Thursday, November 14, 2013

Save the Dry Erase Markers!

At my school, we don't have blackboards and instead we have white/dry-erase boards. When I first came to this school over five years ago I was really excited about this fact because in public school I had blackboards that I had a real love-hate feeling toward for all of the reasons you might imagine if you have any experience dealing with blackboards. Still, having white/dry-erase boards wasn't nearly as awesome as I thought it would be. They soon became just as annoying to me as the blackboards were but just in different ways.

(Now, I understand this is totally a "first world problem" that I am referencing but just please bear with me.)

One of my biggest issues with having a whiteboard in class is the marker issue. Markers go missing all the time but if they aren't missing, we have issues with them because the ink seems to run out very quickly. For this reason, I barely use my whiteboard and I'm almost always fussing about not being able to actually use it.

All of this in mind, a week or so ago, I started noticing that even though I wasn't using my board, the markers would always be arranged and positioned the way they are pictured above. While it seemed a little strange that they were like that (and seemed to always be put back to be like that), I didn't think much of it and I wouldn't disturb them either. Then the other day, I found the individual who was putting them like that! It was a STUDENT ARTIST!!! And almost every day, if the markers weren't like that, he would arrange and position them like that. While in the midst of him doing it, I commented and laughed and said, "Oh YOU'RE the one who is doing that! I was wondering what was going on!" The student artist, who is actually also one of our star football players and who is a really big and burly guy and sits very close to my teaching station in the front of the room, smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah... it's me." And then I asked him why he was doing it and he said, "Well... Mr. *so-and-so* does it all the time and it makes a big difference and makes it so the markers always have ink. It really does make a difference so I was trying to help you to have markers that wouldn't be so hard to use."

I gotta tell you - when he said this and said why he was doing it? It just about made my whole month and I feel like it's one of the nicest things any student has ever done for me - however small it might seem because it makes such a big difference. And OF COURSE it works, y'know? Because it helps to keep the ink flowing toward the writing tip vs. having it settle in the middle of the marker. Why didn't I think of that?

Anyway, surely you all have been doing this and I am the only one not doing this but I just wanted to share this little "feel good" anecdote because this kind of stuff is always nice to hear about in my book.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A mini walking tour of the Digital Art Studio Lab Classroom

I always showcase things of the studio art classroom but rarely do you see anything of the digital art studio classroom/lab other than finished artwork on occasion. So, here is a mini walking tour of that classroom.

The two courses that I teach in the digital art studio computer lab classroom are Graphic Design (which utilizes Photoshop) and Digital Studio (which uses Illustrator). Despite what the names of the courses imply or suggest, the Graphic Design is basically Digital Art I and Digital Studio is Digital Art II. One of my goals for this year is to change that within the course catalog so it makes a little bit more sense and there is better clarity with regard to how the two classes are connected.

Something else that you might have noted from the video is that I use a classroom management tool that is something I found from Pinterest. It's an "am I done" sort of check-list and I have it printed in color and laminated and then tacked in strategically decided upon places all around the classroom. The art teacher who originally designed it deserves so much credit for it and MORE because it is beautifully designed and created and BRILLIANT for the purposes of answering the question that the students always have of, "Am I done (yet)?" If you are interested in it, I wish I had the direct link to it but I cannot find it but the blog is HERE and it's called "The Lost Sock."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The things we all carry :: Arts Integration

What kind of arts integration are you doing these days? I mean, I know that you might be an art educator so art education is not only what you do but also what you do best but that wasn't my question. 

One thing that I am very aware of as an artist is the importance of connections and relationships. In order to design and create a successful work of art, one element or principle is not nearly so effective or meaningful if it's standing completely on it's own. Pulling the different elements of art and principles of design together - even if it's done in simple ways - is so powerful, communicative, and amazing to behold. Artist and art educators know this as fact but if we don't share that with others by INTEGRATING what we know with what everyone else knows (apart from the arts), we are keeping the richness and beauty of the arts to ourselves. And what fun is that? Seriously. Misery might enjoy company but happiness and delightedness enjoys a big ol' party that everyone is invited to, RSVP's to, and actually shows up to.

I mentioned last week that I am embarking on a new project with the 2D Design students that draws upon the power of using our lives to tell stories in order to explain how the sum of the parts is way more than the parts themselves. Every day I have been offering the students parts of myself and my story (as a way to practice what I both preach and TEACH) and I have shown them a different way to "read" things other than words on a page. Trying to do this on the daily has challenged me in all sorts of ways that I never thought it would because I'm literally trying to come up with more than a half dozen ways to say and show the exact same idea.

One of my favorite books that I have ever read is called "The Things They Carried." I read the book in my college freshman English class and it was one of the most illuminating and illustrative writings that I have ever read took a very VERY abstract concept and put it in words very simply and in a way that was easy to understand. And this concept made me think about what I carry and what my students carry on the daily that offer very interesting perspectives of who, what, and how we are in our lives. Want to see what I have been carrying out so far this school year (at least)? Here are the contents of my crossbody/shoulder bag (basically a purse) that I don't leave home without. These are the contents of what is in that bag without editing (well, photo editing not withstanding)

The contents of your bag can tell all sorts of things about you. Here's mine! What? You don't carry a tiny hammer in your purse too?

I have been hitting my student artists hard with the importance of reading beyond words on a page for the past week or so and while it's been incredibly taxing for me on any given day, it's been enormously rewarding for me to see their understandings and abilities "click" into place on the subject of non-verbal and written literacy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Keep calm... and... what was the next thing?

It's Friday. And I needed some serious comic relief because sometime life is so complicated for me that I have to make myself laugh so I don't explode instead.


Nothing like a little graphic design geekery to give me the hearty chuckle I needed. The only thing that would have made me laugh more would have been if there had been a mention or an appearance of Comic sans.



Actually, that might have made me feel even closer to exploding. Nevermind. ;)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are you an ARTIST teacher?

This series of images documents the ongoing progress/process of a very large in-class demo of oil painting.
Just this past summer, I had the great honor and pleasure to meet one of my blog readers (Hi, K!) in part because they were doing their graduate studies capstone research project on the matter of not just teaching art but being an artist who just as well teaches. The whole idea was so curious and intriguing to me because I never stopped to think about what kind of teacher I am and even seek to be other than just trying to be the best professional art educator myself. 

