Monday, May 9, 2011

Photoshop: Josh Lemke

Been a while since I posted Photoshop work. I rediscovered these as I was sorting some files.
Josh Lemke was a very talented and driven student, somewhat out of his element in the more conservative environs of a for-profit college.
However, he was also a driven student and a driven artist.
When given the Photoshop assignment of an even poster, he designed three that function as a triptych.

the triptych seen as a single image

This piece (pieces?) succeeds on many levels. It stimulates interest in the event, it works from a range of distances, and echoes the sensibility of the subject matter.
However, it is not without its problems. The choice of font has issues, It's inconsistent with the Walker's identity. While a thick chunky font was required to make this work, this choice detracts a bit.
There's also the deliberate decision to omit the event dates. Josh's though on this was that it would increase interest in the poster(s) post-event.
However, the work succeeds on many more levels than those at which it does not.
After graduating, Josh worked at the school in question for a couple years, then moved on into mural painting, a discipline more in keeping with his ideology and art sensibility.
Josh with fellow artist Peyton Russell at the Gainseville, FL mural
I've since lost track of Josh, but I KNOW he's out there making great art!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lessons from the students

I interviewed this week for the 2011 SES, now called Pre-College Summer Sessions.
I should hear with the next week or so whether or not I passed muster. I'm reasonably confident, but take nothing for granted.
In preparing for the interview, I reflected on the last 11 years, during which I've taught 11 sessions of one of the two programs, and all 6 of the others.
This is a great experience. I get to challenge myself to new possibilities through working with high school age students, as opposed to the college and returning adult students in my more standard teachign rotation.
At the end of every session, I hand out index cards and ask the students for recommendations. Books, movies, games, music, anything they think I might not have been exposed to that might be of value to me, or just fun. I won't provide links for these. I take them as an opportunity for research, and encourage you to do likewise.
I'm always amazed at how much they really know, given their relatively short lives. I know people in their 40s and older who aren't as receptive to such a wide array of possibilities.
Here are a few of their recommendations, presented verbatim from the cards.
2009 brochure, designed by Jenna Brouse!
Four Eyed Monsters: independent movie
This is Art: website
Architecture in Helsinki
Bands I like- Death Cab for Cutie, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, Band of Horses, Hotel Lights, the Postal Service. Thank you!
Sufjan Stevens (music), What's Up Doc (movie)
books: anything by David Sedaris movies: nevermind, I can't think of any good ones
band: Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground
Velvet Goldmine Watch it. It's a nice movie about glam rock. One man emboides every glam rock god ever! Also, take a listen to Tiger Army's "Music from Regions Beyond..."
movie: Waking Life
Cyanide & Happiness online comic @ exposim. net It's, quote "fuckin hilarious" Google it
Movie The Fountain thanks Diana!
Speed Grapher anime'
book: The Magus John Fowles
Boys and Girls in America: the Hold Steady 
Tsubasa Reservoir by Clamp. It's a manga, so if you do not care for manga, I am sorry. I did not know.
Band" Kamelot CDs: BLack Hole & Epic. Russian Literature: Baba yaga and Kosche. You have to look this one up.
I'm going to save the rest of these for another day. It's such a delight to recognize the imagination and spirit of the burgeoning adults (I find the term "teenager" demeaning) that I want to save some of it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Storyboards: The Man Who Shot liberty Valance, part 7

Here we go with two more panels of the Liberty Valance boards!

The beginning of another ongoing gag in these. The Sherriff, Link Appleyard, played in the film by the great Andy Devine, grows in every panel in which he appears.
This is the kind of gag you can get away with in any of three conditions.
1. A classroom setting with a forgiving teacher, one who would rather encourage creativity than squelch it.
2. Working with a client you know VERY well.
3. Working on a broad comedy.
Luckily for the students, one of the three applied here!
Pretty straightforward content. Again, the use of the term "point of view" is ambiguous.
Next, for variety, a different kind of student work.

