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.

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Picking blackberries

A favourite pastime in February is picking blackberries that grow rampantly around the ACT (Australian Capital Territory).

In amongst the blackberries, 15 February 2015, pen and ink

In amongst the blackberries, 15 February 2015, pen and ink

This was a very quick sketch that I did while taking a break. I subsequently decided to re-draw the figures of my friends, as I liked the shapes their bodies made.

Picking blackberries, 15 February 2015, pen and ink, various colours and Copic Multiliner

Picking blackberries, 15 February 2015, pen and ink, various colours and Copic Multiliner

I’m hoping they’ll forgive me their bulky outlines. I was drawing using two pens at the same time which inevitably seems to expand the girth of any subject. (In my defence they were also wearing overshirts to protect themselves from the thorns).

Earlier today my friend sent me another photo taken a week beforehand, also picking blackberries. So I thought another re-drawing was warranted.

Picking blackberries, pen and ink and Copic Multiliner, held together while drawing, 16 February 2015

Picking blackberries, pen and ink and Copic Multiliner, held together while drawing, 16 February 2015

I’m really enjoying the drawing with two pens/pencils at a time approach. I think what is appealing to me is how the technique  generates volume, as opposed to outline. I’m reminded of Henry Moore’s drawings, even though I haven’t seen any that indicate that he used such an approach (if you have seen this technique in his work I would be interested to know). I found this introduction to an exhibition of Moore’s drawings held in 2010 in Zurich (ah the joys of the internet) which I thought made some interesting points. Putting to one side that this post contains several re-drawn images and one based on a photograph I liked Moore’s comment that “Drawing from life keeps one visually fit – perhaps acts like water to a plant – and it lessens the danger of repeating oneself and getting into a formula”.

This could be the start of something big *

You just never know how things will start. You see several sketchers ‘found’ each other through the Urban Sketchers Australia group and we decided we’d see if there was enough interest to get a Canberra group off the ground. When the call went out just over a week ago for sketchers to meet at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) this Sunday morning we weren’t sure just how many people would turn up. We were really pleased that there were 9 people who answered the call. The NGA offers all sorts of drawing opportunities so after brief introductions everyone went off to find their particular place to draw.

Some of the group comparing their sketches, 8 February 2015

Some of the group comparing their sketches, 8 February 2015

Several of us went to the Fern Garden, one of the rather hard to find gems of the Gallery, as access is only via the back end of the building sort of stuck behind a carpark and service areas. I love the shape of the tree ferns so that was where I started.

The Fern Garden, designed by Fiona Hall, pen and ink, pencil and watercolour pencil, 8 February 2015

The Fern Garden, designed by Fiona Hall, pen and ink, pencil and watercolour pencil, 8 February 2015

Other people had quite a different view of exactly the same area. Forget the ferns, this sketch by one of the other participants, was focused solely on Hall’s underlying structure of pathways for the garden.

The pathways in the Fern Garden, Copic Multiliner, 8 February 2015

The pathways in the Fern Garden, Copic Multiliner, 8 February 2015

Later I moved around into the Sculpture Garden, which was proving to be a popular place to be. I completed a second drawing, this time of Bert Flugelman’s iconic Cones. It was also a popular choice to draw, you can see Sharon B’s version here.

Cones by Bert Flugelman, pen and ink, Copic Multiliner, liquid graphite, 8 February 2015

Cones by Bert Flugelman, pen and ink, Copic Multiliner, liquid graphite, 8 February 2015

The two hours we allocated to drawing went by so quickly. We reconvened at the cafe to share our morning’s work. There were sculptures, architecture, gardens and chairs. Lots of watercolours, ink, pen and pencil as well.

Canberra sketchers, our first get together, 8 February 2015

Canberra sketchers, our first get together, 8 February 2015

An another shot of our collected works.

Another view of the finished sketches, 8 February 2015

Another view of the finished sketches, 8 February 2015

It was so much fun that we are doing it again next month. If you’re interested in coming along just meet us on Sunday 1 March, at the coffee shop outside the entrance to the National Gallery of Australia at 10.30 am.

PS we will be exploring other areas of Canberra, but the group decided that there was still plenty of material to be explored at the NGA so we’ll have another session there before moving to other venues.

PPS if you can’t wait until then you might like to go along to the National Portrait Gallery’s monthly ‘Drawn In’ event, on Sunday 22 February from 1-3 pm, where you can draw with the accompaniment of the Night Cafe Jazz Trio.

