the tiny laser-cut Less Thingz name on one side. The colors I received I very understated and attractive. According to the website, lots of other colors are available for Dayz, but you can’t actually see what they look like. Notez only seems to come in one color at the moment. One thing I did notice is that the cardboard cover seems to be easily stained– in the closeup below there is a small mark, which I think came from setting it down on a dining table where there were some crumbs.

Less Thingz04Less Thingz11Less Thingz .1

Inside, Notez comes with either blank or dotted paper. Dayz has a planner layout– the sample I received is an academic year calendar going from mid-September 2013 through the end of September 2014, but the only option on their website now is a January-December 2014 calendar. The pages are laid out with 7 equally sized days running across, and 2 weeks to a page/4 weeks to a view. At the end, there is a section of smaller blocks, 7 days across and 14 weeks per page, looking ahead through October 2015.

Less Thingz03Less Thingz10

In the main section, each day has a dot grid pattern that would make it easy to divide the day into blocks of time, but the space for each day is pretty small, so unless you have microscopic handwriting, it can’t be used for a lot of detailed agenda items or notes. But it’s a nice, clean, 2-color design. The holidays listed are not international– only Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

Less Thingz06Less Thingz07

I tested a few pens– the paper is so thick, even the Super Sharpie barely shows through. The paper is quite smooth, so my Uniball gel-ink pen worked well, but my Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to skid and bead up a little, and took a long time to dry. It still smeared after at least 10 minutes of drying time– I wasn’t timing it, but it was long enough after that I was quite surprised not to find it dry.

Less Thingz08Less Thingz09

The nice thing about this unique format is that you can use the two elastics to mark your place in the notebook while also holding it closed. For the planner version, they show how you can use it has a hanging wall calendar or a stand-up desk calendar or a pocket planner. The blank notebook would lend itself to all sorts of uses, including panoramic or sequential drawings.

Less Thingz02Less Thingz05

I suppose my main concern with these notebooks is the durability of the rubber band. It’s nice and thick and unlikely to snap under normal usage, but rubber bands get brittle with age, and I think it would be impossible to replace the band without destroying the notebook. But otherwise, these seem durable, and the simplicity of the construction means there’s not too much that can go wrong.

What’s not to like? Nothing… except the price. Notez is €24, Dayz is €36. Ouch. That’s $32.71- $49.06 at current rates. These are well-crafted and well-designed, and “made in small quantities by hand,” according to their website, but I think that’s pretty steep pricing for a 32-page cardboard-covered notebook and a planner you can only use for one year. Shipping is an additional €3.00, or free if you subscribe to their newsletter. Less Thingz has also offered a coupon code to readers of Notebook Stories, but you’ll have to act fast as it’s a limited offer: the first 10 people to enter NTBKSTRSCM1 when checking out will get a 10% discount on their order.

I’m also giving away the Notez sample. One lucky winner will be chosen from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Less Thingz” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Less Thingz page, and post something containing the words “Less Thingz” on the Notebook Stories wall.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday Feb. 14, 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.

Moleskine Monday: Custom Printing

Not long ago, Moleskine and Milk announced their collaboration to create custom printed photo albums in Moleskine format. I was intrigued, but disappointed that only larger sizes were offered. Now there’s another way to print your own customized Moleskine book, this time in a pocket sized Japanese album format:


FiftyThree Moleskine Book
“Your digital drawings can now be brought to a Moleskine notebook at the touch of a button with new initiative Book.
If you use Paper by FiftyThree, digital drawings created on your iPad can be printed on the pages of a Moleskine notebook. Just press the print button right from within the app and your sketches, notes and ideas will be brought to life in the first Moleskine notebook to match the 4:3 ratio of the iPad screen. Within a couple of weeks you’ll receive your Book: analog-digital ideas on 15 pages of accordion-folded, sustainable matte ivory-coloured paper, with elastic closure and your own custom cover or the classic black.”

I don’t use the Paper app and am not sure if you can add photos to it or if it’s just for drawings. I’d be more interested if you could include photos. For me, if I wanted to put a drawing in a Moleskine, I’d just draw in the Moleskine, rather than drawing on an iPad and then paying $40 to have it printed in a notebook, unless I had a need to make multiple copies. They also talk about how great it is that the page format preserves the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad screen, but that means the resulting notebook doesn’t have the same exact 3.5 x 5.5″ size that is my favorite thing about Moleskines. I haven’t seen anything that actually gives the measurements of the Paper notebook, but it would be slightly wider than the proportions of a pocket Moleskine, and it looks that way in the photos. It might be taller than 5.5″ too. So chances are, I won’t be trying one of these, but it’s a nice idea. I hope they continue to offer new ways for individuals to custom print Moleskine notebooks in other formats.

Read more at FiftyThree Moleskine

Election Day Sketchbook

I love this: Mike Sheehan used a fold-out sketchbook (probably a Moleskine Japanese Album) to capture drawings of people in line to vote.

See more at Off-Ramp : Mike Sheehan’s Election Day sketchbook | 89.3 KPCC.

Moleskine Monday: A Japanese Album Travel Scrapbook

This is a great example of a Moleskine Japanese Album used as a travel journal:

Japanese Moleskine - A Trip to NY - pic #19

See more photos at AninhadaBest’s photostream on Flickr.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Rowland Jones

This week’s addict is someone whose sketches I’ve posted here before. He sent me these photos of his collection– it’s great to also see their “home”– I’m thinking “where your notebooks live” could be a topic for a whole series of posts!

Here’s what Rowland has to say about his addiction:

I’m on ‘serious Moleskine’ (No. 35) . . yes the hard stuff . . and though I’ve flirted with a few other brands, I come back to the big M whether it’s sketch or water-colour, large or small, or Japanese. You can see what’s in my journals at www.reallyaccessiblememory.com

What constitutes a notebook addict? The fact that:
1 I feel lost if not within arm’s reach of my Little black book and a pen?
2 I spent two hours deliberating on a new bag (Tom Bihn small cafe bag) and measuring earlier incarnations to ensure that the ‘fit’ would be right?
3 I currently have 6 blank Moleskines ready, covering small/large, sketch and water-colour?
I always carry the current Moleskine with me-my ‘avatar'(don’t you just hate that term?!!) is me sitting in a bar in Bratislava: me, a moleskine and a beer!

Sounds like a great combination to me! Thanks again to Rowland for sharing his addiction… and check out his blog, he’s got some interesting stuff going on!

Handmade Concertina Sketchbooks

Here’s an interesting look at someone who’s made several Japanese album-type sketchbooks using a roll of watercolor paper and some wallpaper samples for the covers:

See more at Concertina Sketchbooks » Creative Fidget.