Still, it got me thinking - have I been an artist teacher? What does it take to be an artist teacher if you aren't one? And, if you aren't an artist teacher, should you seek to be? And if you are an artist teacher, when do you stop being an artist and start being a teacher of art - or are those identities/roles so beautifully braided together that they don't beg to even try to be separated?

When I met with my blog reader, the intent was to be interviewed by them about the whole notion of being an artist teacher but it ended up turning into a very interesting and thought provoking conversation about that plus many other things. At one point they asked me something along the lines of if I wasn't an artist teacher or even an artist, what would I call myself. I sat and thought for a moment and then I declared that I am "curious" and that's what I believe that I am. Even now, months after that interview/conversation, I feel like "curious" is the best way for me to both explain, define, and identify myself. 

Last year, I believe I struck upon something incredibly important that has truly changed the trajectory of what I was trying to do when I first became an art educator five years ago. I realized the importance of process within the creation of art and I also started making a great distinction between the notion of CREATING art vs. making art. I did this not only in my own life but I also stressed this within all that I was teaching my student artists. 

I believe it's because of this that I finally started seeing more original, interesting, thought provoking, intentional and REMARKABLE artwork from my student artist more than I ever had before. It was incredible and the difference between what I did last year with my student artists and years before? You can totally see how much more on a different "level" it was and then continued to be with each next step they took with their learning and project endeavors. The difference between the two was that I made my teaching objective and curriculum a lot more about them (so, student-centered and inquiry-based) and a lot less about me (lecturing, deliberately steering each of them through very narrow paths of techniques for making things rather than creating them).

This year I tried something even more adventurous than what I did last year with an even greater emphasis on the importance of developing and having a creative process in order to be a more intentional artist and designer. While I have readily used in-class demos before, it's been in a way that kind of disconnects me from the process for the most part - meaning, I don't really show them much other than just demonstrating specific techniques. In my own experience as an artist though, I have learned that process isn't just figuring out and refining technique. It's about the perseverance, the critical thinking, deep emotional investment and personal connection with whatever work of art is currently in the works. All of that is even more integral to the creative process than refined technique but if I don't show the students that I go through this? I fail to show them some of the most important parts of the creative process and any finished work of art I might show them that I created seems to just appear vs. it being something that they truly see and understand was a labor of love (if you will). 

Finally got the stem and leaf (on the right) done the other day! Now to keep myself from going back and messing it up.
I have been working on a giant oil painting of a Hoa Quynh flower for weeks and going on months at this point. To say that it's been slow going would be an understatement and this is as much because I can't spend a ton of class time on it because I am constantly circulating and interacting directly with the student artists and their artwork as much as I have been just avoiding painting as I am wont to do even in my home studio. I am committed to pushing the painting through to the end though and even though the students have now finished their oil paintings, I refuse to give up on finishing mine because there is still so much process to share with them for them to learn of that I know will help them in their own journey to find and use their unique artist voices.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A walking tour of the set design for "Little Women"

Yay for the set of "Little Women" being done!!!

Normally I share stills from the set design but thought you all might like to see it a little bit more in real-time with a walking tour of not only the set but also of the performing arts center at high school where I teach. The facility is really amazing and beautiful and I feel blessed every day that I come to work because of the facilities alone. Add my administration and faculty and staff coworkers to that mix and it makes me believe even that much more that I have the best job ever.

Anyway, enough of me bragging on my dream job. On with the tour...

 Sorry this was done in portrait orientation. I took the video with my phone and it didn't even occur to me to rotate the phone in order to have a perspective that would make a little bit more sense. Clearly I should not call myself an artist of motion picture with the job I did with this. Also, in case you were wondering, I edited the video (added transitions and all) with iMovie.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Following Directions is a Good Thing | Reading in Art Education

A little more than a year ago I proudly proclaimed the fact that I, too, am a reading teacher no matter how it much it might seem that reading in visual art and design does not naturally exist or belong. I'm happy to report that later I am still insistent on teaching reading in my content area!

One of my favorite ways to do this is to teach students to read directions and how to follow them exactly as they are written. I do this in graphic design by requiring them to do tutorials from one of my favorite photoshop reference books called The Photoshop CS3/CS4 WOW! Book. I have used this book for four years now and though that might seem like what it offers would be dated, I still feel like it's a great text to teach with. It offers all sorts of useful tricks, tips, and teaching of techniques in clear and concise ways that also include screen captures alongside the very technical but also user-friendly language.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Teach with [the stories of] your life :: The ART of a good story

Year after year, there are a few project ideas that I keep around because of how much students enjoy them. For 2D Design, the two that rarely get scrapped are the printmaking one and the fingerprint one. This year I decided to do something unique with these two and instead of doing them separately, the students are going to do a hybrid of them. They are going to do macro fingerprint designs that will be carved into printing plates that they will use to make a set of limited edition prints.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dream.Pray.Create. Giveaway :: And the winner is...

Congratulations, you have won the marker set!!! 

Thank you for leaving this comment that was 
randomly selected with the randomized number picker. 
(See the screenshot below)

Please contact me directly (DreamPrayCreate::at::gmailDOTcom) and provide me with your direct contact information and shipping address so I can get the marker set to you ASAP!

Thank you, everyone, for participating and please come back and enter another of at least two giveaways that I will be doing in the coming months!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Giant Paper Airplane Fly Off :: Just for Fun

Don't forget to enter the "Giving YOU the good stuff" (from Prang) fine-line marker giveaway by this coming Thursday, October 31st, at midnight HERE in the comments sectionThis isn't sponsored by Prang and is something that I just wanted to do because I like the Prang products so much after using them.

Remember: You don't have to tweet anything or follow me on any social networking conduits. 
Just answer the question in the blog posting HERE in the corresponding comments section and I will pick a winner randomly and announce it on Friday, November 1st! Good luck to you in winning it the prize!

One of the greatest art ed resources that I think I might have at any given time is something I call "back pocket" project ideas. Are you familiar with these? Perhaps you know them by a different name. Perhaps you call them "plan D" or "the plan you have when all else fails." *ha!*

Seriously though. For me, "back pocket" project ideas are those that add in plenty of learning but also allow for just as much fun just for the pure fun of it. They are also good for those times when scheduling is tight and doesn't allow for longer running projects OR for when you need a "filler" but you don't want to use fluffy filler because... well... why just fill time, y'know?

