The Grass is Always Greener in Someone Else’s Painting

This week, I wanted to learn to paint grass. I felt like it was a natural progression from painting clouds, as together, they can create a full painting. However, once I started looking for tutorials, I was overwhelmed with how many different ways there was to do it, and with each producing a very unique look. Some were very detailed, others worked to create more of an impression of grass, and still others were somewhere in-between.

After becoming thoroughly unsure of what to do, I decided to look for apps rather than videos or blogs, at least for a way to get started.

The first app I found seemed to pull various painting tutorials from YouTube, sorting them into categories, while also minimizing the overall amount of content you are exposed to. I found this very helpful to get started, and it would be a great app for beginner painters who don’t know where to start. My only complaints are that some of the videos weren’t the best quality, and the same filtered exposure that helped at first also limited how many styles I could try. Overall, if you’re just looking for a few things to try out, but are overwhelmed with the vast amount of content online, this app would be a good place to start.

The second app I found, “Sketch a Day,” is by far my favorite. Its tutorials are not just pulled straight from YouTube, but are created by users of the app all over the world, screenshot_20200522-112147allowing you to be exposed to multiple techniques and styles, while also finding something different from what a simple search in YouTube would turn up. They also have daily challenges, which are usually a simple word. You then paint, draw, or otherwise create your impression of the word and can upload a photo to share with the rest of the community. If you’re struggling to decide what to do but are in a creative mood, this helps a lot, and makes you think in a different way. I’m still exploring all the features, but am loving it so far.

Outside of these apps, I still used a few other sources as well. To start, I tried using a fan brush, following this tutorial. I chose the fan brush first, as it is what my dad generally uses in his paintings to depict grasses. I found it was very difficult to get the right strokes though, and more often than not, the paint would simply go on in a straight green mass, no matter what I did. The jabbing upwards motion and using the tips to create short, stubbly looking grasses worked a little better, but still wasn’t my favorite. Maybe I just need more practice, but I’m not completely sold on this technique.

Next, I tried the idea of “painting masses, not grasses,” and while it didn’t work great on img_20200522_112340149the paper, it did work on my canvas when I decided to use this technique again (I’m thinking this might be the same issue with the other ones as well). I liked how loose it made the painting look, and how it captured more of the feeling (such as the wind blowing through it, how the sun catches different parts of it, etc.), so I figured I would try again on my painting for the week.

I also decided to do my own painting this week, as I enjoy painting places I’ve been, want to go, or otherwise feel a connection to. I feel I can do them more justice (again, in being able to capture the feeling of the place, not just how it looked), making them more than some paint splattered on a canvas. After much searching though, I hadn’t found anything that particularly struck me. So I started thinking broader, and decided on the grain elevators in Three Hills Alberta. My dad spent a large portion of his childhood here, and would run past these bins everyday (plus he loves old grain elevators, so I can give it to him!). Even though I’ve never personally been here, I feel a greater connection to it than to my last painting.

I again used the sponge technique for the clouds, as it let me make a very whispy look in the background, then paint some heavier clouds in front. I kept my colour pallet a lot more limited than last time, using only ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and titanium white, mixing them to get the other colours I needed. I’m still not overly thrilled with my grass, but I’ve started to get a feel for it.

As for my larger painting that I blogged about a couple days ago, I’m still working to finish the grass and hills. I took it as far as I could without yet adding in the bison, as I realized partway through that I would need to have them finished before I can finish the grass (their shadows will change the colours of the grass behind them, and some grass will need to be painted over their hooves and sides where they are laying down).

I tried again to do a hyperlapse of me painting, and was planning to do it in several, shorter takes. However, I started the second segment and got so involved in actually painting that I forgot about the video completely, making me lose it once again. For next week, I just discovered that you are able to upload videos you took on your phone, so I will try that instead. It also went sideways for some strange reason, and would not let me rotate it. I did learn how to add music to a video in the YouTube editor, so that should make my future videos more enjoying!

Video aside, I think I’m going to try to make the grass a little more detailed than in my grain elevator painting. I really like how Chuck Black’s grass looked and would like to mimic his technique in this painting. I won’t be able to go quite as detailed, as my landscape is taken from farther away, but I can definitely go more detailed in some sections.

But I digress. Here’s what I was able to accomplish this week on my project:

If you have any questions, tips, or anything else, feel free to ask in the comments!

