Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lesson idea: TypeFACE portraits - Digital

 This is the second year that I have done this project idea in the Graphic Design course (the first year's student work examples are HERE) and I am amazed at how far the students pushed their work this round. I believe the jump in complexity that is shown is attributed to a number of factors including my insistence to raise the proverbial bar every time I repeat a project idea and the amazingly natural talent I've been seeing in the rising underclass art students.

I presented this lesson a little differently to the students than I did last year in the following way:
  • I held off doing it almost a month later in the project timelines than when I did it last year during Fall semester
  •  I presented a full powerpoint presentation that included not only very solid examples of typography portraits I found via the web but also a tie in lesson to the study of typologythat encouraged a deeper investment of understanding for type in all of its forms
  • I limited the background color palettes for all of the projects to only black or white and color was only allowed to be used on the foreground lettering/type layers
I did not give the students a step-by-step tutorial for this project and instead required them to think back on prior knowledge and skills that they have been building since the beginning of the course. It was interesting watching the different approaches they took and seeing the ways they chose to overcome design challenges. They have definitely become very knowledgeable about the different ways photoshop can be used and also the ways a project can be completed from start to finish. They are showing solid abilityand working knowledge about how to look at a project idea and deconstruct it to be able to figure out how it comes together. I'm so proud of them and it's stuff like this that makes me so proud to be in the classroom every day with them and do what I do.

Anyway, enough of the bragging. Here are some of the best pieces I've seen turned out this round. Some of the students have photoshop at home so they spent significant time out of class working on their pieces but the majority of the pieces were worked on during class time alone (about eight meetings of 55 minutes a piece) with one or two study halls worked in there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot off the presses!

When I'm not posting things here, it's sometimes because I'm posting things elsewhere. I write for the Fuel Brand network's photography division. My aim with my articles has been to instruct photographers how to use elements of art and design within the photographic medium. So many photographers out there (nowadays) are self-taught (and I don't begrudge a nontraditional start of a career in the least) but could have much stronger bodies of work if they considered how essential classic art teachings are for visual art itself.

I've already published articles addressing using visual texture to make photographs feel more dimensional and also touched on color theory and some of the ways that it can visually balance an image.  This month's article highlights the importance of visual branding and how it can be done effectively with typography.

Lesson idea: Personal logo on Coffee Mug - Digital

We have been studying typography in Graphic Design and this project was the first one the students completed in order to apply things they have learned. The goal was to use typefaces/fonts to both communicate a message as well as be graphic in and of themselves. The students were challenged to create personal logo designs for themselves using their names or imagined entrepreneurial ventures. It was challenging for them because logo design is a very difficult skill to learn (much less master) but after a few class discussions and looking at examples, I feel like they have done very well at applying some of the principles of good logo design.

In order to help best inform their design decisions, I gave them a few guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple overall 
  2. Use no more than (3) colors
  3. Utilize decorative/stylized fonts 
  4. Be concise and to the point
I piggybacked this lesson on a tutorial from the book (p. 603 - "Warping" Graphics to a surface) that required them to apply their finished logo design onto the surface of a stock photo of a coffee mug. The finished projects made the logo designs look that much more legitimate and also provided discussion for how a freelance graphic design piece can be marketed to a potential client. (I love offering real world scenarios that show them how applicable their learning experience is in the long run.)

Below are some of the cleanest, most well thought out, and best executed designs from the lot. They are so much better than what was able to be turned out last year but I took a different approach by treating it more like a freelance graphic design assignment and walking them through the design process from start to finish.

Photoshop isn't ideal for doing logo design and visual branding but this project isn't a bad jumping off point for them to start with and it definitely offers a decent amount of scaffolding for students who will be continuing onto to Digital Studio (that utilizes Illustrator) next semester.

WiPs: Broken Window Painting

The style of cubism is a mainstay in the 2D art curriculum but after teaching it only one way for a couple of years now I changed it up. I wanted to raise the bar on student skillsets and encourage students to take a more thought provoking perspective while creating artwork that is more visually complex. I'm so delighted to say that it's going very well so far!!

I doubled the timeline for this project but I'm thinking it might need double time in a half. The students have all been working diligently and I don't want them to feel pressed to rush and ruin what could otherwise be really beautiful paintings. They are using the acrylic medium on canvas 11x14 canvas panels and for many of them this is their first painting a major piece of artwork.

I'm loving this project because the length of it is really giving them something that teaches them on multiple dimensions. They have learned about the intensive planning that is required before just rushing right to the point of putting paint to canvas.  They are learning about how much time they actually need once they are painting despite how effortless some of the examples (from Paul Klee) looked when we were gathering our visually inspirations.

