Category: feature

Giveaway: Denik Notebooks

Denik Love Sketchbook

Last week, I did an epic review of the Denik notebooks and I’ve been using the Denik Sketchbook for my Inktober challenge as well.

The kind folks at Denik have 10 notebooks for me to give away so you can have a chance to try them out yourselves.


THE RULES: Leave a comment below and tell me which Denik notebooks covers above is your favorite. Those are the ones you have the chance to win. One entry per person.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, October 24, 2016. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Your email address will be forwarded to Denik who will handle the shipping. The giveaway will be open to US residents only.

Thanks to Denik for sending these the notebooks and giving all my readers a chance to try them too. Be sure to check out all their notebooks and sketchbooks.

15 Things to Do with An Empty Sketchbook

I got to thinking, with Inktober here and a whole pile of empty sketchbooks staring at me, I thought I’d compile a list of ideas to help you fill up one or more of those many empty sketchbooks you might have as well.


I wrote about important people in my life and drew their shoes for Uppercase Magazine! So much fun.

A photo posted by juliarothman (@juliarothman) on

  • Illustrate your favorite recipes (inspired by They Draw And Cook)
  • Draw your outfit, maybe what you’re wearing today, or your favorite outfit or what your kids are wearing. Document your shoe, bag or jewelry collection with notes about the who, whats and whys of the items. (Originally inspired by Julia Rothman’s Kind Soles piece that appeared in Uppercase Magazine #16)
  • Are you an avid reader or music collector? Draw the covers of your favorite books or albums or illustrate scenes based on the stories or lyrics. (inspired by the book, My Ideal Bookshelf)
  • Alphabet project: “A is for ….” This is another idea inspired by Uppercase Magazine. Each issue they do a themed alphabet around their issue theme and provide a word for each letter of the alphabet to that theme, like ceramics, stitchery, pattern & decoration and so forth. Then they provide a definition or visual representation of each term in the alphabet. For example in the Pattern & Decoration issue #21, “C is for Calico” and “W is for William Morris”. For whatever subject you have a particular interest in, you could do an alphabet project and try to think up terms, people or elements and illustrate each of them. In some cases you might have many to choose from and could do more than one.
  • Speaking of pattern: why not turn a sketchbook into a pattern book? Geometrics, repeating, linear, nonlinear, one-color, multi-color, representational, natural, textural… so many to choose from! Check out Uppercase Magazine Issue #21 (now sold out but the Surface Design Guide will be included in the upcoming issue #32), or artists like Lotta Jansdotter, Orla Kiely, Marimekko to get started with pattern design.
  • Attend figure drawing events, or other activities that allow you the opportunity to regularly draw from life be it your local coffee shop, your kids’ playground playdate or your long-suffering partner, pet or child enduring being the subject of yet another portrait drawing. Dedicate one sketchbook or notebook for this purpose. (Inspired by Ladies Drawing Night, Hallmark’s Noon Sketch Group and Roz Stendahl)
  • Collage. If the paper in a particular sketchbook or noteook is not sturdy enough for your favorite drawing or painting materials, use the book to collage in scraps of found materials like labels, stickers, menus, ticket stubs and other ephemera. Gesso the pages to add strength and let the book become a waffle-paged beast. Create an artist’s journal that documents your life events through drawings, photos and ephemera. (Inspired by Make Your Own Ideabook with Arne & Carlos: Create Handmade Art Journals and Bound Keepsakes to Store Inspiration and Memories)
  • Draw your breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or coffee. (inspired by Danny Gregory and Liz Steel)
  • Lettering practice. Sounds simple but using one book for a 15-minute-a-day practice doing lettering drills, writing a quote, the #rockyourhandwritingchallenge or some other specific task will help improve your lettering skills.
  • Dedicate one sketchbook to be your color key. Use this book to test, document and list all the pens, pencils, paints, inks and other art materials your own. Figure out which colors and brands you like, you think mix or blend well and keep them all in one book to use as your giant reference guide. Be sure this book is one with your favorite type of paper and has lots of pages as you will want to continue to update and reference it. A good rule of thumb is to use one side of the book to do swatch tests and then the other side to do a drawing with the materials to see how they perform in “real world” tests. (inspired by Jane Davenport)
  • Draw from old photographs. Go through your family photos or visit the local antique shops or thrift stores and use the old photos as points of reference for your drawings. (inspired by Maira Kalman’s book Girls Standing on Lawns)
  • Draw what you’re watching on television. Or YouTube. If you can’t get out to draw from life, draw the folks on TV. They can be just as interesting. And you can pause them mid-expression. Or rewind. Talking heads from newscast, vlogs or political debates are great for this.
  • While we are on the subject of television, why not draw some of your favorite characters from your favorite shows or movies? There have been lots of wonderful fan art circulating recently from Netflix’s Stranger Things and there’s always a plethora of Star Wars fan art. Embrace your inner geek and draw your favorite scenes from your favorite shows or movies, or create new scenarios. Didn’t like the ending of LOST, fix it. What’ really happened at the end of X-Files? You can draw it.
  • Document the news in illustrations. Be it good or bad, use your drawing skills to capture the moments in time.
  • Collaborative Sketchbook: You can create a shared sketchbook between a friend or loved one be it one other person or a group of people or a whole heap of strangers. (inspired by , Dana Barbieri and Anne Butera from Uppercase Magazine #29 and

