My Ideas Notebook or Commonplace Book

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Last autumn I started to teach myself how to draw and paint. I wanted to know how to draw because I often have ideas for illustrations or comics, and I wanted to be able to realise them in some way. Alongside my sketchbook, I started to keep an ideas notebook or ‘commonplace book’. It’s a simple passport sized notebook with dotted pages (from Muji) where I jot down illustration and comic strip ideas, my favourite quotes from books I read, and thoughts and observations from my everyday life.

The size of the notebook is perfect for my use as my writing is small and I’m just writing short notes and paragraphs here and there. It’s easy to stash away, and I know that if I keep up the habit and end up with multiple books they won’t take up much space. To escape my perfectionist tendency to never use a notebook for fear of ruining it (I write on post-its and scraps of paper most of the time) I use a soft pencil for this notebook. The added benefit is that there’s no bleed through between pages. I tend to write my notes and observations in the notes app on my phone, and I take phone photos of quotes in books as I’m reading them. This allows me to capture ideas and observations on the move and then I write them up when I have more time on my hands.

I’m so glad I started keeping an ideas notebook as it’s great to be able to browse through the pages when I’m feeling uninspired creatively. I haven’t been sketching as much these past few months as I’ve been busier with work and getting back to a regular gym routine, but I know that when the dark months come around it’ll be a treasure trove.

A few recent extracts from my ideas & observations notebook:

In Tesco at 7pm during a rainstorm: a student wearing a black dinner jacket with cuffs folded back on themselves over pink checked pyjama bottoms and a pair of flip-flops

30th July 2019

Illustration idea // a man launching a radiosonde balloon

Inspired by an article and photo essay published in the Guardian

When July melts into August an uncanny silence falls on the city. Cycling down the canal this evening I dinged my bell at empty tunnels, normally busy with students and commuter traffic, and enjoyed the dusty scent of hushed hot paths and overgrown hedgerows. On the houseboats moored by the Vale, the final post 9pm sunset of the year fused with the quiet hum of radios and conversation, the soft yellow light of boaters’ living rooms illuminating the coming night.

1st August 2019

Art Writing