It’s time to replace my back pocket notebook again. I’ve been carrying the same one for about five years now and it’s about to fall apart. Whenever I get a new one I reinforce the holes where the spirals go through the thin cardboard of the cover. The holes aren’t tearing on my current notebook but the cardboard is about to disintegrate. The front and back covers are falling off and disappearing. Years of sitting on paper will do that.

I bought this fancy new back pocket notebook last winter but haven’t used it at all. I’m used to the softcover 89¢ variety that we all remember from grade school. I slip it into my back pocket and don’t even notice it. The new one has a much harder cover. When it’s in my back pocket it’s like sitting on a flat piece of wood. Who knows if it may soften up and be comfortable one day but I’ll never make it to that day. What is the point of a back pocket notebook (they even call it that on the label) that isn’t comfortable in the back pocket?

I have a few other small notebooks lying around the place that someone gave me once but they are useless. They are even cheaper than the 89¢ ones (I think they were three for 89¢) and are made of the cheapest possible paper. I pulled one out to see if I could reinforce the cover but the cover tore as I was handling it. It was if the cardboard was tissue paper. And the paper could be ripped out of it with the smallest amount of force. You’ve never seen a notebook so useless.

I am a fan of small notebooks and being an artist a fan of small sketchbooks. Big sketchbooks do nothing for me. I’d rather use individual pieces of paper if I’m going to draw big. Big sketchbooks are too bulky. Most of my sketchbooks in my college years and through my twenties were of the hard cover variety. They had a tough durable black cover that you could decorate nicely with a silver paint pen. Usually those ones were eight by ten inched but sometimes five by seven inches.

All of the years I carried one of those sketchbooks around I was never really a fan of drawing in them. I liked them well enough as objects. As “cool books”. But I found them hard to draw in. Due to their being hard covers they would never lie flat enough for me. I was always holding the book flat with my left hand as I drew with my right. A clumsy method of working.

It also didn’t help that I was never really a very good “sketcher”. I wasn’t interested in drawing from life and the scritch scratchy way of building a drawing from a sketch always frustrated me. It wasn’t until I was well into my late twenties that I discovered my own way of drawing that wasn’t really related to sketching. It is more related to surrealistic automatic drawing. Sketching never helped me learn drawing. Learning drawing did.

For the past nine years I’ve been using a hundred page five by seven inch spiral bound sketch book to draw in (yes there were a few years I didn’t use a sketchbook at all). It lays flat and I fill it up with lots of little ink drawings. I always draw in ink with a thick line in that book. No scratchiness allowed. I go through about one a year. That book of drawings is where I generate all of my ideas. It is invaluable to me.

I still don’t think the spiral bound notebooks are nearly as pretty as objects as the black clad hard bound ones but they sure are better for drawing in. Plus to make the spiral one more durable I made a form fitting canvas carry bag for it. I slip the sketchbook into the canvas bag and then drop that into a larger bag or carry it on its own. The canvas takes all of the abuse and leaves the book sitting pretty. And I do like pretty.

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