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Recreating reality.

Why wait one full calendar year to experience the colors, changes, and variety of the four seasons? My high school students transformed ordinary pictures into extraordinary pictures by creating their own seasons at their free will! All it took was their vivid imaginations and the ability to explore various ideas in art.

Students in grades 9-12 entered the Photoshop class with varied backgrounds--some with a fair amount of computer software knowledge; others who had very little computer experience. The entire Photoshop class had art either in middle school or in high school as electives.

Students had difficulty learning how to use the tools and manage the layers in Photoshop. After spending a few weeks discussing photography--how to take good photos, as well as practicing the Photoshop commands--students were excited about combining their imagination with their new skills.

Students proved themselves to be risk-takers, trying different visual ideas and effects in their pictures. If something did not look good, all they had to do was edit it and try another idea!

Materials
Adobe Photoshop[R] software
Scanner
Digital camera
Floppy disks
Color printer
Computer lab
Old magazines
Old photographs


Objectives

1. Students manipulate pictures into the four seasons by using Photoshop, a scanner, and a digital camera.

2. Students explore various effects in Photoshop while constructing the four different seasons.

I assigned students a main goal of being as creative as possible, while keeping within the framework of the assignment. For example, no purple snow!

Process

I asked students to select a picture of a landscape either from old magazines, photographs they had at home, or photographs they took outside on school grounds with the digital camera. Once each student selected a picture to use as the basis of each season, we discussed the differences of the four seasons. For example, students had difficulty deciphering the differences between the spring and summer seasons. I acknowledged that in New England, spring and summer are similar. As a suggestion, I pointed out to the class that in spring, there is an abundance of new plants, buds, and new flowers blooming (forsythia, crocuses, tulips and daffodils, etc.) and that summer is typically warmer with less flowers. Students distinguished winter and autumn seasons more easily--winters in this area typically have snow, sleet, and ice. In fact, the leaves on the trees were just beginning to change colors as the students were beginning this project.

I encouraged students to explore different options for each season before deciding on a final picture. By trying different techniques using the software, students can explore all sorts of different ideas and not have to commit to any of them. Students with less computer skills were thrilled at the freedom that Photoshop allowed them.

A few students took digital photographs of the trees outside of the school, cut them out using the lasso tool, and adhered them into their original photograph by using the move tool. Many students brought in photographs from their homes to use as the original base photograph, and then added pictures from magazines to it to show the different seasons. For example, the original base photograph might show a house with a few trees near it. The photograph can be altered by choosing another photograph--a pond from an old magazine--scanning it, using Photoshop to cut the pond out, altering the color of the pond, and then placing it into the original house photograph and painting snow over the pond for winter. The combinations and possibilities are endless!

One student included old childhood photographs of her and her brother in her picture, giving her a real connection to her artwork. I found that students enjoy seeing photos of themselves in their artwork. Many students kept the pictures looking as realistic as possible, while others drew freehand by using the mouse and paintbrush tool to create a more stylized look. Some students used the airbrush tool to add paint over existing photos to alter the colors, but kept the photos looking realistic. One method a student used to keep the picture realistic was a transparent airbrush painted over the original green leaves in the trees, thereby changing the colors to autumn colors while retaining the normal wrinkles and shadows and highlights of the leaves. Some students scanned in photographs of snow to use in their winter seasons, other students used the paintbrush with a light gray transparent paint to cover existing images in their pictures. The class found many more ways to transform the reality of their seasons than I had originally imagined. I held individual discussions during the duration of the project to help each student explore overlooked possibilities, make changes, and help them decide on which version of each season to keep as their final product.

The final process required students to transform the dimensions of each season into a smaller version and assemble all four seasons onto one Photoshop canvas using the transform and edit commands in the computer software. Students began to understand the relationship of print size, pixels, and resolution size by changing the image dimensions. Each student submitted all four seasons printed out separately, approximately 7 x 8" (18 x 20 cm), and a fifth page with all four seasons together.

Evaluation

Artwork was evaluated in categories that made up a rubric. The categories were worth up to 10 points each, totaling 100 points. The categories corresponded to the specific objectives stated, and were shared with the class at the beginning of the art project. These categories included creativity, following directions, use of transformation, use of the paintbrush tool, originality, improvement using the camera, scanner and software, differentiating seasons, use of Photoshop tools/ applications, neatness, and effort. Each season was graded separately.

Students were thrilled with the outcomes of the project and enjoyed viewing each other's completed artwork. This lesson helped develop the confidence of those who were skeptical about taking a computer art class, and it offered a chance for them to prove to themselves that they can succeed in creating realism through the use of a computer. Students increased their knowledge of using the scanner, digital camera, and Photoshop, as well as expanding their ideas of visual interpretation. This was a great first art lesson for the Photoshop class, enabling them to gain a good understanding of the program. This art lesson is a gateway to other Photoshop art lessons in the semester. Many students were so pleased with the outcome of the project they asked me to hang the seasons in the main hall of the school!

NATIONAL STANDARD

Students will intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas.

Laura Kahler is an art teacher at Wheeler High School in North Stonington, Connecticut.
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Title Annotation:lessons using Photoshop
Author:Kahler, Laura
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:1127
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