an article or random bits on the subject(s) of art, creativity, drawing, Process, thoughts, writing.
My four notebook choices for 2021.

Notebook Lineup 2021

I might have mentioned that I’m transitioning back to using notebooks and sketchbooks (yes, an analog approach) in my note-taking and conceptual processes this year. While I love the act of working with an Apple Pencil on my two iPads, I’ve come to realize that by switching over to 100% digital, I did away with a critical, connective aspect of what I do. I don’t even think I realized it until recently.

Learning From Others

I’ve been reading many of Austin Kleon’s posts over the past month, and I’m finding myself missing the low-fi pen/pencil in hand process quite a bit. He has a ton of posts on the analog process, which are entirely inspiring. His visceral, low-key delivery has reawoken a desire to do more work that does not involve refresh rates and hi-def screens.

Kleon was just the straw that broke things and set me back on the path to graphite fingertips, but I’ve been hoarding (and hoarding is not an understatement) pins of people’s sketchbooks to satisfy the (healthy) voyeur in me for a long time. It’s a beautiful work. I’ve long loved peeling back the curtain on process and place when it comes to creative individuals. I probably would have ended up a documentarian rather than a designer in another version of my reality.

Image of closed notebook on table

Illustrated Sketchbook page by Lisa Cheney

Sketchbook page by Lisa Cheney.

Open notebook with filled pages


The 2021 Lineup

Over my winter break, I spent time thinking a bit about my process and how I like to work, and information gather. I ended up with the following resource lineup for the coming months.

My four notebook choices for 2021.

I’ve numbered these to keep them straight in my mind. Here’s what we’ve got:

  1. Quick Sketches / Moleskine Cahier Journal, Soft Cover, 5″ x 8.25″ – A lot of people prefer a tiny sketchbook to carry around with them everywhere. I find the small sketchbooks to be a little too small for me. I’ve opted to use the “large” Cahier journal to capture rough ideas and sketches when I need something quick.
  2. Daily Logbook / Pentalic Ruled Traveler Pocket Journal, 6 by 4-Inch – Logbooks are new to me. I journaled for years—focusing on the more emotional aspects of my thoughts and feelings, but keeping a logbook in which I can jot down the quick things I did, ate, said, watched, etc. seems valuable when I have so much going on, and things get harder and harder to remember clearly. While I said I’m not a fan of small sketchbooks, a little journal works quite nicely in this case, and the Pentalic book feels great in hand.
  3. Quick Lists and Daily Todos / Oxford Composition Notebooks, College Ruled Paper, 9-3/4″ x 7-1/2″ – The classic composition notebook. I’m always jotting down notes and things I need to remember. Sometimes my phone is not in my hand, and grabbing a pen is just quicker. These are the slush books in my lineup. They are for anything and everything I need to keep track of day-to-day. The notes in this book are reviewed, and important info is moved to Notion for safekeeping. These notebooks are an utter mess when I’m done with them, as they should be.
  4. Secondary Sketchbook / Moleskine Medium Hard Cover Sketchbook, Black – I know carrying two sketchbooks might seem like overkill, but there are many times when a sketchbook with a hardcover is really useful—especially if you are drawing on your lap or outside. I went with a classic on this one as well. Why fix what ain’t broke?
  5. Journal (Bonus) / Zequenz Classic 360 Soft Cover Notebook, Soft Bound Journal, Medium, 5″ x 7″, 140 sheets / 280 pages, Blank, Plain – I wasn’t able to grab one of these in time to include in the image. Still, I decided to go back to journaling and to capture morning pages to help flush my mind before working each day. If you’re not familiar with morning pages, check out Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way. I read this book years ago, and it just does a great job of helping you see that we are all creative individuals, and it is okay to accept that about yourself. Spoiler: It does get a little hippy”ish” in places, but overall, I learned a lot from the book.

So that’s it. The 2021 lineup. How will I fare? It’s anyone’s guess, but I’m not seeking perfection in how I use these tools. I’ve afforded myself the freedom to partake and abstain as I see fit. It’s when you heap expectations on your head that you become too heavy to move forward. I choose to avoid that and allow myself the freedom to create.