Towards a philosophy of teaching

Promotional comic on teaching
from Marvel and Office Max

As I apply for teaching jobs for spring quarter and fall semester, I am given to reexamine the parts of that application.
There are the usual: cover letters, CVs, recommendations, and in the case of studio courses, work samples.
When applying for some positions, such as a Visiting Scholar position, it's also mandated to supply a statement of your teaching philosophy.
This can be daunting.
First, you have to have thought about what your teaching philosophy actually IS. The first time I was posed this question, I thought that I didn't have one, and immediately realized that I did.
The funny thing is that I had the same  reaction when someone first told me they liked my art style!
While teaching is a skill, a craft, a discipline and a philosophy, much of it is learned by doing. And as Kierkegaard notes, we live life forwards and understand it backwards. So a teaching philosophy evolves out of classroom experience, which in turn involves the balance between the pragmatic aspects of dealing with  student issues coupled with administrative concerns.
Let's face it. This can be a daunting profession. So when summarizing your philosophy on your work, it's crucial to, as the song says, accentuate the positive. If your teaching philosophy rambles on about the inability of students to construct an argument, or the difficulties of budget limitations, not only will you not get the position, but you probably shouldn't get it!
Teaching is an art. Like any art form, its material rewards are sometimes low. You have to get something else out of it to make it rewarding beyond the paycheck.
What else do you get?
That's where your teaching philosophy comes in.
I'm currently rewriting mine. I was surprised to discover how it's evolved from its initial core position to its current one.
Initially, I simply held that we can't really teach students anything, that all we can do show them things and that it's up to them to learn from them.
There's truth in that, but there's much more to it.
It relates to the larger issue of measuring achievement vs. retained and applied knowledge as goals for students. It also relates to the issue of pedagogy, a necessary but problematic dance in which teaching risks becoming performance as an end in itself, rather than a means to the larger end of expanding the student's knowledge base and world view as related to the material taught.
And if your teaching philosophy is not all about the students and their needs, it's about the administration, or worse, about you.
Teaching is for the students, above all else. It has to be.
I'll table this discussion  for the moment and give my man Harry the last word.
The risks of bad teaching are made apparent in this Harry Chapin song, a longtime favorite. Please note that the subject in question is art, arguably the most powerful force in shaping a mind, body and spirit.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Students Teaching Students

Something a bit different, in the name of variety.
Every summer for the past 11 years, I've been graced to teach in the MCAD program known as Summer Expressions Seminar (SES). I've not heard yet if I have the appointment for this year, but I have hopes.
In 2010, I added a wrinkle to the assignment in my class, which is the Liberal Studies portion of the college prep program. In the past I've had them storyboard less common fairy tales.
This time, I also had them work in one another's disciplines and teach one another. For example, a painting student would work with a comic artist, or an animator, or a gamer.
The point of this was to help them understand their own craft and to communicate that craft to one another.
You learn by teaching.
Here are some panels from one of the more successful pairings.

The students, Taylor Smith and Sarah Williams, bought their own styles to the work and advacned the story at the same time.
It also serves to make the point that every discipline, including storyboarding, is much more flexible than many teachers would have it be. The boards presented here from college level courses are very professional, but that has its down side when teaching the novice. A good teacher will find a way to encourage students into growing into a desired result, not to browbeat them into doing the work in one regimented way. This assignment is an attempt to recognize that and encourage both professionalism and a sense of freedom and accomplishment.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Storyboards: The Man Who Shot liberty Valance, part 6

I've not taught studio for a while, and so have neglected this blog. As I have a backlog of material and hope to have more soon, it seems a good time to pick it up again. My apologies to the faithful readers. I will make amends for my absence, starting now!
Here's the next frame of the Liberty Valance storyboards.
Again the definition of the shot as "over the shoulder" is a bit vague. Looking at the depth of field, I'd be tempted to just go "long shot" on this one. It's a fairly static camera.
What's noteworthy here are the stage directions. The doctor throws the chip and it bounces on the table. This is clear both in the caption and in the image.
Once again, I love the tones of those French gray markers!
Working backwards affords a luxury that a storyboard artist doesn't have in a real-world environment. It's not your job to block out all character and camera motion, though understanding these things is crucial.
It's your job as a storyboard artist to apply images to the words of the script. That's it.
But to really know how to do that, you must understand both the theory and practice of filmmaking. This is problematic. The language used on a shoot is often quite different than that used in classes. And all these languages evolve over time.
So which language do you use? You use the one that best suits the needs of the director with whom you are working.
Terry Gilliam often does his own boards. On Brazil, his boards were little more than thumbnails. But as he is the director and he knows what he means, that's sufficient.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Storyboards: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, part 5

Okay, I got busy teaching and have neglected this blog for far too long. Now that I'm catching up on my work, I can take time to correct the situation.
Here's the first part of Board 2 of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Again, the clean sharp line, just enough detail in the background, a concept I have issues with in my own work. I quibble with the definition of shot 9. Yes, it is an OTS shot, but I don't see that as its primary function.
Look what's happening here. The primary point of the shot is that the character moves but the camera does not. I would define this as a group shot, or by distance, a MLS, also known as a Cowboy shot (cowboys were shown from the waist up in TV shooting because they couldn't ride and were sitting on a saddle over a barrel).
I like the warmth of the French gray markers.
Students who lacked experience with hand skill based art would ask me constantly if they could do their storyboards digitally. Once, I relented, and the results were awful. For this kind of work, especially at this level, the best ways of working are either all hand work or a hybrid.