How This Artist/ Dad/ Teacher Works and Plays with Noteshelf

Chris Francis is one of our recent Best Note Taking Contest winners of a Bamboo Fineline stylus. He blogs at and at, a resource for art educators that provides lesson ideas, and playful reflections on creative teaching and learning. Read up on his work, hobbies and how he uses Noteshelf on a daily basis.

1.) Tell us your background.

I'm a Senior Leader at a secondary school in Bournemouth, a town on the south coast of England. (I can see the beach through my classroom window and seagulls are a daily hazard). I teach both art and photography - mostly to post 16 students - and witter happily about such things on my blog

I originally studied as an illustrator and worked freelance for 5 years in both the UK and Australia before getting a grown-up job. That said, I'll always be a doodler at heart.

2.) How did you discover Noteshelf?

I discovered Noteshelf through a process of trial and error - working my way through a variety of apps on a quest for something that felt right. For me that meant the feel of doodling with an ink pen - and at the drop of a hat - but without the mess. Mostly it means I can sit on the sofa and relax, feet up, no fear of ink spills. My wife is happy.

3.) What made you choose Noteshelf for your note taking needs? What kind of notes do you usually have in Noteshelf? 

I like the 'instantness' of Noteshelf. Other apps offer a wider selection of tools, but for me this can be a distraction. Spontaneity can be lost with increased decisions. Some apps also feel a little more intimidating with the blank canvas they offer, somehow Noteshelf feels more familiar, like a sketchbook. I'm also taken with the coloured markers. I've got my favourited colours and know my way around these quickly.

I've used Noteshelf for a variety of illustration commissions (including one of our recent publication) but mostly tend to share doodles of my 3 year old son, Dougie.

These were what I submitted to the competition. It's nice to keep a diary of some of his exploits and they often make their way around family members (and across Twitter). 

Images exported from Noteshelf are a decent resolution too, which is important to me. For example, I've just illustrated a 2016 calendar as a christmas present - a simple Dougie themed affair - but the print quality holds up really well. 

I initially worried about losing the 'tangibleness' of an actual sketchbook but now see that iPad drawing compliments this opening up different possibilities, not least the ability to copy, paste and transform sections of a drawing. I've got plenty of loosening up to do still - in terms of quality and flow of line - but I think Noteshelf has helped with this also. Flicking through my Noteshelf library I can see improvements from when I first started to now.

I do use the app for the day job too. I hook my iPad up to a digital projector and doodle away. it's handy to annotate images, unpick a composition, or demonstrate something like thumbnail sketching.

It always feels more playful - and generates more curiosity - than working directly on the whiteboard. Of course it's then easy to save resources or email them out too. So no getting away from those teacher notes!

4.) How would you recommend Noteshelf to a friend or colleague?

Amongst the busyness of work and family life, time to be creative can be in short supply. In many ways that's how I've ended up a fan of using Noteshelf, it is very accessible and it doesn't feel like a compromised drawing experience. I should probably broaden my subject matter but I suspect I'll be drawing the boy (pirate / monster / builder / fireman...) for a while yet!

Follow Chris on Twitter at @DevNicely and visit his websites at and at