Last year at the tail end of the year, I did two "back pocket" ideas that were a huge hit. This one actually was inspired by the fact that I was slightly annoyed with the fact that a paper airplane craze got kicked off among the students and they would be flying across the room at any given time and most of them were not even that well designed enough for them to fly even part way across the room! I was constantly saying to the students that if they were going to endeavor to throw paper airplanes, they should at least design and make them well enough that they could actually fly right!  All of this got me thinking that perhaps I could take my personal irritation of poorly designed (and made) paper airplanes and allow for a real teachable moment.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lesson Idea: All Creatures Great and Small | 2D Design

This work was done almost three semesters ago by the 2D art and design students and I never got around to sharing it with you all! While it didn't pan out entirely as I had planned it would, I feel like the final works are still interesting and provided a great in depth study of lots of the principles of design and elements of art. I called this project endeavor "All Creatures Great and Small" since the subject matter was animals.

The inspiration of this project endeavor came from Heather Galler's Art on etsy. Clearly the students saw what Ms. Galler did and took a whole lot of creative liberties but I didn't have the heart to tell them not to be quite so ambitious and adventurous.

The students worked on poster board support and then used solvent based pens and markers to draw and color each of their works. I stressed the importance of using the positioning and arrangements of the patterns in order to show correct form as much as possible.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's that time again :: Set Design :: Little Women - Fall 2013

Don't forget to enter the "Giving YOU the good stuff" (from Prang) fine-line marker giveaway by this coming Thursday, October 31st, at midnight HERE in the comments sectionThis isn't sponsored by Prang and is something that I just wanted to do because I like the Prang products so much after using them.

Remember: You don't have to tweet anything or follow me on any social networking conduits. 
Just answer the question in the blog posting HERE in the corresponding comments section and I will pick a winner randomly and announce it on Friday, November 1st! Good luck to you in winning it the prize!

One of my major responsibilities annually is handling the artistic direction of some of the major
dramatic performance productions at my school. While this used to just entail set painting and dressing and prop creation and making, it's also become an even bigger task because I sometimes even draw up set plans for the faculty directors/producers/set building crews as informed by multiple meetings and "visions" that any involved might have for the finished show. This is what the aforementioned looks like...

Monday, October 28, 2013

The All-You-Can-Color Bar :: Student-centered Art Education

Don't forget to enter the "Giving YOU the good stuff" (from Prang) fine-line marker giveaway by this coming Thursday, October 31st, at midnight HERE in the comments sectionThis isn't sponsored by Prang and is something that I just wanted to do because I like the Prang products so much after using them.

Remember: You don't have to tweet anything or follow me on any social networking conduits. 
Just answer the question in the blog posting HERE in the corresponding comments section and I will pick a winner randomly and announce it on Friday, November 1st! Good luck to you in winning it the prize!

I teach all of the foundational level studio art courses at my school and I also serve as the department head of the visual arts and in my time leading to me taking the leadership role I now have, I have found that the best way to facilitate the foundational level art courses is by allowing them to be exploratory in nature.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard the student artists that come through my class ask things like, "Can I use *insert any color here*?" or (during a mixed media project) "Am I allowed to use *insert any dry medium here*?" While it might seem exasperating for me to field these questions, I actually don't get exasperated. More than anything, it breaks my heart to hear the student artists ask these things in their obviously timid ways.

I always start the year with a pre-assessment assignment that allows me to see how much they might already know/can do as well as gauge how confident (or not usually) they are starting out. My favorite type or pre-assessment is one that employs mixed-media approaches. This year I took some brilliant notes from a fellow art education blogger and made oversized foldables telling and and showing the elements of art. (I will be sharing these with you hopefully soon even though they are weeks overdue for this.) The endeavor worked out really well because it allowed me to preview some curriculum I would be instructing upon for this whole semester and it also allowed me to do one of my favorite things which was to set up a "color bar" for them to just dig right into.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Giving YOU the good stuff :: Prang Marker Giveaway

Thanks so much for sticking with me through this week of belated Dixon Ticonderoga's Prang product reviews. As promised in all of my reviews, I have a giveaway for you of my most favorite Prang product that I was so blessed to have try this week. And it is? The markers!!!


Just to be completely clear, this is not a giveaway sponsored by Prang (meaning: they did not give this to me to giveaway) and rather it was inspired by my experience with all of the Prang products that I reviewed. Also, to clarify things, I did not review the fine line markers but I do own them at my home studio (shared with my 5 yo daughter) and I made the decision to buy them for our supply inventory because of my very positive experience with the Prang broad tipped markers.

Anyway, I am giving away the 96-set of Prang fine line markers just as you see them above to anyone who wants them whether you are an art teacher, working artist, homeschooling teacher, etc.

Here's how you enter to win them! Leave a comment on this posting telling me the following: 
What was your favorite product from Prang/Dixon Ticonderoga that I reviewed this week and why?

And that's it. That's all you have to do. You don't have to tweet anything or follow me on any social networking conduits. Just answer that question in the comments below and then I will pick a winner randomly next Friday. That means if you missed this whole week of of reviews and and need to go back and read them all then you have time to do that and then still enter the contest!

For your convenience, here are links to all of the reviews that I did this week:

And that's that! It's been a long while since I have done a giveaway on here and I hope that this isn't the last one for a long while but it honestly all depends on you! If it seems that you all are receptive, perhaps I can manage to do some more and more often. Remember! You have until next Thursday at midnight to enter the contest and I will announce the winner next Friday, November 1, 2013 at 7am Eastern Standard Time. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apples and Oranges sure are hard to compare :: Prang Ticonderoga Product Review

Disclosure: Compensation was provided Dixon Ticonderoga company
Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative 
of the opinions or positions of Dixon Ticonderoga.

So, I might have hinted to much of what conclusions were drawn with this review simply by the very cliched title I selected but... well... here's the review. 

It's another Prang vs. Crayola showdown and I am impressed (yet again) that Prang opted to send me a Crayola brand product instead of Rose Art or something. I feel like this says a lot about Prang's confidence in their product and I really appreciate that. Upon initial inspection of the packaging it's almost like looking at some throwback (of just a couple days but still) pictures of the marker review. Everything I noted before of the packaging is about the same but this time Prang didn't trump Crayola's palette by more colors... or wait... does it actually?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This showdown (of two pencils) was almost a DRAW :: Dixon Ticonderoga Product Review

Disclosure: Compensation was provided Dixon Ticonderoga company
Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative 
of the opinions or positions of Dixon Ticonderoga.

