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Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

gurneyjourney.blogspot.com

Metro North App is Here


(Link to trailer on YouTube)

The Living Sketchbook, Volume 2: Metro North app is now available. It's a complete immersion into my recent sketchbook, with high-res scalable images of every page, plus audio commentary and behind-the-scenes videos, all for just $4.99.

Here's what customers are saying already:
"So much eye candy and information for the price of a fancy coffee!"
—Carole
"Boom. That was easy. Spent more than that on a beer yesterday!"
—Rock P.
Pick up a copy of Metro North for yourself. Three versions to suit your device:

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! Here's a gouache sketch of some bunnies at the farm. 

Happy Easter

I used a special gouache technique for this one, painting into a wet, dark under-layer, which makes soft edges much easier. The bunny sketch is just one page of the Metro North app, which releases for iOS and Android phones and tablets tomorrow. 

Happy Easter

It will include high-res images that you can explore in immense detail, plus custom audio and video elements, immersing you in the adventure of creating each painting.

The first volume of the "Living Sketchbook" series became the top selling new app in Android's Art and Design category, and it's a must for any art lover, painting student, or sketching fan.
Shari Blaukopf of Urban Sketchers says: "There is a lesson to be learned with every sketch in James Gurney's The Living Sketchbook — whether it's about light, colour, materials or composition. Spending time with each sketch and being able to zoom in on them with your tablet allows you to really think about how they were created. And videos that accompany many of the sketches enrich the experience because you see the sketch develop from large colour blocks down to final details. And of course hearing James narrate his thought process — whether it be about his limited palette choices or the characters he meets while sketching — is what makes it come alive for me. It's done with warmth, humour, honesty and a vast wealth of knowledge."
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Check out Volume 1—Living Sketchbook: Boyhood Home
For Apple phones and tablets at the App Store
For Android devices at Google Play

Choosing an Interpretation

How do you keep from being overwhelmed by nature when you're painting in the wild?

When I start a session, I usually make some decisions right away about how to simplify a subject. Even if my goal is to capture the perspective and the forms pretty much as I see them, I often make some decisions about interpreting value and color. 

For example, here's the scene I'm looking at next to the gouache painting I do from observation:


I choose to flatten the tones of the far trees and translate the actual colors into more basic warm and cool colors, sacrificing a lot of blue and green.

I hoped that transposing the color scheme into this elemental range would capture my feeling about this farmyard surviving another winter, ready to awaken into spring.

I made another sacrifice as well. (Link to video) The only sketchbook I had with me was full, so I had to paint one sketch over another. Doing this requires "seeing through" the paper to the painting on the other side of it, and finding it all with the brush.
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This video is a sample from "The Living Sketchbook, Vol. 2: Metro North," which releases one week from today. Check out the first volume, "Boyhood Home," available now at the App Store and Google Play.

“Gurney’s new "Living Sketchbook" app combines multiple creative disciplines (painting, writing, filming, audio) into one seamless artistic experience that anyone can use with ease. Well, done!”
Scott Burdick.

Announcing "Metro North" coming out next month.

Thanks to your support and enthusiasm, "Metro North"—Vol.2 of the Living Sketchbook app—is in production and will come out on April 17. (Link to video)

I'm using 1-Shot sign painter's enamel for the lettering on a Pentalic watercolor journal

If you haven't experienced it yet, check out the first volume, "Boyhood Home," for iOS phones and tablets at the App Store and for Android devices at Google Play. We're excited that it's one of the most popular apps in the Art and Design categories.


Shari Blaukopf of Urban Sketchers says:
"There is a lesson to be learned with every sketch in James Gurney's The Living Sketchbook — whether it's about light, colour, materials or composition. Spending time with each sketch and being able to zoom in on them with your tablet allows you to really think about how they were created. And videos that accompany many of the sketches enrich the experience because you see the sketch develop from large colour blocks down to final details. And of course hearing James narrate his thought process — whether it be about his limited palette choices or the characters he meets while sketching — is what makes it come alive for me. It's done with warmth, humour, honesty and a vast wealth of knowledge."

