I like sketchbooks and I like notebooks. I haven’t bought any new ones in a while but I still have a pile of unused ones ready to go. That’s because I bought them faster than I can use them. Not an unusual situation for a fan of such books. They’re far easier to buy than to fill up.

Just the other day I was looking at a pen carrying case that I bought recently. I’ve been keeping it on the side of my drawing table and filling it with the various black markers I’ve been buying. Since I got my last vaccine shot I’ve been contemplating my art go-bag. This marker case (or one like it) will go in my art go-bag. There is one section of the case for a small sketchbook. I was about to go online and look for a sketchbook to fit it when it struck me that I should look on my shelf first. Sure enough I had one to fit it perfectly.

My most used sketchbook is my inkbook. A 5.5×8.5 inch wire bound Strathmore sketchbook. It has a hundred pages and I fill up one book a year with small ink drawings. I’m on book 22 so I always know I’m going to need one and fill one up every year. Every other sketchbook is catch as catch can. Maybe it’ll fill up with something this year or maybe it’ll hang around for a decade. Who knows?

Last year I filled up a fifty page 5×8 inch sketchbook that I got from a friend’s Bar Mitzvah with new Message Tee drawings. That one only took a month or two to fill up because I used it for that specific project that I had to get done in a timely manner. I might fill another this year that way too. We’ll see.

What brings the topic of notebooks and sketchbooks to mind today is me trying to figure out some direction for myself. At times I have no idea what art or art project I want to work on next. Not an uncommon feeling for any creative. I’ve been trying for the last few days to remedy that and today I turned to my bullet point journal for help.

I only heard about a bullet point journal at the end of 2019. The idea is that you write things down in it in the form of bullet points. Write down thoughts, ideas, random words, whatever you’ve got going on, or want to get done. Then at the end of the month you look back at the bullet points and pull out the best ones to take action on. It sounded good to me and I wanted a new little notebook anyway. So I got one.

It turns out that I don’t really need a bullet point journal because I’m good at getting things done. I was before I had the journal and I still am. But I still like it. I’ve been using the little notebook for a year and four months but I have only filled up 22 pages. And they’re 3×5 inch pages. Yet, I still like writing the occasional bullet point in it. Do you know what today’s bullet point was? “I need a plan.” It’s not an especially helpful bullet point but sometimes it’s good to write the obvious down.

After that I started to work in my “Crazy Idea Art Project” sketchbook. It’s not a sketchbook that’s about crazy idea art projects. The sketchbook itself is the crazy idea art project. Whenever I can’t get anything going I work in this book. I write in it, glue photos in it, maybe draw on the photos, and mix drawing in with the writing. It’s a sketchbook that looks good. It looks like a sketchbook from a movie that’s filled with crazy ideas. Really it’s filled with fragments of ideas when I can’t think of a plan. It’s chaos disguised as order.

As I wrote before I’m generally good at figuring out what I want to do creatively and as a consequence I don’t work in my crazy idea book a whole lot. It’s a 6×9 inch spiral bound sketchbook and I’ve filled up sixty pages in it. Thirty pages front and back. That’s about a third of the book. I date the pages and the earliest date is 5/23/2011. It’s 4/25/2021 as I write this so my crazy idea book is about to hit its tenth birthday. It might be my longest lived sketchbook that I still draw in. Abandoned ones don’t count.

All my sketchbooks are small these days. They have been for the last 20 years. In my school days in the mid 1980s and all through the 1990s I used 8.5×11 inch hardbound sketchbooks. I used to carry one with me all the time and the hardcover was nice for keeping it in good shape. I’d have it with me and use it as my friends and I hung out in dive bars in NYC. That’s tough on a sketchbook.

Back in those 1990s days I still hadn’t found my way, that I use now, to draw in sketchbooks so I didn’t fill them up very fast. That and I made mostly mediocre drawings in them. It was in the year 2000 that I discovered I liked spiral bound sketchbooks best and at the same time started doing spontaneous ink drawings. That’s how my first inkbook was born. It changed the way I work.

Since I dedicated that first 5.5×8.5 spiral bound sketchbook to be an inkbook I slowly started using individual sketchbooks for individual projects. That works best for me. When I was drawing my Oracle Deck I had a small sketchbook in which I drew pencil drawings for all the cards. That’s the only place they were drawn. At least the first draft of them. Then I scanned in the drawings and redrew them bigger and more finished. But that book is filled with only Oracle Deck pencil drawings.

I have another sketchbook filled with ink drawings but not ink drawings like the ones in my inkbook. Instead of being done with a marker they’re done with a brush and ink. Lots of ink. The pages are all warped in this book. Though I don’t think I’ve worked in that book for a while.

I have another book that I started that has only super hero faces in it. I needed to draw some faces for some sketch covers that I was drawing so I decided to dedicate a new sketchbook to it. That one only has about ten faces in it since I got bored of the whole project. That’s the way life is sometimes. What seems like a good idea turns out not to be. Then you need another new good idea. That’s what I need right now.