But really though, what about Barb? . . . . . . #strangerthings #barb #illustration

A photo posted by Mariya Pilipenko (@mariya.pilipenko) on

Need more ideas? Check out the book Playing With Sketches: 50 Creative Exercises for Designers and Artists.

Do you have ideas for things to do with sketchbooks that are piling up? Please leave your ideas in the comments!


A New Perspective on the Facebook Office

Art and communal space

After I wrote my post on the new Facebook office spaces, my friend Andy made me put my money where my mouth was and invited me to Facebook to tour the offices for myself. Since that was one of my most commented upon posts I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the campus for myself.

@awelfle shows me how to find my way around Facebook on the touchscreen. I can find his desk, the Sweet Shop or the Instagram offices now.

Alan Turing Art from Dominos

Was the campus overwhelmingly large? Yes. So much so that there are shuttle buses and bicycles to get people from building to building. But is also filled with light and art and posters and a sense of play. It was also a lot quieter than I expected it to be. People were very respectful of the open seating and kept their voices down in the open areas. They used the closed conference rooms and outdoor areas, the coffee shops and other communal areas for conversations. It was actually a very congenial environment and not at all what I was expecting.

Outside the Facebook coffeshop

There was so much art. And posters and graphics all pinned haphazardly to the walls which gave the space a casual vibe and made it feel partially like a college campus and partially like Disneyland for coders.

Even the stairs are artified

I also work in a large office with tons of cubicles and an ongoing attempt to have “open seating” despite the photo from the previous post, Facebook’s space actually has a warm comfortable vibe of a loft apartment rather than a corporate office that stripped all the walls out of the cubicles. Each employees space has personal touches that show their personality, some more than others, of course. Some folks work on large desktop machines while others work on laptops to be more mobile. Some people work on mobile apps and just wander around with their phone in their hands. What a way to function!

Outdoor area at Bldg 20

All in all, it was an inspiring day and I feel quite differently about the landscape, both inside and out, of the Facebook offices. And I’m supremely jealous that the weather is such in California that Facebook employees can essentially work outside in the roof garden 11 months out of the year. Makes me dread January in KC.

Rooftop gardens, Bldg 20

For even more photos, check out my full Facebook HQ album on Flickr. And yes, I’m eating my words a little now. At least they taste like asian noodle bowl and mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Laptop Bag Round-up: 15″ Edition

After multiple weeks of going into work on Saturdays and/or Sundays in an effort to catch-up on work, I finally broke down and requested a laptop for work. I’m giving up my trusty, giantess iMac 27″ that I’ve been using. I’ll miss the luxury of acres of screen real estate, but I’m hoping to reclaim a little bit more time at home.

