Tips & Stories

How Cartoonist Matt Madden Creates Comics and Teaches Classes with Evernote

Posted by Matt Madden on 13 Feb 2012

Posted by Matt Madden on 13 Feb 2012

  Name: Matt Madden
Location: New York
Profession: Cartoonist, speaker, author, teacher
Twitter: @mmaddencomics



Matt Madden is a cartoonist whose works have been published by small and large publishers. Matt also teaches comics at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and gives talks around the country and abroad. He and his wife Jessica Abel (also a cartoonist) are series editors of the Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and their second textbook on comics, Mastering Comics (:01 First Second Books) will be out in May. Evernote is Matt’s go-to tool for conceptualizing and creating his comics, as well as his teaching assistant.

I use Evernote, Everywhere

  • Mac
  • Web Clipper (Chrome, Firefox)
  • iPhone
  • iPad

I use Evernote for…

As a cartoonist and educator, I have to organize my creative work, teaching and projects that I work on with my wife, Jessica. Keeping track of everything I’m working on is an ongoing project in and of itself. Evernote has become my project hub. In Evernote, each project is contained and viewable.

Evernote for gathering story ideas, organizing my comics and more

Before Evernote, I had sketchbooks, manilla folders and boxes where I kept all of my notes and sketches. Now, I have a centralized place to collect all of my ideas, drawings, and more. Here’s a glimpse into how I organize my creative life in Evernote:

  • Everything I care about goes into Evernote. 90% of what comes into Evernote is related to comics. I save story ideas, reviews, blog posts, random thoughts about artists I like, comics I’ve downloaded or clipped off the Internet, etc. into Evernote.
  • I save jpegs of my work in Evernote for easy reference. In Evernote, these images almost look like a slideshow version of any given comic. It’s a great way to have easy access to works-in-progress.
  • I still sketch on paper, but I save my sketches digitally. I scan or take pictures of notes and doodles from various sketchbooks and save them all to Evernote so that they’re centralized and accessible to me anywhere.
  • I’m diligent about tagging my notes. One thing I use tags for is to catalog notes using more esoteric or abstract categories. I have tags like “memories,” “observations,” or “notions” that help me keep track of all the random creative material I come across every day.
  • I review my Evernote weekly. Every week, I go through my Evernote account to clean up recent notes, add tags, assign notes to notebooks, etc. I have a few tags that help me here, such as “read/review,” “reminders,” and “temporary.”
  • I have a notebook called Matt Projects ACTIVE. This is where I keep all my notes about short-term and long-term plans for creating and publishing comics. These notes include sketches and status reports on comics-in-progress, lists of books I want to collect and publish, older books I want to reprint in coming years, as well as notes from meetings with my agent and publishers.

I’d love to go through all my old sketchbooks and scan or take snapshots of all of my useable materials so that I can always go to Evernote to see what stories I could re-use and drawings that haven’t been utilized yet.

Evernote for collaboration

Since my wife and I often work on projects together, we use Evernote to collaborate. For example, we are the series editors of the annual Best American Comics, and the job involves tracking down and reading every comic published in the U.S. and Canada, every year. We have a Shared Notebook where we can both make notes on things we’ve heard about. There are lots of top 10 lists that come out every year, and we save them into this Shared Notebook. [Learn about sharing from Evernote]

When it comes time to make our choices for what to include in the book, we can review all of our notes in Evernote. We also keep a list of contributors, drafts of forwards we’ve written and notes for future ones, information about our contacts, workflow documents to help us keep track of the complicated project, and more, all in Evernote. Evernote helps us manage a vast amount of information and stay on top of what we need to deliver to our editors and production team.

Evernote for teaching at the university level

I first started using Evernote as a convenient way to have notes for workshops that I teach. When I’m asked to give a workshop or lecture, I make a new note with a syllabus for that event. I can often look up related workshops I’ve done and adapt material I’ve already worked on. These days I use Evernote in a number of ways to help me manage my teaching work. I keep all of the syllabi from classes and also use Evernote to capture notes around things I’d like to do in the future.