Some questions that you've asked:

(from Carl and Dominick Saponaro)
1. Is the app going to include additional sketchbooks as updates to the app? Or will it entail purchasing a new app for each sketchbook released? 
We explored the option of doing additional releases in-app, but it added a huge amount of technical complexity, so we're going to release them as separate apps that you could store in a folder or "bookshelf." They'll be numbered and named just like the actual sketchbooks. 

(from Valerie)
3. I'm having trouble getting audio on my iPhone 7+. What should I do? 
Try these ideas:
1. Volume adjustment or the headphones. Are other apps on your phone playing audio?
2. Go to Settings > Sounds and drag the Ringer And Alerts slider to turn the volume up.
3. If your device has a Ring/Silent switch, make sure it's set to ring.
4. Restart your device.
5. Open an app that has music or sound effects. Adjust the volume with the volume buttons or the slider in Control Center.
6. Go to Settings > Bluetooth and turn off Bluetooth. Then check the sound again.

(from Doug Condon)
2. Are there plans to sell the actual app tech to allow artists to record their own sketchbooks in the same way?
Several artists have expressed an interest, and we're considering whether to 1) Publish a select group of other artists using our brand and platform, or 2) for Dan Gurney, the app coder, to freelance directly with artists to create their own. Either of those would be a ways down the road. Right now we're putting most of our energy into launching a series of my sketchbooks, and we'll see where it takes us. I'd suggest if you want to create one of these down the road to be sure to capture audio and video multi-media of the content that you're sketching.

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

Today let's hear from Dan Gurney, the developer of our new sketching app. This is adapted from his article in Medium called Building the “Living Sketchbook” app

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

Dan says: "My dad is an artist, and for a long time he’s wished for an app that would let you see every page of a sketchbook in scalable high res, combined with voiceovers and videos about the experience of creating it.

"He couldn’t find authoring software to deliver the full experience that he imagined. So I helped him build a new technology in app form, and we’ve launched it with one of his sketchbooks. It’s available now on iOS and Android as “Living Sketchbook Vol. 1: Boyhood Home.”

"Here’s how we did it…

Research + Planning

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

"The core idea is pretty simple — a way to look at high-res sketches with accompanying audio and video.

"We first looked at the usual suspects like iBooks and PDFs. iBooks were initially tempting, but the authoring interface was limited and clunky, and distribution was limited to only iOS devices, completely leaving out a large segment of my dad’s fanbase who uses Android. We also looked at PDFs but couldn’t find a reliable way to insert audio and video.

"In addition to having a custom user interface, we wanted to make sure that the app would run well for all users with no formatting issues.

"So I decided to build an app from scratch. Recently I’ve been using a new technology called React Native. It’s built by the team at Facebook, it’s open source, and instead of writing completely separate apps for Android and iOS, you can write one app which works natively on both platforms.

"When I first heard about React Native — after spending months learning Swift — I was skeptical. iOS and Android with the same codebase… it seemed too easy.

"Then I looked into it and realized that not only did it compile to native code, but I could also apply my existing knowledge of CSS and HTML thanks to JSX. Conceptually it was an easy call, so despite my time investment into Swift, I jumped in.

"Boy am I glad I did. Despite a few annoying compatibility errors and other small snafus, I find RN faster, simpler, and more consistent than Swift. The RN documentation online is vibrant and extensive. So when it came time to build the “Living Sketchbook,” RN was the clear way to go.

Design + Build
"After some on-paper wireframes, I did the visual design in Sketch. I kept the UI simple, with buttons for table of contents, voiceover, video (where applicable), and info. I used Google’s Material Design icons which look great and are familiar to people.

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

"The initial setup and layout for the app went fairly smoothly. We wanted it to run equally well on phones and tablets, so I built an adaptive layout that would expand to fill available screen space. Props to React Native’s handy “Dimensions” feature which lets you detect the screen size upon initial app load and subsequent device rotation.

"The first real roadblock came when I began testing the app on actual devices. These high resolution images are BIG. About 5000 pixels across. And it turns out that older iPads, and stock Android devices, can’t really handle them at all, leading to an app crash.

"So I had to do some combination of optimizing the app for older devices, and/or limiting which devices could run the app.