Having a work laptop means seeking out a new carry-all bag that could fit a large 15″ MacBook Pro when needed. Thanks to the a shoutout on Twitter last week, I got lots of recommendations. If you’ve ever in the market for a laptop bag, I thought I’d share some of the recommendations I received. Many were recommended more than once, often with caveats of having withstood years of use and abuse and traveled hundred or thousands of miles. I was so glad to see that folks were so satisfied with their bags —  from so many different bags.


In no particular order:

  1. Cocoon SLIM Backpack with GRid IT Organization System $89.99 (via Cocoon)
  2. The Maker’s Bag which holds a 13″ laptop $130 (via Tom Bihn)
  3. Cote & Ciel Seine Bowler also only holds a 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  4. Waterfield Vitesse Messenger bag from $159 (via
  5. The Cadet $160 (via Tom Bihn)
  6. Inateck Carrying Case $19.99 (via Amazon)
  7. Cote & Ciel Moselle Backpack only holds 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  8. Uptown Laptop TSA-Friendly Backpack 2015 $119 (via Timbuk2)

I absolutely loved how unique and interesting the Cote & Ciel bags looked but the ones I liked the best were too small for the behemoth laptop sadly. And many of the bags large enough to truly hold a 15″ laptop for me were just too big (I’m only 5’4″) or too business-y looking for days when I might not need to schlep the laptop around. In the end, I had a nice chat with the folks at Tom Bihn who assured me that I could squash a 15″ laptop into The Maker’s Bag though it is not recommended. I just need to get it from the office to my car to my house and back — and usually just on the weekends so I’m willing to take my chances. (Just don’t tell my IT dept I said that!). So I placed my order this morning, before I hopped on a plane for SF. I also ordered their tool/pen wrap which can double as a DPN keeper (the knitters will know what that is!). How cool is that? So I think I’ll have a great EDC and can cram the behemoth laptop in when I need to.

Should I need to transport my laptop for a business trip I have an enormous Timbuk2 backpack that I bought for a trip to China a few years back that’s so big I could use it as a sleeping bag in a pinch.

Big shout out to everyone on Twitter who helped me on my hunt: Arman, Lee, Tindra, Ray, Calligraphy Nut, A Better Desk, Carmina, Dave, Jojo, Sandra, Ken, Brad and Daniel and even the folks at Tom Bihn!

DC Pen Show Goodies Round-Up & SF Pen Show Prep


I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to finally be able to write up the “haul” part of the DC Supershow post. I really didn’t buy a lot of stuff in DC. Amazingly, it was mostly inks and paper. I still came home with a ton of goodies!




Swag & Misc. Goodies:

  • Aurora Pocket Notebook
  • Aurora Pen Nib Paper Clip
  • MurberDraws Printed M&Ms
  • Fountain Pen Day Button
  • Fountain Pen Day Bookmark
  • Pen Addict Button
  • Music Note Tea Spoon Infuser

Not Pictured: Robert Oster Aqua Ink (I left it at work) that I bought from Federalist Pens and my Cross Century II Selectip Rollerball which was laser engraved with “The Well-Appointed Desk” by Goldspot Pens that took a walk at the KC Comic Con last week. It was a lovely shade of supersuit blue too.

Thanks to all my friends who brought me treats and goodies and everyone who brought treats and goodies to Brad, Lisa, Father Kyle and Matt as well which were graciously shared amongst us all throughout the weekend. The doughnuts were particularly amazing!

I’ve started the “packing” part for the San Francisco International Pen Show. It’s all happening so fast! I will be hopping on a jet plane (or two) on Thursday morning and heading to San Francisco for the SF Pen Show this weekend. I’ll be attending the Pen Addict Meetup on Friday Night (7-9pm) and helping out the Anderson Pens table on Saturday but this trip will be mostly leisurely. Since I’m working on Saturday, I’ll miss the Planner Meet-Up on Saturday afternoon so I hope someone attends and takes lots of pictures. I would love to see what everyone is using. Or at least, bring your planner, Traveler’s Notebook or Bullet Journal to the bar later so I can live vicariously later. I’ll be checking in with the Pen Addict Slack Pen Show thread so feel free to PM me there or earburn me if you’re looking for a doodle buddy at the bar.

