Tag Archives: travel

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

This looks like a lovely book, full of travel sketches and notes on flora and fauna found in uncharted places: Explorers’ Sketchbooks.

“This remarkable book showcases 70 such sketchbooks, kept by intrepid men and women as they journeyed perilous and unknown environments—frozen wastelands, high mountains, barren deserts, and dense rainforests—with their senses wide open.”

Available at Amazon.


Artists and Their Sketchbooks

Thoughts on sketchbook keeping from various artists:

Allen Shaw, Berlin
I SPEAK through my watercolour sketches. I often tell people, “I am the sketchbook and you are my song.” It started off with a course at NID called Environmental Perception, which required us to go into villages and sketch. I have done a permanent repeat in the course since then! I have kept roughly the same academic structure from college, though. But, I still follow a structure.

For instance, I always draw a map in all my sketches.

IN MY SKETCHBOOK: Everything, right from dead fish to architecture. A residency in Finland was one of my most memorable sketching experiences. It was on a raft and, as I dangled my legs in water, I was reminded of Huckleberry Finn.

AN ARTIST’S SKETCHES I LOVE: I’d love to see sketches of the late Austrian painter, Egon Schiele.

Prashant Miranda, Toronto
I HAVE maintained sketchbooks since I was a student at the National Institute of Design — I went from keeping written diaries to visual journals. My odd sketchbooks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in the last @ years and have now become a visual documentation of my life and travels.

There was a time when I didn’t have a camera and this was an observant way of doing that. Recipes, phone numbers, a calendar of events — practically everything goes into my sketchbook. It is the closest release for my art; when I do a series for an exhibition, it stems from the initial studies in my sketchbooks.


Read more at: Artists reveal what’s in their sketchbooks – Life and style


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


Japanese Stationery

If, like me, you are dying to go to Japan to explore its stationery stores, you will enjoy the vicarious journey provided by this article and its luscious photographs. Enjoy!

Source: Japan: Paradise for Stationery Lovers



Notebook Addict of the Week: William

This is one of my favorite notebook addict submissions, because these notebooks are truly full of stories!

“My name is William, last November marked 20 years for me as a ships agent. Indirectly my notebook habit began in the US Army. A very instrumental part of infantry basic training is you are required to keep a pen and one of those green government issued memorandum pocket notebooks with you at all times. After the Army in 1995 I began working in shipping as a ships agent in the Port of Baltimore. At the time, we had these great bound pocket notebooks in the supply closet. Before smart phones, PDA’s, emails, and heck a 56K digital rolodex which cost $89 back then and was considered cutting edge, there were notebooks. During the course of my duties as a boarding agent, I was required to keep track of an array of numbers, times, dates, ships water drafts, bunker oil, water and cargo quantities, and coordinate with a never ending trail of issues that required jotting down phone numbers and details on the go. Common to those in this field, either ships mates, or cargo surveyors, a pocket notebook to keep up with all the details of the job is fairly standard issue. Time is money in shipping and each and every figure has a dollar figure significance to the report or document it will ultimately be transposed into. In some cases, a wrong time, or missing time, could ultimately cost someone 1000’s of dollars if recorded wrong by the ships agent.


Somewhere in my parents attic is the first 5 years of pocket notebooks I used then. Around late 1999 I began working with a new fleet of Norwegian vessels, I really liked the European notebooks the vessels officers used and would occasionally barter some new ones away for a magazine or a quick shopping trip in trade. As I moved up in the ranks, with more administrative duties building, I moved to larger notebooks, first composition, then Red & Blacks, next Moleskines, and currently Leuchtturm is preferred, but have added in a new mix of Clairfontaine and Rhodia pads. Aside from the possibly missing boarding notebooks of the earlier years, I have yet to throw even one of them away.


My boarding notebooks hold a wide record of ships passing in the night, ETA’s to far off places, phone numbers of overseas contacts, biographical details of sailors, stowage plans, and cargo quantities of large shipments of oils, grains, coals, and ores. Once and a while, even a ships official stamp was placed as a souvenir of the time onboard.


