Stationary

An Affordable LifeBook

The Hobonichi Techo is marketed as a ‘LifeBook’ and for several years I bought into the marketing. The biggest issue I had with the product was the sheer number of wasted space on all the peripheral ornamentation that adorns each page. Fast forward a few years and I went and got myself one of the cheapest Muji A6 blank notebooks, an impulse buy but realised that this is my LifeBook.

What I’ve appreciated is the blank canvas that allows me to use it whenever and for whatever. Everything goes into here. Random thoughts. Email. Ideas for presentations. Ideas for blog posts. Todo lists items. How is this different to a number of Field Notes? Cost ($2.90) and pages (144 pages!). Great value. Highly recommended.

Every 2 years I crack open a new Nanami Cafe Note. 2021 has not been great year for the daily journaling practice. Am determined to rekindle this in 2022. Hobonichi calls their planners ‘Lifebooks’. Any book can have this title and everyone should have one.

🖋 About once a year I finish off an A5 notebook dedicated to all my creative projects (in this instance anything that relates to Stet.Build, In Abeyance and kaa.bz). This time around I decided to pull out the big boy, the Nanami Seven Seas notebook. A 480 page brick of a notebook complete with tomoe river paper. This book is likely going to be around till August 2023. Can’t wait to fill it with ideas, sketches, articles and notes.

Issue 048 of In Abeyance is out. This issue is late, a first in the 2½ years of publishing. It’s hard to write when your main and then your backup work machines both fail. This knocked my writing, researching and publishing rhythm off its axis. So I took a month off. This month its all about nuclear power, Olympic beds and Muji horology.

There’s a notebook for that.

Its taken a really long time but I have finally settled on my physical notebook situation that I use on a regular basis. I originally was trying to fit everything into a single book, a Hobonichi. Foolishness. No instead, what I actually needed was 5 distinct notebooks, plus a bunch of little pocket notebooks. Lets unpack that.

1 / The Sketchbook

I wish I had stumbled across this concept earlier in my life. Keep a sketchbook for exploration. Use one notebook and fill it with all the sketches, rough, finished, try different mediums, give yourself room to explore. What you might find in those pages is your style moving; shifting; growing. A visual playground of your own creation. What’s interesting about this is the first few pages are going to be poor even to your eyes. Don’t feel discouraged. Persevere and you will see yourself slowly but surely getting better.

My notebook of choice for this type of notebook is a blank A5 Midori MD.

2 / The Journal

Your thoughts are like water.

Now in my 5th year of regular journalling I don’t do this as often as I want (twice a day), but I have been carving some time out every day to go through it. This is your mental dumping ground. This is where you letter your mind write whatever it wants. The paper is not going to judge you. Better for you to write it down than let it float and bounce around your head.

For this, I have settled on the excellent sized B6 Cafe Note from Nanami paper. I’ve got a Gfeller cover that will last me years and years to come.

3 / The Writer

Turns out the best way to write articles, books or anything is to get it onto paper first. While my online writing can be captured pretty quickly in Drafts or iA Writer, when I want to work something out, the sequence of thoughts and ideas, there is nothing better than paper. For stringing these thoughts into cohesive sentences I go digital, but for working things out, I go analogue.

Although I am currently using some Muji A5 notebooks, I have a massive Seven Seas Nanami notebook waiting to be used just for this purpose. Once my current notebook is finished (probably end of the year), can shift over to the book that will last me a whole lot longer.

4 & 5 / Meeting Notes & Taskmanager

For years I employed the bullet journal method to get shit done at work. It was invaluable to me. However one of the issues is we live in an increasingly digital world and there are far to many channels. I found myself breaking the mould and away from some of the basic things that make the system useful (put the date at the top, collection of tasks for a topic, bullets for notes). It was all getting messy again. I also found the A5 notebook wasn’t getting filled out very well.

So I decided to split things a little. I have two A6 notebooks. One dedicated for just notes, ideas, whatever. The other is just to capture all of my actions into individual buckets. Every page is a channel. Whenever a task pops up I put it into one of the channels

My go to are the Hobonichi A6 notebooks. Blank and beautiful. No eccentric Japanese quotes or sketches of foxes or whatever else they have added recently to the Techo. I know this is probably part of the charm, but to be honest, I want that 20% lost paper per page to be mine.

6 / Pocket Notebooks

Finally I have been using pocket notebooks for over a decade. These go with me wherever I go. Its a practice that has served me well and even if it’s one note, its one note less bouncing in your head or worse, lost forever. I hate that.

I finally found a good place for stationary in Scandinavia, the Pen Store out in Stockholm. Ordered a couple of bottles of ink (Iroshizuku Yama-budo and Lamy Topaz), a bunch of refills and a Lamy Safari Mango (to match up with the brown ink). Package arrived within a few days in a gloriously yellow box.