“It’s Your Kids, Marty! Something’s Gotta Be Done About Your Kids!”

Our world is constantly changing and always has been. However, the last few decades have seen a radical shift, with changes occurring at exponential rates. But what caused this sudden explosion? What makes the last 30 years so different from the last 3000?

The internet. This single advancement has led to a plethora of others, allowing people to collaborate, share ideas, or come up with something totally different using the groundwork someone else has laid. Things that would have been deemed impossible before have been made possible through the connection that the internet has created.

Eight new mental illnesses brought to you by the Internet | PCWorld

Retrieved from https://bit.ly/36q5MCL

Some say that this is our doom – and I’ll admit, I’ve sometimes thought it too. The over-connection, over-stimulation, and over-sharing that this has brought about can cause many health issues, both physical and mental (also see: Online Social Networking and Mental Health). What’s more is that our students are being exposed at younger and younger ages (with the average child getting their first phone at 10.3 years old, and their first social media account at 11.4 years old), something that is terrifying when you think of all the dangerous and inappropriate content that is so easily accessible. And then we have to think about the other messages they are receiving, ones that seem innocent: photos and messages from their friends or other people they know(on vacation; playing with a new puppy; hanging out with other friends…). They may not yet have the capacity to realize that they are receiving the filtered version of that person’s life, the highlight reel if you will. Then, when their own life doesn’t seem as exciting, they wonder what it is that they did wrong. Even I still struggle with this as I see old friends getting married or traveling in Europe. However, we only see a piece, not the whole truth.

Even the culture of arranging our living rooms around the TV, as Julia pointed out in class, shows our dependency on technology and staying connected. When I serve tables, I see kids that are kindergarten age with the latest iPhone, checking their Facebook account. My friends have often heard me say something along the lines of: “It’s Your Kids, Marty! Something’s Gotta Be Done About Your Kids!” (Back to the Future – Doc, in case anyone didn’t know.)

But the fact of the matter is that kids today are “born digital.” They don’t remember a time without the internet or social media or memes. I’ll admit that even I can’t imagine going through university without the internet – doing research would be so much harder without it. So maybe I should be changing my thinking to something more like: “It’s Your Attitude, Raylin! Something’s Gotta Be Done About Your Attitude!” We need to meet kids where they’re at, teaching what’s important to them. Even more importantly, we need to teach them how to be safe with the wealth of technology that is available to them. Keeping my head in the sand, reminiscing about the “good ol’days” isn’t going to help my students, or me for that matter.

As Wesch said, we now have an “integrated media-scape surrounding us. When media changes, so do human relationships.” We need to teach our students how to navigate these relationships, making known both the dangers and joys to be had, letting them participate (as is the way of this new world), but helping them do so in safe, healthy ways. Just like in other subjects, we need to provide them with scaffolding, gradually giving them more control as they demonstrate that they can handle being part of the online community. Gone are the days when integrating technology only meant using a projector. Education is a constantly evolving concept – as long as we let it be, that is. Teaching the same way as we have for the last 100 years won’t work anymore. Our world is unrecognizable to how it was then, and our teaching methods should be too.

It’s absolutely amazing what kids are capable of when given the chance – often they can do much more than we are with technology, as a result of being born into a “digital boom.” Making these resources accessible to our students carries way more benefits than risks in terms of education.

However, if you’re still not convinced, maybe hearing it straight from the source will help:

Let me know your thoughts!

Go Big or Go Home – New Inspiration

I know I’m updating early, but I decided to make a little change to my learning project, so I thought I should update before posting my actual blog for this week. I guess you get a bonus this week!

To start this week off, I was trying to think of a way to tie everything that I’ll learn together into a sort of big final project. Finally, I decided to face more of my fears, as this class seems to make me do things I wouldn’t otherwise try. This time, I’m challenging myself to go bigger.

What do I mean, you ask?

Well, the majority of my watercolor paintings are on post-card sized paper. I don’t particularly like working on larger “canvases” so to speak, as there is too much white space and I tend to get overwhelmed, or feel I need to add an unhealthy amount of detail to justify making it that big. My mistakes usually show up way more as well, further adding to my dislike of large spaces. Even working on the 8×10 canvas for last week’s painting was a major stretch, and I was only comfortable with it as I was following someone else’s example.

