I can borrow a pen from a waitress to mark up a paper place mat or the nubbin of a pencil and some scrap paper and be satisfied doing my thing. The results need not be frame worthy or even worth saving (after seven years, having moved my long term studio, I am now of the mind that i need not save every single foot, hand etc woodshedding sketch that I do). The pay off has become the process.
Although I no longer feel the need to save every bit of visual minutia that I birth, ego does demand it still look good, even knowing that some of it is mere exercise destined for the barrel.
I like to challenge myself by trading off what equipment i use, even for mere woodshedding, every few days. The (proven to me at least) theory behind this is that, regardless of what equipment I have on hand, I will be able to make something worth while as I am not rigidly dependent upon specific things to create.
Even with my flexibility, I feel out of sorts and naked were I to leave home without at least my trusty pocket pad on hand. I travel with various amounts of equipment and sized paper, the specifics being dictated by location and length of stay.
The constant is always my pocket pad. Called “The Passport” on account of its size, it is from Midori. Before seeing one in person, there had been a huge push on some of the sites i interact with, especially Flicker. There were beautiful photos of these notebooks sitting on a well turned out desk next to some great fountain pens and other accoutrements. Or on a bedside table at the Ritz by a pocket watch, brass Art Deco key chain and cigar cutter.
In each case, the photos made me want not just the notebook but most of the things in the photo.
I have no idea if they were the first to come up with it but Midori notebooks used The Midori system. They were refillable, and highly customizable. You could get all kinds of extra sleeves, charms, pockets and all kinds of other things not all of which are necessarily practical if, like me you are going to constantly be using it off and on throughout the day.
They come in two sizes, the traveler (6x 4.4x 0.09) and the passport (3.86x 5.28). I got the passport. Upon initially looking at it, I was far from enamored. The paper it came with was too thin for sketching and was not easy to get at the time nor cheap for someone who could easily go through at least a pad a week sketching.
However, the system itself was clever. It was a leather square folded in half with a slit at the halfway mark. Going down this slit was a thin elastic permanently held in place by a lead disc which has become a recognizable part of the midori aesthetic. There is also a smaller elastic loop pushed through one side of the cover held in place by a knot. This loops around the book to hold it closed. Midori offers these elastics in all kinds of colors now.
The center elastic slips over the center page of the book where the staples are. You can add as many books as you want by pressing covers back to back and putting standard elastic through the center page.
As much as I thought that the actual notebooks looked far nicer in the photos and the paper was not a good match for me, I did like the system. I made my own booklets to slip into the cover, usually grouping them together in threes.
Midori offered among other things, plastic zipper pouches. They are attached the same way as you would a booklet. I go three booklets with one zipper pouch containing a bunch of pencil blenders and tiny Blackingwing eraser along with one extra elastic in case one ever breaks.
No matter where I have been in the world, at the end of the day my Midori has been in my pocket or resting at night by my bedside table. It gives me an odd comfort but also inspiration.
I have large collection now of pocket pads and while the midori is not the nicest nor any longer the easiest (I have many now where pad slides into covers and also lays far flatter than the midori which forever wants to close even as I use it) I would feel strange not having it on me even were I to have another pad too.
The Place Maubert market in Paris. There are great kiosks selling all kinds of foods. The scents of spices and meats takes one away to places even further afield than being there. Also to be found are small tables selling everything from typical flea market junk , to shirts and pullovers in Breton Sailor style. Wedged between tables of cheeses being kept fresh by straw and pastries made from honey and rosewater are artisan tables.
This year I met a man who handmade leather journals. He did it all using old school hand tools. The styles wildly varied, some of it clearly aimed at the tourists. Regardless of size, they all snapped shut and the blank pads slipped into the cover/holder. The paper it came with is surprisingly nice, blank booklets.
We chatted a little. I showed him my little Midori. He pinched the leather cover between thumb and index finger and while he maintained politeness he also seemed to feel sorry for me. I fought the defensive urge to tell him of my large collection.
One part of his table was full of comparably sized notepad. Being handmade, they were surprisingly inexpensive. He threw an extra blank pad in my bag.
Although it is a different manner of holding the paper than my midori, I was able to use a similar trick, slipping elastic in middle, to have this new pad hold one of midori zipper pouches. Seemingly this gives me the best of both worlds but I do not see myself retiring the midori ever completely as he has been too good a friend, having seen everything without shock nor complaint.