  • I save articles by writers that have influenced me, podcasts, and general ideas for doing different kinds of creative projects.
  • I show Evernote to my students as a way to organizes ideas and story notes. I teach undergrad and adult education classes and I’ve noticed that my students are always really interested in learning more about my process.
  • I have a Shared Notebook with my drawing students. I copy weekly assignments, videos and various articles to it so that all of my students are able to access them. [Learn about sharing from Evernote]
  • I travel a lot for workshops and speaking engagements, so I email notes to my Evernote account to review on the plane. [Learn how to email to Evernote]

Among my creative work, teaching and personal life (Evernote is our family’s recipe archive), Evernote has truly become an indispensable part of my life.


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37 Comments RSS

  • Astral Projection

    Awesome man 🙂

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  • Matt Madden

    Good timing: there’s also a feature on my and my wife Jessica in Publishers Weekly this week!

  • james knowles


    I had the idea that the Agamemnon Redux play might be interpreted in comic book form…

    How would we do that?

    Evernote for new ideas I have had.
    Posing questions… keeping them before my very eyes.

  • Ladyurbain

    Thanks for sharing. You got my Evernote juices flowing!

  • Millermatic 180

    I had the idea that the Agamemnon Redux play might be interpreted in comic book form…

    How would we do that?

    Evernote for new ideas I have had.
    Posing questions… keeping them before my very eyes.

    • Erik Bremer

      Have you read james knowles contribution five days earlier?

  • Alfred Lui

    A great talent paired with a great service. Impressive.

  • Thom

    I’m also an illustrator (and architect) who uses Evernote as a repository for story material and references. I save photo refs, story concepts, chunks of text, etc to my Evernote library for easy retrieval and to accompany my Google Docs text and spreadsheet material used on my books. I also frequently capture verbal notes and ideas while commuting (on the bicycle, I can send my recorded notes to my evernote email)…

    • Fred Quinn

      Thom: I am fascinated by your use of Evernote in your work. Could you give a little more detail on
      how you use it in your architectural work?Thank you,
      Fred Quinn, Univ. of Oklahoma, 1955

  • Jay

    Enjoyed reading your evernote story. i learned some things. thank you

  • Patrick

    Love Evernote. Interesting article. Just out of curiosity, I’d love to hear a thought as to why you’d ever email a note to Evernote. With Evernote on my iPhone, iPad, desktop and laptop, if I’m using a device I can email from, I can (more easily) just add a note directly. Can’t imagine a scenario in which I’d email a note.

    • Cindy Baker

      One application for me is if I receive an email with contents I need to either reference or take action on, I forward it from my email to Evernote.

  • John Storey

    Hi Matt, that’s given me some great ideas. Is there a drawing Ap you can recommend to use with evernote?

  • Shayne Cuffy

    Thanks, really good tips.

    I’ll start using more for marketing examples i find everywhere.


  • Max Daniels

    Can’t believe I never thought of multiple notebooks. Duh! and THANK YOU, Matt!

  • Julia

    I also teach (writing, performance ) and love the idea of a shared notebook with students. Evernote has been invaluable for documenting written practices created for yoga clients and cllient session notes (I wear many hats). Love Evernote!

  • Stephen Jeske

    I use evernote extensively for keeping track of subject matter for my articles. Thanks for the tips about reviewing your evernotes weekly (something I really have to do!) The emailing tip is useful too. Didn’t realize we could do this.

  • Elizabeth

    Thanks for the great overview. I just started using evernotes this week.

  • Keni Arts

    I agree Matt that Evernote is a great creative tool. I am a visual artist, but doing more writing now. Evernote has been very handy for saving ideas that come to me frequently. I like the way Matt uses Evernote for sequential art.

  • ECCKruishoutem

    Inspiring blogpost for all cartoonists. Thanks for sharing, we spread the word on Facebook and twitter

  • zuhair25

    I first downloaded Evernote on my Android phone. And now I will try on my laptop to share my notes. I liked Matt’s story and ideas. Thanks.



