Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Funky Finger Puppets!

It's funny to me how some posts get so many views, and some have almost never been seen. I think Pinterest plays a huge part in this.  So in my next few posts, I'm going to show you stuff from old posts that many of you have probably never seen, and have had very few views.  I think you will like them!  The finger puppets in this post, were previously posted in May 2010 and June 2012.  By the way, the sun above had a companion moon  finger puppet that unfortunately went home before it was photographed.  (And by the way, the stuff that looks like dirt on the sunshine's face is actually gold glitter-glue.)  So - above, the sun, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse; below, a chef and a waitress!
 The finger puppets were a popular 6th grade project.  Students spent one class making casts of their pointer finger.  First students greased their finger with Vaseline, and then wrapped with plaster bandage.  I love the speed of working with plaster bandage.  Most students were able to create two finger casts in one art class.  If they wanted more, they did them during study hall or lunchtime time.

Below, an astronaut (he had an alien companion that I missed photographing) and the Easter Bunny.
In the subsequent art classes, structural features were added with materials such as cereal box cardboard, Styrofoam balls, tin fol, and pipe cleaners, temporarily being attached with a low-temp hot glue gun.  The astronaut's tank was an old marker cap.  Legs and arms were added with a pipe-cleaner wrapped around the back, where it was attached.  After features were glued on, they were covered with plaster bandage (though we sometimes left the pipe-cleaners uncovered as bendable arms). 
 Above is a skateboarder kid, and SpongeBob, and below are a 'disco bunny' and skateboarder Shawn White, in mid-jump. 
 Unfortunately, the Mad Hatter to the right below wasn't finished when I took this picture. 
 After the structures were complete, the puppets were painted with acrylics, and embellished with wiggle eyes, fabric, ribbons, lace, feathers, and more.  The kids were very creative about building 'props' for their puppets.  Kids often made puppets in groups - a whole rock band complete with instruments, characters from the Harry Potter movies, Star Wars, or favorite cartoons.  I bet if I was making them now, their would be characters from The Hunger Games, Twilight, and Angry Birds, among other things.  One year, pre-digital photography, a group of kids built a whole wedding, complete with bridal party!  Then they built a little wedding stage for them too.  Somewhere I have photos prints. 
  Below are an unfinished Elvis, and the 5th grade teacher who claims to be his wife! 
Below is an EMT.  Other puppets made but un-photographed over the years include Abe Lincoln, birds, fish, sharks, robots, cheerleaders, all sorts of sports athletes, a king and queen, various Disney princesses, Smurfs, ballerinas, aliens, monsters, penguins, etc.
 Below is a view of a box full of my sample puppets, including professor Dumbledore, an eagle, an elephant, a teddy bear, a cat, a frog, a band, and more more more not visible in this photo!
   Below is a mummy case, complete with hieroglyphics and a mummy inside.  The kids were studying Egypt when this one was built. 

Such fun!!!  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

UPDATED POST: Camera exploration & the superb paintings of Janet Fish

 The photos to the left is an edit of a photo you will find at the end of this post.  I'm inspired by what I was able to do, and keep in mind, I do NOT have Photoshop. I will explain later what I did, and what I might do with it, but for now I want to get on to the topic of this post.

The images in this post are mostly photos that were taken by me.  The only exception is the beautiful artwork of Janet Fish that I include a little further down the post.

A week ago, I attended a little workshop to help new DSLR camera owners to get to know their camera.  Only 2 people showed up for the class:  One was obviously me, a former photography teacher with a good understanding of aperture, exposure, depth of field, and other basic camera concepts, but a poor understanding of maneuvering around the complex menu of a DSLR.  The other person knew nothing about her new camera, zip, and hadn't even turned on her camera (or even knew there was an on/off switch) and obviously knew nothing about those basic photo concepts.

