Wednesday, October 19, 2011

61 ways to put your life into a Moleskine

People use Moleskine notebooks for all sorts of things. They take notes, doodle, glue receipts and even create three-dimensional paper sculptures out of their pages.

Many artists and sketchers also swear by their Moleskines. Their format and portability makes them ideal for urban sketching. You can whip them out of your pocket at any given moment to draw a commuter on the subway or a scene at the park during your lunch break. After you're done, that elastic band helps keep your precious sketches together until the next sketch opportunity.

Yoko Nakamuta, who knows how much some urban sketchers love their Moleskines, invited me to write about Urban Sketchers for his book, "61 ways to put your life into a Moleskine," which was just published last month in Japan by Diamond Publishing (avaible on Amazon Japan.)

Yoko, the administrator of Moleskinerie Japan, authored the book with fellow Moleskine fans Masatake Hori and Hiroki Takaya. Yoko wrote that "Our book tells not only how to use notebooks and customize them, but also how users enjoy and think their lives with their notebooks. We hope that our readers will find out their own curiosity, charm points, happiness, fun of working and wonder of the world through a black notebook."

I got my copy in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Even if I don't understand a word of Japanese, it's been really fun browsing through it.

The book features 61 Moleskine users and the different ways they use the notebooks. It's divided in six chapters: Moleskine & Notetaking, Moleskine & Daily Life, Moleskine & Travel, Moleskine & Me, Moleskine & Art and Moleskine & Life.

The spread on Urban Sketchers is at the end of the Moleskine & Art chapter, where you can see other examples of the creativity that flourishes inside these notebooks. This spread by and @8hcolor can serve as an example:

Here's the unedited text I sent to Yoko for the book back in May. I have no idea how much made it into the spread you can see at the top of this post, but I thought you may like to read it in English:

What brings you to launch the Urban Sketchers blog in 2008?
I started sharing my drawings on the web in 2006. Having my own blog not only motivated me to draw more frequently, it helped me to meet other artists around the world who were also blogging sketches of the cities where they lived. In November of 2007 I started Urban Sketchers as a group on flickr, the image sharing website, and a year later I decided to start the Urban Sketchers blog as a showcase of sketches from cities around the world. With the blog, my idea was to bring together a selected group of artists as talented and as diverse as possible with the goal of showing the world, one drawing at a time. Since then, the blog has inspired many more people to start drawing life in their cities. They all can share their sketches in our flickr group and Facebook page. The blog still remains a platform just by invitation. It’s like a media outlet in a way, with correspondents all over the world visually reporting with their sketches what they see in their cities and other places where they travel to.

Please describe your procedure of sketching.
My sketching method is always evolving. Sometimes I draw in sketchbooks, like Moleskine, but other times I draw on bigger spiral-bound sketchbooks. It depends on the situation. Most of the time I draw directly in ink, but sometimes I may use a light pencil to block out some areas first, especially when the perspective and composition are particularly complex. Lately I’m using a Lamy Safari fountain pen and also a Uniball signo. I sketch with waterproof ink so I can add watercolor washes.

What are your favorite writing tools for sketching on Moleskine?
Lately I’ve been enjoying to draw with pencil on cardboard-cover pocket moleskine cahiers. I like the small format for quick sketches while I’m taking public transportation for example.

What do you think about the greatness of sketching? Or what have you discovered through sketching?
Sketching allows you to pay attention to your surroundings. I always have my eyes peeled looking for things to draw. When you’ve lived in a city for a while, it’s also easy to overlook interesting scenes. If you are a sketcher, on the contrary, even the most mundane situation can become interesting to draw. Sketching can also turn a moment of boredom into a creative pastime.

About the NPO (non-profit organization) Urban Sketchers: What is the latest news of the movement? Are some events which we can join held in the close future?
Last year we held our 1st Urban Sketching Symposium in Portland, with people from more than 10 countries attending. The 2nd Symposium will take place in Lisbon in July of 2011, with even more participants and instructors, coming from every continent. It’s one of our goals as a nonprofit to promote drawing on location and to help sketchers connect with each other. We hope to be able to do these events every year. Perhaps soon in Japan!

How spread the movement after Urban Sketchers turned into NPO?
Becoming a nonprofit allows us to organize events and ask for donations. Urban Sketchers started as a blog, but as a nonprofit we can do more to serve the artists who practice location drawings. I want to be able to raise money so we can fund sketching projects around the world.

Do you have any message to the future supporters in Japan?
Help us spread the word about urban sketching. It’s a wonderful way to experience the world and learn to appreciate your own city as you sketch in the street. Urban Sketchers is a supportive community, not competitive, open to everyone, no matter their skill level. Start sharing your sketches online and show us Japan and its beautiful culture and everyday life, one drawing at a time!


  1. Thanks to share, Gabi!

  2. Wow very very interesting post, congratulations!

  3. 61 ways to put your life into a Moleskine, love it!!! :)

  4. Perfectly put!
    I like the idea of taking a sketchbook with you to draw when you are waiting for something. Granted I will be hiding my work as my sketches are really rough but it will definately make waiting for something more enjoyable.