An illustrated school of ghosts, engraved skin and utopias for the the following.

Not too long ago I wrote about the Moleskine Notebooks in a general way – going into what they are, where they came from and expressed my overly romantic feelings for the little books—the word lust was used. While writing, I began to realise that the article was starting to get long, far too long for one article from an online source, so I decided to split it into two. This first article was an introduction to the notebooks. This second article is a look at how they can be used and what fantastic things are being done with them.

The Moleskine range has been used for some great things. From being used as the canvas of illustrators sharpening their skills whenever they get a chance, no matter where they are, to people ditching their PDAs for an analogue system with a pocket Moleskine at its centre, to creatives filling a book with whatever came into their minds for exhibitions.


Ghost School is a blog I started following a couple of months ago; it is the online journal of the work of illustrator Wil Freeborn, detailing the sketches he does in his Moleskine when he’s out and about. It is a good example of how versatile the notebook is for illustrating (and writing) on the go, as the scenes he illustrates are ones he encounters on a daily basis when out and about. His use of delicate colours works well with the yellow stock, with illustrations that are soft, gentle and look at home in a Moleskine. So why is this his book of choice? He was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Alex Charchar: Is there any particular reason you chose to use a Moleskine for your illustrations?

Wil Freeborn: Yes, they sit really flat. I like using both pages at once. I rarely draw on one page at a time. I’ve tried other books but they tend to favour the right side, so you end up drawing in portrait. The paper is also slightly smoother which makes the experience of drawing that much better.

On a more personal angle I started drawing again as I wanted to think visually to hopefully improve my design. The only way I knew I could get better at drawing was trying to draw as much as possible and I try to do small things to incorporate drawing into a routine, such as in the train, my work environment. I’m trying almost to explain to myself what my world looks like in a very matter of fact manner. I think for a time I was starting to forget.

Its strange I’ve got into a few consistent habits to help this and one of them is using Moleskines. They’re also too expensive to leave around so I tend to carry them everywhere.

I’ve got into a few consistent habits…
and one of them is using Moleskines

AC: What mediums do you use and how do you find they react with the paperstock? Is there any medium you avoid using in your Moleskine?

WF: I use fineliners, the Faber Castell Ecco Pigments 0.1. I miss the Rotrix Xonox pens, they had a really dense black but for some reason they’ve stopped making them. I’m not really that bothered which one I use as long as its waterproof.


I also carry a Pentel brush pen, a paper mate pencil and a Mountblanc fountain pen. I’m trying Noodlers Bulletproof ink as its waterproof but I’m not really sure about it yet. It could be me but its really dense and hard to write with.

I like the paper in the sketchbooks but its terrible with watercolour. You have to literally scrub the colour in which has its own effect. I know Moleskine do a watercolour book but it doesn’t feel right, a bit too precious. I still need it to be a notebook to carry to meetings.


AC: How many notebooks have you gone through?

WF: I’ve only been drawing for a year and a half now. So I’ve only gone through about 6 books.

AC: If you have any other comments, I’d love to hear them.

WF: I started drawing like Dan Price (Moonlight Chronicles) and Danny Gregory (Everyday Matters) which is you almost draw without looking at the page but follow the contour of what you’re drawing with your eye. Its a great way to start as you shortcut your mind and get an instant result that’s not too forced.

Recently though I’m seeing more of the form of things rather than the line, its a more conscious decision based style of drawing. I’m not sure where I’m going with it yet, but I’m looking forward to drawing some more.

AC: Thanks Wil!


A very organised and structured revolution is sweeping the web. It is the cult of GTD, or, Getting Things Done. David Allen wrote a book on how to handle things from remembering to buy tickets for a concert to organising your emails, memos and other working-day paraphernalia that comes across your desk. His ideas and practices took off as websites, forums and blogs spread the word. It is through these meeting places that his practices evolved and people developed their own systems and traded ideas with others, eventually resulting in an array of new systems, ranging from the use of the various Google developed applications Google, to software authored specifically to help with productivity and best of all – to an analogue system that holds a small notebook at its centre.

The book is divided up into a few segments; Inbox / Next Processed, Projects, Someday / Maybe and Special Priority. Every second page gets numbered, as well as a template heading along the lines of; date – task (ref) (iteration) [proj]. Yeah, pretty complex, but once you get your head around the system, it can make your day and tasks you’re staying on top of go much smoother. Do a Google search and you can find a lot of chatter (278,000 pages at time of writing) with a number of different systems being spoken about. The most popular system, the one mentioned above, based on principals set-forth by Allen, was developed by Eston Bond. I discovered the above (and in the end, purchased Allens book gleefuly) through sites such as Lifehacker, Lifehack, LifeClever (one of my all-time favorites—highly recommended!) and Zen Habbits, so if any of what has been mentioned about GTD sounds like your kind of thing, definitely check these sites out.


A group of people who have recognised the love that people have for Moleskines and how special they are is Engrave Your Book. Not only do they sell Moleskines, but they’ll laser engrave the covers to make your notebook that more special and, if you feel like submitting your own artwork, that much more personal. At time of writing they have eight options to have engraved onto the cover of your Moleskine, as well as giving you the option to have your own artwork engraved onto the cover. The results are quite beautiful and breathtaking, while quite cheap – only a few dollars on-top of the normal price of whichever Moleskine you’re after.

“I’m a designer by trade, and a year of production design opened my eyes to the advanced technology out there being used in the sign/custom fabrication industry. After a few sleepless months, I decided to take the plunge, and bring lasers to the people” says Joe Mansfield, the man behind Engrave Your Book. It might have taken a little while to really get going, but once news of what Joe was offering proliferated through the web, things have been picking up; “the job flow has been completely inconsistent until the last few weeks, in which things have been growing like E. coli. Word travels fast these days on the inter-web. Thanks to the incredibly talented people that are exploring this new medium.” A happy guy that seems to genuinely enjoy what he is doing, Joe was kind enough to answer my few questions and finished off his email with an exciting note that he is “stoked about the upcoming additions to the artist series, y’all are in for a treat!”

After a few sleepless months, I decided to take the plunge,
and bring lasers to the people

It’s going to be interesting to see what designs people come up with and how the collection of their artist series grows over the next few months and probably years. While the technology they’re using probably isn’t exactly super unique or secretive, it always helps to be the first to embark on something. As long as they stay ahead of the game (ie. continue to harness the creativity of some talented individuals), they should hopefully be around for a long time. And who knows, maybe Modo & Modo will like what they see and get in on the deal. I would imagine it would be in every-ones best interest if they were to offer Engrave Your Book a discount for the amount of books they buy (and then sell), therefore giving Engrave Your Book an opportunity to sell their products for slightly less, making them even more an attractive of a purchase. That being said, Joe has mentioned that he hasn’t heard from them just yet. “I haven’t heard from Modo & Modo, hopefully my first business expense trip will be to Italy – I better start brushing up on my Italiano.” Oh, and don’t forget to check out Engrave Your Tech if you want to give your laptop or iPod its own tattoo. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff.

engrave your tech

“I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it” John Lennon said in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1971 (I prefer Jack Nicholson’s delivery in The Departed). Applying that logic—which I found to be totally sound, minus the pun—these notebooks won’t make you a creative person. There is no special power to them, just a dash of grace and a twist elegance, which is all that is needed to make them special to those mentioned here, as well as countless others.