Tag Archives: sketching

Davide Bonazzi’s Sketchbooks

Great drawings from Bologna-based illustrator Davide Bonazzi:

“I confess I’m not the kind of artist who absolutely needs a sketchbook when he travels. Mostly I just enjoy traveling light, keeping my eyes wide open and taking pics. I used to keep sketchbooks when I was a student, and later I enjoyed doing sketches on my iPad, but for some reason I didn’t become an addicted to sketching.

Recently my girlfriend, who’s an illustrator as well, encouraged me to keep a sketchbook. I forgot how exciting this was! I made many sketches during my recent trip to the US; you can see some of these below.

I just used Tombow watercolor markers and I rediscovered the pleasure of drawing on paper, simply using a strong black outline to represent the things I was seeing. No eraser or CTRL+Z to undo what you’ve drawn here! As an illustrator I mainly use digital tools, and my style consists of “flat,” colored shapes, so it’s been nice to do something very far from my usual way of working.”

Read more at: AI-AP | DART » Davide Bonazzi’s Sketchbooks


What I Am Using Now

A commenter on a recent post asked what notebooks I was using for my business and personal notes. The notebook I was referring to in that post was a pocket-sized squared Moleskine, one of my hoard of old ones from before their quality declined so much. That is my daily catch-all notebook for journal entries, lists and assorted jottings. I don’t always put a lot of work-related notes there– usually just the kinds of long term, big picture things that are causing me enough anxiety that I am thinking about them outside the office!

For my day-to-day work notes, I keep a larger size notebook on my office desk. I write to-do items on the front of the page, and meeting notes on the back of the page, mostly. This has been a pretty good system in terms of being able to find notes by the date when I wrote them. I supplement my list-keeping with an app (on my phone and web-based on my desktop) called TickTick, where I store longer-term notes and to-do items. The work notebooks tend to last me a while so over the last couple of years, I have only gone through 3: a Doane Paper notebook, a Grandluxe A4 size Earth Care Note Folder, and currently, I am using the Appointed notebook I reviewed here.

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I always like to use something with a wire-o binding, so I can fold the cover to the back neatly. And it is ideally letter-sized, so I can tuck other papers into it. The Appointed one is a bit small for that, but I like the paper and am enjoying using it. The smaller grid pattern makes me tend to write very small, as I also did in the Doane Paper notebook. I love the way this ends up looking– the pages are densely covered with print and doodles, so there’s a lot of texture in a way that I find satisfying. The Grandluxe notebook was lined in a wider rule, so it didn’t encourage the same kind of density.

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My other frequently used notebooks right now are a Moleskine sketchbook (again an old Modo e Modo one) for daily drawings, a pocket-sized landscape format watercolor notebook from Pentalic for occasional painting, and a Field Notes for jotting down words and assignments in my French class. I also have a HandBook Journal in progress with occasional sketches but I haven’t been using it very often. Here’s a few random recent pages from my Moleskine sketchbook and squared notebooks:

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I am about to finish my squared Moleskine, so I have to think about what to use next– I have a few other options that I have in a pile as possible daily drivers. Many are softcover and I am not sure if they’ll hold up as well. I do still love my old Moleskines, but I try to force myself to rotate in other brands, if only to extend the lifespan of my stash!




Notebooks Full of Busy

I haven’t managed to write any posts for a couple of weeks because I’ve been caught up in lots of things going on in the rest of my life. It’s interesting to see how all this played out in the pages of my daily notebook:

  • Several pages of journal entries agonizing about whether or not to pursue a promotion at work
  • Calculations of salary and bonus for new job
  • Notes about how to succeed in new job
  • Sketches of how to rearrange furniture in new office
  • Notes for questions to ask in interviewing new employees
  • List of things I need to learn more about for new job
  • Daily schedule plans for how to get to work earlier every morning and still fit in gym, cooking dinner, and assorted other life activities
  • More lists of ideas for things to accomplish in new job
  • Notes jotted down during various lunches with colleagues and clients
  • Notes jotted down during long weekend road trips to visit family
  • Notes about people I’ve interviewed and more ideas for questions to ask them
  • List of things to do on first weekend in a month where I’ll actually have some free time, such as blog posts!