To be quite honest, I almost didn't want to do this particular review. This is because I pretty much already have my own opinions formed of Ticonderoga pencils (which is that they are the best pencils EVER) and this isn't for lack of experience with them. I've had quite a number of experiences with standard wood and graphite pencils and I have yet to find any other pencil/brand that can come even close to touching the awesomeness of Ticonderoga pencils. And for all of these reasons I haven't wanted to really review the pencils. I mean, clearly I am biased toward them on top of the fact that I am a brand loyalist on top of the fact that Ticonderoga pencils are the best! (Period)

It's like a duel of the most unexpected two subjects ever. Who will be the winner and who will be the lose?

All of this said, I still did the review and I must say... I was quite surprised by my findings about how a Walmart brand (of all brands!) was able to stand quite strong up against the ever favorite and popular Ticonderoga brand. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Too Good to Keep to Myself :: Prang Ticonderoga Product Review

Disclosure: Compensation was provided Dixon Ticonderoga company
Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative 
of the opinions or positions of Dixon Ticonderoga.

Dixon Ticonderoga sent me the Prang Marker set alongside a competing set by Crayola.

One thing I noticed almost immediately was the fact that the Prang set included (2) more colors beyond what could be a standard 10-color set in addition to the fact that the Prang set had both French and Spanish translations on their packaging. Crayola's only notes that they are preferred by teachers which I cannot lie that I know quite a few art teachers (me included) who swear by Crayola brand anything.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Maybe I do like Watercolor Painting Afterall :: Prang Ticonderoga Product Review

Let me just preface this by saying that watercolor painting is my least favorite medium to use and so I rarely use it in my classroom. The way you should take this is to know that I already come from a place of not liking watercolor paint/painting and that means it would take A LOT to "sell" me on the idea that it's worth my time to even try out or even consider. Does this all say that I am stubborn? Probably. That's the truth though. I am. OR... it means that I have very sharp abilities to discern what is worth both your time and mine. All of this said, here is my review of the Prang Watercolor set sent to me for review.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided Dixon Ticonderoga company

Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative 
of the opinions or positions of Dixon Ticonderoga.

Dixon Ticonderoga sent me the Prang Watercolor paint set alongside a competing set by Rose Art.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Here Comes the "Good Stuff" you didn't even know you were waiting for...

 Over the summer, I was contacted by Dixon Ticonderoga to review some of their products for their "Get the Good Stuff" campaign. I happily agreed to review some of their products because I am already quite a fan of their pencils so the rest of the stuff? It's gotta be pretty good too, right? And I'm always open to changing my mind if it means that my student artists will have better tools to use for their amazing works of art.

Dixon Ticonderoga very kindly and swiftly delivered a lovely selection of their products along with some that were of competing brands. Because I was finishing out graduate school though? I had to take that lovely selection and put it aside until I finished my last two classes that included some of what I have already shown you as well as some major curriculum development work that was a whole year's worth of scope and 18 weeks of sequence. *sigh*

I'm happy to report that I am finally done with my graduate degree work and while I don't have my degree in-hand just yet, in a month or so it will be conferred and I WILL have it. And this means? I can finally do the reviews I have been wanting to do rather than sitting the box of all of the "good stuff" in my home studio (also where I was finishing all of my graduate coursework) and looking at it longingly for the day when my degree would finally be done.

So... this is the official announcement that next week will be a FULL WEEK of not only product reviews of what the Prang Dixon Ticonderoga company sent me but also an opportunity to a sampling of what I have been trying out and loving since they sent everything to me over the summer. Sorry it's taken me so long to get this going but, well... "good stuff" comes to those who wait. Thankfully you don't have to wait too much longer.

See you Monday when all of the reviews are kicked off!

Disclosure: Compensation was provided Dixon Ticonderoga company
Opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative 

of the opinions or positions of Dixon Ticonderoga.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The countdown (to the end of grad school) is ON!!!

Seriously, guys. I'm sorry I have been so absent so far this year. I am less than FIVE DAYS from completing my final two classes for graduate school and then I will have my MEd!!!!!! And these classes that I am in right now? They are the dooziest of doozies (of classes) that I have taken yet. But then what do I expect, right?

Thought I would share with you yet another Powtoons creation that I put together and submitted as a part of my capstone project for my Directed Practicum project. I was allowed to propose anything I wanted and so I decided to put together a "starter package" (for all intents and purposes) for a beginning secondary art education teacher. There are (4) components of it including the powtoon (see below) that took me a ridiculous amount of time to create. The other parts are a lesson planning template (the one that I am always hocking to you all that uses inquiry-based learning), an idea for studio art classroom design (if money were no object or anything - see pics below the powtoon created with Interior Design App on iPad) and a comprehensive list of suggested supplies (available upon request - just leave me a comment and let me know how to get it to you OR email me!)

Anyway, here's the powtoon that I call "State of the {ART} Education" (that's what I called my who project) and below are the images of the interior design for my "dream" art education classroom that go along with the notion of what I believe to be "State of the {ART] Education."


Here are some of the shots of the classroom design...

In my original presentation of the classroom design, there were "walking" views of each space shown in the aerial views of the total space. It was a LOT OF WORK but kind of fun and I really enjoyed how simple the interior design app was for iPad to use. It was very much "what you see is what you get" in its functionality and capability and also saved me quite a bit of moo-lah seeing as how it wasn't the hundreds of dollars that a CAD program like that would have been had it not been a (more expensive) app the way it is ($10.99 is what I think it was but it was worth every single penny).

Anyone, I am in the throes of my last (and most gauntlet-like) graduate assignment which is for me to write 18 weeks of curriculum. I have a lot of it done but that's not nearly enough because in addition to all that I still have left of that? I have a bunch of other items that need to also be attended to in order to wrap up both of my courses. I've come this far, right? When all is said and done I might start calling myself the "Little Engine that could." *wink*

See you next time when I have finished it all and I have (FINALLY) have my masters degree!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creation from CREATION because we were created to create

Yesterday was the first day of 2D Design class OUTSIDE. You should have heard the joyous cheering from my student artists as they have been working toward this day for weeks now.

The foci of our latest creative endeavors (yes - there are way more than one) include but are not limited to the following:
  • Learn how to draw and paint from observation
  • Learn how to make marks with greater integrity and of a more "painterly" quality
  • Get a feel for working with wet into wet mediums with oil pastels that will segue us into oil paint
  • Learn how to create space within a work of art using an open palette of colors and their values
  • Working alla prima type fashion
  • Draw less of what we think something looks like (i.e. "lollipop" and broccoli trees) and more of what things really look like

Our set-up to work en plein air utilized the following materials:

Large drawing boards with Blick sulphite paper quickly and simply "stretched" with masking tape 
Individual cups with single servings of one of each color from Crayola's Portfolio-brand Oil Pastels to give each student artist an open palette. Some students also opted to bring a fine-tip sharpie as well.

