Notebooks Are So Hot Right Now

notebook

No, really notebooks are so hot right now. As you guys may know, I’m a big fan of diaries, sketchbooks, notebooks and all things handwritten and vaguely journal-y. Last week I posted a wee photo album of my current notebook setup, and I often post pictures of my sketches and various doodles on my Tumblr and Instagram accounts. Unsurprisingly both these platforms are where the majority of attention for my work comes from due to the large artistic and image-sharing base of these websites. Sites like Penaddict, Tumblr blogs and online communities dedicated to discussing the art of diary and notebook keeping are becoming ever more popular. It all ties in to the hipster, thrifty new-age alternate lifestyle subculture that sort of rejects modern products and fetishizes the outdated and less efficient but nonetheless nostalgic & capable technology such as film cameras, typewriters, record players, paper notebooks & diaries, single gear bikes and other outdated items (obviously only to a point- we still need those fancy iPhones to update our Instagram and Twitter feeds to tell you all about the old stuff we use!). Basically, the kind of still that you might pick up in a thrift shop, see propped up in trendy bars or coffee shops, blogged about on new-age news sites, or in the skip behind an Artisanal Portland Kale Garden & Free Range Hemp Chickpea Commune. As much as I’m not a fan of a lot of the arrogance and pretentiousness that goes hand in hand with hipster subculture (though I think I probably despise the ‘cool-to-hate-hipster’ sub-subculture even more, if that makes sense), I am a bit crazy for all things old-fashioned and vintage. Growing up with a grandfather who has literally sheds of old tools, equipment and hoarded pieces of technology from the past 80 years that he still uses day-to-day, I have a bit of a fascination with ‘old stuff’ and trying to adapt or use it in everyday life. This entire movement is very heavily rooted in steampunk and dieselpunk too, of post-war technology and historically anachronistic designs that also appear in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, something that I’ve always been very interested in. We’re focusing on notebooks today though, more particularly a style of notebooks people seem to love. Describing it is hard, but the consistent ideas and forms people seem to like most in my own notebooks are:

Pages that are overflowing with content- streams of consciousness and entire pages filled it up with drawings and tightly packed words, with no spaces left empty. This idea that paper is at a premium and that each space must be filled gives your pages a historical, valuable feel- as traditionally often paper was at a premium, and those with an expensive diary or notebook would not waste space or paper, or that on their travels it was the only book they had with them, and were forced to fill each square inch with as many observations as they could.

Excessively random or Obsessively neat and academic- both of these approaches emulate an academic look to your notebook. The first presents it as a constant stream of consciousness, an artistic approach in which all your ideas are spilling onto the page. It has an eccentric, artistic approach that you might expect to see from a traveller or explorer, filling up each page with observations and ideas coming in faster than there is time to writer. On the other hand, an academic, super neat approach speaks to the scientific- it’s sometime you’d expect to see in a maybe Mary Ward‘s journals, or the sketches of an inventor in the industrial age.

Annotations, Annotations, Annotations – notes, subnotes, references, margins, bibliographies, notes and observations, corrections and hastily pasted in notes from other journals- these are the hallmarks of observation and study. Old journals are stuffed with these, with hand drawn illustrations and diagrams then carefully annotated and explained. Not only does it make your journal appear like a work that can be studied and instructed, but it shows that it’s a constantly evolving work that isn’t a work of art but rather something used to learn and teach. Check out How to Train your Dragon 2- does he care if his notebook looks neat? Hell no! It’s stuffed full of notes and extensions and crudely pasted on maps- it’s a journal being used! Which leads me to…

Well TraveledWell Worn, Well Used- This is something best described as “What Indiana Jones would carry in his satchel“, is something that applies not just to notebooks, but also to satchels and clothing. People like the idea of stuff getting used, worn out, hastily fixed and flecked with rust and grit. They want things not simply sitting on a coffee table waiting to be looked at but not touched, but things that have a history, that can make them feel like they got their hands dirty and worked at something. It’s all a part of the distressed, recycled and well-worn fashion that spreads from everything to clothing, automobiles or interior design. Your notebook should not be handled like a religious text, but shoved in bags and stuffed in your pocket, torn and ripped when the time suits it, and treated like apiece of equipment. You want your notebook to tell the story of where you traveled just by looking at it. Indiana Jones didn’t have time to worry if his notebook wasn’t getting scratched, he was busy fighting nazis! When he got wet, burnt or covered in grime & old mummies, he just dusted himself and his notebook off and got back to work!