Strangely, all this was crammed into only about 20 pages, along with some of the other usual things like grocery lists and doodling. Anyway, I’m hoping things settle down soon so I can get back to more regular blogging!

A Fiber Artist’s Sketchbook

“[Internationally known fiber artist] Cindy Steiler is always working, in her studio, “drawing with thread.”, during a European artist residency, teaching students how to push the boundaries of fiber. She works in an antique mall, browsing eerie photos of women she doesn’t know. She works in a grocery store aisle, scribbling an idea into her pocket sketchbook.”

Here’s a couple of pages from that sketchbook:
Read more at: Cindy Steiler Brings her Process to Toledo

New and Improved Penroll!

Remember the Penroll? I reviewed it a while back:


The Penroll is part notebook cover, but mainly a holder for pens, pencils or brushes, and an eraser. It is made of sturdy stitched canvas, with small metal clips at the sides that clasp onto your notebook. The design is very simple and un-fussy, with just a subtle tag with the Penroll name on it, and it doesn’t interfere with or damage the notebook– you can still use the elastic closure and back pocket.


Now a new and improved version is in the works, via a Kickstarter campaign. The next iteration incorporates some interesting and practical new features, such as being able to open up the penroll and lay it flat without totally detaching it from the notebook.

The campaign ends Dec. 20, 2015, so check it out ASAP!

Moleskine Monday: Sketch Album Review

I’ve had this Moleskine Sketch Album for quite a while and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it, mainly because I knew I’d probably be disappointed! Moleskine’s quality has been waning for years, and though their regular sketchbooks have been my favorite notebooks for a very long time, I’ve refused to buy any of the currently produced ones because they just aren’t the same anymore. Luckily, I have quite a stockpile of old ones! (After this post where I inventoried my spares and worried they might not last until I was in my 90s, I snagged quite a few more on eBay so now I probably have twice as many!)


Anyway, when the sketch album was first announced, I thought it was a good thing– I’d actually thought Moleskine should make a softcover sketchbook, thinking it could be a good alternative for on-the-go use. But the Sketch Album turns out not to be Sketchbook innards with a soft cover– it’s more like a Moleskine Cahier with upgraded paper.

When you open the shrinkwrap, you’ll notice the cardboard cover, which is just like the Cahiers, not the soft faux-leather used on the softcover notebooks. As usual there is stitching on the spine, and a pocket in the back, which is too tight for tucking much more than a few small sheets. When you remove the paper band, you’ll see that the back has been designed with some reference info and tools. I’m not sure how useful these are to most people.



Since Moleskine started labeling various notebooks as an “Art Plus” collection, they’ve started noting paper weights on the packaging, hoping to appeal to those of us who care about these things. The Sketch Album is 120 GSM. That sounds good compared to most upscale pocket notebooks, which tend to be in the 80-100 GSM range, but it’s a lot less than the regular Moleskine Sketchbook, which is 165 GSM. The difference is obvious– the paper in the sketch album feels thinner and floppier. Each sheet is perforated.


When I did my pen tests, I noticed that the sketch album paper actually feels softer to write on– I could hear the pen tips tapping more audibly on the regular sketchbook. The comparison below features an old “Modo e Modo” Moleskine  rather than a current production sketchbook. You can see right away how much worse the show-through and bleed-through is on the sketch album, with just a couple of exceptions. The album wins on how much the Accu-liner marker spreads when it is held on a spot for 5 seconds– the Modo sketchbook soaked it up and made a much bigger dot. And the Super Sharpie seemed to soak into the old sketchbook more too. But otherwise, the album did not do well at all, with fountain pens bleeding and feathering and lots more show-through. I tested some watercolor paints too– Moleskine does not claim that either of these notebooks is meant for watercolors, but I use them in the sketchbooks quite often. In the sketch album, the watercolors seemed to pull up the paper fibers more, creating a speckled texture that is much more noticeable than in the sketchbook.