*I hope you enjoy this ‘vintage’ clip of Steve Allen, (the composer of this song and TV host), with his guests, including a surprising cameo towards the end of the clip. This Could be the Start of Something Big

Cafe Wednesday and cafes with people

I’m trying really hard to get more people into my drawings, really I am. So since last weekend I’ve been focusing on the people in the cafes a bit more. Given the usual problems of trying to capture lots of people at any one time I’m using the standard approach of making composite drawings of people, in the one setting, as they come and go.

At Guru Coffee shop in Tuggeranong, 1 February 2015, pen and ink

At Guru Coffee shop in Tuggeranong, 1 February 2015, pen and ink

My next attempt, trying to get some individuality into the people turned out to be not as effective as I’d hoped. Well that is unless you were expecting a Wolverine look-alike to be at the next table.

The Italian Bakery Mawson, 3 February 2015, pen and ink

The Italian Bakery Mawson, 3 February 2015, pen and ink

A few minutes later I noticed that the loading dock across the road from the cafe was open so the walls could be painted. I only just got to the drawing as the man painting the wall, pretty much obscured by the telegraph pole, put down his paint roller. Some late arrivals at one of the outside tables provided a bit of foreground action.

Painting the loading dock, 3February 2015, pen and ink

Painting the loading dock, 3February 2015, pen and ink

And on Wednesday I went back to my old ways, although I am trying to mix things up by drawing on newspaper pasted onto a Japanese calligraphy paper. I really just like the texture using the newsprint. Not at all archival, as my partner pointed out, but I think that’s unlikely ever to be an issue.

Glasses and other tableware, 4 February 2015, pen and ink with Copic Multiliner

Glasses and other tableware, 4 February 2015, pen and ink with Copic Multiliner

And if you are looking for a good laugh about drawing strangers I can highly recommend Hallie Bateman’s comic on ‘How to draw people on the subway’.

Taking two lines for a walk

When I was at the library yesterday I found two drawing books that looked interesting. The one I want to touch on today is Drawing Projects: an exploration of the language of drawing, by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern (Black Dog Publishing 2011).

Drawing Projects by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern

Drawing Projects by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern

A quick first look through the book had me very excited. The book covers a wide range of drawing styles and suggests a variety of approaches to developing your own drawing techniques. Between reading the introductory sections, looking at the artist profiles and trying out the suggested projects I know that I won’t be able to take it all in within the loan period, so I’ve ordered a copy of my own.

I was immediately inspired to try the first project, drawing with two pens. The idea is to bind two pencils (of different hardness) together and with them draw a single object/person/self-portrait.  I admit that I went pretty much to my own version of the project rather than following the method precisely. This meant that I missed out on one of the prime aims of this project which is to get you making marks on the inside of the form and break the habit of “using line to draw the outer contour line first.”  I did at least manage the other purpose of the exercise, to wit, making interesting and varied marks. My first drawing was made with my Lamy Safari pen and a ballpoint pen that was just lying around, bound together.

My Cat, pen and ink and ball point pen, 18cm x 14 cm, 19 January 2014

My Cat, pen and ink and ball point pen, bound together, 18cm x 14 cm, 19 January 2014

I’m mentioning the size of the drawings because the book suggests that you limit this project to something no bigger than 30 cm. My initial reaction is that I would like to use this technique on a much larger scale where I think that the lines would be very beautiful, while the technique would be less obvious from a distance away. At this smaller scale it seems to easy to lose sight of your subject.

I had so much fun with the first drawing that I decided to use the same approach when I was at the cafe this morning. This time I used my Copic Multiliner and a Pitt Artist pen (Sanguine 188), held together in my hand as I had nothing to bind them with.

Van,  Copic Multiliner and Pitt artist pen, held together, 21 cm x 28 cm, 20 January 2015

Van, Copic Multiliner and Pitt artist pen, held together, 21 cm x 28 cm, 20 January 2015

What stands out for me in this drawing are the lovely loose lines in the body of the van. While I’ve achieved a good contrast between the van and the background, the background marks are all a bit same-y. It may have been a more interesting drawing if I varied those marks a bit more.

I couldn’t resist yet another drawing when, on my way home, I saw nearby Mt Tennant, with a cap of low cloud over it’s peak and the scar from the landslide in 2012, still visible. I chose to use two watercolour pencils held together. I varied the colours, between Faber-Castell Cold Grey V-234 and Cool Grey VI-235 with Derwent Watercolour Prussian Blue 35, Blue Grey 68 and Rexel Cumberland Derwent watercolour 17.

Mt Tennant under low cloud, watercolour pencils, held together, 24 cm x 32 cm on Canson Montval, 200gsm, watercolour block, 20 January 2015

Mt Tennant under low cloud, watercolour pencils, held together, 24 cm x 32 cm on Canson Montval, 200gsm, watercolour block, 20 January 2015

I think this last drawing is the least successful of the three, perhaps because the marks I made were too similar in style and lacked the contrast of the previous drawings, where I used two different types of pens. See I’m learning already.

