Turning Photos into Paintings with Brushstroke (Grade 2)

Grade 2 is one of those levels where I have to dream up new projects since they have done everything last year I dreamed up for the Grade 1-2s. The lesson here and the one that follows (Turning Photos into Sketches) is basically how to use a filter app. With older students, I don’t like these kind of apps because it doesn’t give a lot of creative control over what happens.

I don’t mind so much at this level though. At the very least it gives the students an understanding of what filters are, which will benefit them next year when they start on the desktops using Photoshop and other applications.

I’m quite picky then with the apps that I choose for this sort of thing. I don’t want a “one-button-will-do-it” because I want the students to have as many choices and as many options for adjustments as possible.

This app is a good one for the amount of filters it presents you with, and then the ability to fiddle it with a lot of different adjustments like saturation, exposure, brightness, contrast and vibrance.

The video below shows how to use Brushstroke.

Here are some examples from the students.


Twirl Art using Photoshop CC (Grade 6)

Ideas come from many places. Some come directly from your own imagination, some are inspired by what others done, and some come from ripping off paying homage to others who have done exceptional work.

I had never heard of Twirl Art before. Apparently such a thing has existed before. Where I found about it from was from the exceptional Photoshop/Illustrator instructor Deke McClelland over at Lynda.com. I will admit, and give proper credit, to Deke in that this project was virtually followed word for word, step for step the way he did it.

Twirl Art can start from virtually any photograph. Personally, I find a photo that has a nice mixture of bright and vibrant colours work best. Then, following the steps, you go from this:

to this:

Pretty amazing huh? It takes a lot of work, using a combination of various filters and blending modes in Photoshop to create the final result.

This is an advanced class, but I was really impressed how well the students were able to follow the instructions so well.

The video I have below does go through the steps quickly, I’ll admit. You may need to stop and start to take notes. As I said, it takes a lot of work, but I think the end result is something you could proudly print out professionally and have hanging on your wall.

At least I think so.

Here is the video that explains the process. And again, thanks to Deke for his wonderful project. You can find all of Deke’s videos over at Lynda.com at https://www.lynda.com/Illustrator-tutorials/Dekes-Techniques/76067-2.html

Creating a Planet in a Galaxy in Photoshop CC (Grade 5)

Sometimes I feel like teaching Photoshop (or another big program) is like learning how to cook. When it comes to a big project like this, it’s a matter of following the steps one after the other to get the desired result. In the case of primary school students learning Photoshop, I’ve learned the best way is to model a couple of steps at a time, get them to go off and do it, come back to the screen, and going through the next couple.

This project had it’s genesis in the Grade 5 students studying space later in the year. I had this idea to create an engagement for them by getting them to design their own planet in their own galaxy. With that, they could take their finished image to class and then write up a report about their planet. The name, the kind of atmosphere, what kind of ecosystem, habitats and life their planet would have.

This project goes over two lessons. The first one, creating the galaxy, is relatively short. The second one where they create their planet takes a little longer, but is definitely achieveable in two lessons. Most steps must be done as is, but there is a little flexibility with colours and textures to make it their own.

I will credit upfront the video on YouTube I got most of my “recipe” for this was from Blue Lightning Photoshop TV . My steps are mostly the same, but updated for Photoshop 2017 with a few small tweaks.

The videos below are in two parts: the galaxy and then the planet.

Here are a few examples from the students.

Having Fun with Adobe Photoshop Fix (Grade 2)

The mobile app Adobe Photoshop Fix is an incredibly powerful mobile app that lets you do much of the retouching and editing functions that the desktop Photoshop CC does. You can remove things from backgrounds, heal areas and blend layers. All sorts of goodness.

But with great power comes great responsibility. How much is too far? Where is the point where your photo becomes a distortion of what came before? And is this a good or bad thing?

This are interesting questions of ethics that would suit older students. But when introducing this app to younger students (as a sneaky precursor in introducing Photoshop proper next year to these kids) it’s all about the fun. And without doubt, the most fun you can have with this is the face liquify function.

Essentially, the app detects your face (assuming it’s an ubobstructed close up headshot) and the edit points on the face. The nose, eyes, cheeks, jawline, chin, forehead, mouth and lips. And with each edit point there are a number of options you can change. Obviously professional “serious” photographers use this to make slight subtle changes to the models they shoot, but with these kids, it’s all about distorting features.

I also got them to do a little bit of blended painting, so they could colour their hair as well.

The video here better explains the process.

Here are some examples from my Grade 2 students:

Macro or Close Up Photography (Grade 1)

This lesson was a pretty straight forward one. I wasn’t using any special app, just the iPad one.

I wanted to teach the students how to use the camera – in particular paying attention to focusing on the subject – when taking close up photography. I modelled using the iPad and how when you have the camera right up close, the camera can some times have a hard time picking up where the focus needs to be. By tapping on the subject of the photo (whether it’s a flower, a leaf or a figuringe) the iPad (or iPhone) does a pretty good job to compensate.

For the classes I went to our Wetlands area, as well as the Veggie Garden – and encouraged the kids to get right up as close as possible. I told them I didn’t want them to use zoom. When dealing with a camera like on a mobile device, zoom always degrades the quality of the photo since it’s a digital zoom, not an optical one. This means it’s not the camera itself that’s doing the zooming with the hardware, but it’s the software. It never does a stellar job. So – I got the kids to get right up as close as possible.

This lesson was meant as a review of the camera functions within the device whilst looking at a different type of photography.

Here are some examples.

Up and Running for 2017 – and with a new eBook coming!

It’s been a few months since the last post of the blog. It’s been a very busy term, and I am also working hard on releasing the ebook on Media Arts hopefully ready to go out in just a few short weeks.

Having said that, I have been doing many new lessons this term, as the students have been upskilled in various concepts and programs to do with Photography. I will be putting out a new post from now every couple of days to catch you up on all the exciting things happening with Media Arts in my classroom.

Hopefully all my loyal readers will be interested to hear about the book project I’ve been working hard on. The book, also titled Confessions of a Media Arts Teacher, is an interactive ebook that includes all the posts on this blog, expanded to include links, photo galleries, videos, lesson and unit planners, as well as reflections on each. It will also include project files for many of the lessons that you can save to a Dropbox folder with just a tap of the finger. It will be priced at $39.95 (AUD).


It is designed to work on an iPad, but can be read just as well on a desktop as well. If you would like to be kept informed on when it comes out, please email me at aarons.joel.j@edumail.vic.gov.au . I will be offering an early-bird 10% discount for anyone who wants to be on this distribution list.

So stay tuned for more exciting Media Arts goodness! And please do comment on posts if you like what you read, or even better – if you’ve tried out the projects in your classrooms! Your feedback will make this blog even better!

Also, if you are reading this in an email (meaning you subscribed for email updates) you might find the graphics and videos I put in the posts don’t come up. I encourage you to click on the link to read the post in the blog so you can get the whole picture.

See you in a couple of days!