Thus, my challenge to go bigger. Throughout the rest of the course, I’m going to work on a much larger canvas (16×20), incorporating the new skill I learned each week (such as clouds or grass). I feel like breaking it up into smaller chunks will make it less overwhelming, while also giving me a chance to really focus on each individual part of the larger work.

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Further challenging myself, I decided to make it an all-original piece of work. Rather than working from any singular photo or tutorial, I am going to use a photo I took over the summer of a buffalo rub-rock (above) as my basis for the scene, but then add in img_20200520_195003139elements (such as bison) and change the overall feel by changing the lighting and the weather (making it more stormy). To do this, I tried doing thumbnail sketches for the first time, to help me get a feel for the layout of the painting. I followed this example, and even tried doing an underpainting in burnt sienna (luckily a color I already love using in my paintings) to add more depth to the final piece – something I had never heard of doing before. My thumbnails weren’t nearly as detailed as theirs, but they allowed me to get a feel for the lighting, placement, and sizing of the different components, ultimately saving me from making some major errors in my actual painting. I also did a very quick small painting (again, about the size of a post-card) to get a feel for some of the colours I wanted to use.

I then tried using Hyperlapse to create a timelapse of me painting. I tried to do it in two, smaller sessions, however, my one of me actually painting the clouds was apparently too long (there is a max of 5 minutes for the time-lapsed version), and I lost it. Oh well, live and learn. It was still a really cool and simple app to use, I’ll just have to be more aware of my timing in the future!

And now, here’s what I was able to accomplish so far:

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I’m overall very pleased with how it’s turning out so far. It was actually really fun to be able to paint clouds on a larger scale and using different colours to achieve the sunset-storm look. I’m so excited to keep going!

I’ve Got My Head in the Clouds

For my first week, I decided to teach myself how to paint clouds. It was a lot harder than I was expecting, and there were so many different techniques to choose from! And while I did find some I liked more or was able to do better than the others, I think all of them will be valuable in different situations, depending on the effect I am trying to achieve. Below are a few examples of what I tried this week:

I started with a simple tutorial that I found on YouTube that just used white in varying thicknesses (clouds on the top right), blending (also see: https://drawpaintacademy.com/blending/) it in to the background. It was probably the technique that gave me the fewest difficulties, however the clouds lacked some of the depth I was wanting and would only really work for when I’m trying to paint a perfect, sunny day.

Next, I found a tutorial for how to paint clouds using Q-tips (bottom right photo). I was skeptical at first. How could Q-tips work for giving the right look? But I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and had a lot of fun doing it. The grouping of the Q-tips creates a more random look, which makes the clouds look more natural and not so stiff and uniform. I was able to blend in some gray tones (created through a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and yellow ocher) which really helped to give the cloud some depth. My only complaint for this method is how much paint it uses, and how thick the final product is (you can sort of see in the photo how bumpy the paint is, even after drying). If I can fix this, and find a way to create some larger, fluffy-looking parts, I may use this technique again in the future.

Finally, I found an awesome tutorial for multiple types of clouds on Createful Art (left two photos). I think I’ll probably use these techniques a lot in the future, as they are effective, simple to execute, and don’t use large amounts of paint. I would like to practice them more before trying to do a large-scale painting though!

For my larger project this week, I decided to try some more Q-tip art, as I really enjoyed doing it and would like to be able to do it with my future students. The tutorial for the painting I chose used a different technique for the clouds than any I had found before: they used a sponge to lay down the paint. I really like how light and fluffy it made the clouds! However, since they only used white paint again, they clouds are again lacking in depth. I’m hoping to combine this technique with some of the blending ones I learned earlier for future paintings.

*I tried to add more links to explanations of painting terms this week, as there was some confusion about my post last week. I hope this helps! If there is any more confusion or if you have other questions, feel free to ask in the comments!*

Twitterpated by Twitter

I honestly never thought I would join Twitter. Any time I’ve joined a social media platform, it’s been out of necessity – such as when I joined Facebook in order to be in the work group chat, and this time was no different. However, rather than being a lurker, as I am prone to be, I have been challenged to be a lot more active on it than I ever thought I would.

