agenda by The Editors

reading time 7 minutes

We are living in unprecedented times. Instability. Uncertainty. Unsure of what comes next. Yet, cultivating resilience and facing the unknown is something artists have been doing for centuries. They learn to be comfortable in discomfort. They are devoted to a lifelong commitment to questioning, failure and discovery.  The work is never finished. The meaning is never fixed. It evolves as history changes. Whatever their quest; for justice, for healing or even simply for beauty, every artist is on their own unique and nuanced journey.

Moleskine Studio is a collaboration with six visionary artists imprinting the energy of the artist’s studio into a collection of notebooks which create space for ideas, self-expression and feeding your imagination. Here, we discover more about their creative process, philosophy and inspiration.

Olimpia Zagnoli


“I was one of those kids who would always draw. On the floor, on the train, in my bedroom and at the seaside. When I didn’t have a pencil or a pen, I would use a stick to draw on the sand. I love drawing. It’s a malleable medium that can expand the ways people look at reality and simplify limitless concepts. Every artist has a different voice which is the sum of their experiences, references, the world they are immersed in.  I didn’t look for a specific style that would make me recognisable. I looked for a language that felt honest. As we change a little bit every day, this language is always changing too.


I try to be honest with my vision, respect it and protect it as much as I can. I spend most of my time trying to avoid things I don’t like to do, as a method of preserving my creativity long term. Instead, I try to concentrate on things I enjoy. I can spend hours searching for the right colour, reading great books, drawing a million faces while talking on the phone, sketching while sitting in a museum. I’ve always tried to tune in and follow my instinct. Creativity is a tool that everyone has, and it’s too often neglected. It’s vital to facilitate our relationship with both ourselves and the world around us.”

Yukai Du


“I was born and raised in Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in China. Typical of Chinese education, from a young age, I was sent to learn everything from piano to drawing, dance to martial arts. Gradually, I gave up everything but drawing. I’ve always found it joyful and calming. Creativity makes everyone unique. It’s a medium for us to express ourselves and make personal marks describing our experiences and emotions.  The human brain is beautiful and complex, allowing us to process and recreate the world in our vision. I like my work to be read in many different ways and for my audience to have their unique interpretation. It could be as simple as visual eye candy or trigger a meaningful dose of inspiration.


I’ve witnessed enormous changes in China during my lifetime. It’s a fast-moving and competitive place; this energy has always made me push myself to achieve more. My work focuses on ideas around modern life and the relationship between humans and our environment. I find real beauty in the power of translating complex and abstract topics through my visual language.”

Jon Koko


“I grew up in Malmö in southern Sweden. Located by the ocean, the climate is mostly cold and cloudy with a muted light. The city has a beautiful panoramic view of the sea, the coastline, boats and birds, and when it’s warm, people will be in the water swimming until midnight. For me, these landscapes, colours and moods have always had a significant impact on my work.


New ideas come to me randomly. Often when I feel calm, or when I’m observing interesting environments. Sceneries and spaces have always been important to me. They trigger my imagination and ideas begin to flow. Sometimes I need to slow down and be calm to get a clear view of a concept, and occasionally I travel to inform and unlock ideas for my work. I will then make a simple sketch or write down the idea in my sketchbook and put it away for some time. If I like the idea later, when I rediscover it, I explore it further. I want to create artworks that can evoke some kind of pleasure and a longing for something beyond the ordinary.”

Yellena James


“I grew up in Sarajevo, Bosnia. I’ve been drawing and painting since I was tiny, and I was always very interested in creating things. I learned that attention to detail is essential and that you can get better at something if you practice hard enough. I would spend hours making things. I went to art school in Sarajevo during the civil war, and art-making was critical for me at that time. It kept me going. It kept me focused, and it gave me a direction when I really needed one.

I draw inspiration from so many things, both real and abstract. I’m interested in creating something new and alien rather than imitating stuff around me. Natural forces and unseen worlds inspire me. I revel in imagining new interactions in self-sufficient ecosystems where everything fits perfectly together. I’m interested in creating new living elements that are familiar yet exotic.


I don’t plan my drawings. I start with one element and then build around it, never knowing what the final result will be. I feel my way through the piece, focusing on atmosphere, energy and emotion, with a lot of thinking in between. I have enormous respect and admiration for people who work hard at their craft. I think every artist should put the hours in and truly learn about art because it does show in the work. I feel creative minds must create. Find a space for artistic vision and bring it to life. Whether it’s something that inspires, functions, exalts or rejoices; a creative should create.”


Dinara Mirtalipova
“I do what I love, and I do it so passionately. Art is very personal. I don’t believe in proportions in art. It’s not about the accuracy or precision of the subject you are painting; it is all about how it makes you feel. I enjoy seeing how a painting evolves in its own time, how it starts as one thing and ends in an unexpected place.

I was born and raised during the Soviet Era in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It is located in Central Asia, and culturally it has been influenced by so many surrounding cultures from Imperial Russia and China and the Silk Road to the Ottoman Empire and Persia. All the women in my family were artsy. It wasn’t considered a talent, but rather a norm. Growing up, I never considered myself an artist. I enjoyed drawing and doodling, that was my comfort zone, but I studied computer science and programming languages. As I got older and began experimenting with different techniques and mediums, I realised it was more than a hobby.


Inspiration surrounds us. It’s in everything from nature and folklore to nostalgia and dreams about the future. I love books and films about historical battles, mythical creatures and kings and queens. I love to travel and experience new places, try new food and listen to great music. I celebrate cultural differences, and I think this shows through my paintbrush.

I have always been an advocate for folk art. Most folk artists are not professional artists; they simply love to paint. I’ve met many people who don’t consider themselves artists simply because they are amateurs and don’t have an art degree. I always encourage people of all ages to try art, and if it brings joy to their heart – they can call themselves true artists.”

Sonia Alins


“I have always drawn since I was a child. It is flexible, quick and perfect for me to express my feelings, desires, worries or nightmares. I draw fast and always directly from my mind. It’s a powerful and alluring sensation, and I love it. For me, creativity is a way to channel and express a dreamlike inner world of feelings, thoughts and life experiences. It’s an opportunity for constant creative experimentation. Where playing and trying new things is key.

Achieving my style has been a process similar to putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The work of every artist acquires a language and aesthetics of its own, but it always shows traces of other artists. In my case, there is a group that I consider the “earlier”. Goya, Picasso, El Bosco and Klimt. Surrealism and Symbolism are also important. During recent years, I have felt mesmerised by artworks by Yves Klein and Miquel Barcelo, which represent the sea and other aquatic landscapes. I have also felt caught by Francesca Woodman’s photos and her surreal and mysterious vision of reality, Joseph Cornell’s box-shaped collages and Jaume Plensa’s sculptures.

I love to experiment and play with materials, especially mixing and transforming them to give them a purpose which is new and unexpected. For me, this is intuitive and leads to new and different artistic results. In many ways, my destiny was to build a creative career.”

ONE black notebook, SIX creative visions. Browse the Moleskine Studio collection and choose a notebook for every project. Available here.

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