Continue reading

The Sunday Night Sketchbook 19/10/14

Oooooh shiiii, it’s back! The Sunday Night Sketchbook Ya’ll. I promised it, and she has returned! This is going to be a LOT of drawings going all the way to the end of June, so hold onta ya butts! Hopefully I can get back into more regularity with these, so enjoy this ultra long post while it lasts- enjoy!

Happy Independence day mothertruckers.

Happy Independence day mothertruckers.

My new scientific Series on the sun.

My new scientific Series on the sun.

Continue reading

My first Polandball Comic!

Today is a proud day for me, for litzippo can into /r/polandball! Okay I know that made zero sense whatsoever. Let me explain. Polandball Comics are a form of online comics, and a sizeable community of artists and fans have grown around the internet sharing and making these cool little comic strips, artworks and niche, nerdy in-jokes for a few years now. “The comic represent countries and are drawn as balls. The balls interact in broken English and poke fun at national stereotypes and international relations.” (via the Simple English Wikia). The Polandball Subreddit, one of the largest communities and creators of Polandball Comics describes them as:

“Wiggly mouse-drawn comics where balls represent different countries. They poke fun at national stereotypes and the “international drama” of their diplomatic relations. Polandball combines history, geography, Engrish, and an inferiority complex. The comic series first became popular on a well known German image board int ze internetz.”

There are very strict rules and in-jokes built around the comics that the community enforces, as well as a lot of dos and don’t. As such, making and posting comics in the polandball subreddit requires a knowledge of how they work and an understanding of the humour & drawing rules. Only then can you submit your comic to the moderators, who will decide if it’s worthy of posting and letting you post other comics in the future. Here’s some of my favourite examples, such as a comic strip depicting a meeting of all the world’s “unhated nations“, a funny personification of some British-Australian history, poking fun at the sensitive national tensions of Germany or this American-North Korean comic. There’s also more complex and historical ones such as this comic about the Boxer Rebellion.

Anyway. after being a fan for many years, my first /r/Polandball comic “One Upmanship” last week was submitted, and what’s more- approved! I’m pretty proud of it, and I spent a whole day coming up with the idea and drawing it. It was well received on the subreddit too, ranking at number 53 of the top comics of the entire month, which made my day!

The comic is below, but here’s some historical back story that might clear up what the comic’s about-

“This comic depicts the Scottish Navy’s Michael, the largest ship of her time when she was launched in 1512. In direct response to her construction, The English King Henry VIII ordered the construction of the Henry Grace à Dieu, which surpassed the Michael in size and armament.

Meanwhile, across the seas the great and fabled Treasure Fleets of Ming Dynasty China sat and rotted in their harbours and moorings, the new emperor uninterested in the massive fleet built decades before for exploration and trade. They were eventually destroyed or burnt.”

polandbfinal

 

The (Real) Saturday Night Sketchbook!

Forget digital, how’s about some real sketchbooks?! I’ve taken some photos of the sketchbooks I use day today, originally for a reddit thread on /r/notebooks (a good subreddit if you’re into notebooks by the way), but I figured I should also stick them up here! The REAL Sunday Night Sketchbook is coming back soon however, so don’t despair! Anyway, enjoy! You can also find more pictures of my notebooks at my instagram account if this wee photoset doesn’t appease your hunger for all things hand-drawn!