I’ve been having fun discovering the simple jobs of things I bought years ago and now I have the opportunity to spend more time with them and use them more.

First up is probably one of the most elegant and functional ballpoint pen ever made, the Rotring 600.

Finally got something Danish that isn’t groceries. I know it’s only a box of pencils but like Frank Chimero says:

Get enthusiasm on the cheap by buying a fancy wooden pencil to write everything down. A $3 pencil is now more exciting than a $2,000 computer. Many people will do the most mundane work just to feel a good tool fly.

In light of other stationary porn being shared, thought I would share my favourite pairings.

Muji notebook. Muji 0.38 Gel ink pen. Pilot Sign Pen - while I have a picture of the Pilot Sign Pen here, my absolute favourite thick pen is the Pilot V Sign pen.

The journal on the left is for 2018 & 2019. The journal on the right is for 2020 & 2021.

Old Notebooks

I’ve amassed over 60 Field Notes sized books, 15 Muji/Midori A5 notebooks and several A6 Hobonichi books.

I’m having a real hard time letting go of my completed physical notebooks. They capture different parts of my life. Thoughts and ideas. Shopping lists. Sketches. Projects. Things I was struggling with. Things I was contemplating. Things I wanted to get done. Things that never got done.

I’ve scanned several of these (maybe half), but really don’t have the heart to part ways with them. I know that I likely will never look at them again, except maybe as an exercise in nostalgia. Knowing that, do I keep them in a digital form only? Or will I get upset 10 years from now that I didn’t keep this physical record of the stuff that I made?

The constraint for Inktober this year is the number of pens I’m using and the size of paper, which are these super cheap postcards from Muji (12 for less than a dollar).

I may have gone a bit overboard at Daiso today.

It’s all happening on my desk today. #watercolour #fieldnotesbrand #comics #characters #moonracket #midorimd

Very proud of this little guy. #muji gel ink pen with a @nockco dotdash index card.

Adventure in Stationary

For years I’ve been exceptionally content with my choice of pen, the Muji 0.38mm gel ink pen, in black. The main issue with the pen was the cheap plastic enclosure that held that wonderful refill. I grew exceptionally bored of it and I was willing to splurge some money on something that was better.

Previously I’d splash money on stationary related to my artwork, but never for my work related stationary. My hunt for a better enclosure made me look at all of my stationary in a decidedly different way and led me down a rabbit hole that I am yet to emerge from (listened to all the episodes of the Pen Addict podcast). Thankfully the situation is a lot more under control than when I first started on this journey. After a year of buying a wide range of pens, I now know pretty much what will appeal to me and will fit into my rotation pretty much instantly.

I intend to go into a decent amount of detail but rather than writing everything in one single shot, I’ll highlight the main takes for now:

  1. I’m likely not going to be expanding my fountain pen collection past a Pelikan M205 in the future. It stops here at my Sailor Pro Gear Slim.
  2. Midori MDs are the only choice of sketch notebooks that I will likely ever use. These are perfect. The A4 version is next on my list.
  3. Nothing beats my Muji 0.38mm pen for quick sketching and inking - the Pilot Juice pens come in a close second. I’ve still to find my ideal holder - the original Takumi pen was a massive disappointment, hopefully version 2 goes in a better direction. Might have to design one myself.
  4. I’ve enjoyed using my Hobonichi Techo (although not as often as I would want to and not with the type of content I was hoping for) - will be trying out an A5 version this year., maybe that format suits me better?
  5. I will be getting a Nanami Seven Seas Standard notebook in the future as well.
  6. The Penxo is one of the best conceived and delivered Kickstarters that I’ve ever used - even though they fucked up my order and gave me the wrong leads.
  7. I will be getting a Field Notes subscription in November. I like the fun of seeing what these guys come up with and have been enjoying collecting these notebooks.
  8. I’ve still not found my ideal EDC pen. I still have time to back the EDK, but not sure if that’s the one for me.

It’s all about the Japanese stationary #midoritravelersnotebook #sailorink #midori

So we got some take out today (Briyani) and it came in these awesome glass pots (completely OTT) but was looking for a pen pot and sticker haven, perfect. #recycle #stationary #fieldnotes #pen #briyani

All of my used #fieldnotes #moleskinecahier #baronfigapprentice notebooks 15 so far

Logo for a mystery project I’ve been working on for several months now. It’s early days still, but wanted to share the process I go through for creating a logo. Started off in a Fieldnote (Two Rivers edition if you have to ask), then moved it over to a Muji A5 notebook and then into Sketch.

Partially inspired by this video of Mr.Draplin - although our A’s go in different directions.