While the morning gave us plenty of rain, the afternoon provided just the right amount of overcast so it wasn't too sunny or hot to work out in our favorite spot surrounded by lots of interesting looking trees and a great view of the sky for attempts at both treescapes and cloudscapes.

This shot was heavily processed via instagram (my username is DreamPrayCreate, of course!) as the sky wasn't nearly so ominous looking as is pictured. Please pardon the artistic license I took.

And because I am doing my best to fight a horrible cold and flu bug sweeping through my school community and trying to overtake my household, I am barely making it through the day without indulging myself in the only vice that I think I might ever have: an ice cold can of Dr. Pepper bought at a heavily inflated price of $1 from the school store. The way I see it, at least I am supporting the school by indulging myself, right?

Also from my instagram feed. One of the alumnae that follows my instagram stream said the shadow cast makes me look like I am taking in an afternoon smoke or something. *facepalm* I AM NOT A SMOKER. I'm only a drinker of Dr. Pepper.
Anyway, I feel like all I do lately is apologize for not posting things that I said I would on this hear blogsite. Uhm... I have been sick. I have been completely souped up on Nyquil and covered in Vicks Vapo Rub. I have been working my way through TWO graduate school classes for my final month that will completely finish my Masters in Education. I have been doing what feels like eleventy billion other things that don't make sense to me but seem to suck up time that I didn't have in the first place. *shrug* I don't know what else to say other than all of this. *wink*

And I will not end this with another apology OR promise to be back here soon with things that I easily won't deliver.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My Back to School Night "Commercial" :: Multimedia Teaching Tools

I know. This is my second Powtoon in a week. I guess you could say I am slightly obsessed with them. *shrug* I can't help it! They are so creatively challenging and fun to make!! Anyway...

My last one was for the students but this one is actually for their parents because I "premiered" it last evening at Back-to-School night in an effort to introduce myself. This one is definitely more elaborate than the last one however it's over half as long in running time (exactly 30 seconds). I think it might have taken about the same amount of creative processing and design time as the last one though and I believe this is because I am just a lot more familiar with how Powtoons work and so I'm getting a lot faster.

I doubt this will be my last one but so far I might like it the best of all. I really enjoyed layering all of the elements, editing in the transitions, thinking about how things should be done in order to visually communicate and SHOW what I was trying to tell the parents of my students.

You might notice that what I didn't do was give a mini lecture about what goes on in my class and this is because we are encouraged not to do that so much as to offer the parents/school community a little bit more of a personal side of ourselves. That's why you didn't see any educational jargon and other bally-hoo of that sort.

One thing I know I want to do though after logging so much Powtoon time already is that I already know that I want to include this as an assessment tool for the Graphic Design student artists. There is just so much range and it's so fun. My only concern is that I don't know that the computer system we have right now can handle it.  Well... I guess there's only one way to find out, right? I'll let you know when that happens.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

PowToon is my new favorite thing!!!

Can't remember where I saw this recently but another brilliant art education blogging teacher used the amazingness that is PowToon web-based design platform to make a really cool multimedia and fully animated and soundtracked video for the purposes of welcoming her students back AND refreshing their memories about classroom rules, procedures, and expectations. The program is sort of like Xtranormal except WAY better. (I mean A MILLION ZILLION times better.) It's currently in beta and mostly free but there is educators discount pricing which was only $60 for the year.

(Too rich for your taste? Well, I plunked down the money because I work with the school's marketing team, I might be able to finagle being reimbursed for it, AND I seriously love it so much I might use it over powerpoint or even Keynote from here on out.)

Anyway, I could not help but be inspired by this new and "shiny" technology and this week we are getting into the whole business of learning how to do critiques (both self and peer) and I thought this would be a great way to introduce the purpose of critiques, the process, and the layout of the goals and expectations. Here is the video short I just finished and while the learning curve started rather steep, it's a lot like iMovie (actually, I felt like it came more naturally to me even) and it was fun to do. You should try it out if you are interested in something new and unique to show your art students how creativity and creation can be stretched beyond paper, canvas, and other such traditional surfaces.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Since when did I start doing gymnastics (of all things)

My new purse is a design of Jump From Paper
Good morning! How are you?

I was up at my usual 5am this morning despite the fact that it's a Saturday morning and I have been busy trying to catch up with a myriad of things that have escaped me this week including returning to this blog!

Yesterday was the last day of the first week of school and it also happened to be the day when all of my art supplies finally arrived from Dick Blick. *seriously?* My student aide helped me to start unpacking the mountain of boxes and though I made some progress checking things in, I will be headed back into my classroom either today or tomorrow to finish it out and put things away so that I'm not starting next week with this week's work spread out all over the studio classroom.

If it's not obvious enough, I have been buried by more than just my shipment of art supply boxes. That said, I am working on making changes so that I don't have to abandon this blog.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Keepin' it real while I plan for the year

I have been up and at it since before 5am.
Well, hello there! And how are you today? Not sure what happened to me this morning but I actually woke up at 4:30 am, tried to go back to sleep for a bit and then gave up after about 15 minutes, and then submitted to waking up for the day and getting things started. And I have been up since then. I caved and took a 40 minute nap at around 3pm when I usually crash and require a "fix" of caffeine (in the form of Dr. Pepper is most preferred) in order to keep me in gear.


All things considered, I have actually gotten quite a bit done today. Here are some of the major bits...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's OK. You can call me BOY-crazy if you want to.

Hello and how are you? Sorry it's been about a month since I have done anything here on the blogsite. With all of the spending time with my family and a mostly relaxing summer schedule in full swing and two graduate study courses (at the same time) and NOT painting a thing because I have been customizing American Girl dolls to make them look like boy dolls instead... I guess you could say I have been quite busy!

What's that? Oh... that last thing? The whole customizing American Girl dolls to look like boy dolls? Uhhhh... yeah. About that. Hmmm. Where do I even begin?

Well, if you didn't know, I have a five year old daughter and she happens to be a pretty serious fan of American Girl dolls. Heard of them? They've been around for upwards of 20 years so perhaps you have because you had them when you were younger OR you have kids who are into them. Or... perhaps you know about them because you don't like them for any number of reasons.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Learning to listen and then let go

Some weeks back, I started oil painting again after taking an unintentional sabbatical for quite some time. I was able to complete two 36 x 36 pieces in one weekend. I felt pretty uplifted by them both.