Another thing? This project is providing great pauses of time of which we can have profound discussions where art is a vehicle for much bigger ideas. We've talked about how the broken effect on the foreground of each of their paintings doesn't have to mar the beauty of the underlying design but it actually contributes to it. Since this is a private faith-based learning environment, this idea of brokenness definitely echos of what scripture tells them and how our own brokenness is definitely pivotal and sometimes essential for us to see the beauty and glory of Christ and His provisions.

The students have definitely been challenged by this project but it's exciting to see how excited they are to get in here not just on time but BEFORE time for class in order to be able to get to painting. I know art is a welcome opportunity of respite for them and it's good to see their investment creating not only positive learning experiences but also beautiful artwork.

The goal was to have these done just in the nick of time for Thanksgiving but I might very well give them one more week so they are sure to tend to all of their brokenness in just the right way that they can fully appreciate the beauty that is yielded.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lesson idea: Digital Graffiti

Last year a student artist was commissioned by one of my colleagues to do a huge graffiti mural in the back of a classroom. It was a HUGE hit not just because it was very well done on the whole but because of the fact that it brought the idea of putting something very unorthodox and usually unwelcome in its natural state into the classroom as a front and center type of focus. Stiller, despite the fact that it is indeed graffiti-style art, the teacher made sure that the subject matter of scholarly and thought provoking by choosing the message to 1) be written in Latin and 2) nothing less than encouraging of his students to invest themselves in integrity of the cerebral sort.

Since the mural was made the rest of the student body cannot quite get enough of graffiti style art. The challenge with that? Well, there are many...

  1. It's a very specific style of artwork/art/design that is actually not all that easy to create by just anybody
  2. It is known to be very subversive in nature and the school I teach is very conservative in its values
  3. In order to do true graffiti work, I would have to provide the students with both spray paints and serious encouragement to paint surfaces that otherwise shouldn't be spray painted
I respect the student artist from whom they are drawing inspiration and I respect the artform itself.  I want to encourage their curiosities and also give them the ability to explore and create rather than discourage and criticize. Because of all of this, I wanted to give them an appropriate venue to create graffiti as they would like it and offer a different angle for the content of the message they were delivering. 

We had a small discussion about visual communication and how to most effectively do it and also looked at examples of graffiti that was more positive in its message rather than negative and offensive. We also discussed the use of typography as an art and they had the opportunity of looking at and installing stylized fonts onto their computer stations in order to implement them into their work. I directed them to use the site Dafont.com as it has a great archive of stylized and decorative fonts specifically for personal use.  

Their assignment was to render digital graffiti so that it was photographic and realistic in nature while also communicating a profound and uplifting message. Here are some of the ones that I feel like have best adhered to the assignment.

The students completed a tutorial from their textbook (that instructed them on how to apply graphics to textured surfaces) before doing these personal pieces but they've already learned a great deal about how to use and manipulate design layers, blending modes, and transforming tools in order to assist them in achieving realistic and high quality work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Favorite Product Alert: Scratch-Art Standard Holder

I am a product and materials and tools junkie. I LOVE trying out new products/materials/tools because I'm always determined to find the exactly right and best item for whatever task is at hand. I'm willing to try about anything with one exception, once I find something I like I'm done.  This goes for if something is brand new and innovative or tried and true and seemingly antiquated and "out of style." In that way, I guess I'm just as much brand loyal as I am willing to try new things. All of this being said? I've found a new favorite product/tool!!!

We've used the Scratch-Art brand Penholders on two go-rounds now and the semester isn't even through. I'm so pleased to say that they are holding up beautifully.  In previous years we were using a different kind of pen holder and they were TERRIBLE. (Sadly, they were Dick Blick brand and usually they are good but not in this case.) They were constantly breaking and/or cracking at the end where the blade was inserted and they would usually not last through a full project before we would have to just through them out and open new packages of handles altogether.

These Scratch-art brand ones though? THEY ARE AWESOME!!!!  They are sturdy and well designed so that they are both comfortable to hold and easy to manipulate. They are also very economical for the budget and if you order them from Blick you can get bulk discounting!  The only drawback I've found so far is that once you put a tip in, they are difficulty and possibly dangerous to get out (you could slice your hand if you aren't careful) so just expect that once you commit the handle to once type of tip, that's it and you can't change it up.

Just a note, I'm not being paid or compensated in any way for any product reviews I've offered thus far.  I review and offer praises for these products because I've seen a real lack of comprehensive product reviews out there for things that are commonly used in the art classroom and I hope that I am offering up something that can help others better manage their supplies budgets.  One of my greatest frustrations as an artist and art educator is the challenge I've had of ordering something I thought would be useful only to find out it was a waste once I tried to use it. True artists honestly can make beautiful art work out of just about anything but good and solid materials and tools sure do make the process a whole lot more enjoyable during the creative process.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just reorganized the lessons page!