FINALLY! #bulletjournal #notebook #leuchtturm #leuchtturm1917

A whole bunch of awesomeness came in the post today. #midorimd #midori #fieldnotes #leather #leathercase

My new obsession- blue lead. Man I wish I’d discovered the joys of this simple addition to my arsenal 6 months ago. Live and learn. #bluelead #rotring600 #unipin #drawing #inking #moonracket

The #nexus pen finally arrived today. Initial thoughts. 1. The pen is much larger than I thought it was going to be 2. The packaging is pretty well put together. 3. The Bock nib is massive. Unfortunately doesn’t indicate what type of nib it is either. 4. Having a Schmidt converter and Bock nib is great but would have been nicer if they had Nexus specific logos. Slightly diminishes the professional view of the product. 5. Matt coating is excellent.

#nexus #namisu #fountainpen #pen #stationary

Love customising my memo books. First time I do something to a Fieldnotes #fieldnotes #memobook #gellypen #whiteink

Tools used this holiday break. Was able to draw 10 strips for season 2 of Moon Racket - and have thumbnails for the rest of the season. I had hoped to finish the art last year but taking my time with it means a better result - will start posting random panels soon. #kaweco #unipin #retro51 #sakura #shinhanart #tk4600

I’ve waited a long time to finally use my hobonichi techo let the journaling begin. #journal #hobonichi

Been waiting a long time to try out these bad boys. My first foray into Gee Urban aka #jherbin

Got myself some #baronfig notebooks for Christmas. Shipped them in via #Shopandship - got some thoughts about both theses things and will share at some point #notebook #stationary

We didn’t originally hit it off (that’s me and this Sailor Procolor 500) but after a bit of nib widening (just with my fingers) it works an absolute treat. Thin line but smooth.

Pencils

I posted this image on the Moon Racket! twitter account (you should follow the account, I talk all things comics there, not just Moon Racket!) yesterday, but I thought it was important to elaborate a little further here.

Basically what you have there is two panels. The first is actually the last panel found in Season One, while the second panel is the first panel for Season Two which I am currently in the process of drawing.

To me the difference couldn’t be more stark - it honestly feels like two different people drew these. The difference of course is confidence in the characters, but I’ve also changed my tools and the way I’m approaching the art in general.

Tools

While tools are not the reason for art to be rubbish, the wrong tools can’t help the process either. The first thing that’s changed is the paper. I’ve gone from a reasonable rough yellowy paper in a perfect bound art book to individual cut “bristol board”-thick A3 sheets. The difference is liberating in that the final panel is hanging off a thick stack of paper underneath it (as it’s not part of a book).

The second thing that I’ve done is move away from my trusted Copic markers and have moved on to the much cheaper and much better Uni Pin black pigment pens for the thicker pen sizes. I still use my trusted Muji Gel ink pens for all the inking of the standard lines.

Size Matters

The last part, that as far as I’m concerned has transformed the artwork for me and allowed me to move up a level, is increasing the size of the individual panels. Suddenly I have soo much room to breathe and stretch my artistic muscle.

Time

Although Season One was never rushed, I didn’t give the pencils enough time to mature. Like a fine wine, pencil work should sit there for a little while to develop in your eyes and allow you to see and correct all the little mistakes. Don’t be afraid to redraw entire panels if they’re not right. While moving to ink is exciting, leave it for a day, come back to it. Do some more penciling instead.

Inking Tools

In early 2012 I started work on my first iOS app with my cousin. The trip was long and meandering (one which unfortunately we never completed).

One of the things that I made sure I did was keep all my notes and scribbles in a single notebook. This was a bit of a departure for me, but one that I have maintained for all my future projects. Each project has it’s own notebook where most things can be found.

One sketch that I attribute the inking of Moon Racket to, is the original icon sketch for the app.

The importance of this sketch was in making me appreciate the Muji 0.38mm black gel ink pen as a tool for clean inking and providing the correct thickness of line that I was originally looking for - but couldn’t really achieve with my Copic pens.

While this pen isn’t completely suitable for the clean lined artwork of Chroma, it still has it’s uses for all the cross-hatching required. Sometimes you stumble on a tool that elevates your art, for me it was my Muji gel ink pen.

Muji Stationary - Sometimes the best stationary is also the most affordable. The A5 notebook, and 0.38mm gel ink pens have been my stationary loves for many years.

Bound

Bound is a service that lets you create custom journals. Personally I have finally found my preferred notebook of choice (the simple A5 Muji notebook), however I can’t help by smile at the possibility of a Broken Kode ‘X’ on a journal.

Projects


An all-ages comic strip about Corgan and Alfie who live on the Moon .
Moon Racket!