And then something happened with the second one I did. The longer I looked at it, the more I become convinced that it wasn't as it was supposed to be. There was an unnatural darkness about it that made me feel uneasy and prompted me to try and make adjustments to help illuminate it. Everything I did only made it worse and spread more darkness over it. My husband tried his best to convince me that I should just let it be and friends of mine gave me plenty of affirmations that is was "pretty good." I wasn't convinced though I ended it quickly by rubbing it down with turpenoid and not even thinking twice about it. I knew that finishing it and then wiping it clean was absolutely essential to the creative process for what this painting would be.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The unPlugged version of Art-at-home

Without even realizing or trying to, I realized that I have recently been spending more of my time "unplugged" than ever before. I have put down and away my phone and other electronic devices more than ever and I have spent less time trolling the web. This has allowed for more time to paint, invest myself in creative processing (of all sorts), and spending time with my husband and almost 5 yo daughter. One of the highlights of all of this happened this past weekend when I got the notion to finally put together a fairy garden for my daughter...

Monday, May 20, 2013

This is why I paint and why I should be painting a lot more often

This weekend provided the first opportunities in months for me to really invest some time and paint in my home studio. Here are the fruits of my labor...

Both were done in Gamblin oils on stretched canvases that are 36x36 in size. Both are completely original works for me and this is a huge first for me. Both were also done - start to finish - within less than 48 hours of time. I have no titles for them yet but I am working on that. The inspiration for the subject matter should be obvious enough but largely it is informed by my Christian beliefs and experiences so far in my life.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My secret about how I "do it all" is...

Here it is: I don't.

Yesterday, was mother's day for mothers the world over (including me) but I wasn't celebrating it because I had to travel hours out of state to a funeral. Yesterday, I also had to finish up another graduate studies course for my MAT program that is still at least a full calendar year from being able to be completely finished and today starts yet another class. Yesterday, I also had to do various other things like inventorying my current textbooks so that I could have them ready to sell to fellow grad students and while this seems like a minor task, it's actually not - at least if you want to actually make money off of the books rather than just selling them back for a pittance. The day before yesterday (so, Saturday), I was up before 6am to help my husband with a major event he was helping to spearhead at the school where he teaches and after that I had 3+ hours of school work (for the class that officially ended yesterday). I also spent 7+ hours dealing with an issue affecting both my husband's phone and my phone that basically was rendering our phones as very fancy paperweights. Attending to the issue required one very involved trip to an Apple store and another very involved trip to the cell phone store that ended up derailed for reasons way beyond my control and I ended up eating some delicious frozen yogurt instead while on the phone for a third time that day with a customer service rep for the cell phone network I am on.

Here's something you should have noted in all of the above that is only really a typical (seriously) two days of my life beyond blogging here: I did not once mention cooking OR cleaning. For this I am not necessarily proud and I won't say I didn't clean or cook at all (because it happened partially in the midst of everything) but for the most part? It was hardly a priority. Another thing that was very much a priority but just plain wasn't mentioned was my my almost five year old daughter. She was attended to plenty I just really don't remember how, what, and when I did for her amidst all of the... well, everything that I did.

Some weeks ago I was checking into Pinterest (I do this sporadically when I need to rest my brain mostly) and I stumbled upon this from

It made me laugh so hard because it is absolutely the truth! Because here's the thing, even if I didn't have teaching full-time, graduate school full-time, and being a wife and mother to a young child, my life would still likely be exactly as the above describes. And this is because I would end up indulging my creative inspirations, spurts, and seeking to satisfy my wandering curiosities a whole heck of a lot more than I would be making and keeping up a well-oiled and tidy household.

Anyway, I know all of this is pretty unrelated to this blog and everything and I know that I haven't been blogging lately but I just wanted to pop on here and let you know that while all of the aforementioned applies still to any given day of my life, I am working on getting some content on here to be published soon enough. In the past week since I have been not actively publishing fresh content, I have had so many hits and connections made to this site and I am so grateful that you all are finding what you need AND liking it enough to keep coming back for more. I suspect that many of you are art educators because that's what my stat counter indicates you are more often than not and I want to encourage you all to never hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments about what is posted here so that it is useful to and for you! This is the whole point of this site afterall.

And that's basically it for now at least. School is wrapping up for me over the coming three weeks and this week is actually my last one with this year's graduating seniors so their grades are due and I am definitely behind on that. I can hardly believe that another school year has gone by and I hope it has been good and fun for you all, my fellow art teachers, bloggers, and creatives.

See you in a bit (though I can't commit to exactly when that will be) with some stuff other than just explanations of why I can't actually be here. Thank you again for continuing to bear with me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Right now I am swamped. Please stand by

I am right at the end of a very labor intensive graduate class and also drawing closer to the end of the school year. To say I am incredibly busy and not able to keep up with fresh content here would be a gross understatement. So? Give me a moment or two and I will be back up and running with things shortly. Thanks!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking it from shape to form to cartoons-in-the-round

Right now, the 3D Design class is diving into the lesson idea that is Cartoons-in-the-round. It's such a favorite project for the students to do both because it offers them the opportunity to do handbuilding and work with clay and the subject matter? Well... cartoons are just so much fun! Still, for as much fun as it is, it's also incredibly challenging for so many of them. Most all of them are foundational student artists and this means that many of them have little to no experience with the visual arts. Just the same, that doesn't ever keep them from dreaming big about what they can create and as far as I am concerned, I am all about enabling them to make their seemingly impossible dreams come to fruition.

One of the big challenges I always have in teaching visual art is helping the students to see things in different ways. Sculpting is always a great adventure because of this challenge since the students inevitably pick subject matter that they know can be done in clay but they have a hard time figuring out how it will happen. Since I do not permit them to trace their selected cartoons, the frustration of the project always sets in very very early on. They print off pictures of what they want to do and insist that that is adequate for them to sculpt from. I never EVER allow it to stop there and I require them to draw (from picture reference) both a straight on front view and then a perfect side/profile view of their selected subject. I describe what they need to draw by telling them to draw a "mug shot" of their cartoon.

The majority of the students are ALWAYS frustrated by the drafting portion of this project though because they cannot figure out even how to draw things. I have found it's very helpful for them to see simple step-by-step directions (always readily online) of how to go about drawing cartoons...



