Like a lot of folks in the arts (fine arts, writing arts, or otherwise) at one point in my career I discovered Moleskine notebooks. They are discrete little black numbers, made in several sizes, and once I knew about them I swear I saw them everywhere. In contrast to the pretty journals I found next to the checkout of every bookstore, these slender black books seemed to telegraph a certain dedication for the pursuit of creativity, not to mention an air of mystery.
Considering myself appropriately dedicated to my art career, I bought one and soon became a devotee. It was the first sketchbook I owned that felt good to carry. There were several features that wowed me, starting with the lack of spiral wire to get caught up in everything. It had an elastic band to keep it closed, and a lovely little pocket in the back for ephemera and various scraps of paper bearing treasured scribbles. Best of all, when opened, it laid flat at the center seam. Heaven. I chose the Large size – 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches (they are available both bigger and smaller). It fit perfectly in my handbag at the time, and I’ve bought or designed every other bag I’ve owned since based on whether or not the Moleskine fit. It is no longer a curiosity or affectation – it is a necessary tool in my everyday creative practice.
My paper of choice is Plain – no lines, no grids. I am very much a Word Girl – my drawings are built of words rather then traditional lines. And despite my passion for words, I find lined paper very confining when I want to capture ideas… their very linear-ness makes me feel like they will corral my non-linear thoughts and turn them into dull monotony. I want to write large and small, straight and slanted – and when I do actually draw, I don’t want my ideas straightened out by lines.
(And a huge shout out to my beloved MFA mentor Mark Rooker for assuring me that it was fine that I write rather than draw during grad school, as long as I had a way that worked for me to capture my ideas. Some of the other profs gave me a heck of time about not liking to express myself in drawing. And all I can say to that is we don’t all make art the same way, folks!)
As I’ve moved from one tattered journal into a crispy new counterpart, I have imagined that this stack of little black books might one day become part of my “papers” – a cache of my ideas deemed worthy of collection, or perhaps even study. I like to think that some paper might survive the digital age! So there they sit on the shelf, lined up like Rockettes, with only their dated spines to tell them apart in their dark beauty.
But the line-up might get a new member soon. Black, for once, might fall out of fashion, at least in my studio. There are some new dancers in town, and one of them is wearing ORANGE.
Oh my. I do love ORANGE. It’s not the deeper ORANGE of my Tangerine Tango dreams, but it’s cheerful and sunny. And that might be a nice vibe to telegraph when I’m out drawing my words, while still keeping my secrets.
Right now I have a relatively new black one on the go, and yet another in its plastic as backup. I would hate to waste it, but hmm… it could be given as a gift… so that I could make a date with the ORANGE one sooner. We’ll have to see if I continue my tradition, or accept the invitation of a new dance partner.
How do you capture your ideas, and which color might be yours?