  • Dailey

    Very inspirational. I love evernote more and more the better I get at utilizing it. How do you save podcasts to evernote?

  • Ron Seay

    Thanks for sharing how you use evernote! I am a user and want to see more examples of how others use the tool to be more effective.

  • Marie Chan

    I never knew you can do so much with Evernote!
    I saw that Thom can record notes to evernote email. Can someone explain how to do it? Thanks!

  • Gray Goodwin

    To Patrick,
    I use the Ipad as my ‘everything repository’ so i dont have to take docs and notes. my PA sends important docs I need to my Evernote each day (also others) so I always have them available without me having to go thru the mountain of email to find the ‘good bits’

  • Ellen Moore

    Love the idea of doing this! Trying to get better every day with it. Is anyone worried that if the “cloud” disappears, all your stuff will be gone? Am I just that paranoid? 🙂

  • Juan Boscán

    Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. Very useful and inspiring.

  • Butch M. Sarma

    Matt, great post and thanks for sharing! I also use Evernote for work and my classes. Many thanks for the tips and ideas on sharing!

    Butch M. Sarma

  • Matt Madden

    Thanks so much for the comments, everyone! I’ll try to answer a few questions…

  • Matt Madden

    @Patrick on e-mail to Evernote, Cindy’s reply to you is basically the answer. I forward or Bcc: emails into Evernote more and more. Since I do a lot of speaking and workshops around the country (and even abroad), I find Evernote a great way to keep track of all my itineraries, receipts, and correspondence with my various contacts. I also e-mail correspondence related to teaching, stuff I might want to refer to or re-use later.

  • Matt Madden

    @Karen Where to start? It doesn’t matter as long as you just dive in and do it! One suggestion: try making a few notes with lists: a list of projects you’d like to do; a list of your favorite recipes, a list of gifts you’d like to buy or receive.

    I took to Evernote right away but some people need to approach it a few times before they find the way to make it work for them. It’s very flexible in how you can use it.

  • Matt Madden

    @Dailey There are a number of ways to save podcasts. If I have a downloaded mp3 I’ll just drag it into a new note (or just onto to the Evernote app icon, it will automatically make a new note for it). The other thing you can do is go to the web page dedicated to that particular episode and clip it to Evernote. This is the best way to do it I think because you also save the summary and any photos or links.
    When I’m being particularly productive I will also type a few remarks at the top of the note–whatever it is that I want to remember from that episode.

  • Matt Madden

    @Ellen Moore maybe someone from Evernote can answer more authoritatively but I believe that if you have the desktop version, all the notes are saved/backed up there, too (or if you save “offline notebooks” on your smartphone or tablet).

  • Vajaah

    I love Evernote and this article has absolutely inspired me to dive deeper. I’ve been trying to pitch the usage to Pastor’s so that they can keep track of sermon ideas and illustrations. Love it. Love it. Love it.

  • Debra Andrews

    Hi I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your article. I have had evernote on my phone and pc for a couple of months now. I am still pretty confused but I like the idea that I can share notes between the pc and the phone. I am still figureing it out though. I am hopeing that it will help me with my writing as I get inspirational at times that are not convenient for pen and paper. It would be nice to use evernote to save some of those thoughts and ideas instead of forgetting and trying to recreate. I baught the evernote guide and also the videos and am looking forward to learning as much as I can about evernote, because I can deffinately see where it will be an aset in my life. I love to be organized. Thank-you for puting in your time to inform others.

  • Jennifer Rodgers

    Matt, Thank you for sharing how you use Evernote as a creative teaching tool. As a high school art teacher, I am fairly new to it, about 2 months. But it’s a great place to save lesson ideas, artists as inspiration, etc. I never thought of putting course syllabus & related documents on it!? Guess I should create a notebook for each course a I teach? It is inspiring to learn about how you’ve used it so successful to organize the deluge of information and creations us artists have to manage.

    My high school seniors often have to submit digital portfolios of their artwork for college admissions. I see Evernote as a way I might teach them to create such a portfolio. Thanks again!