Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Student work/Lesson idea: Cartoon busts

My 3D students are finally done with their cartoon pieces. I'd call this round a success, wouldn't you?  (Just to refresh your memory, HERE is a link of how they started out.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Student work/Lesson idea: Scripture in pictures, faux stained glass panels

Voila! I have almost 75 of these in a finished-state but these are some of the better pieces overall. Each is representative of a individually selected Bible verse and used some religious symbology and colors to illustrate the verse.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one
[lyrics from John Lennon's "Imagine"]

It would be awfully nice if it really were so easy to just cover our eyes and make a wish so that everything would fall perfectly into place, wouldn't it?

Student Work/Lesson Idea: Animorph portraits - digital

Last year was my first year at this school and some of the classes I was tasked with leading were Computer-aided (CAD) Graphic Design classes.  Now, I can hold my own in terms of navigating Photoshop and other such photo manipulation softwares but for the most part?  I'm self-taught with what I know how to do (which is probably somewhere between intermediate and advanced if you want to quantify it) but mostly?  I'm a hack at it.  I have learned through my own trial and error, tutorials that I've been able to find via Google, and by way of assorted and random textbook tutorials that I've gotten from others.  Needless to say, last year was a huge growing experience for me but I did make tremendous strides in learning how the best ways to teach a CAD class as well as becoming reasonably proficient in my technical writing skills.

Most of my planning periods last year were devoted to writing and converting tutorials (to be used for Photoshop CS2) for my students to use in class.  It was a tireless job but I was committed to doing it.  I had a few archived lessons from previous instructors before me but many of them weren't intensive enough for the level that I know my students wanted to and could work at.  Just the same, after I finished out the semester, I realized that for all of my own tutorials that I had written, I would be stupid not to start researching a textbook that could be used because ultimately?  I'm a hack at it all and the students needed to learn the fundamentals of photoshop the right way.

I researched a number of textbooks and settled on The Photoshop CS/CS2 Wow! Book.  It got decent reviews and was reasonably priced if bought at a used rate versus brand-new.  (I also got the  Illustrator version of the book and I'm planning on using it when I teach the Advanced Graphic Design class this coming Spring.)

Recently the students did a tutorial in the Photoshop book (found on p. 615 of the book) called "Applying an image with Liquify."  The jist of it is that you take a print of an animal and then apply it to the surface of someones skin.  The example use stock photography of a female model and a zebra print.  Each of the students were instructed to complete the tutorial and then create two more versions using pictures of their own, stock photography, and other animal prints.

The students had a lot of fun with this project and I will definitely keep it in my archive of winners for future classes. It was relatively quick to get through with them - I gave them about a week (five classes at 55 minute blocks) to complete the tutorial and then two other self-directed pieces - and I feel their outputs are both high-quality and impressive to look at it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Student WiPs: Faux stained glass panels - "Scripture in pictures"

Last Spring I got the crazy idea to do stained glass art with the 2D students.  It seemed the ideal project for them to flex all of their visual art know-how with regard to most of the elements of art and principles of design they were learning and the timing the project ended up falling perfectly with the Spring choral concert at our school.  It seemed like a real win-win project overall.

We used sheets of acetate (called Dura-lar) and painted them with acrylics to achieve the colored glass effect and then we outlined the pieces of color in solvent-based paint marker (Sharpie Oil paint markers and Elmers Painter markers - both in black). We hung them with double-stick scotch tape to the windows down the student gallery hallway and they were very well received.  Overall, the end results were pretty good but I was not entirely satisfied with them because though they were in the style of stained glass they lacked the presence that REAL stained glass has.

After we finished the project, I mulled over what could have been done to make it different and better for weeks.  Materials and tools to make real stained glass just wouldn't fit in the budget and my classroom is shared with another teacher so I didn't want to do something that would result in shards of glass everywhere that would be dangerous for her/her students to contend with.

This school year started and I had no plans to do stained-glass again but after I took the student work down in the gallery, I couldn't shake the urge to try it again and make it better.  I knew there was an answer to how I could imitate real stained glass and it just so happened that the project could fall appropriately around the time of the Christmas music concerts which would make it perfectly align with the rest of the fine arts program.