Hello, all! I have been meaning to reorganize the lessons page that shows a comprehensive and bulletized list of all of the lessons I have used in my classroom - both my own originals as well as those I've been inspired to use from places all over the web.You can always find specific lesson ideas based upon the specific media used or the class by clicking on one of the categorized labels on the right sidebar but for quicker look up I categorized all of the lessons in the lessons page link (see the top side bar below the header graphic) according to the courses in which I use them. The course categories are as follows: 2D Design, 3D Design, Interactive Art History, Graphic/Digital Design. Hope this helps you to navigate the site with a little greater ease.

If practice makes perfect

... then I'm trying to help my students have perfect practice!!

The courses I teach on the studio side of the course catalog are largely foundational and exploratory in nature. Many of the students  I have come through my classes have never had any other art courses, haven't had them in a long time, and might never have any art courses again. My goal is to integrate as much fun as possible and introduce them to as much space to stretch out in in order to help them feel comfortable enough to just create SOMEthing. Just like how practicing writing helps to establish a personal writing voice, practicing art helps students to find the artistic voices that exist within all of them. (Per my own beliefs of faith, since we have all been created in God's likeness, we have all been given the gift of creativity as well as the power of creation. It's just a matter of tapping that part of ourselves in order to awaken it.)

Right now the students of 2D Design are in the throes of project planning and skill-building/scaffodling in order to ready themselves for a very serious project for their level.  They are taking almost a whole month for a project based within the art stylings of cubism.

In addition to the actual project that we are doing, I'm also doing my best to offer them training for real world type experiences. Given a single task, the students are always great at going forth and doing something very whole heartedly and completely well. When it comes to longer term and more complex projects? They don't know where to start or how to plan out their time. They become easily overwhelmed and thus crippled by the sheer magnitude of what they want to do. They feel like they can't possibly do whatever it is that they want to do.

This project is broken down into more "bite-size" and easily chewed pieces and chunks while still walking them through the paces of learning fundamentals. They are learning how to use simple drawing/drafting tools like compasses, T-squares, triangles, and scales/rulers to draw the basic shapes in both 2D and 3D forms. They are also learning how to properly tint and shade (for acrylic painting and color gradations) by color mixing with white and black and their selected hues. They are learning about proper care for art materials and tools (brush cleaning, paint portioning), as well as self-evaluation skills that are yielding ability to not only make great judgment calls but also verbalization skills to explain why something is good or not so good.

Something new I'm doing this year is incorporating 1:1 conversations and conferences with the students as a capstone for each stage of the project planning process.  Since I have classes of nothing but millenials, this mode of working, teaching, and advising is really helping to keep them both motivated, encouraged, but still challenged to keep working and trying. There was a time when I felt like the constant and frequent need for feedback was an "annoying" element to have to deal with but it's actually not been so bad. I'm certainly not saying enough of anything that they are being coddled and definitely the critiques I'm offering are not only in the positive realm and more instructional that urge them to be more critical and careful in their brushstrokes and decision making when they are actually doing their work.

Anyway. End soapbox for me. :)

Just wanted to pop on in an effort to keep things a little more up to date on this here blog as well as offer some insight on what is and isn't working in a high school art classroom currently. When I started this blog last winter/spring, there were very few art education blogs focusing on the high school level. The ones I did find had lots of student samples to look at but not as many write-ups on actual lesson plans and even less on actual classroom goings-on, teaching and classroom management tips.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do what you love, LOVE what you do!

Things that are currently occupying me include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • Wrapping up with first quarter grades for the (over) 120 students I teach
  • Set design and effect painting for the school's production of Diary of Anne Frank that premieres next week
  • Teaching/starting a new project based in Cubism with the 2D design courses that will require a solid month of studio/class time (double what we normally do for a project)
  • Repairing signage for the career and college counseling department
  • Designing and creating a display piece for the marching band's annual group portrait and autograph board
  • Curriculum mapping my current courses
  • Curriculum writing for a a visual web design course I got the go-ahead for
  • Solidifying plans to offer a weekly summer session at the school's summer recreational program focused strictly on instructional canvas and easel painting for 7th to 12th graders
And then outside of school? My time is spent like this:
  • Being a wife
  • Being a mom
  • Actively booking, confirming, editing, and delivering photography work
  • Fielding offers for commissioned artwork and soft sculptures and filling orders
  • Blogging on over half a dozen sites for personal, professional, and educational networking purposes

I rarely stop to take stock of the things I'm doing at any given time. This is likely because every time I do, I get overwhelmed by looking at the lists of things that result. (Bear in mind that I probably left off at least 3-4 things from either one of those lists!)  Some people might call what I do being a workaholic but I call it being/keeping busy.