So far, it has allowed me to connect with my Edtc 300 classmates more than I would’ve been able to without it. It has also introduced me to the wider education community, helping me to make new contacts and find new resources and inspiration. It hasn’t been easy (I’m still trying to figure out hashtags and what I should even be posting, but bear with me, I’ll get it eventually!), but with the support of all of you, one day I might actually make a post that’s right!

In the future, I think Twitter could be a useful resource in my classroom, even with younger elementary students. They can share their learning with each other, challenge each other to push themselves that little bit further, and share their own interests in new ways. It also allows parents to be more involved in their learning, as they can see what their child is up to throughout the day (rather than getting the standard “nothing” answer when they ask – something my parents had to endure for years). It would also open up our class to connect with other classes, either of the same grade or different, allowing new learning experiences that they might not otherwise have been able to have. It would open up a whole new world of communication and connection both within the classroom and out of it, and would allow those slightly shyer students to be able to share their thoughts:

However, coming from a very conservative family, I know that not all parents will be comfortable with their children creating a Twitter account, even if we were to maintain anonymity from the wider public, either through the use of different profile photos or names. There is always the concern about the predators out there, as well as the vast amount of inappropriate material that is only a click away. Supervision can only go so far, especially as children become more and more technologically literate. Creating tweets as a larger class (and thus sharing one account) would be one way to solve this, however it limits student’s ability to share what they are learning and doing outside of the classroom, as well as their ability to let their personal creativity shine through.

After doing some searching, I found out about Twitter bulletin boards. This would be a fun way to include Twitter in the classroom, letting students share their ideas with each other, while still learning the social etiquette for posting in an online platform – it would allow them to learn about it, but in a safer environment while they learn the little ins and outs. At the beginning or end of each day, we could share a picture of our “Tweets” and come up with a caption for it as a group. From here, if students are consistently showing a level of professionalism in their “posts,” I could gradually allow more freedom on the class Twitter account, perhaps installing a rotation of 5 students per day who create a post.

Another cool way to moderate students’ Tweets would be through Google Forms, like in the video below:

All in all, I think Twitter can be a great learning tool, as long as it’s implemented in a safe and respectful way for all of our students. Through it, they are able to gain not only literacies in specific subject areas, but also in cyber-safety, something that is getting all the more important to learn at an early age as their lives become saturated with technology.

Teaching Tomorrow’s Students

Our lives have been turned upside down in unprecedented ways ever since COVID-19 struck. When we first began to hear talk of it, I never thought things would escalate how they have. I figured in a few months, things would blow over and people would more or less forget about it. However, everyone’s lives have been impacted in one way or another: the loss of jobs or working on the front lines and the fear that must surround them everyday; the loss of connections with friends and family; the loss of favorite pass-times due to closures; the loss of an in-person classroom environment. Even our youngest generations are feeling the effects, perhaps in even more complicated ways than we are as they discover that their sense of safety has been compromised.

Our students have lost connections with their friends, their teachers, and with, perhaps, their only safe place. While we have moved classrooms into online platforms, we have failed to address the issue of equitable access to the necessary technology, as many of our students may be without the necessary equipment to partake in these online classes. Moreover, many of our students may be stuck in unsafe home environments, where school used to be their only escape.

Moving forward into the coming school year, these are complicated but necessary issues that will have to be addressed if we are to do right by our students. Perhaps these needs will be addressed in a dual-functioning system, such as having the option to participate in in-person or online classes. However, having in-person interactions puts our students at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than those who participate online, yet another way our students may be disadvantaged simply because they don’t have the means or ability to attend online classes. Furthermore, we will need to work even harder to establish close relationships with our students (both online and in-person) to make sure they feel safe to discuss anything on their mind, be it fears about getting sick or fears more closely tied to being at home.

However, I think we won’t truly feel the repercussions of these past few months until a few years down the road when we are faced with the holes in their schooling. Many of our students are missing out on learning vital skills, both for real-life applications and for in the classroom. Lost time in Math, History, Science, Social Studies, and all their other subjects could negatively impact their abilities to take classes in the future as they are confronted with new problems and skills that build on ones that they didn’t have the opportunity to develop. It will be our responsibility to address these holes as much as possible, both in the coming year, and down the road when we inevitably have these students in our classrooms.