After about three hours of walking aimlessly in brainstorm mode around Michael's and a good number of hours online researching options, I finally came across the perfect alternative on instructables.  I quickly ordered the necessary supplies of solvent based markers in a broad array of colors (Bic brand over Sharpies this time because they were cheaper), mini glue guns, and mini sticks of black hot glue for the faux leading work.  I had the students pay $1.06 for me to get them 8x10 frames at the local Dollar Trees OR bring in their own 8x10 frames to use.

Then we went about the design process...

We followed the directions almost exactly as instructables stated in the link above and so far the students have said it's their favorite activity.  Here are pictures of them going through the drafting/design process...

And here are pictures of them transferring their designs to the glass from their frames with the black hot glue as their medium...

And the final step was when they did the fill color on the reverse side of the glass (from the piped glue) and did touch-ups of the color fill.

The students are still working on their pieces but they should all be done by next week some time.  I will (of course) post pictures of the finished pieces.

Tips that we've found during the project are as follows:
  • Simple shapes work the best and if you're short on time, use prefab coloring pages instead of making your own
  • Slow and steady is the best way to go when drawing the glue lines
  • Start from the center of the design and then move out as the glue cools/dries/sets
  • Color fill on the reverse side from the glue but then touch up and even out the coloring on the same side of the glue side to make the color more evenly saturated and reduce the appearance of coloring lines

Everything and nothing. All at the same time.

There must be more to life...

than having everything.
-Maurice Sendak

I can't string together a coherent explanation for this one because it just screams excess to me.  That's the whole point to begin with though so I guess the point has been made.

Note: No fifty dollar bills were harmed or damaged for this mask. (Meaning the money isn't as real as it might appear.)

Lost in stars and tea leaves

You cannot depend on your eyes...

when your imagination is out of focus.
-Mark Twain

Dreams are powerful things.  They are the things that have driven so many needed changes that happen here in this world.  Just the same, they can be very dangerous.  It is in dreams that anything can happen and it's easy to give in to the temptation of existing in a world that is only of imagination.  As quickly 
as a dream can be wonderful, it can also turn into a nightmare.  And because it seems so real, it's easy to believe that what is happening will be neverending and imprison you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Practice what you preach

Two more masks down, two more to go - one of which I cannot even begin to understand how I'm going to make happen.  You'd think two completed would be enough, right?  Well... it's not.  Like too many times in life, I want more.  I WANT MORE.

*SIGH of (near) defeat*

I'm getting to the point I knew was coming when the only solution for a major design issue is divine intervention alone.  This point isn't anything like what I anticipated it to be.  It's worse.

At the bottom of my work email, I have the following quote in the signature line...

"Pray the unthinkable.  Attempt the impossible."

I can't remember where the quote originated but I believe it was from a book I recently finished by Mark Batterson called "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day."  For all intents and purposes, it's a Christian-based motivational and self-help book.  I mean, I'm sure Mr. Batterson could argue against such a conclusion but I'm trying to put his amazing piece of literature in the simplest terms possible - especially with regard to nonbelievers.

I've been doing these masks for so long they've become a part of me.  When people ask me about my work, mask making is the first thing I think about.  If people ask me about how I would create a piece to illuminate x, y, or z subject matter, I immediately go to how it would be interpreted in mask form.  *shrug* I don't know what to do with myself?  I mean, there's definitely some reason (I don't understand) that I'm so compelled to make them but at the same time, I'm not trying to be "that Christian artist who makes the masks."  Still... if that's what the Lord wants me to do right now?  That's the only thing I can and will be able to do.

I have railed against God's calling to me for too much of my life and the one thing I know for sure - no matter how stubborn and bullheaded I definitely am -  is that I cannot do it without the will of God.  I've got to be doing what He wants me to do.  I must be committed to doing whatever He commands even if it feels impossible and appears insurmountable.  And whatever I do in Him will be so but I have to be willing to have faith in Him and truly act in it.  My actions need to be indicative of belief in His ability to be within me and all I do.