Some unique memories in these books, boarding the M/v “Tampa” on her return trip after rescuing 100’s of refugees off Christmas Island which resulted in an international standoff between the Norwegian and Australian governments. Emergency contacts collected after the passing Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans communications. Arrival details of the “Scotia Prince” which was chartered by FEMA to house emergency service workers in the devastated St. Bernard’s Parish. They contain details of 100’s of ocean going vessels sailing to and from ports far around the world. Hopefully my wife is not reading,  they may even include a few phone numbers of wild nights gone by. These notebooks were always in my pocket as it’s a 24 hour job and your always on call, they were in smoky ships offices with taking times from Pakistani officers, engine rooms, bar rooms, restaurant tables, dropped in the mud, carried in the rain, up ships ladders, even written in while sitting on the toilet.


These days I regretfully don’t board a ship very often, I am now vice president of the company and we grew from 2 offices, to 18 offices and now attend about 4000 port calls a year. But when training new young agents, I always explain to them, despite all the technology, wireless devices and cloud based systems available to today, no better organizational tool exists then a pocket notebook and I make sure a quality supply of them remains in our supply room for them today, just as there was 20 years ago for me. Today my notebook as a mix of to-do lists, daily planning, conference call notes brainstorms, employee reviews, and meeting notes from here in Houston, to NYC and far as away as Geneva.


Being left handed, I always required some sort of bound notebook and my handwriting style is that of a doctor. First with mechanical pencils, now a new love of fountain pens, ultimately it was proved my notebook habit was best served by better quality paper. I am not a “in the lines” type mind and prefer blank or gridded pages. Despite best efforts to keep in a particular direction, depending on the stress level of the day, the pages contain a wide away of chicken scratch, rough calculations, lists of times, phone numbers, neat and structured meeting notes, or rapid shorthand and even some timeless scribbles from my kids who love to grab them and leave their own mark on my day.


I do however still keep a pocket notebook with me at all times, be it the waxed canvas cover with Field Notes for weekends, or the leather cover and Moleskine combo I use on those few occasions when get to board ships, or the pocket Leuchtturm that I use when traveling to keep addresses and arrangements quick at hand. Despite being a HUGE Evernote addict, the paper notebook is first and foremost, often pages of which are scanned into Evernote for easier archival access –vs- the old box in the garage where they ultimately get placed to rest.


The world is an increasingly fast paced driven by electronics, apps and phones get smarter. The ability to organize and collaborate get easier, or does it ? Nothing replaces the mind-clearing peace, or retains the moments of the day exactly like placing pen and pencil to paper.”

A big thank you to William for sharing both his notebook addiction and his adventures in the maritime world!

A Sketchbook Can Be a Passport

I enjoyed this Q&A with artist Karen Neale, who traveled around the world sketching UNESCO World Heritage sites:

Q. How did this idea emerge?
A. My passion is sketching and painting the world around me. Since leaving school, I have kept a sketchbook with me, all through my training, qualifying and working as an architect. Then, in 2000, while working as an architect in London, I realised I wanted to do more with my passion for drawing in my sketchbooks and if possible do some good along the way….

Q. What were some of the learnings and unlearnings along the way?

A. This truly was a journey of a lifetime. My sketchbook was my passport to people and places. When standing or if lucky, sitting somewhere for several hours, simply drawing with just a black BIC biro, I became a part of that place for a time. Sketching erodes cultural and linguistic barriers, as a picture and the process to create it can be universally understood. Everywhere, people were friendly, informative, and inquisitive and offered me great hospitality.”

