Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to Watermark with a Custom Paintbrush in Photoshop

I was asked in a comment yesterday how I watermark my photos. I've been meaning to write a blog post about this, because I found a super simple way to watermark it over the summer. I'd tried before to make a custom shape but I'm not good with a pen tool so I just gave up and continued to use an action I created, that really doesn't save a ton of time unless all your photos are the exact same size. The magic trick that will save you tons of time is to create a custom paintbrush! Now every time I need to apply my copyright mark, I just choose the right size brush, click, and save. Read below to see how simple it is to create your own custom brush!
1. Create a new document. In this document, arrange your brush design. I typed my name in one layer and selected the copyright symbol from the custom shape tools. If you have to create more than one layer like I did with the text and a shape, merge them by selecting the layers and keying command+E or  selecting "Merge Layers" from the "Layers" drop down.
You can do this with any design, not just text.
2. Use the marquee tool to select your design.
3. Under edit, select "Define Brush Preset". 
 4. Name your brush and click "OK".
5. Select the Brush Tool, then scroll down to find your new paintbrush. Adjust the size of the paintbrush until it looks right on your image.
6. Decide on a color and where you want your watermark to go, then click! If it shows up too light, try clicking twice without moving your mouse between clicks which will make it appear bolder.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art Room Jobs

I was inspired by a post by Jen at "draw the line at" to try assigning Art room jobs at my intermediate school. I had never tried before, because this method had never occurred to me! Jen came up with 6 jobs, one for each table, and created a system with magnetic tape to easily rotate the assigned tables for each job each week. After I read her post and saw the pictures, I started brainstorming which 6 jobs would work well in my classroom with my style. I wanted to make sure I could come up with 6 jobs that really mattered if I was going to do it. I already had each table assigned a color so that part was easy! Coming up with names for the jobs was kind of fun, too. I wanted to get some new vocabulary in there, too.
Here are my 6 jobs
  1. Distribution- Pass out table folders, and other supplies if asked
  2. Directions experts- Pay extra special attention to the directions so they can answer questions for classmates. I think they will also be able to help if a student comes in late and I'm busy helping another student.
  3. Tree Huggers- Monitor recycling bin, check the floors for papers and trash at end of class.
  4. Collection- Picks up table folders at end of class.
  5. Polishers- Makes sure tables are clean and ready for the next class.
  6. Mufflers- Reminds class about "table talk", removes an ART letter if volume is too loud.

I'm really excited about trying this out, and so far the students have seemed pretty excited about it! I've only seen half my 4th-6th grade classes and we spend the first day taking care of business, so we haven't used the job assignments yet. When discussing the jobs, I did make sure to emphasize that each student still needs to be responsible for their own messes. You don't get to leave a mess because you think it's someone else's job to clean it up. I also think this will help with the volume. I try to use "ART" letters- 3 magnetic letters on the board that can be removed as a reminder/warning which means if all the letters come down, we clean up early and think about what to do better next time- but I'm usually too busy helping other students that I don't make it to the board to remove a letter. I think giving students responsibility for monitoring the noise level will help them be more aware even when it's not their job. Maybe it won't work, but I'm optimistic. I promise I'll let you know how it's going in a month or two after there's been enough time for a judgment.

Also, I'm going to have a student teacher for the first half of this semester! I'm excited to meet Miss Bennett tomorrow. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2nd Grade Value Pumpkins

 Last year one of my goals was to really work on achieving a bigger value range with students, starting with 2nd grade. This 2nd grade lesson was definitely more skills-based than creativity-based. The students each drew a pumpkin then followed along as I showed how to use a variety of colors to achieve value.  It was great to see the students concentrating on adding more value on their own in subsequent art projects.
To add color, we worked light to dark starting with white crayon at the top of each section, and working downward, blending each successive color- white, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, pink-orange (there's no "red" in construction paper crayons for some reason.) It is important to color in each section separately and NOT across all at the same time. After the first layer, we went back and added more white at the top following the curve of each section, then blue at the bottom, following the curves up. Next, we added a shadow below the pumpkin. Students who had time were able to add any details they wanted to the background but for some reason I don't have many photos of pumpkins with backgrounds. You'll just have to use your imagination. :)
We used construction paper crayons on purple paper. I'm sure if we had used oil pastels, we would have been able to blend the colors more, but the few times I've used oil pastels with my students, EVERYTHING just ends up dirty. I'm not just talking about messy hands and tables, those I can handle. The oil pastels and the artwork just looks dirty when the little bits of other colors get mixed in. Still, I should probably give oil pastels another shot.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