I’m bringing what’s left of my red/blue pencils to SF, so if you would like one, find me at the Blogger Meet-Up on Friday and say “weirdo” to score one. I don’t have a ton left so find me early to get one.

On Sunday, Amanda McKay is hosting a letter writing social which sounds fun. And Michael Sull will be teaching Spencerian Script. If you have the time and the chance, take his classes. He’s amazing. You can find the whole seminar schedule here.

My shopping plans for SF are not extensive. There are a few vintage pens I’d like to look for and I’d like to play with the ink testing station. This year the ink testing station will have 686 inks to try! But mostly, I’m looking forward to meeting people and spending time with like minded people. It really does make the miles and the long hours or work that I put in worth it.

Leave a note in the comments if you’ll be at the show and let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to bring for you to check out.

Also, if you would like anything from my shop to be hand delivered place your order before Wednesday at 10pm CST and use the SFPICKUP for free shipping thanks to my luggage (fingers crossed that SWAir gets me and my bag to SF in a timely fashion).

PS: My suitcase will also be transporting other artistic awesomeness for the pen show so be prepared!

Some items were gifts. Other items were purchased with my own money. Links are provided to vendors where they were either purchased or from whom they were provided (when available) as a courtesy should you want to purchase them yourself. When I do more extensive reviews I will be more specific as to which items were purchased and which were gifts. Mostly, I just wanted to show all my fun stuff.

Happy Lefthanders Day!


Happy Lefthanders Day! I thought I’d celebrate this weekend with a few posts specific to left handers that I’ve had queued up for awhile. So, all you lefties out there, this weekend is for you! Whether you hook when you write (also called overwriting like President Obama, pictured below) or write from below the baseline in a more neutral hand position like previous US Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Yes! Five out of the last seven US Presidents were left-handed! Amazing.

U.S. President Barack Obama signs his first act as president, a proclamation, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)
U.S. President Barack Obama signs his first act as president, a proclamation, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)


One Book July: Halfway Point

One Book July Halfway

I have to admit that after more than two weeks of One Book July, I’m about to lose my mind. I already fell off the bandwagon by putting a pocket-sized Moleskine sketchbook in my purse so that I have a portable-sized notebook for jotting notes on the go.

So my first downside to One Book July is not  always having a book that fits in my bag or pocket.

One Book July Halfway

Then, there’s the issue of the whole Bullet Journaling system… its not been my strong suit. I have been planning several trips that are coming up in August and October. Normally, I’d write all the details down in my Filofax which I keep a whole year in the binder at a time. With a Bullet Journal, there’s the need to write and re-write things in sections like “Forward Planning” and a monthly list and then later in the weekly pages. With my Filofax, I only have to write it down once in the weekly page and maybe on the monthly pages if its an all-day event or something that extends several days. So, that’s the next issue I’ve faced – I miss my Filofax.

I don’t really like keeping my personal notes in the same book with my work notes either. I seldom need my work notes once I’ve gotten home. I do tend to think of things I want to do when I get home or over the weekend while I’m at work so I do tend to carry my personal notebook back and forth with me. So its been weird to try to keep all the notes in one notebook. I’ve ended up cheating and keeping a lot of work notes on 3x5s and sticky notes rather than in my notebook just so I don’t have to keep the notes in my One Book July. So, its another fail for me.

One Book July Halfway

I know I need to continue for another two weeks to be true to the One Book July challenge but I’m not sure I can handle the compromises for two more weeks. I know it sounds ridiculous to need more than one notebook to survive but I’m that OCD.

On the plus side, I really like the the Midori MD notebook ($16) I’ve been using. The paper quality i excellent and has held up to all the pens and pencils I’ve used with it. I purchased the plastic cover ($3.80) for it which has made it feel much more durable and provided pockets to stash loose paper and keep the cream paperboard cover from getting dirty. I will certainly continue to use the Midori MD notebooks in the future. It’s some of the best paper I’ve used yet if you don’t mind the ivory cream stock.

One Book July Halfway

I wonder if I had chosen a Traveler’s Notebook with multiple booklets, if that would have more easily fulfilled my need for work, personal and calendar needs as well as being able to pull out a booklet for portability sake? It’s something to consider for next year.