"I wanted to support as many devices as possible, so my first approach was optimization. Instead of loading 25 high-res images at once (and storing them in the device’s memory), I loaded only the full image you were currently viewing, and used placeholder thumbnails for the rest.

"This helped tremendously, especially on Android devices, but older iPads just didn’t have the processor to handle even one high definition image, so I “gated” the app to iOS devices with arm64 processors and above. To cut out the oldest devices on the Android side, I specified Android KitKat (4.4) and above.

"One other difficulty came with the panning, zooming, and swiping mechanics. Due to the native differences between iOS and Android, as well as some disparities in React Native support, I had to write custom components which targeted specifically iOS or Android using RN’s handy “component.ios.js” and “component.android.js” convention.

"The iOS component used a native ScrollView with some minor tweaks, including a custom PanResponder to register fast swipes happening during animation transitions. The Android component used “react-native-transformable-image” with some customizations to the touch responder in the “react-native-view-transformer” dependency.

"Optimizing performance, testing on different devices, and writing custom touch interactions definitely took the bulk of the development time – at least 60%. This is one area where writing for two platforms at once can be a headache. But hey, it still took way less time than writing two completely separate apps. I’d estimate altogether, I had about 90% code reuse.

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

"One thing I loved — it was cool seeing these open source components being updated in real time by the community. React Native is truly a living piece of technology and is improving all the time. That can lead to headaches when it comes to updating software and dependencies, but in my opinion it’s worth the trouble.

"At the end of the day, I used these plugins (thanks to all of the awesome authors):
react-native-code-push, react-native-photo-view, react-native-sound, react-native-splash-screen (for initial loading screens), react-native-svg (to render Material Design icons), react-native-swiper, react-native-timer, react-native-transformable-image (pinch to zoom on Android), react-native-video, react-redux, redux-thunk

Testing
"Once I had tested the app fairly extensively on a motley collection of iPads, iPhones, and Androids, it was time to get some beta feedback. There are so many devices out there — especially Android! — that we needed to know which devices simply wouldn’t be able to run the app.

"Luckily, my dad’s fans are really engaged and happy to help provide feedback on new products. We announced a limited beta program on my dad’s blog and used a Google Form to collect responses. Then, I made a spreadsheet with a representative sample of devices and assigned beta testers to cover the range, focusing especially on the “gray area” of older devices which may or may not work. We also asked testers about the interface, overall experience, bugs, and suggested selling price, again collecting responses via a Google Form.

"The feedback was extremely useful and we learned a lot about device compatibility as well as pricing. It was interesting that iOS users seemed willing to pay more than Android users — about 2–3x as much. However, in our case, we didn’t want to charge some people more than others, so we reduced the price to match on both platforms.

Launch
"Articles, like apps, always take longer than you think…

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

"As launch approached, I put together app store screenshots using Sketch, which provides handy size presets.

Guest Post from Codeman Dan

"The icon was fun, as we wanted something “handmade” to balance out the clean digital lines, and ended up using an original drawing by my dad.

Guest Post from Codeman Dan
"I uploaded the screenshots, icons, and final app binaries to the app stores, with Code Push included so I could push any updates over the air.

"My dad handled all the marketing, as he has a great process developed through his past art instruction videos.

"And now hopefully you all are enjoying the Living Sketchbook! Thanks for reading. I had a blast building this app, and the process only deepened my appreciation for React Native. Building for iOS and Android simultaneously — with live app previewing throughout — is an amazing tool to have.

"You can download “Living Sketchbook Vol. 1: Boyhood Home” now on iOSand Android.

"If you’d like to inquire about your own app project, you can reach me at gurney.dan (at) gmail.com.

"Thanks and have a great day."
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There's a review of "The Living Sketchbook, Vol.1" in today's post on the art blog Lines and Colors by Charley Parker.

The Living Sketchbook App is Live


The Living Sketchbook™ is new technology that lets you experience one of my sketchbooks on your smartphone or tablet. (Link to video trailer on YouTube)

The first in the series, Volume 1: Boyhood Home, is now available for iOS iPhones and iPads at the App Store and for Android phones and tablets at Google Play. (Note that if you aren't able to purchase it, it may be because you have an older model of iOS or Android.)