So many Moleskines! I swear I diversify! I don't often buy them anymore, It's just when people gift me notebooks it's usually moleskines because they are a pretty recognizable 'Quality' brand. These are the books I have started and finished since last year, I have about a dozen more at home. Top left are two stacked Moleskine notebooks. One a sketchbook and one a lined journal, I finished them years ago but I took them from home for reference (and safe keeping!). Top middle is my diary, left is mt stationary box. In the centre is my current sketchbook, as well as the field notes I keep in my pocket for notes. Bottom right is a small notebook I use for drawing cityscapes

So many Moleskines! I swear I diversify! I don’t often buy them anymore, It’s just when people gift me notebooks it’s usually moleskines because they are a pretty recognizable ‘Quality’ brand. These are the books I have started and finished since last year, I have about a dozen more at home. Top left are two stacked Moleskine notebooks. One a sketchbook and one a lined journal, I finished them years ago but I took them from home for reference (and safe keeping!). Top middle is my diary, left is mt stationary box. In the centre is my current sketchbook, as well as the field notes I keep in my pocket for notes. Bottom right is a small notebook I use for drawing cityscapes

A lot of gibberish. Top book is the sketchbook I used when doing radio interviews, as you can see I often let my mind wander. My stationary box is an old cigar case that I used to keep watches and clockwork stuff in. My favourite pens to use are Staedtler .3 &.005s, mainly a holdover from when I used to do a lot of technical & graph comm drawing. They probably aren't the best writing or artist pens, but I love them. You can see an example of the cityscapes in my wee moleskine below it.

A lot of gibberish. Top book is the sketchbook I used when doing radio interviews, as you can see I often let my mind wander. My stationary box is an old cigar case that I used to keep watches and clockwork stuff in. My favourite pens to use are Staedtler .3 &.005s, mainly a holdover from when I used to do a lot of technical & graph comm drawing. They probably aren’t the best writing or artist pens, but I love them. You can see an example of the cityscapes in my wee moleskine below it.

This is what I carry in my bag when traveling or just day to day use. The fieldnotes are by my side 24 hours a day, and they tend to get a bit bashed, torn and, if I'm outdoors working or on the boat, wet. I usually go through one every month. Brilliant books though,  the paper is thick enough for even fountain pens so you don't have to be too careful with them. I'd recommend ducktaping the spine and edges as soon as you use them though if you do a lot of outdoorsy stuff like I do

This is what I carry in my bag when traveling or just day to day use. The fieldnotes are by my side 24 hours a day, and they tend to get a bit bashed, torn and, if I’m outdoors working or on the boat, wet. I usually go through one every month. Brilliant books though, the paper is thick enough for even fountain pens so you don’t have to be too careful with them. I’d recommend ducktaping the spine and edges as soon as you use them though if you do a lot of outdoorsy stuff like I do

Continue reading

Pope Urban VII: The Shortest Smoking Ban in History

 

The earliest depiction of a European man smoking, from Tabacco by Anthony Chute.

The earliest depiction of a European man smoking, from Tabacco by Anthony Chute.

424 years ago today, on the 27th of September 1590 there came to pass two new of records in history. It marked the end of what would be the shortest Papal reign in history, and it also marked the end of probably the shortest and earliest smoking bans in history. Giovanni Battista Castagna, before taking his more street-friendly rap name of Pope Urban VII, was the shortest serving pope in history, having the job a mere 13 days in total, from his appointment on the 15th of September 1590 until his death due to malaria 424 years ago today. A man of considerable esteem and renown for his piety and learning, his sudden death was no doubt considered as sad to his subjects as his appointment to Pope was jubilant- in only his short stay as the moderator of the Vatican and Catholic faith he achieved a lot, especially considered he was stuck down with the illness that would kill him on a couple of days after being appointed. One of his first acts was “to have a list made of all the poor in Rome that he might alleviate their needs”, not an easy task considering the population of Rome would have been roughly 90,000 at the time. After what probably amounted to a heck of a lot of list-related writers cramp, he ordered the bakers of Rome to make “larger loaves of bread and sell them cheaper”, mitigating their losses out of his own purse. Not done with his campaign of poverty-busting, he instigated the construction of public works around the city of Rome to provide jobs to those who didn’t have any. A strong opponent of nepotism, he forbade relatives from getting jobs in the curia (Roman courts and assemblies), paid off debts owed by the papacy and raised the wages of cardinals who received insufficient pay all out of his own pocket. Possibly the most progressive and modern order set down by our short-stay Pope however, was a ban on a pastime that had come to take over 16th century Europe. According to Jack E. Henningfield’s book An Old-Fashioned Addiction, Urban takes the number one spot for:

