Welcome to The Helpful Art Teacher, an interdisciplinary website linking visual arts to math, social studies, science and language arts.

Learning how to draw means learning to see. A good art lesson teaches us not only to create but to look at, think about and understand our world through art.

Please click on my page to see my personal artwork and artist statement: http://thehelpfulartteacher.blogspot.com/p/the-art-of-rachel-wintembe.html

Please contact me at thehelpfulartteacher@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Digital Art and Animation on a Chromebook: Transforming your drawings

Yes it’s actually possible to teach digital art remotely on a Chromebook without expensive software.

Students do not need a drawing tablet or stylus. Both the animated GIF and colorful digital image below were created using only some copier paper, a Sharpie Marker, a cell phone with Adobe Scan (a free scanning app), a Chromebook and the free website Photopea.

The video below will explain how to scan your drawings using any cell phone and use them to create magnificent digital compositions.

After you watch the video above, the video below will explain how to use your newly created digital artwork to create an animated GIF: 

Since I was planning to create both an animation and digital illustrations, I created the wings for the bird, on a seperate piece of paper, in three different positions...

...to create a flight cycle:

Movement cycles, such a flight cycles, walk cycles and turnarounds are useful to animators because they repeat themselves over and over again and can therefore be used to depict continuous movement. 

for all my students (Digital Art, Visual Design and Computer Animation):

Read my blog posts on walk cycles  and turnarounds 

Next, watch the video below, The video explains how to create a walk cycle using only paper recycled from a food package, a Sharpie Marker, a cell phone (with a free scanning app) and a Chromebook to create a high resolution original walk cycle animation.

All students are to create a series of drawings  or photographs of the same character in different positions. You are to to create either a movement cycle (such as a walk cycle or flight cycle) or a turnaround.

If you have already created a turnaround or walk cycle for me, earlier this year, you must create a new character that is not human. Use this book as a resource.

This isn't as difficult or intimidating as it might seem. If you are not comfortable drawing, you can even use a stuffed teddy bear or a small toy, photograph it against a blank wall, turn it around slightly and photograph it over and over again until you have a complete 'Turnaround'.  6-8 photographs should be sufficient. 

You may not use a turnaround or walk cycle from any previous assignment.

If you do decide to use photography instead of drawing, remove the backgrounds of your pictures, (using 'Background Burner'). If you created a drawing and outlined it with Sharpie,the magic wand tool in Photopea  will get rid of the background. The video explains how you need to rasterize the layer and copy the image into a new file before the magic wand will work.

This video (also embedded above) explains exactly how to use Background Burner and Photopea to combine images and remove backgrounds.
You will use your series of  original PNG images both to create story illustrations and to create an animated GIF.

You can even have a family member take 6-8 photos of you, with their phone, to create a walk cycle or turnaround and then remove the background. Background Burner even lets you save PNGs with transparent backgrounds.

If you decide to use photographs, try to have the character pose in front of a blank wall and then remove the background using  Background Burner. 

Save each image as a PNG with a transparent background and upload it to Google Classroom 

You may want to save a layered file in Photopea so you can keep working on it the next day. How do you do that on a Chromebook? This tutorial shows you how.

Unfortunately the size limit is 10MB. If you have a larger file, I suggest you save each layer separately as a PNG and then reassemble the PSD into layers the next day. Not idea, but that is the best workaround I can think of.

If you decide to create drawings (instead of photographs), consider making moving parts on seperate pieces of paper so that you can digitally cut out and combine your drawings to create the illusion of movement:

It will be far easier to digitally cut out and reassemble your drawings if they have a clearly defined edge, so use a Sharpie marker to create outlines before scanning your work with your phone. 

Below is the drawing that I created for my walk cycle puppet:

You don't actually even need to use drawing paper. I recycled a box from some frozen food to create my puppet drawing. 

 I then used a scanning app to create a PDF of my drawing, uploaded the file to Google Drive, downloaded it to my Chromebook and opened it in Photopea. 

I created this video to show you how to use Photopea to turn your drawing into 
a digital file, ready to be animated, like this one:

If any of my students do not have some copy paper or a Sharpie Marker, please send me a note through Google Classroom. I have a few extra Sharpies at home and I can mail them to your house.

Upload all the PNGs with transparent backgrounds that you have created to Google Classroom before proceeding with the next step.

Here are my PNGs:

After you are done uploading your images to Google Classroom, create an animated GIF of your character and upload that to Google Classroom too.

Here is mine:

 Again, this video will show you how to create a walk cycle, while this one shows you how to create a flight cycle.

Once you are done creating your GIF, 
Create a series of digital illustrations*,  that tell a visual story with a beginning, middle and end. Your images must have color. This video  will explain how to create these illustrations, using your drawings as a resource, in Photopea.

You must include a foreground, middle ground, background and overlapping.  Watch the video below to review the elements of a landscape:

Your story must have characters that you either create from your own drawings or from your own photographs. The characters can be people, animals or imaginary beings.

You may look at images online to inspire your backgrounds and characters but I am expecting you to create your own drawings or to use your own photographs.

