I bought a new sketchbook this week. I like sketchbooks. They’re cool. I think I may even like sketchbooks better than I like drawing in sketchbooks. They’re nice just as objects. As a general rule I like to draw on single sheets of paper rather than in books because it’s easier to do but for some things a sketchbook is better. Or at least it’s worth the little bit more effort it takes to draw in a book rather than on a single sheet of paper.

The sketchbook I bought this week was a Moleskine. It’s a small 3.5 x 5.5 inch red hardcover sketchbook. Hardcover sketchbooks are not a favorite of mine to draw in but I like them as objects. Usually I have to hold them open as I use my left hand to keep them flat. That’s a bit of a pain. I decided to put up with that for this one because I haven’t drawn in a hardcover sketchbook in a long time and wanted to make an interesting little hand drawn book out of this one. I want a small, red, hardcover book full of drawings more than I actually want to draw in it but since I’m the one doing the drawing I guess it’s up to me.

I heard a character on a TV show refer to Moleskine notebooks as “Notebooks for people with more money than sense”. That makes me giggle every time I think of it. It’s a comment on the fact that Moleskine notebooks are a little overkill. They’re well built and expensive. The little sketchbook I just bought cost me twelve dollars but I like it. I don’t disagree with the TV character’s sentiment but I like a well made notebook or sketchbook.

My main sketchbook is one I’ve mentioned before. A basic Strathmore 5.5 x 8.5 inch spiral bound sketchbook. It’s the kind you can find in any art supply store or even drug stores and supermarkets. The spiral binding means that you can spin the pages under until you get a new sheet of paper and never have to hold the book open. That makes things more convenient and comfortable. I have a couple of sketchbooks of this variety. My main one is my ink-book in which I draw small spontaneous ink drawings. This is where I come up with most of my ideas. I also have one of these same sketchbooks that I occasionally do pencil drawings in. Most of my pencil drawings are done on sheets of paper so I don’t work in this book too often.

I have a third spiral sketchbook that I bought last year as a sort of concept book. It has some writing and sketches in it plus some photos that I printed out on sticker paper and stuck down. It was supposed to be a new way for me to work out ideas but I never quite figured out how to work in it. I haven’t given up on it yet but it’s disorganized and I have to find a way to use it better. I like the idea of writing, drawing, and photography all working together but so far I have no idea how to make them all play nice together. Definitely the most “Work in progress” of my sketchbooks.

My newest type spiral sketchbook is for my newest comic “Message Tee”. The spiral sketchbooks I’ve been using for years have the spirals along the long side of the book just like a spiral notebook from my school days. This new sketchbook has the spirals along the short side. The top of the book. This usually doesn’t make a difference to me but sometimes it does. I find it a little easier to draw character portraits with the spirals out of the way on the top of the page. It’s not make-or-break but since I was buying this sketchbook for the purpose of drawing “Message Tee” characters I figured I’d give one of these top spiral sketchbooks a try. So far I like it.

Another type of sketchbook that I have but haven’t used yet is a hardcover Moleskine 8 x 5 inch landscape watercolor sketchbook. It’s called a landscape sketchbook because it’s bound on the short side. It opens up flat much better than when bound on the long side so a lot of people draw all the way across both pages. You can draw a broad sixteen inch wide landscape in this book. It’s also made with watercolor paper rather than the usual drawing paper. I have yet to find a use for this sketchbook. I rarely do landscapes and don’t work in watercolor too much so the purpose this book is made for doesn’t overlap with my habits. But it’s such a cool book! I like it as an object. Someday I’ll find a good use for it. Until then I’ll just look at it.

I have a couple of other sketchbooks laying around but they are failures. One is a small 4×5 inch hardcover sketchbook that I got for free when I bought some other art supplies. It’s not bad but it never caught my fancy. It seems a little heavy and blocky to me. It opens up pretty flat for a small hardcover but I think the paper may be a little too smooth for my taste. It’s cover is travel themed with a map and random old photos. I like history and I like maps but somehow this doesn’t work for me. It looks dull and a little tacky. There are about three of four pages where I tried to draw something in it but never quite succeeded. For whatever reason this one has been sitting around for about two years now.

The last sketchbook I have is a sort of imitation Moleskine. It’s from about six years ago when I was looking for a new pocket notebook. That’s when I discovered Moleskine notebooks and I bought this one to go along with a few other notebooks and sketchbooks that I was sampling. Now that I look at it closely this one is probably a notebook and not a sketchbook. The paper is a little thinner and smoother than a sketchbook. It has a nice brown and tan cover but it feels a little too slippery. Not good in the hand. This one never caught on with me, has drawings only on the first two pages, and has been sitting on my shelf for years doing nothing.

In looking at this list I’ve noticed something. My biggest sketchbook is only about 5.5 x 8.5. I guess anything over that size and the convenience of having a bunch of drawings that are easy to find as they are in a single book is eclipsed by the inconvenience of having to draw on top of a one inch stack of paper that is bound at the edge. Interesting. I never noticed that before. I used to have bigger sketchbooks but not in years.

One final thought about sketchbooks pops into mind. I remember, years ago, reading an anecdote by, I think, Paul Chadwick (cartoonist of “Concrete”) about losing one of his sketchbooks. He drew in sketchbooks all the time always carrying one with him. That was until he was out one day and left his sketchbook behind. He went back to get it and it was gone. He lost all the work and ideas he had in there. From then on in he only used loose sheets of paper. He’d carry some of those with him if need be. That story makes me scan my sketchbook pages into my computer regularly. I’d hate to ever lose one but if I do at least I’ll have a copy and won’t lose all the ideas. Alas Paul Chadwick’s story is from a time before we all had scanners so they wouldn’t have helped him but it’s a cautionary tale for all of us.