The Mac Lab

Snake’s Eye View

by on Apr.01, 2009, under Blog

snake_04_smYesterday I had a conversation with a student who was quite unhappy with his grade on the Progress Report. The problem, I explained, was that he’d not even tried to experiment, and that if there’s been one constant this semester, it’s been my insistence that students experiment, that you try new approaches to your art, that succeed or fail, you at least try to do things you’d never attempted before. I’ve spoon fed every class link after link leading to wonderful examples of artistic experimentation and high-quality step by step tutorials to help students discover their own creative zone. As for myself, I was determined to continue my own experimentation in this quixotic quest to finally rid the Mac Lab of the dreaded flatliners.

Last June I wrote, “Every year there’s been measurable progress but last year really was amazing. The only constant is the flatliners: those students who begin to learn then get lazy and coast, repeating the same lame excuses for digital art or 3D design the rest of the year. It’s the flatliners I’m going after this year.” This year I’ve gone on my ethical rants, tried to prod your personal perspective, and challenged you to live more responsibly but thieves and vandals still haunt the Mac Lab, many portfolios reflect little to no real creative progress, and I’m still pulling plastic bottles out of the trash cans at the end of the day. Moral, ethical, and creative flatliners! Of course, on the flip side is the unprecedented creative explosion in here. As Charles Dickens might have written (had he been a teacher), “They were the best of students, they were the worst of students…” But in our Tale of Two Classrooms, there’s still time for those in the latter group to change their ways, to join in on the creative fun, and to succeed.

Everyone, I’d like you to consider a snake for a moment. Not the one that accompanies this post but a living, breathing, slithering snake. Reflexively, many respond with either fear or loathing but I doubt if Chelsea B’s illustration conjours either emotion. Hers is a beautiful experiment in shape and color. What I’d like you to consider is a living snake’s POV. Think about how it sees the world as it moves through its day from point A to point B. Quite a different perspective, eh? Now look at your own work again but this time with a more critical eye. Really look. Have you honestly and truly tried different types of experimentation? Have you pushed your skills as far as you’re able? Are there still techniques you’d like to learn and make your own? There’s still time to finish strong, and that’s a challenge I’m throwing out to all of my Dickensonian students.

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11 Comments for this entry

  • Hannah Johansen

    This illustration is super impressive. I love the colors. Very pacifying despite its warmness…

  • Michael Werner

    Was that background done in PS?

    On an unrelated note:
    Do you still grade students against themselves?
    I never fully understood how grading art worked in schools. Aside from application and technique there are so many open-ended factors.

  • Chelsea Bell

    The background was done in Illustrator.

  • Michael Werner

    WHAT?! Since when does Illustrator have textures and neat features?!


  • skocko

    Illustrator rocks! Go to Grand Central Linkage and check out:

    Tutorials Illustrator: Adobe TV | Adobe How-To | Real World | Layers CS4 | Layers | Graphic Mac | Vector Tuts | VecTips | AI Vault | Bittbox | Tute Outpost | Vreel | Smashing | More Smashing | Scatter Brushes | Kevin Hulsey | Noupe 80 | iShift 125 |

    As for grades:
    You’re not supposed to. It’s a mystery.
    Yes, there are.
    I wish students would just do their part and everyone could get A’s.

  • Michael Werner

    I tried to make a gradient and gave up. Maybe I’ll enroll in one of your ROP classes later down the line.

  • skocko

    Such effort! Click on the lower left corner of the Swatches Panel. See Gradients in the list? It’s not like Photoshop. Just select the object and click on a gradient. Editing the gradient is the same as the rest of the apps. Click to add a color stop. Click and drag a color stop to remove it.

    Forgot to mention… with the object/gradient selected, click on the Gradient Tool to edit. Very cool.

  • Fadi G.

    Such an excellent Photoshop artist yet so xxxxxxxxxxx in Illustrator.

    —edited by skocko (be nice)

  • skocko

    Look, most of the kids still haven’t caught on to the power of Illustrator. Play with some colors, select them, then look for a circular rainbow icon in the Options Bar or whatever Adobe’s calling the panel at the top now. Play around. Click tabs. Change all colors at once or individually. Really looking forward to making this part of the kids’ workflow next year. Virtually no one uses this at present and it’s sad because it’s incredibly powerful. The Pen Tool and Live Paint are also a magical duo. I could go on but I wouldn’t want you to drop Photoshop for your new favorite app. 😉

    Chelsea, the colors in your image are wonderful but I’m wondering if you’ve tried Recolor Artwork to experiment with alternate color schemes? Y’know, just for the fun of it.

  • Michael Werner

    There is NO WAY I would EVER replace Photoshop. Me and PS are BFF’s.

    It’s good to note that a LOT of people (down here at least) are looking for people fluent in Illustrator.

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