The push we are having to do online courses will likely continue into the future as more people discover and enjoy the flexibility it offers. COVID-19 will also likely change how we conduct ourselves in our classrooms, perhaps with a higher focus on hygiene, but also incorporating many of the learning tools we have discovered during these times. Perhaps we will switch to a system more like Norway’s, with less time in the physical learning environment and more time in self-directed learning. Our change in learning platforms will give us the ability to stay in contact during this self-directed learning, helping to guide students to the “bigger questions” related to what they are interested in, while still giving them the freedom to explore on their own terms.

3L's of Self-Directed Learning: Insights from My TEDx Talk ...

Vora, T. (n.d.). Retrieved from QAspire.com

There are many things that we need to consider moving forward as we try to develop a system that reflects all of our students’ needs. However, together, one step at a time, we will overcome this challenge and become stronger for it.

It’s All in the Details

For my learning project, I’ve decided to teach myself to paint, specifically with acrylics. I have some experience working with watercolors, however I have always wanted to expand my knowledge so that I would be able to capture images and ideas in different ways.

The last time I attempted to paint with acrylics, I was probably around twelve years old. My dad is an artist, so I grew up watching him paint and he made it look so effortless. Needless to say, I had my bar set pretty high going in. It resulted in these…questionable masterpieces:

Several years later, I got over my trauma and joined the art club in my first year of high school. While I didn’t remain in the club long, I stayed long enough to participate in both drawing and watercolor classes, which reignited my love of creating art. Since then, I have tried to improve my watercolor skills with the help of YouTube videos and through trial and error. While I’m still far from where I would like to one day be, I think I have come a long way.

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I think what made acrylics so difficult for me was the precision required. With watercolors, you let the colors flow, then build off of what they create. It is generally less precise, and creates more of an impression, capturing more of the feeling of what you are attempting to depict. Additionally, you leave white spaces to create highlights and various other effects, or layer on pigment heavier to create the darker shades. You generally don’t have to mix the varying shades that you need of one color, because the water will do that for you. Different colors will blend themselves together as you let the water and pigment do their thing.

With acrylics, you must capture every detail, filling every space on your canvas, paper, or board. There is significantly less room for error, and even the impressionist-style paintings have to be extremely precise or risk looking ill-painted.

However, this precision also opens up the opportunity for a much wider-variety of painting styles. Throughout this course, as I teach myself to paint, I will also be experimenting with different techniques to discover my own, personal style. Each week, through the use of online videos, blogs, websites, and whatever other resources I am able to discover, I will try multiple different styles and ways of painting the same thing (such as clouds, water, trees, grass, flowers and light), before creating a larger painting, incorporating the method I like the most or that best suits the look I am trying to achieve. These methods may vary from simply being in a different style, to using different colors or different types of brushes, or to using a completely different tool or medium to paint. It will be exciting to see how many different ways people have come up with to do the same thing!

To further build my skills and make my project more accessible to others, I will try to capture my learning in different ways throughout the semester, such as through pictures, time-lapses, and short videos.

Ah Technology, My Old Nemesis…

This is from an annual trip for the French Certificate to Festival du Voyageur. I’m on the bottom left!

Hi everyone! My name is Raylin Janzen, I’m 21 years old and beginning my third year of elementary education after taking this last year off to get my French Certificate as a Second Language (I highly recommend trying it, even if you don’t think you want to teach French! Having a second language is so important, especially in the world we live in, where the other side of the world is only a click away!). I love reading and writing, and had my life-long dream of being published come true this past summer! I live on an acreage about half-an-hour north of Regina with my two fur babies (and my family – but let’s be honest, fur babies are more important).

Technology and I have…a complicated history. Mostly with other people trying to get me to like it and be more connected, while I run away screaming. I can make even the newest, most advanced and user friendly technology suddenly stop working, simply by looking at it from across the room. Other than the required blogs for classes, I generally avoid any unnecessary contact with such cruel inventions…hence why I decided to take this class.

The world we live in is constantly evolving, and as such, so is education. If I want to be an effective teacher and be able to relate to and provide positive learning experiences for my students, I need to overcome my fear of technology and learn how to use it successfully. Connecting to others online, both through blogging and other social media, can be a great way to meet new people and make lasting connections (both professionally and personally). However, in order to teach my students how to be conscientious of the potential dangers and aid them in creating a positive online identity, I first need to do so myself.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter! I look forward to getting to know all of you and sharing our learning journeys!