Monday, October 24, 2011

Lesson idea: Photograph to Painting - Digital

This lesson idea is for the Graphic Design course I instruct and originates from a tutorial found in The Photoshop CS3/CS4 WOW! Book by Linnea Dayton and Cristan Gillespie. This is the second year I have used this book and it really works well for this class. It provides well-thought out and well written/instructed lessons that really addresses some of the "cool" things that can be done in/with Photoshop and also provides as a great reference item for just about any question or issue the students have had. The class I instruct is beginner with regard to Photoshop experience but intermediate-advanced with regard to visual art understanding and ability. I have a number of tutorials I have adapted as well as authored (based on my own self-taught abilities) and I use those to supplement the book in order to address the unique needs I've encountered in the classroom. I did a good amount of research before deciding on the book but it has really served as a great text to base the class upon. It also serves as a wonderful spring of resources for project ideas in the digital medium.

I run the Graphic Design/Photoshop curriculum/classes like this:

  1. I give them a tutorial (either from the book or something I've adapted to best suit their needs) that will take about a week to complete.
  2. The students take the following week to do a personal piece using the skills they attained from the tutorial experience. Usually there are some parameters but they are given a lot of creative liberties for the most part. 
Doing things in the manner of the aforementioned really allows for the students to both learn skills/understanding of Photoshop as well as gives them a well timed opportunity to apply them. Each lesson/project also builds upon itself to scaffold more advanced skills/projects.

This project/lesson idea utilized the tutorial found on p. 395 of the text called "Wet on Wet" Acrylics. It took a photographic image and digitally rendered it with effects to make it look like it was hand painted in our traditional art studio class. It was fun as much as it was a great learning experience for the students since it called upon previous experience in the traditional studio in order for their digital brushstrokes to be more realistically rendered. It was a bit challenging for them (at first) because they couldn't wrap their minds around the notion that the platform of Photoshop offers a virtually (no pun intended) unlimited supply of any kind or size brush that they could imagine or have been able to actually work with but eventually many of them "got it." They were given the option to use their own photographs as well as stock images. I strongly encouraged them to use images of animals or landscapes over people since the digital rendering into fine art painting ultimately results in an impressionistic art effect and therefore makes fine detail work very challenging to showcase.

Here are some of the best pieces of student work that I picked from three classes total starting with animal subject matter...

Here are some of the landscape pieces:

I am beside myself with the strides that some of the students have made! The lot of them are very talented in the visual arts aside from the classes they have taken with me/during their time here at school but aside from that, I know each of these students very well and I will tell you that they are all making tremendous progress with their abilities and skillsets.

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