Both examples above definitely help them to see how to go from simple shapes to complex forms and I teach them to interpret complex forms by visually "reading" them as simple shapes. I even offer them a key for when they are drawing and "reading" their subject matter by reminding them of how the four basic shapes look as 3D forms - circles are spheres, triangles are cones, etc.

After I do this with them, I project a random character selection onto the white board and then I draw in (with their prompting) the simple shapes found within the overall complex form. Then I turn the projector off and show them what the simple break down is...

Can't find the original cartoon but this was a baby tiger I think

I encourage them to do this simplification process to whatever they are attempting to draw not just to figure out how it should be drawn but also to show them that if they do this, they can use this to determine what complex forms they will need to have in order to put them together to make their character in sculpture form! They can even count how many spheres they will needs, cones, etc.

The students are working on sculpting all this week but they are supposed to be done by the end of this week in order for us to have enough time to dry them completely and then paint and fully articulate them. This will end up being the very last project that we do in 3D Design and I am really glad that it is working out like this.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Artist Trading Cards are so amazing

Today the Interactive Art History students are finally getting their paint brushes at their mini canvases for the ever popular Mini Masterpiece project idea. In the past they have been both excited and incredibly intimidated by the teeny-tiny canvases both this year I think I finally discovered a way to allay the fears because check out what they did with these Artist Trading Cards...

If these don't show that they are reasonably prepared and confident for really turning out some extraordinary tiny paintings that I don't know what will prove it. They will work on their tiny canvases for at least a week (starting today) in order to leave enough time for them to set and dry to give as mother's day gifts. I really look forward to sharing their finished works with you all because if this is any hint at what's to come? Surely they are going to be amazingly done!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mini Masterpiece prepping with Artist Trading Cards :: Interactive Art History

This is my third year of doing the ever popular Mini Masterpiece project with the Art History students and this year I decided to add something into the creative process of it by having the students do some trial runs with artist trading cards (ATC). Do you do ATC at all with your students?

In all honesty, I have wanted to get in on the ATC "game" for quite a while and I even have quite an inventory to do it - I ordered different supports in ATC size at the beginning of the year - but I haven't been able to get it and keep it going. I blame the ridiculous schedule I keep at any given time with working full-time, graduate studies (also full-time), married and family life, and everything else in between.

(Next year, my goal is to definitely get ATC creation and exchanges going here within the school's art community and then eventually have it connect with another school/art community. I think it would be a great for a student leader to spearhead and so it's on my goal list to make happen in that way. Anyway...)

I have all of these ATC but I haven't used them this year so far. Last week there was a major school-wide field trip that happened though with the Science department and I was left with only half of my students in almost every class! It was the perfect time to break out some ATC for the students to do some creative processing and exploration. I found it especially useful with the interactive art history students since they are prepping for doing the Mini Masterpiece project and the ATC are just the right size to get them to start thinking about scale in order for them to do more successful works of art when they get their final materials.

I put my hand in this shot so you can get a better understanding of how small they are! 

The students used the Portfolio brand Oil Pastels that we are such a huge fan of and they all turned out some pretty amazing ATC that many of them took with them in order to be able to give to their friends and/or hang in their lockers.

I have never done ATC before but I feel like it really worked as a nice stepping stones for art history students to feel a little more prepared and confident for when it comes time for them to put paint to canvas.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

iHeart this iPhone app :: Toca Tailor app review

One of my daughter's favorite apps on my phone these days is one by a company called Toca Boca called Toca Tailor. Toca Boca makes a bunch of really cool apps - Birthday party is a close runner up for us but Toca Tailor is the hands-down favorite so far. It is a paid app but it's only 99 cents and since that hardly breaks the bank I have felt like it's more than worse the money. 

(I know this is a departure from the norm here on the blog but as an art educator who is also a parent, I am always interested in apps that have a little more intrinsic value than just temporary amusement. I also appreciate apps with decent illustrations.  I feel like Toca Tailor provides both of those things. Also, I am not being compensated by them in any way. I am reviewing this strictly because I am a fan of it.)

The way Toca Tailor works is it takes the idea of virtual paper dolls and it stretches it so far that you you can use patterns to actually create clothing for the little doll! It's really pretty neat and I feel like when my daughter is using it, she isn't just mindlessly passing the time and is even sometimes thinking critically about what she wants to do next and how she is going to do it. Here is a youtube video about the app (from the developers, of course)

And here are some amusing examples of what my almost 5 year old daughter did on my phone while on the bus on the way back from a field trip to the zoo last week. She is an obvious fan of mixing patterns and wearing as many accessories as possible. And the backgrounds that she chose for the pictures were ones she imported by taking them with my camera phone!

I love how grumpy this girl looks. 
The funny thing about this app is my daughter creates and dresses ensembles much like what I support her to wear in real-life. At any given time she is a visual conglomerate of clashing shapes, colors, and patterns and she will wear as many accessories as she can get away with. (I limit the accessories only because I don't want them to get lost since they do so easily and many of them mean a lot to her.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why ride waves when you can paint them :: Oil Pastel studies of waves

In continuing to prepare the 2D Design class to jump right into landscape painting from picture reference for their turn of doing a Place of Grace, we got our proverbial feet wet by wave painting!

While we could have done a youtube instructional video for this one, after the clouds in the sky and the tree, I felt like they should attempt the waves a little more on their own. I did provide some instruction for the purposes of prompting them to connect what they would do with the waves back to the tree and the clouds - like helping them to realize that the crest of the wave is not unlike the clouds or the foliage of the trees. I also helped them to see the darks, mediums, and lights of the sections of the wave as well as helping them to understand where things should be more heavily blended and where their marks should be preserved as they are.

Overall, the goals of the wave painting were to allow them to have a lot more autonomy, be a little more intentional with their marks, and prove to them that they can paint (and well at that!) by using a picture as a reference. I differentiated the instruction by allowing them to select which wave they would do but by the end of the exercise they all had attempted to do both to of them. I projected two pictures I found of wave paintings online and I projected them split-screen style on the dry erase board so I could label them as I needed to.

You can see some of the labels I drew on top of the pictures. 

And here is the student work! The students are getting better and better with their marks and I am so delighted with how they are becoming more "painterly" with their work overall. I am especially excited because this is a class of student artists who are very much foundational in what they know of art so this is their first major endeavor into really producing something that (for them) will feel a lot more legitimate. See if you can figure out which wave (A or B) that they did based upon their work!

This student wasn't done but I believe they have the essence of the wave they were attempting.

