Whitelines Link¬ģ fever

Warning – this is a very long post

The backstory

In our ‘goodies’ bag at the 2015 Urban Sketchers Singapore Symposium was a Leuchtturm 1917 + Whitelines Link ¬ģ¬†A5 notebook. It was cool. It had the Symposium logo and our names embossed on it – wow! embossed! our own names! It had thin grey paper inside with white marks on it – yeah whatever – and it had an orange bookmark and an orange elastic band for the cover (orange is my favourite colour). Then¬†I heard¬†that this book had something to do with an app and a really great prize for anyone who entered some¬†competition. I thought a big prize from Leuchtturm sounded great and all I had to do was figure out how to enter. Too easy!

Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines Link notebook

Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines Link notebook

It might of helped if I hadn’t been suffering from the lurgy that my partner caught on the plane and duly gave to me, things didn’t go smoothly. Firstly¬†I needed to upload the Whitelines app which could upload¬†the content of the book to any one of a number of digital platforms, none of which I used. Instagram was the easiest, I didn’t have it, but even with slow hotel wifi I managed to create an account, not to mention figure out yet another password. I was good to go. I knew that using this book required black pens …. that was about all I could remember. I even had a brilliant idea for the sketch, one based on thumbnail¬†I’d done earlier in the day. Now I just had to stay up another half an hour or so (it was already past 11.00pm) and finish the drawing. You can see that this exercise had failure¬†written all over it. It didn’t disappoint. I uploaded the test scribble with no problems. I did the drawing and finished – did I say half an hour – maybe three quarters of an hour later. It didn’t upload. I moved the book under the pallid overhead light it still didn’t upload. Nothing helped, nothing changed the fact that it didn’t upload. Several people tried to help the next day, but it didn’t upload. I put my book bag in my bag and pretty much forgot about it.

Present day and things have changed. I now understand how to use my book+app, it does work and it does upload. What changed? I¬†have finally read the instructions, in the full light of a sunny day (I will explain below) not to mention understood them. I’ve also been giving the book a bit of a workout. here’s my review.

The review

The first thing I’ll say is that this product was not designed with artists in mind, so how I use it is probably not¬†what the manufacturers envisaged, but that’s why I guess they gave it to us – to¬†see what we could do with the technology.

The¬†Leuchtturm 1917 + Whitelines Link is a notebook designed to let you take notes or draw diagrams, whatever on the specially prepared paper and upload it via the Whitelines Link app (available both for Apple and Android), to a variety of digital platforms. The paper is 80 gsm and the pages are pale grey, with a white box at each corner and a grid of dots or lines over the page (depending on which version you get). There are also three icons on the bottom of each page that, when ticked, allow you upload directly to email, Evernote or Dropbox. When you save a page to your device, you can¬†share it with any number of other apps or platforms, such as Instagram or open it in programs such as Photoshop. ¬†The point about the paper in the book is that when the Whitelines Link app ‘reads’ the page it translates that grey background into a perfect white page so your notes, doodles or drawings can be saved to your smartphone or chosen platform and be easily read. The book I have has 249 pages plus some¬†several content pages at the front of the book. The¬†Leuchtturm 1917 + Whitelines Link is also available in an A4+ and A6 size.

Obviously¬†this paper works well with pen and ink, that’s what it was designed for. It will also work with brush pens and other media, but, the upload may not be great for all media. So here is a¬†comparison between uploaded versus scanned images.

Comparison with the same drawing , scanned on the left and uploaded on the right. What hasn't uploaded well is the watercolour wash.

Comparison with the same drawing , scanned on the left and uploaded on the right. What hasn’t uploaded well is the watercolour wash.

So watercolour doesn’t upload well.¬†I have successfully uploaded images with dark blue ink and also images coloured with acrylic paint-markers. Below I’ve¬†tested several types of markers that I have in my kit.

Test with Posca paint markers

Test with Posca paint markers

Clearly the flat colours work well, the metallic silver does not. Likewise the app¬†didn’t pick up some of the grey Liquitex acrylic paint-markers I used, see below.

Liquitex acrylic paint marker test

Liquitex acrylic paint marker test

A final test with my Copic Sketch markers.

