The Mac Lab

Archive for February, 2010

Taking Care of Business (Week 22)

by on Feb.22, 2010, under Blog

posterized_smHuman speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
Gustave Flaubert

I don’t know about melting stars but I do try to get you up and moving, dancing to the beat of your own muse. Like this guy…

For over a month I’ve been meaning to share a story about discovering this poster. The largest version I could find on Deviant Art was too narrow to fit the format of the blog so I wrote and asked for a larger version. He replied, informing me that he was in Italy and wouldn’t be back home to Sao Paulo, Brazil, for another week.

To make a long story short, Mario Graciotti is a 19 year old artist who recently shifted his career aspirations from architecture to graphic design. Coincidentally, I made the same switch at 19. The similarities end there as this young man has a talent and perspective beyond his years. I especially enjoy the thought behind his Whimsical Journeys series.

I’ll add more about Mario as the week rolls on. For now, here’s a little story about a poster one of our own students (Gavin D) thought was ready for the gallery. If you want to play along and maybe learn a few new tricks, here are the files and here are the videos: 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 |

Got Arts? is this weekend at Cuyamaca College. (See bottom of this PDF for info.) I was asked to submit 5 pieces to the show. (Each school gets 20) How could I possibly pick 5 prints to represent the incredible scope of the work produced in here? This troubled me all last week. I woke early Saturday morning (about 1:30) and started working on the idea that jump-started my weekend. Initial posters are on this page. Wouldn’t it be cool to have your work on one of these?

About the design… I spent about an hour fighting the layout in Photoshop before I remembered how much better Illustrator is at the task. (I can be pretty dense sometimes.) I’ll make a video about the process of creating this template, placing in Photoshop, and setting up the print. You’re free to borrow whatever works for you.

Note: League Gothic and Prociono (the typefaces used on the posters) came from The League of Movable Type. Caroline and Micah, the founders of A Good Company, are a prolific pair with lots of good ideas. I like their style and I’m loving the look of our new posters. (Check upstairs in Guidance to see how they look on the wall.) You might also consider A Good Portfolio for your Website this semester. I tried it and it’s a simple, clean way to display your work.

Taking Care of Business: I still need your work for Galleries and Posters. Plus we have lots of new clients looking for Mac Lab magic. Most are poster requests for classrooms. Theatre also needs props (signs, posters, etc.) for their upcoming play. I’ll try to get the Jobs page updated next.

0223: If you’ve completed or are working on a project for a client (teacher, ASB, business, family, or friend) please write a short description of the project (what it is, who it’s for, what you did, etc.) in TextEdit. Put the description and a large JPG (1000 px) in a folder. Name the folder: period_first_last_01 (i.e. if I was in period 1 my file would be named: 01_mike_skocko_01. A second project would be in an additional folder ending with 02. If you’re in multiple periods, just pick one for the first number.) Put the folder in my Drop Box.

If you’re looking for work we have lots of opportunities. I’ll list these after I get to school (where all the notes are).

Fame Awaits: Still looking to add your work to the Galleries and Posters.

Reminder: The Elements and Principles also await. (And they’re not going away.) 😛

0224: KUSI visits Valhalla this morning. Final Cut Pro training today. Orange Nation Showcase is tonight. Got Arts? is this weekend. Admin wants a slide show and the Mac Lab needs promotional handouts for tonight. Our posters need revision, reprinting, and mounting for Got Arts? Something has to go!

So long Final Cut Pro training. No sub today. No pep talks from me. Work on projects. Help each other and stay on task.

Light painters: Deadline is Monday. Think about coming to Mac Lab Saturday School™ and early morning Monday to polish your images. Remember, the best images will be printed and the book sold. Proceeds to support the Jacarana School for AIDS orphans in Malawi.

0225: Deadlines and duties loom. See above for details. Or do you want me to link yet again to Elements and Principles and Got Arts? and Galleries and Posters and Light Painting? Speaking of the latter, there are new, wonderful light painting examples in the gallery. And I need to organize and update the Job Board. See 0223 for your job (if you’ve had one).