We have one more session together, and we were given a 'homework' assignment to take photos using the various scene presets on our camera, and see how they affected exposure etc, to help us make good decisions about what settings to use and to keep us from shooting everything on the basic automatic setting.  The poor teacher didn't know what she was getting into asking me to do this.  I'm assuming the other gal will show up with a dozen or so photos on her camera.  She was terrified to even use it.  Me, well, here I am, hundreds of photos later... I'm going to have some serious editing to do before I go back to class on Friday.
First,  I went outside on a cold day but had trouble keeping track of the settings with gloves on, so instead I decided to do something inside.  I was inspired by the gorgeous paintings of Janet Fish.  If you've never seen her work, here's a few images to inspire you.  Many of her still life paintings include glassware, and vibrant saturated color.  If you've been to my Pinterest page, you know that's what I like.  Anyhow, here's a selection of Janet Fish paintings:
OK, back to my photo homework.  I set up a still life of assorted glassware.  I shot some pictures with the still life draped with an embroidered white tablecloth, others with some black and metallic patterned scarves, and then still more with vibrantly colored scarves.  Then I went back and shot the still life lit with candles, and a black drape.  Tomorrow night I plan to photograph it yet again with the candles, but this time with the colored scarves and with the white tablecloth. If I get any interesting results, I will show you, I promise!  In the meantime, here's a selection of the photos I took, edited down to this selection for this post, from about 200 photos.  Help!
I had fun cropping some of the photos, and am considering using some of them as inspiration for some painting.  Below you will see some side-by-side comparisons of various shots.  We were told to use all the different scene settings on the camera, and I had some fun surprises at what I discovered.  I expected changes in exposure and depth of field, but I did not realize that the digital settings also change color balance.  The sunset setting, for example, gave me rich warm color in my photos, such as the one on the right in the first pair below. I love the warmth, though I also love the clear yellow in the left-hand photo.
Below, a little cropping fun!
More comparisons...  I used settings for sunsets, for dusk/dawn, for food, for foliage, for blossoms, for autumn colors, for pet portraits for action, for closeups, for portraits, for night landscapes, for night portraits, for landscapes, for candlelit, for indoor parties, for food... YIKES!  How am I supposed to remember what does what?!
I actually have another (preferred) version of the photos below, with more drapery showing in front of the glassware, but it keeps uploading sideways so you'll just need to trust me for now.  I like the composition on the ones with more drapery.  These look cut off, but with the drapery, I see them as future painting inspirations.  Oh well.  At least you can see the exposure differences.
I set up the camera on a tripod for the candle-lit batch below.  Look at how the color balance changes from one shot to the next!
And more candle-lit photos:
And for fun, of course I had to shoot a few pictures with my favorite creative feature on the camera, the vivid sketch (which eats batteries, but that's another story entirely).  The first shot below was highly cropped after I put it on my iPad. 
And this last one is uncropped, though I have played with a couple of different croppings,one using just the lower left, and the other the lower right.  It's fun playing with the abstract compositions. 
A final note: I have discovered that if I upload my photos to the post using the Blogger app on my iPad, the verticals actually remain vertical!  Yippee!  Then I go to my laptop or PC to shrink the images and edit the post, since you can't do that in the app.

Newly added to this post, three more crazy edits of the last photo above (one at the top of the post, the other two below), this time done on my PC using both Microsoft Photo Editor, and  with Corel Photo Album for the color edits.  I think, folks, I may have just had a 'eureka' moment.  My easel has been sitting with a half-finished painting on it for months.  I hate the painting.  It's just not me.  The composition and color I have discovered cropping these images have me excited to use them as painting inspiration.  What do you think? 
 I probably should have numbered the photos in this post, but I don't know how to do that without everything moving around.  Because, I really would like your opinion.  I know this was just a homework assignment, but I like the photos but am having trouble selecting which I prefer.  Which color balances do you like?  Which images, which croppings?  Please, dear readers, please express your thoughts and advice.  I trust you!  And what do you think of my extreme edits?  Am I stuck in 50's psychedelia, or have I hit upon something?