Copic Sketch marker test

Copic Sketch marker test

Looking at these again I think the Copic Sketch markers work quite well Рhowever because the paper is only thin the markers bleed right through the page making it impossible to use both sides as intended by the manufacturers.

An uploaded sketch using Noodlers Black ink and Liquitex paint markers

An uploaded sketch using Noodlers Black ink and Liquitex paint markers

Traps for unwary players

A quick summary of problems that I've encountered

A quick summary of problems that I’ve encountered

I said earlier¬†that I had problems trying to upload my first drawing, there was a good reason for that. I had completely failed to understand that¬†if you cover even one of the white boxes in the corner of each page then the app can’t ‘read’ the page. Remember that¬†first drawing¬†– being a good artist I drew right to the edge of the page, yep, right over every box. So no real surprises that the page didn’t upload.

That doesn’t detract from one of my major gripes about this book, that being so cool and ‘techie’ the makers failed to grasp that the majority of us can’t easily read white print on a pale grey page. This is fine for the actual pages, what it is not fine for is the instruction page! Thankfully I did keep the outer wrapper which I could read the instructions on.

Their instruction page on the left and the outer wrapper which did explain what was going on

Their instruction page on the left and the outer wrapper which did explain what was going on

Two other claims that I find less than accurate are that the thread bound book opens flat and that the pages are ink proof. I haven’t found that so far. Indeed one of the biggest issues I have with the uploading is precisely that there are shadows on the page, (see the image above), because the book doesn’t lie flat. I also haven’t found the pages to be ink proof. For the most part there is enough ‘show through’ that I have resigned myself to using one side of the page¬†only .

Where the manufacturers could provide better guidance is to the lighting requirements for uploading. In Australia direct sunlight is so strong that it makes it impossible for the boxes to be read. Indoor lighting, if uneven, causes shadows and it’s also very easy to cast a shadow that gets recorded when using your¬†device to upload the image.

The bottom line

I know I’ve highlighted some issues with this product and given you some¬†of negatives but I am using the book quite often. It is the uploading feature that makes this book worth persisting with. If you are a regular social media user or¬†you are travelling and want to carry minimal baggage then using this book in conjunction with your smartphone or tablet will ¬†save you hours of scanning or fiddling around trying to upload¬†images to yourself or to others.

Despite the lightweight nature of the paper, this book can take a light wash of watercolour – it won’t upload well, but that won’t necessarily stop me from using that medium in a sketch. If you like using markers then you can use them quite readily, but don’t expect any subtle passages to upload, go for bold flat graphic colour instead.¬†If you prefer to draw only with pen and black markers well then, you are the user this book is made for.

As for me? This book probably will not top my list for re-purchase, mainly because watercolour is the medium I like to work in and this book isn’t intended for that purpose. However should I become addicted to only using pen and ink then I would seriously consider buying this book.

But wait there’s more

Interested but not prepared to commit? The Whitelines Link people can give you a trial at using this paper without purchasing a whole book. You can download and print a sample page here.

Slow days on the river

Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus, watercolour and graphite pencil, 14 April 2015

Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), watercolour and graphite pencil, 14 April 2015

Part of the birthday celebrations, just past, included four days on a house boat on the lower portion of the Murray River, part of the largest river system in the country.
There was lots to draw including a wide range of bird life. The most obvious were the pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus), calmly paddling along the river and getting a very good feed, it seemed, at every turn. I made a variety of sketches during our trip trying to capture some of the variety of the bird’s actions I observed.

Pelicans, water soluble graphite, 15 April 2015

Pelicans, water soluble graphite, 15 April 2015

Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena) flew around the boat continuously capturing insects disturbed by our passing and cheekily roosting on the rails of the boat. We also saw lots of Australian Darters (Anhinga melanogaster) sitting, drying their wings, on convenient branches on the river margins. The darters lived up to their name with their necks twisting and swiveling to see what was happening in their vicinity.

A pelican, some welcome swallows and some darters, graphite and watercolour, 14 & 15 April 2015

A pelican, some welcome swallows and some darters, graphite and watercolour, 14 & 15 April 2015

Next post I’ll share with you some of the river scenery.

Seen on the street

There’s been a lot of activity in our area with workman replacing old terracotta sewage pipes with new high density plastic ones. As a result all sorts of trucks and trailers have been around.