0226: Who opened the email floodgates? I’ve been digging through virtual piles of information for the last hour and a half. The one that probably interests you most concerns an invitation from Sony Online Entertainment (blocked at school). One of our industry advisors (who works there) arranged this so it should be an exciting tour of their facilities. That’s the good news. The bad news is that only 15 of you can go. We’ll start with a sign up sheet (next to clip board — no date has been set yet). Print your career objective (what you want to do) next to your name. Well-behaved, hard-working students will move to the head of the line.

Reminder: Elements and Principles and Got Arts? and Galleries and Posters and Light Painting are all in play. As is MLSS™ tomorrow morning. I’ll arrive around 6:15 as usual.

International Update: Someone from the Cayman Islands visited us yesterday. That makes 140 countries and counting. (We also passed 325,000 page views.)


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Adventure of a Lifetime (Week 21)

by on Feb.15, 2010, under Blog

hazel_a_01_smWe are all functioning at a small fraction of our capacity to live fully in its total meaning of loving, caring, creating, and adventuring. Consequently, the actualization of our potential can become the most exciting adventure of our lifetime.
— Herbert Otto

During Mac Lab Saturday School™ a student asked: What do you do when you get up in the middle of the night? Fair question, but I gave him an abridged response. The actual answer is worth scrawling on this page because a few of you might understand just how much fun it can be to make your life, as Mr. Otto says, an exciting adventure.

Every morning is a quest. Quixotism is at the core of the quest. I use the blog to communicate but some of you hate reading. I funnel inspiration and ideas to you via twitter but most of you never notice. I link to scores of tutorials, resources, and examples, but few ever explore in depth. Virtually everyone looks at the pretty pictures I’ve posted but how many have discovered the far more engaging videos I’ve gathered? For those who’ve been there and want to know what’s new, filter the results. Yes, I realize Vimeo is blocked at school. I thought you’d check it at home.

To the untrained eye my actions might resemble tilting at windmills. But I don’t see giants in the distance, I see an ever-evolving global economy near at hand. I see the country I love paralyzed by partisanship while around the world, others march boldly toward the future. I see an education system, largely mired in 20th century models, still clinging to the illusion that rote learning and standardized testing serve any meaningful purpose. I see a tomorrow demanding that we act today.

And every day, I see you. Whether in my mind’s eye or in the Mac Lab, I see 250 young adults filled with unique, untapped potential. I see a window of opportunity for each of you to make a difference. I see a chance to urge each and everyone of you to wonder and ask: What gifts do I have to offer? What personal quest might I discover? How might I turn my life into an exciting adventure?

How vibrant and wondrous might life become if only you decided to shed your cocoon of cool, of apathy, of angst, of arrogance. Hey, I’m no paragon of virtue or fountain of wisdom. I’m just trying to live my motto: You teach best what you most need to learn. (RB) I’ve got my own cocoon to shed.

Oh, sure, I could choose to go through the motions. After all, my job’s secure. Why even bother? But Seth Godin’s right: Life’s too short to phone it in. I want to have fun. I want to make a difference. So I choose to challenge you. In doing so, I challenge myself to dig deeper for strategies, for ideas, for answers. That’s what I do every morning: I read, think, imagine, absorb, intuit, dream, and wonder. I wasn’t kidding when I told you that I live the 5 Stages of the Creative Process. Memorizing the stages is meaningless. Learn by doing. Learn by living. Learn by sharing.

Learn by wondering…

Questions in our upraised hands, and answers we’ll surprise
Like the caterpillar who, does seem to death defy
It might take a miracle, belief may then belie
Fate it seems that common sense, is fated to deny
Battles rage within us all, where truth is compromised
There dreams, like tissue paper wings, are torn and tossed aside
Dream Yet Complete

Time to end the compromises. Each of our lives might become a work of art (Hazel A) if only we refused to abandon our dreams.

Note: I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the ever-growing collection of students in the Mac Lab who’ve begun to actualize their own potential. Every year I’m privileged to witness more and more young men and women beginning to experience their own great adventures. I’m confident that they’ll have a lasting, positive impact on all of our tomorrows.

••••• ••••• ••••• ••••• •••••

0216: On to today’s task. Most of you have been seriously remiss in your articulation of the Principles of Design within your projects. Last week we reviewed the Elements of Art. Please read this page today. (Skip the first few paragraphs and begin reading at the Principles of Design heading.) This is also a good read on the subject.

