I bought two new sketchbooks this week. Though I have great affection for sketchbooks it’s a little odd because I’m not really much of a sketcher. Still all the different types of sketchbooks appeal to me. I draw in a sketchbook regularly but drawing is different than sketching. I define drawing as making marks on paper in an interesting way. Sketching is a category of drawing that refers to making a basic or underlying drawing of some object. The thing about sketching is that first you decide what you are going to draw and then you draw it. Since a lot of my work uses a surrealist automatic drawing method I don’t always know what I am going to draw before I start drawing. Hence I’m not sketching.

The one type sketchbook that I have been drawing in for a decade now is a small spiral bound book. I like spiral bound ones because they open up flat. I find it easiest to draw on a piece of paper that is not attached to any book but it’s easier to look through a bunch of drawings if they are in a book. That’s why I do most of my “Basic idea” drawings in sketchbooks and the intermediary and finished drawings on sheets of paper.

Back in the 1990s I used to use black hard cover sketchbooks. I really like those type of sketchbooks as objects. They’re good looking and durable. That was important in the days that I got out more and would draw in bars and eateries. A flimsy sketchbook would get battered and ruined after too much carrying it around and pulling it out to place down on questionable tables. The hardcover was great protection but it made the book difficult to open up flat. I was forever holding the book flat with my left hand as my right hand drew. It was a clumsy way to draw and why I finally abandoned them.

When I was out and about more I also used to carry a small notebook in my back pocket. The small spiral 69¢ type of notebook. Since I’ve been working at home I’m out of that notebook habit but just before then I sought to find a more durable replacement for the paper 69¢ notebook. This lead me to a lot of small sketchbooks and Moleskine notebooks. I must have bought a half dozen small notebooks before settling on a softcover Moleskine notebook that I still use but never carry anywhere. The other five I’ve tried to find uses for but somehow they’re too flawed for me to embrace. I do like them as objects though. Blank books are full of potential to me.

One of the two new sketchbooks I bought was a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. That means it has some thick paper in it that can do a decent job at absorbing wet media. I haven’t actually tried it yet but the paper looks nice. This notebook isn’t spiral bound but does a good job of opening up flat. The binding is on the short side of the book so it’s landscape formated. I got it that way because I thought it would lay flat better. It seems to. I’m not even sure what I’m going to use the book for but I think I might try out some of my markers with it. Or gouache. I’m planning on bringing it with me to the park.

The second sketchbook I got is some sort of visual presentation sketchbook. It’s some guy’s idea of a good way to organize his thoughts and dream up visual presentations. Some pages even have small boxes printed on them to storyboard things. That all sounded like an interesting idea but upon receiving the book it seems like nothing special. It might even be a little annoying. They are words of encouragement and inspiration on some pages but I find that distracting. Plus the pages with boxes printed on them mean nothing to me. I’m used to drawing my own little boxes where I want them. At least it’s a spiral bound book. It might not be for me but that’s not the concept author’s fault. It obviously works well for him and other people. I’m still going to try and find a use for it.

A third item I got this week was a new bag to carry the sketchbooks and other stuff in. I’m always looking for the perfect new bag but my needs are so peculiar that I never find it. I generally need two bags, a small one and a large one, anyway so one bag doesn’t solve my problems. The main issue with me and bags is that I need them to carry both art supplies and a camera. I only need a bag when I go into NYC to take photos and draw in the park. I need a lot of little and medium size pockets for the art supplies and a big, or at least a wide, pocket for the camera. It’s a clumsy arrangement.

For the last two years I’ve been using an art bag. It’s a pretty big bag as it’s been made to fit 14×17 inch pads of paper. It has a lot of nice pockets for stuff but is heavier than I’d like it to be. Plus it’s made out of that black nylon that I really don’t like. I prefer my bags be made from canvas. I do like the art bag but it turns out that I have little need for carrying around 14×17 inch sheets of paper so it’s a little much. My sketchbooks are much smaller than that.

I also have an 11×14 inch bag that I often use as a camera bag if I’m going to a party, picnic, or family gathering. I don’t carry many art supplies on such occasions so the small bag is fine. It’s a good bag and I don’t want to replace it (unless a perfect one comes along) but it’s no good for my Bryant Park drawing and photography excursions.

The new bag is a laptop messenger stye bag. I think most bags these days are built to fit laptops. This one has a lot of nice compartments and is smaller and lighter than my art bag. It’s made of canvas, as I like, but it also has an awful lot of nylon lining in it. Some nice pen slots in the front too. I’m going to give it a try on my first Bryant Park trip so we’ll see how it works out.

One feature that I really grew to like on my art bag was the outside water bottle pocket. I’m not usually one for carrying water with me but when I’m outside on a summer day in Manhattan it sure is nice to have some water with me. I hate carrying the extra weight but I like being able to drink some water when I want to. Neither my small bag nor my new one have this outside pocket. I’m going to have to improvise. Perfection is an elusive creature. Isn’t it?