Dr Sketchy and all that glitters

Last night my partner and I headed out to Dr Sketchy’s at the National Gallery of Australia. Like everyone at our table we were unsure whether there was a theme for the evening, until models in silver and gold paint appeared! Everything metallic and shiny was the story.


A model in gold, Posca acrylic markers

I decided to use my Posca markers for some of the sketches, particularly as they already had the seal of approval for use at the event. I liked using them, but realised I should have done some testing before I went. My yellow ochre marker, used above, just wasn’t flowing very well, so I ended up with a rather scratchy effect.

It was also a pleasure to see a male burlesque performer/model in the line-up. Sir Regal Shivers (and his dragon George) certainly got the audience shouting for more.


Knight, minus the shining armour, coloured pencil

We were also treated to performances from visiting interstate burlesque performers including the wild Zelia Rose, who was the 2014 Miss Burlesque Australia.


Zelia Rose, coloured pencil

The evening finished with the final group pose. I managed to only get two of the models into my sketch.


Final group sketch, coloured pencil

As always it was a tremendous evening. The output of all the participating sketchers was amazing and the performances particularly good. I’m looking forward to next time!

Whitelines Link® 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 ® 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 – however 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.

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.