No more shirking your responsibilities. Read it. Use it. Own it.

0217: According to Google Analytics, while I was at the district’s VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) Strategic Plan meeting, a significant number of you blew-off yesterday’s assignment. The numbers don’t lie. Someone in Massachusetts may have looked at 9 pages but few of you did. It’s Groundhog Day again. Go to the top of the page, reread, absorb the information, follow the links, complete the assigned reading, and begin to incorporate the Elements and Principles into your vocabulary as well as your projects.

No exceptions. We’re a team and the whole team will complete this together. Now everyone sing along as the clock strikes 6:00: Then put your little hand in mine. There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…

To those who performed their due diligence yesterday, take heart in something George Seldes wrote in the Introduction to The Great Thoughts: How many of the millions who do read books realize they are missing one of the truly great pleasures of life by not re-reading books?

The same can be said of these posts. Well, some of ’em. 😉

Update: Danny Owens’ Sweethearts Video is online.

0218: I’ve been slowly updating the galleries and will create a brand new Best Work video today. For now, enjoy this new video. Is your self portrait missing? If so, read what’s written there. Meanwhile, let’s fill the galleries! (I know, I know. I’m way behind in collecting your work. Feel free to remind me about your masterpieces… but only after you’ve asked 3 peers if it’s really ready for prime time.)

International Update: People from over 3,500 cities in 139 countries have visited the Mac Lab Blog since April. Laos is number 139.

Hobbes gives good advice:

0219: Work on your projects. Remember to give me projects for the galleries. See yesterday’s post for links and details.

Reminder: The deadline for light painting entries is only nine days away. (If you haven’t seen the latest gallery entries you’re missing some amazing work!)

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Gallery 030 — 0910 Geo Illustrations

by on Feb.13, 2010, under Galleries

fadi_g_watch_01b_smThis gallery had to be created because Fadi George keeps cranking out amazing imagery. I couldn’t figure out where to put it so, for now, here’s his own (for now) private gallery. Who’ll be the first to crash Fadi’s private party?

NOTE: Some have. Others are waiting their turn as I try to keep up with all the great art you’re creating. Patience. I’ll get yours up!

0910 Geo Illustrations |

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Feedback Loops (Week 20)

by on Feb.09, 2010, under Blog

spiral_02_smMay it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
Thomas Jefferson / Last known writing

My goal is to declare independence from the tyranny of 20th century educational models by teaching students to be self-motivated and self-reliant. Each year in the Mac Lab, we move ever-closer to that ideal, but as Jefferson has also written: The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.

Ol’ Tom has a point; instilling that habit takes long training. If not for the willingness of some students to embrace this dream, our educational experiment might have died on the vine. Instead, every year the success stories have grown more brilliant and more numerous.

This year, however, students are grabbing the reigns to explore new and varied creative frontiers in unprecedented numbers. Our new Wall of Fame™ is filling so rapidly that older student work on other walls will soon have to make way. This Website has played its part in the process but something new and unexpected has begun to fundamentally alter the culture of our classroom: the rise of the student blog.

Over 20 current and former students have begun blogging in the past month (see links in right sidebar). While many include thoughtful posts and intriguing projects, three blogs in particular stand apart. Fadi George, Philip Behnam, and CRDESIGNLAB (Chris Canel and Kyle Rodenbo) have set the standard. Each is active, rich in content, and has a unique perspective. The one common denominator is the interactive dialog. Active commenting drives additional content. These three blogs have benefited from feedback loops (Chris and Kyle).

Aside: In adding those links to Christian Lim‘s blog and pages this morning, I realized he qualifies as well. How I missed that when writing yesterday is beyond me, Apologies.

I’m certainly not suggesting that these are the only three (four) successful student blogs, I’m just making a point about feedback loops. When I see that in the first 39 days of 2010 the Mac Lab Blog has had 43,040 page views from 1,007 cities in 97 countries and 46 states (plus DC), well, that gives me reason to believe that what we’re doing has value beyond the classroom. Likewise for all of the student blogs to varying degrees; each and every one of them have value. As the authors realize that, they’ll write with more passion. The more passion they have, the more meaningful the content. The more meaningful the content, the move profound the feedback.