 

Resolution

It’s New Year so of course I got asked about my new year resolutions, umm, aaah. The best I can come up with is to make fewer cafe drawings (they’ll never stop completely) and spend more time getting out to specifically draw some of the sights around Canberra. I’ll also try and steer clear of the obvious tourist shots and give you some new perspectives on our country’s capital.

So off we go to Parliament House, where we enjoyed a small, but interesting exhibition Namatjira to Now — Five Generations of Watercolours from the Central Desert, its on until 15 February so if you are nearby it’s worth taking a look at. Apart from all the individual artists there is a most amazing collage of watercolour paintings, which, as Lenie Namatjira said

“We started off with magazines, then watercolours. We picked quick ones, not good ones. Then we cut them, then stuck them on one long piece of paper, so they would be big country, all western country – west of Alice Springs – the country of my grandfather Albert Namatjira.”

Knara, Nunaka Tywerewtye, Our Big Country: The West MacDonald Ranges The Big Picture, Collaboration with Collage, watercolour, Gloria Pannka, Kevin Wirri, Rienhold Inkamala, Lenie Namatjira, Ivy Pareroulta' Selma Coulthard Nunay with Rolande Souliere

Knara, Nunaka Tywerewtye, Our Big Country: The West MacDonald Ranges
The Big Picture, Collaboration with Collage,  Gloria Pannka, Kevin Wirri, Rienhold Inkamala, Lenie Namatjira, Ivy Pareroulta’ Selma Coulthard Nunay with Rolande Souliere

The exhibition is located near the Members Hall, (if you check out the link above there is a picture of this space from the ground floor level, 3rd small image down). This Hall is the central space in the Parliament building and goes from ground level through all floors of the building to a skylight sited directly under the flagpole. The walls are lined with Australian timbers and the vertical white columns surround the central open space.

The Members Hall, Parliament House, Copic multiliner and watercolour (added later), 2 January 2014

The Members Hall, Parliament House, Copic multiliner and watercolour (added later), 2 January 2014

I’m off to a good start so I’ll keep sharing with you where my drawing takes me.

At the Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is the most visited tourist destination in Canberra but it has been some time since I last went there. While we were actually taking a visitor to see the Memorial I realised that it would also be a great place to do some sketching. Following the advice to practice drawing people where they are likely to be doing similar things so you can build up a composite picture, I found a bench in the WWI gallery and started drawing.
image

The Poziere diorama
Sculpture: Frank Lynch
Painting: Louis McCubbin, Murray Griffin

I actually had my back to the Poziere diorama when I realised that the shiny partition in front of me reflected the people looking at the diorama, so I could draw them without having to look directly at anyone.

People looking at the Poziere diorama, Australian War Memorial, Copic Multiliner, graphite and watercolour, 31 December 2014

People looking at the Poziere diorama, Australian War Memorial, Copic Multiliner, graphite and watercolour, 31 December 2014

Things were going swimmingly until a guide brought his tour group between me and the partition. Then someone noticed my drawing and started apologising for being in my way, then the next person also apologised – I knew it was time to move on.

After a break we moved down into ANZAC Hall where I found plenty of space to sit and draw next to the remains of the Japanese Midget submarines that attacked ships in Sydney Harbour in 1942. The low angle allowed me to draw the somewhat dramatic view past a gun from the SMS Emden, (the target of an attack by HMAS Sydney in November 1914), up to the next level and the Landing Place Cafe.

Gun from the SMS Emden and the Landing Place cafe, Australian War Memorial, 31 December 2014, pen and ink, graphite and watercolour.

Gun from the SMS Emden and the Landing Place cafe, Australian War Memorial, 31 December 2014, pen and ink, graphite and watercolour.

We glanced out one of the windows and noticed a ship’s bridge and gun sitting in the courtyard (as you do). So we had to check it out before we left. It turned out to be what remains of the HMAS Brisbane, which was in service from 1966 up until the 1990’s. Not surprisingly this is the largest naval relic in the Memorial’s collection.

The bridge and gun 52 of the HMAS Brisbane, Australian War Memorial 31 December 2014, pen and ink

The bridge and gun 52 of the HMAS Brisbane, Australian War Memorial 31 December 2014, pen and ink. Also an unrelated sketch of several visitors looking down into ANZAC Hall pen and ink and graphite

Our visit today reminded me of what a wealth of interesting subjects could be found at the War Memorial. I’m planning on re-visiting it during the coming year.