At some point I know I'm going to have to stop going the way I have been going but I don't know when that is and as it stands, I'm also not willing to stand around long enough to ponder when that ought to/will actually happen. In my singleton days I was busy and everybody told me that would stop when/if I got married. When I got married, I was even busier and everyone told me that would stop when/if I had kids. I have a kid now and I'm even busier! I suppose God could see fit to add more kids into the mix for me but I don't know if/when that will happen and (like I said) I'm not standing around contemplating the answer to that.

Screenshot of the Fuel Your Photography site where I am a monthly contributor.

The amazing thing about all of this is there actually was a time in my life when I wasn't able to be a working artist. I started college majoring in studio visual arts (photography to be specific) but my family discouraged me from pursuing it beyond my first semester of college. At their insistence, they encouraged me to pick major  studies that would at least yield a career field that could start as an entry-level administrative support position. I obliged them and went that route while still pursuing freelance visual art work in my own time.

As I continued to work double-time during a time when starting photography businesses were not as common as they are now (2001 was when this was happening), the photography work really took off for me and my family all of a sudden become supportive of me pursuing that whole-heartedly. I continued to do the day-job arrangement but my path ended up crossing with a woman who I now know as my visual art mentor. She recognized my natural gifts and inclinations as well as my resistance to giving into it all completely. She was constantly telling me to GO and DO and "... the money will follow." It's hard to hear that and take it in and start owning it when all of your life you are told that "there's a reason who call themselves artists typically have to add the word starving to their job titles."

I took a major leap of faith to be able to get where I am now and make a living doing what I'm able to do both as an art teacher and a working freelance artist. Over fifteen years of my life have been devoted to me yearning for a life that I never thought was possible and now I'm here! I feel like this is much more the reason why I am constantly busy and constantly pushing my own boundaries of how I can express myself both visually and creatively. All of this is nothing short of an immense blessing to my life. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the fact that I could still be on a career path that has me trapped in an office with no windows and going to long drawn out meetings in skyscraper rooms that only make me want to throttle myself through the plate glass windows that surrounded me. (Seriously. This sounds like melodramatics but it was absolutely like this and I was tasked as "low man on the totem pole" to go to said meetings because everyone else hated them that much too.)

I have no idea where I'm supposed to go next in life and where this is all leading me. I do know that I love where I am right now though. And I do know that the things that I am finally able to do now that I love so much are only preparatory for the things that are coming to me down the line that I will love even that much more. Why? Because I'm continuing to walk in faith that I'm doing exactly as God wants me to and because of my own willing obedience, He will continue to provide ways for me to serve and glorify Him more and more and MORE. Amen to that. AMEN.

As this blog continues to increase upon itself and the readership continues to grow and get more and more hits by people seeking both art education curriculum ideas as well as visual art inspirations, I implore everyone to realize that if I can get to where I am by taking leaps of faith, YOU can too.  And whether or not you are a believer and follower of Christ or not, you still can take leaps of faith to get yourself closer to that life that has only been a pipedream. With every blind bound into the direction of your dreams, you are closer than you once were and more and more the artist that everyone else assumed could only be starving. Art history is absolutely decorated with individuals who went against everybody else's natural brushstrokes and criticisms and its those very individuals that ended up starting entire upheavals, visual revolutions, and major art movements. We all need to do more of what we love and that's the bottom line.

Lesson idea: Levitation Photography - Digital

As promised, here are the student pieces from the Levitation photography project. This project came from the fact that the students wanted to do more photography specific assignments as well as from my own goals of scaffolding photoshop skills and keeping up with trends in photoshop "tricks."

The students had no formal tutorial that they were following for this project and the rendering process they used was informed by both previous experience/tutorials as well as their own understanding of how photoshop works. I urged them to approach this project such that their images yielded a surreal feel to it and we looked at samples of both levitation photoshopped images as well as surreal artwork. Each piece was evaluated not only for seamless rendering but also use of color, placement of lighting and shadows, and of course creativity. I offered them in class time as well as photography assistance for getting their pictures taken since it's always an advantage for this type of work to have greater manual controls over the functions of the camera when you are taking the picture so as to yield the most accurate exposure and shadows. You can always add those things in photoshop but getting it right in the camera will always be better.

Overall the students did very well. Some of them attempted to create very surrealistic type depictions while still maintaining the natural backgrounds while others completely conceptualized fictitious environments for them to be levitating within.

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