There was a lot of peer tutoring going on amongst them a they did their work and I know that helped. Many of them also learned (and demonstrated!) the importance of not just drawing in the center of the paper and using the whole space of the paper. Showing them how to bleed and anchor the shapes, colors, and values to the different sides of the paper really helped them to better understand the overall composition of each of their pieces.

One last thing I did was to play a youtube video as background "music" in order to make their painting as full sensory as possible. It was so relaxing hearing the waves crash every day that they did this. Here is one I used...

This is the first year that I have used youtube at least every other day - for either co-teaching instructional purposes OR to do things like helping to create a more authentic experience of creation in the studio classroom and I am going to keep doing it because it has really made a difference for the students and their work.

Something else of all of this painting of landscapes? I am convincing them (as I told them I would!) that despite any of their individual claims that I ALWAYS hear from them of "I am not an artist," they not only will come to love and crave the experience of painting but they will also be good at it too!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Work Smarter, NOT Harder :: Why you should sometimes use PicMonkey instead

So, obviously, I am an art educator but did you also know that I am quite well versed in graphic/digital/visual design overall? It's something that I have been doing for 10+ at this point while going the many paths my career has taken me in the way of printed marketing material, creating or refreshing visual brands, doing web design and publication, and designing multi-media presentations (powerpoint, keynote, prezi, etc.)

While it might seem strange and also strongly support the argument that I am nothing less than a workaholic, I really enjoy doing visual design work. It's always challenging for me to be able to create (or re-imagine/spruce up) something and it is really gratifying and relaxing for me because you can literally start with a blank (digital) canvas and then let your imagine go wild! As it goes, I have become the go-to gal where I work for visual design work that has essentially made me their in-house graphic designer. I always love being able to support and help my colleagues in this way - I see it as a way of sharing the things that I have been blessed to be able to do. It has taken a few years (yes - years!) to "train" everyone to understand that I do my best work when it isn't requested at the 11th hour but even when it goes like that, I always try and churn out the best thing I can and honestly? Visual design work comes pretty easily for me and through the years I have really been able to hone my workflow and technique so that if/when I need to pick up pace? I can deliver whatever is called for.

Two weeks ago my department head (whom I adore and would do anything for!!) emailed me asking me to take an old poster design (see below on the left) and fix it to have new information so that it could be used for my school's soon to be inaugurated outdoor theater. (I will share about this at some point if I can!) She said that nothing fancy would have to be done with it, she just wanted new info to be "plugged in" but since she knows very little about how digital and graphic design is done? Well... she didn't know that it can't just be done like that without it looking pretty bad. I worked up a fresh design from her original and gave her what you see below on the right with the goal to maintain the feel and look of the original design, including the new information, and also making it look a lot more polished. The whole thing took me maybe a few hours start-to-finished that included researching some inspirational ideas via Google Images and then whipping it up in various visual design software.

Perhaps all of this is small potatoes or "Greek" to you but I gotta tell you that when I "whipped up" the newly designed poster, I kind of really mean it as it is suggested to mean and that is that it was sort of a cake walk of sort. I mean, I can use photoshop and illustrator but honestly? There is something out there that is even more useful than that! And that is PicMonkey (formerly known as Picnik).

PicMonkey saves time, money and hassle - EVERYTHING you see here was done in PicMonkey (with upgrade)
Why is PicMonkey is a great web-based platform that makes visual design a little bit more approachable (and take up a LOT less time) usually?

  • It's drag-and-drop in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) kind of way 
  • It requires very little technical knowledge like photoshop or illustrator or even gimp need in order to get it to work the way you want it to.
  • It is completely affordable since a lot of what it offers is for FREE and requires ZERO registration.
  • You can upload already existing photos and/or graphics to it and then do effect work on them and/or add text or graphics to make things look that much more snazzy. 
  • Overall, it makes photo editing and simple visual design very approachable and even enjoyable.
  • Even if you pay for the upgrade, it's only $5/month OR it's $33/annually and it opens you up to a whole bunch to graphics that aren't totally canned in addition to macros/actions for photographic editing - also, all of these bonuses are regularly updated to match whatever is trending in graphic design at the time. 
  • It's a GREAT alternative to not having to pay for vector graphics one by one since it has that regularly rotating inventory to begin with. 

One drawback of PicMonkey that is a little hard to explain to you all is the fact that it can be hard to fully originate a working file. This means that you can't totally start something from scratch in PicMonkey and for my purposes sometimes I will create a blank file in Photoshop - with the dimensions that I want and everything to begin with - and then I will import that into PicMonkey and then export it back out again (to Photoshop) if I need to. Does it sound like extra work that I have made for myself when I otherwise could have done everything in Photoshop? Well... I at least save money doing it like this by not having to buy vector graphics one by one OR I save major amounts of time by not having to make them first and then bring them into Photoshop.

Now, for those of you who are veteran visual designers, you are probably either laughing at me or scoffing at me and insisting that what I am doing is not REAL graphic and/or visual design. Well, let me tell you - and I am not trying to sound haughty or like a jerk - I don't really care about if people think I am legit or not. As far as I am concerned and from actual experience, NOBODY CARES or even asks how I accomplish most things I need to get done. My philosophy is almost always to work smarter not harder and don't get hung up on the details because doing so will actually keep you from getting anything done at all let alone doing something well. In my opinion and experience, what I do sometimes (with PicMonkey in the mix) adds to the success rather than subtracts from it.

Of course, you can't do every single thing with such ease in PicMonkey. Some stuff is better left to Photoshop because it is faster and a lot more painless. Working with layers IS a lot easier in Photoshop and being able to save in editable format (with layers) is something else that Photoshop does and PicMonkey simply does not allow. Other things like pixelating things for censorship and privacy (like what I might do here on the blog sometimes) is also a lot easier in Photoshop because it requires being able to create and manipulate layers. Still, it's completely do-able to do as much as you can quickly in PicMonkey and then import it into Photoshop and do a little more specific things per whatever you need. (See below)

Here I photoshopped in a layer of texturized revolver graphic and pixelated out the location information for privacy

Here is the finished poster with a different graphic since the criss-crossing revolvers are not quite to friendly for our purposes of them hanging around school. I expected that they would be edited out but for the purposes of having a visual placeholder until it was decided what would go in there (which was the locomotive)...

So there you have it! And perhaps if you have never tried PicMonkey before? Now I have convinced you that you must do so. And by the way, I am not plugging the service because they have compensated me in any way and I am telling you about it just from my own personal fandom.
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