My goal with these masks is to create something that blows people away and gives them a tangible illustration of the Lord's almighty power.  Others are called to minister with their words and services but I know I am called to minister by creating art that glorifies Him.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Old habits. Die hard.

It's true what they say...

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

I feel sorry for people who live their lives looking through eyes that are only willing to see things in one color and of one way.  If God truly created each of us in His own likeness and it's obvious that each and every one of us are unique in how we look, talk, act, dress, etc.... why is there so much judgement in the world of things that honestly don't matter?  People who live and breathe to condemn others based upon things that cannot be helped are doing anything but living.  The hatred that stirs and brews inside of them eats them from the inside out and every day that they believe they are living well, they are actually decaying themselves.  It's like a death wish or the worst kind of cancer you could never imagine because it's the kind that you don't know is killing you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Series: Negatives of Positives

Other than being a high school art teacher, I'm also a professional photographer (here and here).  The market is flooded these days with all kinds prosumer-type photographers but I've been using the photographic medium for nearly ten years now to create pictures.  That means I've been in the business way back before digital photography was so affordable and film was king.

Over Thanksgiving break last week, I dove head first into photography work with portrait jobs and also my own endeavors and I got to thinking about how the photographic medium isn't the same without the use of actual film.  Granted, it's nice to have the instant gratification of the pictures popping up immediately on your camera's LCD but overall? It really lacks a certain something in wait time of actually getting rolls of film developed.  And because I'm such a "geek" of things of yesteryear, I got the harebrained idea to take some of my favorite digital shots and transform them into the filmstrips that they might have been long ago.

Here's what I came up with...

I created the above using digital images of my favorite positive moments and memories (hence the name of the series - Negatives of Positives) but then I transformed them to appear as negative strips using both photography and photoshop skills.  The images above are supposed to appear as if they are being illuminated on a lightbox/light table.  I took some creative license and tweaked some of the ways the colors showed up but overall I'm really pleased with how they came out and I will definitely do some more of these and include them all in my portfolio.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Student WiPs: Cartoon busts

Since the 3D class is a foundational course and most students come to me with very little advanced visual art understanding/technique, I try and give them a course that is explorative (is that even a word?) in nature.   They work with as many different types of materials/mediums as I can figure out of the budget but one of the most popular of all is when we work with clay.  We have a kiln and I used it last year but I'm still not great at it and hate using student work as "guinea pigs" that potentially become ruined because I don't know how to fire the kiln correctly. (But I am getting better and will be firing it up within the next few weeks.)  Anyway, I favor air-dry clay for the students and one of my favorite brands is called Boneware.  It comes in gray, white, and red but I always get the red because (I believe) it's usually the cheapest.

Before I came, they did clay egghead sculptures in the style of Robert Arneson.  It's a good inspiration to take and follow because the egg shape is simple enough and students can really explore the human expression of the face but after doing it one time around with the kids, it was clear that it wasn't enough.  The students wanted more room to do more heavily detailed work and I wanted to give them more creative freedom than what the egg shapes allowed.  Enter: claymation art.

I really brainstormed to come up with something that would not be overly unfair with regard to the students' limited/novice skillsets but still forced them to focus on the subtle details that lent themselves to facial expressions.  Human figure/form was out because it was a little too far out of what would have been fair to ask them to reach but then I got to thinking about cartoon characters.  They were mostly of simple shapes (to teach form) but still would require them to create facial expressions in order to properly bring the character to life.  And doing cartoons in bust-style was a fun take on the ol' classic of so many of the classic and legendary bust sculptures of so many in art history.  So I kicked the idea off in the Spring of last year and it went reasonably well but I learned from my mistakes (and the ones I let the students make) and really improved for this time around.  Bear in mind that these were sculpted and I gave them almost a full week to dry and they will be fully painted and detailed within the next week.

Materials and tools used included the following:
- Sculpture House Boneware clay
- Boxwood tools sculpting tools, class set
- Buckets of water at each table
- Small individual wooden platforms (these are rinsed/washed and reused every semester)
- Gallon storage bags with the slide zippers (one per student) and wet paper towels to keep the clay workable until the student was finished

I'll post pictures of the finished works in coming weeks but thought  it would be neat to show them in this state.
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