If you are planning to draw your characters, use this book as a resource. If you are planning to create a  character that is an animal, use this book as a resource.

You may submit the images as a series of high resolution PNGs or you may use the website Storyboard That to present your artwork. 

Don't forget that I have a teacher's account on Storyboard That. You will need to log in through my teacher account, by following the instructions in Google Classroom, so that you have full access to all the website's features.

For this assignment, you must primarily use imagery created by you and
not the graphics from the Storyboard That website. 

I do understand that not all of my students are 100% comfortable drawing characters, which is why I am allowing you to use your own photographs instead.

Full membership to the Storyboard That website enables you to upload and manipulate your own images and download your work without a watermark. The video below will show you how:

Requirements for your digital story:

All images used in the final project, must be your own. It is your choice whether you wish to use your own photography, your own drawings or a combination of both to accomplish this.

While I do understand that not every student has a cell phone, every single student of mine does have access to one through a member of their household (and the portion of this assignment requiring use of a cell phone is minimal)

Here is a list of all the cell phone apps you will need to use (all free and available for both Android and iPhone):

Google Drive (logged into your school account) For Android or iPhone.

Taking the photos (or scanning your drawings) and sending them to Google Drive should only take a few minutes and then the rest of the assignments should be done on your school chromebook.

*I strongly suggest that any student who is developing an art portfolio, for college submission or AP Studio Art, start this project immediately and work on it during Spring Break 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Digital Art Online during a Quarantine: Using Chromebooks, Cell Phones, Pen and Paper

I created these online lessons during the global pandemic of Covid-19 in March 2020. My students and I are all quarantined in our homes but we need to keep on learning. I sent all my students home with drawing paper, a pencil and a Sharpie marker. Some students, if they were absent on the last day before the quarantine, might only have lined notebook paper at home. They all have Chromebooks and Wifi access.

We started out by inventing imaginary animals using the website Switch Zoo.

Next, students drew their favorite new animal on paper, photographed it with their cell phone and sent it to me.

After that, my students found three photographs online of interesting landscapes that could function as biomes for their imaginary animals. 

We discussed the elements of a landscape after I showed them this video:

Their next job was to find all the landscape elements in the three images they downloaded. I wanted them to understand that images could look completely unique but still have backgrounds, middle grounds, foregrounds, overlapping, horizons, atmospheric perspective etc. 

Finally, students used something from each of the three images to create an original drawing of a biome where their new animal could live.

Finally, we are ready to create some digital art. After some research I have decided that the best online digital art editing website is Photopea. It works beautifully with a Chromebook because you don't have to download anything. I found that the website Background Burner worked the best for removing the backgrounds from photographs. They request that you create a free account (I did) which you need to verify via a working email address. The video below explains how I used both websites together to create an entirely new image:

You may want to save a layered file in Photopea so you can keep working on it the next day. How do you do that on a Chromebook? This tutorial shows you how.

Unfortunately the size limit is 10MB. If you have a larger file, I suggest you save each layer separately as a PNG and then reassemble the PSD into layers the next day. Not idea, but that is the best workaround I can think of.

Illustrating a Story

Now it is time to create your story. You are an explorer. You travel to a distant and unfamiliar environment (your biome drawing) where you discover a new animal, that has never been seen before by humankind. 

You will be using Background Burner and Photopea to create your images but you will be putting your visual story together using the website Storyboard That

After experimenting with a free trial teacher membership on the Storyboard That website, I have decided to pay a nominal fee to extend my educator account until the end of the school year. The company was very gracious, given the circumstances of our quarantine, and the cost was very reasonable. The video below gives all the details about how to use Storyboard That if you have a full educational membership:

Week 1

Objectives: Students will be able to use  the website Switch Zoo to create  original and unique imaginary animals

Students will be able to use these images as inspiration and create unique drawings of their new animal.

Week 2

Students will be able to use internet images to gain an understanding the elements of a landscape and how those elements manifest themselves differently in each picture.

Students will be able to synthesize visual references and create an original drawing of a biome for their invented animal

 Week 3 (March 30th-April 3rd, 2020)

Students will be able to use the websites Photopea and Background Burner to create PNGs (Portable Network Graphics) of  landscapes and characters that can be used to illustrate original stories.

Students will be able to digitally synthesize their own original photography and drawings into new imagery that illustrates their stories and conveys their ideas.

Week 4 (April 6- April 9)

Students will be able to use the website Storyboard That to create an original visual story (at least 6 panels) about an explorer, an unfamiliar environment and a newly discovered animal.

For this week: Make sure your animal and Biome drawings are done. If you skipped anything, go back and do it now.

Watch the video explaining how to use Photopea and Background Burner.

Use Background burner to edit a photograph of yourself. Remove the background and save it as a PNG. Upload it to the assignment 'Background Burner' in Google Classroom.