So would I use this “Art Plus” sketch album for actual art? For pencil sketches, or perhaps fine pen & ink drawings with Pigma Micron pens, yes, I might use it. But I’d be much more likely to use it as an upgrade to the Moleskine Cahier or softcover Reporter Notebook. The sketch album is nicely flexible and pocketable, and the paper feels great to write on with fine point gel ink pens. The paper is a nice step up from regular lightweight Moleskine paper– not enough of a step up to make fountain pen users happy, but others will enjoy it for daily jottings. But if you are an artist who likes the regular sketchbooks, stick with them.

To buy: Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbooks and Albums on Amazon. They also have interesting alternatives like the Leuchtturm Hardcover Pocket Sketchbook Black, which has 180 GSM paper, and the Pen & Ink Heavy-Weight Blank Sketch Book— make sure you get the heavy-weight one which has 145 GSM paper– read the full description.

Review and Giveaway: Penroll

I tend not to review very many notebook-related accessories on this site. There are various pen-holders and notebook covers on the market but I am not usually interested in them, as I like to keep my notebooks pretty simple and unencumbered. But when I first spotted the Penroll, I was immediately attracted to it and contacted the maker for a sample. What made this item change my mind about accessorizing a notebook? Let’s take a look.


The Penroll is part notebook cover, but mainly a holder for pens, pencils or brushes, and an eraser. It is made of sturdy stitched canvas, with small metal clips at the sides that clasp onto your notebook. The design is very simple and un-fussy, with just a subtle tag with the Penroll name on it, and it doesn’t interfere with or damage the notebook– you can still use the elastic closure and back pocket.


The Penroll is made in sizes to fit typical Moleskine formats– small and large, and the large even comes in a landscape format too. Because the portrait format Penrolls don’t cover the full height of the notebook, they’ll also adapt to the slightly taller Leuchtturm, or any other brand with a similar width and thickness. The colors and texture of the canvas also look nice with HandBook Artist Journals, though their slightly thicker size makes for a snugger fit.


The Penroll adds significant bulk to your notebook, especially when it’s full of pens, but I actually like the thick and chunky feel of the whole bundle. That said, for me, this won’t be a cover that I’ll keep on a notebook I’m carrying in my bag 100% of the time. I see it more as a ready-to-go art kit that you can keep stocked with a few favorite pens and brushes, and then snap onto your sketchbook when you’re heading out for a drawing session. I think the Penroll really shines as an urban sketching tool– you can hold your notebook and spare drawing instruments in one hand, so you can easily switch between pens without having to rummage in a separate pen case. It won’t prevent your notebook from opening flat while held in your hand, though it might be a little awkward if you’re setting it on a flat surface.

This red one is a keeper for me– I know it will come in handy for sketching on some of my travels. The Penroll is definitely worth checking out if like to keep a variety of pens with your notebook, and makes a great gift for anyone who likes sketching out in the field, urban or otherwise. You can buy Penroll at their online store here as well as at a few retailers in Europe.

I will be giving away the large landscape Penroll in black and the large portrait Penroll in blue. I’ll randomly select the two winners from entries received in any of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Penroll” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday December 12, 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. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Jodi’s Finished Sketchbook

A tantalizing glimpse of a finished sketchbook:

“Just finished a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook. Woo hoo! Nothing beats the feeling of the last mark of your pen on the final page. I know not long ago I said I’d finished another sketchbook but it’s not like I just whipped through a new one. I had actually been keeping two concurrently – a ‘good’ one and an ‘everyday’ one. The one just finished is the ‘good’ one.”
The “everyday” vs. “good” sketchbook idea is one I’ve been debating myself– for a while, I had one where I let myself play and doodle, and one where I only allowed myself to draw things I was actually looking at and trying to capture accurately. Now I’m back to one sketchbook that is a combination of both.

See more at Jodi’s blog: Jodi Wiley Sketchblog: Another sketchbook down.