Read more at: Heritage in a sketchbook – Life and style

My Latest Sketchbook

I just finished a sketchbook, exactly a year a year after I started it. This was one of my old Modo & Modo original Moleskine sketchbooks. I have a hoard of these older ones and they are still my favorite sketchbook for everyday use– they stand up well to most of the pens I use, and I like the way they work with watercolors, at least most of the time! I’ve occasionally had problems where watercolors will bead up and not adhere to the page, but it seems to be from where I’ve touched the page too much, especially in the summer when I might have sunblock residue on my hands.
Anyway, this was a very satisfying sketchbook for me. I used the front and back of every page. I carried it with me around New York City, on an Arizona ranch, at the beach, and even while kayaking on a lake. I did some very rough, quick sketches of people in the park on my lunch break, more careful sketches of a friend who was willing to stay still for a while, some drawings and paintings from photographs, and some abstract doodling. I really had fun messing around with it, and the result is probably my most colorful sketchbook ever. I’m hoping to keep this up with the next one, and hopefully finish it in less than a year!

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Notebook Addict of the Week: Naomi Leeman

This week’s addict is a designer and illustrator who has filled many Moleskines with collages from her travels, among other things:

“For the past several years, I’ve keep a sketchbook that I use for everyday notes, ideas, lists, sketches, as well as travel collages.  I carry it with me everywhere and, recently, it has been filling up with new Japanese words I’m learning!  Whenever I travel, I add collages of each city I visit.  You know all those maps, brochures, and ticket stubs you collect while traveling?  I have always hated throwing all that information away; I have this irrational desire to hang on to it all because I’ll want to look at it again one day!  Of course, I never actually look at it again, so I’ve decided to save some of it in my sketchbooks by cutting it up and making collages. ….  Between sketching and collaging, I’m sure my collection of black Moleskine notebooks will continue to grow.  Filled with good memories, preserved for the future.”

Read more and see lots more collages at: Travel Collages — Naomi Leeman

Review and Giveaway: Zettel Notebooks

I was quite excited when the maker of these new notebooks contacted me and offered a sample. They take the common format of a 3-pack of staple-bound pocket notebooks and add a flash of color and a touch of travelogue.

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Zettel Notebooks are made in Berlin, and each cover is a tribute to a part of the city. Artist and designer Martin Dixon created the cover art on his iPhone using the Brushes paining app. (He should really do tutorials on how to make the most of that app– I’ve tried using it on my iPhone and can’t begin to imagine how he achieved the beautiful effects in these images!) The notebooks I received are the launch edition of a planned series of sets, each featuring different covers.

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In many respects, these are just like Field Notes– 3.5 x 5.5″ format, stapled spine. The pack comes shrink-wrapped, with a card with some brand info as well as a bonus postcard included. Each set has one notebook with grid pages, one lined, and one blank. The Zettel covers are all smooth heavy paper, with full color printing on both sides.

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The inside front cover gives a little background on the cover image, and pinpoints the location on a map. The inside back cover has a space to put your contact details, and a handy metric ruler on the edge. They are made entirely from FSC-approved 100% recycled paper.

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The paper inside is a cool white, with grey lines or grid. The grid is noticeably smaller and darker than the Moleskine paper shown for comparison, but not so much so that it’s distracting. It has a soft, pleasant feel, not quite as smooth as Moleskine or Clairefontaine paper.

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All my usual pens worked quite well and there was no feathering with fountain pens. Show-through was somewhat better than average, but unfortunately several pens had slight bleed-through in spots. But if you’re using it with fine gel ink pens, you’d probably be quite satisfied.

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At this point, it looks like the Zettel website is the only source to buy these– they are €9.95 but that includes VAT, I think, so as a US customer it showed me a lower price of €8.36, with shipping of €5.60, which starts to make them a bit pricy, unfortunately.

I will be keeping the graph paper notebook I tested, but will give the other two away to one lucky winner, chosen randomly from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Zettel Notebooks @zettelberlin @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @zettelberlin

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday August 7, 2015 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.

Moleskine Monday: Voyageur Notebook Review

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The Moleskine Voyageur notebook was introduced last summer, and so far remains a unique outlier in their product line. It’s an odd size, in between the classic pocket and large notebooks. It has a brown cloth-bound cover. It has a fancy die-cut paper wrapper with a travel-themed collage element. It has colored endpapers. I guess you could say it’s a departure from the norm (pun intended).