1st Grade Pumpkins

 Last fall my 1st graders learned about line and color mixing in this pumpkin painting project. In the first class, we talked about lines. EVERY time I teach a lesson about lines to my primary students, I draw the different kinds of lines the students think of on the board, then we all "draw" them in the air with our fingers. The added movement tends to help the students remember better. Next, I led the students in drawing a pumpkin. 
Here's the trick that we like:
  1. Draw a large ellipse in the middle of your paper
  2. Add a "banana" shape on one side
  3. Add a "banana" to the other side so it looks like a hotdog in a bun
  4. Draw the stem above the middle ellipse
  5. Add another "banana" to each side

 Next, the students filled one shape at a time with a different kind of line in each and traced with crayon. We talked briefly about background then the students drew a horizontal line on each side of the pumpkin to represent the back edge of a table top. If the students still had time left, they added lines to the wall in the background and the table top.
In the second class period, I passed out trays with combinations of primary colors. First I gave each table red and yellow paint. They mixed orange and painted their pumpkin. While the students were painting with orange, I was preparing yellow and blue to be used for the stem and table. I prepped the red and blue paint while they painted green. It's a good idea to remove each tray of paint as the groups finish so they don't accidentally dip their brush into the wrong tray. Oh, and about the paint- I bought really cheap tempera, which I will never do again, but this project is the only time it not really being opaque worked in our favor. The students go to mix the liquid paint easily and still see the crayon through it.

I almost always give the students more choices than they had in this lesson. These are not the best example of creativity or artistic expression since they pretty much all look the same. But, it was good way to ensure that they really learned how to mix each secondary color and practiced at least 5 different kinds of lines. I'm telling myself that this is ok once in a while. Honestly, the students were super proud of their paintings even though they looked the same.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Leaf Abstractions

I picked up this lesson at a KAEA conference workshop 2 years ago (I think led by SRA). I've taught it to 2nd graders the last 2 years- would you have guessed?
I think they did a phenomenal job. Last spring we wanted an art project to pair with an Earth Day book "Gilbert Goes Green" by Diane deGroat before she visited. I suggested this leaf lesson. I photographed the steps of my example to create a handout for the classroom teachers since the project would be created in their home rooms. After I presented an overview to all the 100+ 6th graders shoved into the library, it was handy to have a visual reminder to send with them. The 6th graders did a pretty good job, but I honestly prefer the 2nd graders' projects! Since I wasn't there, I'm just guessing that some of the 6th graders either tried to do too much then rushed through it or just plain over-thought it. Having said that, I think this lesson could be tweaked for any intermediate-secondary grade level.  I actually want to make a large painting using this process.
To begin the lesson, I have the students choose a leaf to observe. (6th graders were responsible for bringing their own and 2nd graders chose a leaf that I brought in.) We talk about the shape, the lines of the veins, the textures, and look for specific details like holes. We talk about what the veins in leaves are for, and if teaching the lesson in the fall, what makes leaves green then what makes them change color. 
These drawings were completed on colored construction paper. 
BEFORE THE STUDENTS START TO DRAW: explain to them that abstracting an image means you are starting with something real but altering it. This means that the drawings do not have to be exact copies of the leaves, the leaves are just a starting point for the lines and shapes.
The first step is to identify the "primary" vein that starts from the stem and carries through the to the top of the leaf. This line is drawn from top to bottom of the paper. The students' first choice can have a big impact on the final composition. They have to choose whether to make the vein centered or off-center, more or less vertical, or at an angle. I usually suggest that they make this first line a little thicker so it's easier to keep track of.
Next, look for the "secondary" veins that, depending on the type of leaf, will start from the base where the stem connects, or start at the primary vein and go out to the sides. It's a good idea to stretch these lines to the sides of the paper to make sure the space is filled. Thirdly, add more veins and negative space- where the edge of the leaf shows. Make sure the veins extend to other lines to form shapes. The last step for drawing is to add other details like cracks, holes, etc., then trace all the pencil lines with a sharpie.
We saved color for the 2nd class period. The students used a mixture of construction paper crayons and regular crayons. I demonstrated pressing hard to outline the shape, then coloring more lightly in the center to create value. I ask the students to think about their color choices (ex: analogous colors might help create harmony) but I don't restrict them other than asking that the same color not be used in shapes that are side by side. It's also a good idea for students to use a new color for the negative space behind the leaf. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

3rd Grade Fall Project- Warm Weaving/Cool Leaf Printing

It took me so long to get all my fall lessons photographed last year that I just decide to save them up to post closer to the correct season. It's still technically summer while I'm typing this, but
  1. I start back to school in 2 days.
  2. The drought is making the leaves turn brown and fall to the ground so it looks a little bit like fall today.
  3. I'm already thinking about lessons for the fall semester and you might be, too!