Finishing a Couple of Sketchbooks

I’ve had a few sketchbooks in various stages of completion for a couple of years, and I just put two of them to bed. One was a Moleskine sketchbook that I used almost entirely for lunchtime sketches while sitting in parks in NYC– mostly quick pencil sketches, with watercolors added to a few later. After a few months, I ended up taking the sketchbook with me on trips to Arizona and the beach in Delaware. Here’s a few favorite pages:

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This other sketchbook, a HandBook Artist Journal, was started on my first trip to Paris. I think I was a bit intimidated by the artistic heritage of Paris, or perhaps by feeling it was a bit of a cliche to sit around sketching in a small notebook in Paris! (At least it wasn’t a Moleskine.) I only used a few pages in Paris,  after which it just became a receptacle for weekend doodles, sketches and collages, most of them pretty lame… it was good to just play around and see what I come up with, but I’m much better at just drawing things that are in front of me.

my sketchbooks12my sketchbooks1my sketchbooks2my sketchbooks11


After finishing these, I’ll be on to more of the same! A fresh Moleskine sketchbook, and another half-started HandBook that I first used for a few not very good drawings on trips to Istanbul and Lisbon, and then in Corsica, where all I drew was a few ridiculous caricatures of the people I was traveling with. Now it will be my new weekend doodle and collage book. I’m always trying to force myself to keep drawing and doodling and creating something– anything– even if I’m not always pleased with the results.

From Our Readers

Mike Sheehan shares his excellent sketches documenting the Murrieta immigration protests:
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David is excited that the “Trapper Keeper lives!”.

Renee shares the story of a teacher who is looking for donations of journals for her students. She successfully collected 100 journals for the 2013-2014 school year, and now she needs to do it again! Please help her collect 100 journals by August 18, 2014 by sending a hardcover, lined journal of approximately 150-200 pages (with no references to drugs, sex, religion, etc, so it’s school-appropriate, though you are welcome to write an encouraging message to the student on the first page) to this address:

Alston Middle School
Attn: Ms. Krauklis
500 Bryan Street
Summerville, SC 29483

You can also make a contribution to her page at DonorsChoose.


And Alicia shares her own notebook story, about writing in notebooks in unusual places:

“I’m someone that only writes my novels in notebooks. I’ve tried typing them directly into my computer…it doesn’t work for me. My characters’ voices lose all enthusiasm and emotion…some of them even refuse to speak to me at all. There’s just something about a notebook and a pen. 

I have taken notebooks many places. I have written next to rivers, on the beach, on airplanes…but one of my favorites has been when I had a gay bar that I went to regularly with a friend and wrote there pretty regularly too. The first time I took my notebook to the bar with me was on Drag Bingo night. And yes, I went back and forth between my notebook and my bingo cards. I had several people come up to me and ask me if I was working on homework in the bar and I would respond “nope, I’m writing a novel” usually without even looking up. My friend Steven was fascinated by how much attention I got by not paying attention to anything going on around me. He insisted after that first night that I needed to bring my novel notebook with me from then on. I had lots of people ask me how I could write in that environment, but it was actually not hard at all. It’s all the same kind of music and all the same level of loud so it’s quite easy to make into background noise. I often had people ask me if they could read what I was writing. I would look at them with horror on my face and respond “no. No one reads the notebook…no one touches the notebook.” I wouldn’t even leave my notebook unattended on the table to get a drink or use the restroom. I had to know that someone from my party was going to be at the table while I was gone. 
Some of my friends recently made me set aside one of my beloved notebooks because it was falling apart. It made me sad because that notebook was the one that I took to that bar…it put up with many spilled drinks and long nights…as well as notes from classes, drawings from friends and even a few phone numbers. But it hasn’t completely gone away…I still have it in a safe place, mostly because it has a large chunk of my third book in my trilogy written in it that I haven’t managed to get typed up yet…it’s just not allowed to go out in public anymore. 
I love my notebooks. They are some of my most precious possessions.”

As always, thank you to everyone who sends in so many wonderful tips, photos and stories!