This truck and trailer conveniently pulled up on my neighbours nature strip, (the bit out the front of the house where the footpath might go, but hers is just grass).

Truck and trailer, pen and ink Copic multiliner, acrylic marker pen and gouache, 17 February 2015

Truck and trailer, pen and ink Copic multiliner, acrylic marker pen and gouache, 17 February 2015

I used a whole stack of different media on this drawing. The pen and ink was a bit dark so I used white gouache to pick out some of the elements of the truck. I also added some acrylic marker for the colour elements. I’m continuing to use my bits of newsprint stuck to thin Japanese paper as a substrate. I’m not sure what problems this might cause for long term survival of the drawing, but since I’m ‘mucking around’ I’m not too concerned. I really like it as a background. I’ll give you the hot tip, the best pages to use turn out to be stock market reports, TV pages and the racing form-guide as these are about the only pages in the newspaper these days that don’t have photographs on them.

A day later I was driving home in the evening and spotted one of the mini-diggers parked next to our neighbour’s dinosaur (yes there are quite a few of them in our area). By the time I got organised the following morning and got back down the street to make a drawing, the digger driver was getting in the cab ready to drive off. I got two or three quick photos and one very quick sketch. The latter I do intend working up into a drawing, sometime. So in the end all I was left with was Rex so here he /she is (how do you know?)

The T-Rex down the road, pen and ink and ball point pen, 19 February 2015

The T-Rex down the road, pen and ink and ball point pen, 19 February 2015

Still catching up!

It's spring and the umbrellas are out again!, pen and ink and acrylic paint maker, 16 September 2014

It’s spring and the umbrellas are out again!, pen and ink and acrylic paint maker, 16 September 2014

In the final weeks before my show I’ve been drawing, but haven’t had time to post. In the main I’ve been taking my cafe breaks (and even fitting in the gym!) so I don’t injure myself with all the repetitive stitching that goes into my exhibition work. So here they are, several more weeks of cafe drawings.

The curbside at Biginelli's Cafe, pen and ink, 17 September 2014

The curbside at Biginelli’s Cafe, pen and ink, 17 September 2014

Back at Biginelli’s and drawing faster, just like Jo suggested!

At Biginelli's again, a week later, pen and ink, 24 September 2014

At Biginelli’s again, a week later, pen and ink, 24 September 2014

A not so quick drawing, mixing blind drawing and a more ‘observational’ approach.

The Italian Bakery, pen and ink, 20 September 2014

The Italian Bakery, pen and ink, 20 September 2014

I’m still working on drawing people. Strangely, to me at least, getting a rough idea of the hairstyle seems to help with the drawing.

Group sitting at the Italian Bakery, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 27 September 2014

Group sitting at the Italian Bakery, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 27 September 2014

Finished at last, a celebratory coffee with a passionfruit and polenta cake!

My Cafe at Manuka with umbrella and a man on the phone, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 1 October 2014

My Cafe at Manuka with umbrella and a man on the phone, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 1 October 2014

Three Sketches

Three sketches from the past week.

I borrowed my partner’s Rotring Tikky water proof pigment pen, 0.5 nib, to try it out with some watercolour. I like the line so I’ll probably get my own. There are several nib widths, both smaller and larger, so I might end up getting several.

Rotring pigment pen with watercolour, 5 September 2014

Rotring pigment pen with watercolour, 5 September 2014

I’m continuing to work on drawing people. This one is a combination of pen and ink and acrylic marker.

Portrait, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 6 September 2014

Portrait, pen and ink and acrylic marker, 6 September 2014

I continue to be captivated by construction. There is building work going on across the way from where we regularly buy coffee. Here is a look at the current state of scaffolding and wire safety fences. The biggest problem is the wire which was lighter in tone that the building behind it. I had trouble working out how to get the different grey tones working while I was on location, so I added some watercolour when I got home. When I scanned my amended version of the drawing¬† I could see that the upper half of the windows weren’t looking like they were part of the whole. So with some additional drawing I came up with the final version.

Three stages of the construction sketch, 9 September, pen, ink and watercolour.

Three stages of the construction sketch, 9 September, pen, ink and watercolour.