Back in my very first year of teaching (3 whole years ago seems like a long time now) I had planned a very similar lesson for 2nd grade but it took so long to weave, and I had a disastrous experience trying to print leaves with another grade, that it just stayed a weaving. I decided to be brave and try it with 3rd grade last year. We reviewed warm and cool colors (I tend to incorporate a lot of color theory) and the students identified warm colors as "fall colors". I explained that the students would be weaving using warm colored construction paper then printing leaves on top using cool colors. All except for a couple new students had learned to weave in Art class the year before so they didn't need much review aside from how to hold the folded paper to cut the warp and I had my early finishers help students who were struggling. I'm pretty sure we did this in one class period since I let the students choose from 6x9 inch construction paper instead of a full 9x12 inch sheet. After the strips were woven as tightly as we could get them, students with extra time added glue to the loose ends for extra security.
After the weaving was complete, I passed out trays to each table with green, blue, and purple tempera paint and 2 brushes for each color. We didn't want to make a mess on the tables, so I passed out some odd sized paper scraps for the students to brush on top of. It didn't take long for us to realize that the negative space of the leaf had possibility so we reviewed positive and negative space and turned this into a 2 part project! The students tried to make a nice composition with their overlapping negative space leaves as well as printing on their weavings.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

1st Grade Tornado Safety

 This is the 3rd year I've taught a variation of a tornado safety lesson. The first year it was pretty much just a collage. Last year I added more mixed media elements, and while it improved the visual, I still wasn't completely happy. This year I am much more satisfied. The difference this year, is that the students wrote their own safety tips. I was afraid to do this before because I wasn't sure if I would have time to read all of them, and I didn't want the students to write something that would actually be dangerous when we were learning about something that could be a real life and death situation. I emailed all the 1st grade teachers about having the students write tips in the classroom and bringing them to Art class ready to go. Fewer than half remembered to send them (I'll send a reminder on the day of Art class next year) but the classes who forgot were able to write them in Art class without too much trouble.
 Day 1: *Tornado safety info, geometric shape review, give students primary colored tempera paint to paint squares or rectangles for base of house at bottom of paper, students cut triangles from newspaper to form the roof for their houses, glue newspaper to background. (Start with squares of newspaper and show the students how to cut diagonally corner to corner or cut off a corner with one straight line to form their triangle. This saves lots of time and frustration if they actually listen.)
John Steuart Curry, Tornado Over Kansas, 1929, Muskegon Museum of Art
*Edit: I forgot to say that we also discussed John Steuart Curry's painting Tornado Over Kansas. We pointed out how the family is taking cover to stay safe.
Day 2: Students use crayon to color background/sky while supplies are being passed out, demonstrate tearing 1/2 sheet of black construction paper into an organic tornado shape, glue tornado onto paper, use color stick or opaque colored pencil to write safety tips directly onto black paper tornado, add more details with crayon. (The students may be frustrated by not using scissors, but push through! It's good for developing fine motor skills and makes the edges of the tornado soft which is good since they are not solid things.)
This project could be adapted to help review and prepare students for any natural disaster or safety situation. I like to do this in the spring around tornado season when we start having hallway drills at school.
 I decided to make a hallway display with the tornados this year since they were finished a little earlier- last year they were just finished in time to go home before the end of the year. When students finished early, I asked them to think of a word that they associate with tornadoes. They wrote the word on a big torn paper tornado I made out of butcher paper and labeled with "Tornadoes Are..."

Here's the hallway display. I used the big tornado and picked 10 pieces of student work that had different (accurate) tips on them. I cut out my letters and used a 1 inch round punch for the negative space in the letters. I thought it was kind of fun. Then I used the resulting 1 inch circles to make a dotted line under the word "Safety".

Friday, August 3, 2012

Piven Box

I've written about artist Hanoch Piven before, so instead of boring those of you who have been around for a while, I'll just link to the old post instead of going on and on about how great his work is. (You should also check out his website,

 The first lesson I designed based on Piven's artwork was a mixed media self portrait lesson where the objects chosen for facial features were supposed to represent the student. I wanted to come up with something more hands on to expose my younger students to his work. It's obvious that Piven uses actual objects when composing his portraits but I knew letting students make something permanent with real objects would not be realistic- I have usually 110+ students in each grade so that would be a lot of objects to collect!
My solution was to put together a Piven box that can be used during rotations. I collected a bunch of random objects that students can arrange on top of colored construction paper when it is their group's time at the Piven table. I created a document with some images and a brief explanation of his work to the lid as a reminder. After the students create their portraits, they write their name on a scrap of paper, place it next to the portrait, and I snap a photo for Artsonia. The only real challenge is keeping the box from turning into a trash can but I usually have a few students who like to organize things check it at the end of class.

 I don't think my Kinders or 1st graders have tried this out yet but it was a hit with 2nd and 3rd grade students this spring.
 Some students went beyond the paper to make big pictures, like the bird below.
 I decided to get in on the fun and make a hippo.
I plan to keep adding objects to my Piven Box and maybe someday I'll have a kit for each table!