The feedback doesn’t have to come from reader’s comments or page views. Consider the following:

It is impossible to undertake any kind of research without being perpetually made aware that the truth is plying us with suggestions, the past prodding us with hints, and if no benefits result from such assistance, it is not the fault of our heavenly helpers but of our all too human obtuseness.
Cyril Connolly / Previous Convictions

Wassily Kandinsky weighs in on the same topic:

Just as an explorer penetrates into new and unknown lands, one makes discoveries in the everyday life, and the erstwhile mute surroundings begin to speak a language which becomes increasingly clear.

Biologist Lyall Watson, when considering this same mysterious feedback loop, wrote:

The best attempt to lay this ghost in the machinery of things, is perhaps the collaboration in 1952 of a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a great psychologist. Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Gustav Jung attributed coincidence to an acausal connecting principle which operates independently of the known laws of classical physics… And when such exceptions operate independently of time and space, linking events in strange and unexpected ways, meaningful coincidences take place. They called this Synchronicity.

It’s not just art. Immerse yourself in any meaningful research, any meaningful endeavor, and a feedback loop will begin. What to do? Well, as I wrote back about the time you were busy being born:

Experience has taught me that written affirmation of insights, inspirations, and interactions is rewarded. The more diligent the acknowledgment, the more profound the response.

Why not begin your adventure as a self-motivated, self-reliant, self-governing individual with a purpose? Join the Dance of Life. In helping yourself, you’ll discover that you begin to help others as well. That’s a feedback loop we can all wrap our hearts around.

I’d like to relate some of the amazing interactions (with these folks) that I’ve experienced recently but I’ve given you enough to consider… for now. While pondering that, today’s assignment is to incorporate the Elements of Art into your being and into your artwork, just as you did the 5 Stages of the Creative Process. Remember, Wikipedia is where the search begins, NOT where it ends. Research the Elements of Art and gather meaningful information. We’ll tackle the Principles of Design next week. I’ll begin quizzing you tomorrow. This should be a snap as I’ve asked you to incorporate the Elements and Principles into your artwork several times earlier in the year and I’m sure none of you simply ignored the assignment, right?

0210: Those of you read Mac Lab Twitter updates in the right column (see: Inspiration and Information) already know that I was considering purchasing this to get Veenix TypeBook Creator. The license for all the other apps showed up over the weekend but Veenix only arrived yesterday. Why is that important? Watch this video.

Elements of Art: I’ll simplify it for you. Focus on this page and learn the basics.

0211: John Smaulding and Matt Goodrich are the latest team to join the student blogging revolution Check out PanthaGraphic to see the fruits of their collaborative efforts.

New Fonts: Check the Shared Folder for this pdf (it’s called skofont.pdf). I made these fonts while this was going on. Here’s proof that there are uses for some of the fonts. Aside: Some things are best left forgotten. The fonts are loaded on all computers. Warning: Limited character sets. Use only the characters shown in the PDF.

There used to be a full post every day. (Girls will like that one.) Aren’t you glad I’ve simplified the task with weekly posts?

Musical International Update: You guys won’t get this but when I saw Dominica listed as our 138th international visitor, The Singing Nun popped into my head and this song, even though I haven’t heard it in over 40 years, is playing over and over in my mind.

Reminder: Focus on this page and learn the basics.

0212: What are you going to do with all the cool new fonts? If you’re not a typophile, are you experimenting? Why oh why isn’t anyone trying the Blob Brush this year? (Tutorials here.)

Tomorrow: First Mac Lab Saturday School™ of the second semester. As always, I’ll arrive around 6:15.

Next Week: New Photoshop tutorials and resources (lots of custom brushes and shapes). Lots of my old Photoshop tuts here, here, here, and even here. Sure, there’s no narration (sound) on the tuts in the last link but there’s some cool tips and tricks there. Heck, there are even tricks you can use in the old System 9 tuts near the bottom of that page.

New Portfolio Option: Austin W showed me Wix and it’s very cool. If you don’t like Prezi or find lacking, give Wix a try!

This Just In: The 5 Stages of the Creative Process (Stevin H) You have to hear it to believe it.

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Learn it all.