The final version, I’m hoping some impression of the fencing is given, without resorting to adding a white grid over the drawing. Perhaps in another drawing¬† I could focus on a much tighter section of the scene and see what I can do by¬† reserving the paper as part of the sketch.

Construction site with scaffolding and safety fencing, 10 September 2014

Construction site with scaffolding and safety fencing, 10 September 2014

Testing #2

Back to the new sketchbook, but first I must make a correction. I’ve now realised that the paper in this book is actually 150 gsm, not 110 gsm as I’d previously written, so perhaps the results I’ve been getting are not so unexpected. However the best test of the paper quality is water colour. I have made two basic paintings using subjects close to hand. This is the first work and it has another water colour on the reverse side of the page.

Watercolour on the new sketchbook.

Watercolour on the new sketchbook.

You can see from the painting below that each work stands by itself and there is no bleed through from either side of the page. I used quite a bit of water on each side of the page, but I did allow the page did dry thoroughly between paintings. So I’m quite impressed with how this test has gone – I didn’t expect, even at the heavier weight of paper, that the result would be this good.

watercolour on the reverse side of the page above.

Watercolour on the reverse side of the page above.

I’m now working on testing my own skills. I have been trying to integrate the different pen and ink and acrylic paint markers I’ve been working with, into a more style. It’s not as easy as I had hoped. I’ve struggled with not letting the heavier acrylic paint markers dominate the finer pen and ink lines. I’ve also had problems getting carried away and ‘colouring in’ with the paint markers. Because it’s so easy to go over the top I’ve decided to limit my palette to my black markers and one colour only.

Today I think I have made some positive progress with my sketches in mixed media. Any ideas or thoughts from your experience on how to proceed would be welcome.

Path and trees, acrylic paint marker, pen and ink, 3 September 2014.

Path and trees, acrylic paint marker, pen and ink, 3 September 2014.

Testing, testing

I bought a new sketchbook the other day. I’m trialling it for a trip I’ll be taking later in the year. On previous trips I’ve treated myself to Moleskine sketchbooks, but I’m not completely convinced that I’m not just paying for the name. Given the ‘status’ of the Moleskine, it’s not surprising that other art supply companies are making ‘clone-skines’ to tap into the same market but at a much lower price-point.

The clone I’ve bought from my local art shop is slightly wider than the Moleskine sketchbook which I normally buy, not to mention being half the price. The clone does have the elastic strap and pocket at the back of the book. The paper is 150gsm, acid free, so pretty standard. I don’t expect this paper to be good for watercolour. However, when I assessed the types of¬† drawing and painting I did on my last trip I realised that it was sketching, not painting, that dominated my output. So a watercolour friendly paper is, realistically, not my first priority.

So far I’ve tested my acrylic paint markers and have been pleasantly surprised at the result. Not only does the paper take my thick marker quite well, it doesn’t bleed through to the back of the page.

A drawing on the back of a page which also has a thick black acrylic paint marker drawing on it.

A drawing on the back of a page which also has a thick black acrylic paint marker drawing on it.

Only one slightly disparity has occurred. The paper loves my Posca paint markers, soaking up the black lines to a matt finish, but it doesn’t react so well to my Liquitex paint markers. In the drawing below the black is the Posca and the red is the Liquitex. I couldn’t get any sort of smooth coverage with the red and repeated applications would have ended up tearing the page.

Two brands of paint markers, two different quality of coverage.

Two brands of paint markers, two different quality of coverage.

Here’s a close-up of the two colours side by side. I have been happy with the coverage of the¬† Liquitex pens on a range of other papers, so all I can conclude is that they don’t like this specific type of paper. This is a bit of a drawback as I have quite a good range of colours in the Liquitex and I’m not desperate to spend more just to buy similar colours in another brand.

Close-up of the coverage of the two brands of markers.

Close-up of the coverage of the two brands of markers.

I’ve also taken my Lamy Safari pen for a test drive on the paper and once more I was really pleased with the line and the way the paper took the ink.

Drawing using the Lamy Safari pen in the new sketch book.

Drawing using the Lamy Safari pen in the new sketch book.

I’m planning to try watercolours and a few other things in this book before I make a final decision on whether I go with the clone or not. I’ll keep you posted.