The Mac Lab

Archive for April, 2009

Walking the Talk

by on Apr.30, 2009, under Blog

lets_talk_smOne of the best things about my job is that each day is different. Oh, I can hear some of the grumblers disagreeing. All you do is sit there and tell us to work! Yes, work. What a concept. Work five days a week with an occasional Saturday thrown in for good measure. Welcome to a taste of life in the real world. For most people work is a dreaded obligation. They live for weekends. They move from I Hate Mondays to Humpday to Thank God it’s Friday. Five days of drudgery defines their existence. What? That’s how you feel about school? Well you aren’t getting it then, are you? School is the place where you get to learn how to test drive jobs. The trick is to find something you’re interested in. And if you don’t try to learn, you’ll never know what you might enjoy and that means that you’re letting your own happiness slip right through your fingers.

Can you imagine getting paid to do something you really like to do? For instance, can you imagine getting paid to work on a computer, using 3D or graphics apps to produce your own original creations, eight hours a day, five days a week, for years to come? Yes? No? For the few of you who think that would be fun, you’ve just come face to face with one of the secrets of life. Like it says right here: Find something you love to do and learn to do it so well that someone will pay you to do it. Did you get the part that says it takes dedication? (That’s in the learn to do it so well part.)

You’ve got to work hard at something to get really good at it. But if you love what you’re doing, it’s not really work, is it? Lots of people say they’re going to do something. That’s known as talking the talk. A smaller number actually follow through (walking the walk). When I was hired in January of 2002, I told the folks upstairs that I was going to build a world-class media arts classroom. I have no idea what they thought of my outrageous goal but I knew I wasn’t spouting hyperbole; I was dead serious. Are we there yet? Of course not. But we’re on the way and getting closer every day. Three and a half months ago, the blog was born. I’ve worked on it virtually every day since, a minimum of two or three hours a day, not only writing posts and replying to comments, but adding links, inspiration, lines of communication, and have only begun to point toward tomorrow’s expansion of the depth and breadth of the possibilities for kids in here. Next year is going to rock!

This is my job and I love it. I flipped on the computer at 2:30 this morning and began the day at home. Why? For kids like Michael M who came up with this wonderful concept. For Cat N and Kristina V, both of whom surprised me the past two days with remarkably imaginative new work (which you’ll see very soon). For Sarah S whose work is not only featured in today’s Daily Inspiration on Abduzeedo, she also suggested a brilliant alternate design option for Michael’s speech bubble that I’ll pass along to him (new alt version). Very few people even begin to understand what we’re building together in the Mac Lab. Yes, together! None of this happens without you. I put your work in every post and people are beginning to notice. Not my bosses at this school or at ROP or at the district, I’m talking about these people. That’s the blog’s reach in the past 27 days (via Google Analytics). We’re building the classroom of tomorrow today. And we’re building it together.

Now, about tomorrow… Ask yourself: What do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish? How can I make a difference? Find something you love to do and learn to do it so well that someone will pay you to do it. Then invent your own way to do it better than anyone has ever done it before. And have fun doing it! That, my young friends, is one of the secrets of life. Why, you might ask, is it a secret? I don’t know. Keeping it a secret doesn’t make much sense, does it?

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Good News and Bad News and Good News

by on Apr.29, 2009, under Blog

bird_thing_02_smLisa R was another of those talented underclassmen who got away. Well, moved away, but it amounts to the same thing as we didn’t get to see her artistic growth after she left. She was constantly drawing. We didn’t have Illustrator back then so I believe she used Flash for much of her work. Photoshop, of course, also played its roll. So, in the spirit of her ghoul-in-the-box, I have something(s) to reveal.

Good News: Fadi G and Chelsea B took 2nd and 3rd place respectively in Beginning Commercial Digital Illustration. Way to go! I hope many of you will be able to make it to Parkway Friday around 5:00 to celebrate with them.

Bad News: The advanced students got shut out. I’m really looking forward to seeing what won as I still believe our five entries were absolutely pro. I couldn’t be prouder of you guys if you’d all won. Hey, take a look at Jeff P’s masterpiece in the Beginning category if you feel bad. Epic art! Shut out. But you’ve created work that will inspire students in the Mac Lab for years to come! You and I both know it’s great!

Good News: Yesterday I decided to begin promoting your work, slowly but surely, by submitting a piece to Abduzeedo’s Daily Inspiration once again (Remember Jeff’s?). Please let me do this as the last thing the folks at Abduzeedo would want is to be inundated with submissions from the Mac Lab. Every day or so I’ll send in another. This way more of you might have a shot at being featured to a world-wide audience. Let’s see what happens. As for this morning, I went to today’s DI (hey, he’s featured the same image I linked to yesterday) and began to slowly scroll down… Ack! Inappropriate. Cool. Weird. Wow! Yawn. Inappropriate! Then I hit a video called drunk chicks lost their car and began to think even if it is here, no way I can link to it now! I watched the video, prepared for the worst, thinking how can Abduzeedo post something so stupid? Then I got to the end. Whoa. Yes. That needs to be seen. Thank you, Fabio. Well chosen.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah… Scroll. Scroll. Wow! Cool. What’s Michael Jordan doing here? Scroll. Amazing. Fly, Red, fly! Nearly to the end. It’s not gonna be here. And… YES! Looked under the hood and sure enough, traffic from Abduzeedo is flowing in. (Google Analytics only reports once every 24 hours so Stats is very handy for instant updates regarding visitor statistics).

Moral: Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. What matters is that you get up and keep trying.