“the world’s first known public smoking ban in 1590, as [Pope Urban] threatened to excommunicate anyone who ‘took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe, or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose’

Continue reading

Referendum 2014: Undecided Independence

United_Kingdom_Flag_Specifications.svg

The home stretch is upon us! 18/09/2014- a  date that shall live in infamy- the United Kingdom was suddenly and deliberately voted upon by YES and NO forces of Scotland. Yes, it’s now 2 days until the big decision. If we vote YES, come October negotiations start between the Scottish and UK governments, Scottish Independence Day will arrive on the 24th of March 2016, and on May 5th the Independent Scottish General Election will take place, cementing a place in the history books forever. If we vote NO, Cross party talks will commence on greater powers in Hollyrood, April 1st will see the Scotland Act 2012 come in, giving extra Tax raising powers to the Scottish Parliament and come May 7th, the General election occurs, with Scotland voting on it as part of the union.

So! A lot to take in huh? A lot of unknowns, a lot of promises and claims on both sides. Walking through the streets of most cities and towns there seems to be a strange air hanging over the country, with independence in every conversation, campaigners on every street, claims and promises printed on every leaflet, flier and poster. I can’t say with certainty if it’s an air of excitement or one of fear, but I somehow imagine it’s probably a 51/49% split depending on which you poll you look at. It’s very strange how quickly we’ve gone from a people who so often would joke about those getting too involved in politics, a certain grumpy pride in not getting overly passionate, serious or patriotic about such affairs, to a country bubbling like revolutionary Revolutionary Catalonia in the 1930s. It’s certainly great to see, certainly, in a time when voter turnout rates were plummeting across the board (and in true hipster style I do often wonder where half these people complaining about representation were in 2011, when the pathetic turnout for the Scottish Elections was barely 50% and the winning party only received 45% of that), people becoming interested and passionate about politics again is very encouraging. My hope at least is that this same passion sticks with us no matter which way we vote, but I can already feel the discontent and disillusionment with a vast majority of campaigners if their referendum horse happens to come in last. It with this in mind, and a horrible feeling I’m going to be bombarded with campaigning and articles to read, I have to admit I still haven’t decided what to vote.

Continue reading

Henry H. Bliss & Mary Ward: The Unlucky Automotive Firsts

FATALLY HURT BY AUTOMOBILE

Vehicle Carrying the Son of ex-Mayor Edson Ran Over H. H. Bliss, Who Was Alighting from a Trolley Car

The New York Times, September 14th 1899
Henry_hale_bliss_1873

Grand Theft Auto: 1899

So blazed the headlines of The New York Times 115 years ago today in their report that marked a grisly first in American automotive history. On September 14th 1899 68-year-old Henry Hale Bliss, a real estate dealer living in New York City (234 West Seventy Firth Street to be precise, but his original residence no longer exists) became the first man in the Americas to die from his injuries caused by being struck down by an automobile. By the end of the 19th century the automobile was becoming an increasingly common sight on the streets of Cities in the western world, and patents for steam, combustion and electric vehicles were being registered since the early to mid-1800s.  State of Wisconsin in 1875 had offered a $10,000 award to the first individual that could produce a practical substitute for the use of horses and other animals (incidentally leading in 1878 to the first automotive race in America, in which five of the seven entries failed to start and the winner completed the 200 mile course in a time of 33 hours after the only other completer also broke down. More successful than perhaps the first automotive race, in which only one vehicle competed.)

Continue reading