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There are other aspects of it that seem like an offshoot of their City Notebook series, which makes sense, given the travel theme. (The City Notebook line has been scaled way back to only the biggest destinations. It’s a shame, but understandable, as they must have been very expensive to produce in the first place, let alone trying to update transit maps as needed. But I love them nonetheless.) There are 3 different-colored ribbon markers, and a section with useful travel info. This part is similar to what is found in many diaries by Moleskine and other brands– dialing codes, time zone map, places to write extensive personal details including loyalty card numbers, etc. There are pages titled “Places to Go” and “Places I’ve Been,” as well as one meant for stamps, and at the end there are perforated packing list and to-do list pages. There is also an index, and a sheet of stickers. In between are numbered pages in 3 sections– lined, dot grid, and plain.

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Some of the elements of this notebook sound very similar to the Travel Journal in the Passions series. I haven’t looked closely enough at one of those to really compare it to the Voyageur, but it does make me wonder why they decided to create this other product which would seem to target the same niche. Perhaps the Passions format was seen as being a little too structured, and the Voyageur was aiming at a better balance of pre-formatted vs. blank pages.

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And yet… there are a LOT of instructions to this notebook. Before you even open it, you’re being instructed to use the paper wrapper in your travel photos to say “I Am Here,” and hashtag them to connect to “the Moleskine community.” (What does that even mean anymore? It’s like trying to connect to “the Diet Coke community” or “the Nike community.”) Then there’s a whole how-to page telling you to download things and paste them in your notebook, share your travel details in a Flickr group, and turn your snapshots into a Moleskine photo book. It’s a shame so much of this is printed on pages in the notebook itself rather than in a removable booklet.

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The overall impression is that there’s a lot of elaborate fuss over how to use this “traveler’s notebook for the digital age,” and it’s rather a shame, because A) utter simplicity and blank-slate-ness is what made Moleskine’s notebooks iconic in the first place, and B) when you get past all the fussy stuff, I think it’s actually the best notebook Moleskine has made in years, at least in terms of its construction. The brown cloth cover is lovely. The notebook is beautifully made, with a tolerable degree of cover overhang, everything even and square, and very neatly tucked corners. It’s as if they brought their quality control team out of hibernation for this product. Some of the features, such as numbered pages and an index, have been on Moleskine fans’ wishlists for years, and have driven them to switch to Leuchtturm to get them. I love the extra ribbon markers and the colors they chose for them. I even like the size– it’s not one that I tend to use a lot, but at 4.5 x 7″, it is the same proportion as the pocket notebooks in 3.5 x 5.5″, and that ratio always seems to appeal to me. I like having the sections with different paper types, and how they used different color inks for the page numbers, dots, and lines. The colored tabs along the edges might encroach a bit too much on the page space for some people, but as a design element they are attractive and I like the idea of putting a subject header or date in them, though some inks may bead up on the tabs.

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Moleskine paper is the major thing that has driven many fans away, and the Voyageur is no different in that respect– lots of show-through, and bleed-through with quite a few pens. Fine point gel ink pens are ok, though, and fortunately those are what I use day to day. I did a side-by-side paper comparison with one of my old Modo Moleskines– bleed-through performance wasn’t great in that one either, but you can see how much better it was on show-through. The only test where the Voyageur out-performed the older paper was the 5-second stay-in-one-spot test with the Accu-Liner, which spread out more in the Modo notebook.

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I bought my Voyageur online— I was intrigued by the description of the features when I first heard about it, but I had my misgivings. It had already been a while since I bought any current-production Moleskines due to the quality issues, though I still snag old Modo & Modo ones from time to time if I come across them. Fortunately, the quality of the Voyageur was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. It has that hard to define “wantability” that would have drawn me to it on a store shelf, and “wantability” is exactly what the rest of Moleskine’s products have been lacking for me the past few years. I don’t know how or when I’ll use this notebook, but I do want to find a way to use it. But just out of orneriness and dislike of redundant instructions, I probably won’t use the Voyageur for anything related to travel!  #m_iamnotthere