Praise for The Living Sketchbook
“It’s as nice as having James’s sketchbook in my hands! Only with the added bonus of actually being able to see him manipulate the image. Having followed many of these pieces and seeing the originals in some cases, I find that this is a really helpful tool to see how he paints in real life and being able to examine the images at my leisure to see the way that the final brushstrokes are put down. I hope that James adds more sketchbooks and/or pages so that I can get even more inspiration from his work.”
—Michael Mrak, Design Director, Scientific American



"When I found out about his app, I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I think of that?” It embraces technology and allows users an opportunity to get closer to an artist’s sketchbook...The app was really intuitive and easy to navigate. To go to next page, you swipe the image. To zoom in, you pinch outwards. Last but not least, there are buttons that brings out the voice narrations with occasional videos of how he has painted on-site. Imagine a talking sketchbook with videos.”
—Erwin Lian, The Perfect Sketchbook



“This app is outstanding! One of my favorite aspects of James Gurney's videos is getting the opportunity to hear his thoughts about the pieces he is painting. I love that I can get that same experience while enjoying the detailed views of the high-resolution sketches in the app.”
—Jon Schindehette, Art Director, Art Order
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Coding and development by Dan Gurney. 
Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home
iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store
and for Android devices at Google Play


Teaser for Living Sketchbook


Here's a teaser trailer for The Living Sketchbook™ app, releasing Monday, March 20 for iOS and Android devices. (Link to YouTube video)
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UPDATE: 

The app is now available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store
and for Android devices at Google Play

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Sharon Cullen: "CANT WAIT! What does the app do exactly? Is it video clips of you?"
Hi, Sharon—it lets you look through every page of one of my sketchbooks. You can pinch to zoom to see close-up details, while listening to audio of location sounds and my commentary about materials and methods. Plus for some of the sketches you can watch videos shot on location. It makes a sketchbook come to life in a new, immersive and interactive way.

What devices will the app be compatible with?
Android 4.3 KitKat and above
iOS 9.0 and above
Compatible iOS devices:
iPhone 5s and above
iPad Air and above
iPad Mini 2 and above
iPad Pro and above
iPod Touch sixth generation and above

How much will it cost and what are the plans for the app?
The app will cost $4.99. The sketchbook "Boyhood Home" is the first volume in the series. More sketchbooks will be released later as additional apps.


Sunila asks: "I wonder... are you also using one of these egg timers to activate the dolly?"
The dolly is pulled along a homemade dolly track made of two metal broomsticks that I got from the dollar store. Movement is generated by a geared-down Lego motor at a velocity of 1 inch per minute. The camera hangs below the cart and shoots at 5 second intervals using an intervalometer, which is strapped on top of the Lego cart. 

Johnny Matthias: "I don't know what I was watching, but it looked pretty cool. A Lego rotoscope? Sculpey or 3D-printed figures in a walk cycle? You have all the cool toys."
It was a series of 10 hand-sculpted replacement-animation walking poses of my character Clement. I animated it on a timer, changing the poses every 15 seconds, which results in three frames of video. This method of stop motion animation goes very fast; I shot the whole animation in 40 minutes.

FEEDBACK FROM THE PROS
''James Gurney's Living Sketchbook: Vol. 1 celebrates the mobility and charm of gouache, casein, colored pencil, and pen and ink in sketchbook form. This brilliant app is loaded with beautiful high resolution artwork set to a powerful environmental soundscape that brings you there. The narration is full of insightful observations and wisdom to pass on to artists of all levels. Additional layers of video are dispersed in the volume to clearly illustrate approaches by a master teacher and storyteller. An elegant and generous offering that will immediately make you want to sketch out ‘in the wild'!"
—Erik Tiemens - Watersketch.com

"Once again, James Gurney sets the bar for showmanship art, inviting you beyond the final image into the mind and imagination of the artist who created it. His 'Living Sketchbook' App takes a classic Gurney Sketchbook and adds audio, video, and written notes on the inspiration, palettes, and thinking behind the art. It's as if you were a friendly ghost watching the creation of every page. Sketchbooks are often described as snapshots of an artist's soul, giving this App an intense feeling of intimacy. Another small masterpiece of art and technology from Gurney Studios.”
Iain McCaig, concept artist for Star Wars, Jungle Book, Avengers
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The Living Sketchbook app was designed and developed by my son Dan Gurney.