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Eight is NOT Enough!

by on Apr.28, 2009, under Blog

atarashii_smOur eight entries to the District Art Show have been submitted and, like I said, I feel terrible for those worthy students whose work isn’t entered. Some of you don’t even know that I could have easily tapped you on the shoulder and suggested an edit and/or enhancement to move yours into contention. Others, I had to inform personally. It broke my heart to leave your work out. The problem I faced is one I know every teacher would love to have: too much great work by too many talented students. Many of you have done a superb job this year. Don’t let up now. Finish with a flurry of creative activity!

Just to show you how this works, Hannah J posted links to her work on our new Crit Forum in the Mac Lab Learning Exchange and utilized Michael Werner’s brilliant Crit Scale in requesting help. From there, using peer feedback, she refined her work, improving many details, both large and small. The finishing touch, which can be like World Builder in the WOW! category, is controlled enhancement in Photoshop. This goes for all students, especially 3D. Compare Hannah’s final version with her Illustrator version right here. Here’s a 3000 pixel version of Modern Geisha if you’d like to explore its detail in depth. Is it finished? Of course not. But Hannah was up against a deadline and that’s why she stopped at this point. There’s nothing stopping her from returning to it though I’d suggest she focus on refining some of her other digital masterpieces. She’s going to leave a real legacy for tomorrow’s illustrators in the Mac Lab.

The Art Show will be at Parkway Plaza (in the center of the mall) all weekend. It opens this Friday with the awards ceremony at 5:30. Stop by before that and enjoy the festivities. Lots of people going WOW! in appreciation of the great student work from all the schools in the district. But as good as those other students might be, I can’t imagine anyone topping the killer work from our beginning — Jeff P (his final result is linked in the text, a WIP was featured here), Chelsea B, Fadi G — and advanced artists — Alex S, Sarah S, Amelio S, Oliver E, Hannah J. Way to go!

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5 + 5 + 5 + 5

by on Apr.27, 2009, under Blog

surreal_fadi_02_smFour weeks. Twenty days. That’s it. Well, plus early mornings, open periods, break, lunch, after school, and Mac Lab Saturday School™ three more times (May 2, 16, and 23). To maximize your time to work in class for the remainder of this school year, I’m going to waive the requirement that you read the blog first thing each day but make no mistake: the blog is still required reading. I’ll be adding important information, tips, links, etc. each day but if you’d rather read it at home and work in here, that’s just fine with me. I’ll speak to this in class as well so we understand each other.

Speaking of understanding, do you understand how detailed Fadi G’s surrealistic Tour de Force is?! Here’s a larger version if you’d like to explore its detail in depth. And for those of you keeping score at home, there’s 52,000+ anchor points in that illustration. Good things take time. As for this angle, I think we’ll leave that for next year. Fadi’s just a sophomore so he’ll have plenty of time to improve this if he chooses.

UPDATE: I snagged Fadi’s sketch from this comment. Yep! All his own work.

The deadline for submissions to the District Art Show is today. Lots of worthy projects have already been submitted and a few more will be coming in this morning. This is the first year that EVERY project we’ll submit has a chance at winning. It’s a shame that some of those missing the cut would also have had a shot at winning. We only have eight slots and I feel terrible that some very worthy artwork will be left behind.

Avoid feeling terrible yourself. Take advantage of your 20 days and follow these instructions so your Mac Lab experience has a happy ending this year. Better yet, amaze me and both of us can have happy endings. Amazing unhappy endings. (How’d they do that?!)*

*Originally came across this at CartoonSmart’s Blog.

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The Guiding Light

by on Apr.24, 2009, under Blog

af_raw_03_smYou’re never finished in the Mac Lab! The motto I invented to rid the room of idlers (or at least that was the idea at the time) and a truism in the artist’s world. Oh, many will disagree, but I’ll tell you what defines done in the so-called real world: DEADLINES.

It’s an uphill battle trying to convince students that good enough is a vulgarity rather than a standard. Push your work! Make it better! The year’s almost over! (Yes! some students exclaim.) And here we are facing another deadline: THE DISTRICT ART SHOW.

So, Sarah S had to “finish” her poster. (The original and the reasoning behind the words she chose may be found here.) I told her I’d like to submit it in the commercial art category but the background needed to be richer, something to evoke Africa’s metaphoric and all too real parched landscape. Sarah set out with her usual diligence (a few teenage grumbles thrown in to remind me who the boss of Sarah is). After a few days and a few back and forth exchanges, we printed something that was a vast improvement over the original. Sarah was happy. Finished! Done! You know, Sarah, I said. Skockooooo! she replied, knowing I was going to push her again. To make a long story short, here’s the progression. Is it finished? It is as far as the art show is concerned but there’s nothing to prevent Sarah from returning to this in the future to move it closer to perfection.

As an aside, I woke this morning to an incredible coincidence (and you know how I love those). Michael Werner posted something on the forum last night that foreshadowed this post. (But since I decided to write Sarah’s story yesterday, it’s hard to say who really foreshadowed whom.) I created a new forum on our board, moved his topic to The Artist’s Corner, and deleted the original topic. Luckily, not trusting my noob knowledge of the board’s functioning, I copied Michael’s post before unintentionally deleting all traces of its existence. I’d link to his punchline (which still exists) but I don’t want to spoil his surprise. Once he wakes and patches the hole I made, you’ll find his amazing story right here (done). [Forum is currently down. Files lost in virtual space.]

Now, look at your own work again. Since I know most of you won’t, I’ll say it in my teacher’s voice: LOOK AT YOUR OWN WORK AGAIN! RIGHT NOW. I MEAN IT! LOOK AT IT. NOW! Okay, now that I have your attention, I have one question for you…

Is it finished?


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