App Review from Erwin Lian

Thanks to Erwin "Cherngzhi" Lian, creator of "The Perfect Sketchbook" for his review of the new app, Living Sketchbook, Vol.1.

App Review from Erwin Lian
"When I found out about his app, I thought to myself: 'Why didn’t I think of that?' It embraces technology and allows users an opportunity to get closer to an artist’s sketchbook...The app was really intuitive and easy to navigate.To go to next page, you swipe the image. To zoom in, you pinch outwards. Last but not least, there are buttons that brings out the voice narrations with occasional videos of how he has painted on-site. Imagine a talking sketchbook with videos."
Read the rest 
Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home is the first in a series of sketchbook apps. It is now available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store, and for Android devices at Google Play
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App coding and development by Dan Gurney.

Advance Review of Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1

Brad Teare of the blog Thick Paint had a chance to test out the Living Sketchbook™ app, and he wrote a review of it:

Advance Review of Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1"Imagine being invited to your favorite artist's studio and getting a chance to thumb through his or her sketchbook. That's how I felt when I previewed James Gurney's new sketchbook app Boyhood Home.

"I'm super busy right now–I'm preparing for a major landscape show–and I initially thought I would quickly thumb through the images, perhaps delve into a few I found intriguing and get back to work. However, after experiencing a couple pages of Boyhood Home, I was hooked and retired to my overstuffed chair to linger over each page.

"Surprisingly, the digital sketchbook experience actually was as intriguing as thumbing through a favorite artist's sketchbook. It's a different experience, of course, but has unique advantages.

Advance Review of Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1"The book is divided into three modes: the sketches, which you can zoom into, a video with voice over, and often an additional video feature, like a digital sidebar. The videos are about one to two minutes long and for my taste about right, allowing Gurney to share tips while not slowing down the experience. As you can see in the screen grab above you tap the icons in the upper right depending on which feature you want. Tap the image and the interface fades away. The "i" button gives you information regarding the medium and subject matter–which in one case informed me about a sketching device known as a white gel pen–which I immediately noted for addition to my plein air kit.

"The sketchbook is 25 pages long and includes a page showing Gurney's tools and media (primarily gouache and casein). Be sure to use the pinch and zoom feature on all the images as it allows you to see incredibly close detail. The zoom feature alone makes this well worth the $5 price, but the fusion of video, voice over, and images makes this as close to actually being in a cafe with Gurney, discussing how he created each sketch. The first volume of the Living Sketchbook app will be available March 20 for $4.99 for both iOS and Android phones and tablets.

"For the tips and inspiration alone I eagerly look forward to more sketchbooks."
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Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1: Boyhood Home is the first in a series of sketchbook apps. It is now available for iOS on Apple phones and tablets at the App Store, and for Android devices at Google Play
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Thanks, Brad Teare. Check out his blog "Thick Paint."
App coding and development by Dan Gurney.

Living Sketchbook App Coming March 20

Living Sketchbook App Coming March 20

I'm filming a promo for the soon-to-be-released "Living Sketchbook™" app. The app lets you explore one of my sketchbooks with high res pinch-to-zoom images, while enjoying immersive and informative audio and video content.

Early reviewers are enthusiastic.

"This app is outstanding! One of my favorite aspects of your videos is getting the opportunity to hear your thoughts about the pieces you are painting. I love that I can get that same experience while enjoying the detailed views of the high-resolution sketches in the app.” —Jon Schindehette, Art Order
"As a Beta tester I can assure all that this is a great app - like having Jim next to you as you flip through one of his sketchbooks. And more!"
Wade Meyers 
The first volume of the app, "Boyhood Home" will be available March 20 for $4.99 for both iOS and Android phones and tablets.
App coding and development by Dan Gurney.
Metro North App is HereHappy EasterChoosing an InterpretationAnnouncing "Metro North" coming out next month.The Living Sketchbook App is LiveTeaser for Living SketchbookApp Review from Erwin LianAdvance Review of Living Sketchbook, Vol. 1Living Sketchbook App Coming March 20

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