Use Photopea to create an image that includes your biome, your imaginary animal and yourself.
Export your image and save it to the assignment 'Photopea' in Google Classroom

For the week of starting April 6th:

Combine your own photographs and drawings to create an original story, using Storyboard That.
The story should be about yourself, an explorer, travelling to an unfamiliar environment and discovering a new life form. Your story must include backgrounds and characters and have a beginning, middle and end. 
You must create at least 6 panels. Your story may be longer than 6 panels.

Please follow the link I have posted in your Google Classroom and create a Storyboard That username and password under my teacher account. This will give you full access to the website.

Download your storyboard and attach it to the assignment called:
'Imaginary Animal Adventure' in Google Classroom.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How to teach Computer Animation Online During a Pandemic Quarantine with limited supplies

 This blog post will give step by step instructions on how to create stop motion animations using both Chromebooks and cell phones. 

All my students are stuck at home during the Corona Virus quarantine of March, 2020, with just their Chromebooks, their cell phones, a sketchbook, a Sharpie marker and a pencil. All my lessons for the foreseeable future are being delivered via Google Classroom. 

Students who were absent on the half day before the school system shut down for the quarantine might not have their sketchbooks, a Sharpie or access to drawing paper. 

All of them should at least have access to a pencil, a pen and some notebook paper. Most should have some sort of scissors laying around their home. All my students have the ability to contact me in multiple ways and I have offered to mail what supplies I can to students in need. 

First we will cover cell phone animation using the free version of the app Stop Motion.

Project 1: Cell phone stop motion experient

The free cell phone app 'Stop Motion' (available for both android and IOS). This app comes with in app purchases. You do not need them for this assignment. 

Balled up socks (hopefully clean ones) 
A rubber band
Some box cardboard for a stage (if you cannot make a stage, even a white wall, or even a piece of blank paper taped to a wall, will work). Alternatively, you can simply not use a stage at all and animate your household objects. 
Alternatively, if you have a wire shelf, like the one pictures below, you can suspend your cell phone over a piece of paper and create a stage that way:

Just make sure the eye of the camera is lined up with a hole in the wire grid. Make sure the light is diffuse enough that it is not casting shadows of the grid onto your stage. If you are using a lamp, shine it in from the side, not through the grid.

The basic idea, behind both the socks and the wire shelf, is to hold your camera completely still by creating a makeshift, homemade tripod. The challenge is to accomplish this without blocking off the light to the camera. The wire shelf is ideal  for paper cut out animation because it allows light in from all sides and suspends the phone directly above the subject. 
Creating an imaginary world:
Toys and drawings

I created an imaginary world by making a backdrop drawing and taping it to a piece of cardboard. I found a black piece of paper and used it to make a 'road' for my toy car. You can see, in the picture above, what my new world looks like through the lense of my cell phone. 

Below you can see what my 'stage' really looks like.

Here is how my cell phone is set up to shoot my stop motion animation:

Notice how the cell phone controls are facing up. The 'eye' of the camera is on the bottom right hand corner of the phone. 

This is what you will see when you open the stop motion app. Press the + sign

You will need to press the camera icon,

Press the red button to take a photo, then move the object you are animating slightly, then press the red button again, move the object just slightly, then press the red button again. Repeat this process over and over again until the object you are animating is off the stage. You do not have to animate a toy. Any small object can be animated. 

Pressing on an individual frame will allow you to do all sorts of editing. It will also allow you to rearrange the order of your frames by dragging them from one spot to another. 

When you are done shooting and editing, press the arrow key on the upper left (circled with a highlighter in the photo above)

Click on your animation to select it (as shown above)

Now, press the 'download' icon (circled in the photo above)

The choice you want from the drop down menu is 'export movie'. 
Scroll until you see the choice 'Save Movie'. This will export the movie to your camera roll. From there you can upload it to Google Classroom or Google Drive.

A few notes on paper cut out animation

Watch the video below to see how the famous animator of  'Monty Python's Flying Circus', Terry Gilliam, created his paper cut out videos. It might inspire you to use old magazines, greeting cards or other things you might have laying around in your house. You could even figure out a way to cut up and animate your own drawings. 

The modern animator below also uses paper cut outs:

Project 2: Chromebook Stop Motion Experiment.

All the instructions for this project are included in this YouTube video I created for my students (below)

Below is a video I created of another method of animating that can be utilized with a Chromebook. The advantage of using this method is that you can use photos of your own drawings or photographs from your camera roll (if you upload them to Google Photos).

Here is the link to 'Google Photos'. You might have to use a personal gmail account to access Google Photos, since most school districts are just going to presume students will store any photos on 'Google Drive'. 

Creating a story with a beginning, middle and end
After you are done experimenting, you will want to create a story to animate. I suggest you start with a simple visual story 
Come up with a very simple story that you can tell without words. 
Here are some examples of paper cut out animation stories that can be told simply:

A big fish meets a smaller fish and swallows it. Then a larger fish comes along and swallows him.

A bee tries to get nectar from a flower. Just as the bee is about to land a hand comes down and picks the flower. The bee stings the hand.

A picture appears to draw itself. A mistake is made, the picture is scribbled out and the paper crumpled.

Origami appears to fold all by itself then the origami animals move around as if they are alive.

You get the idea. Stop motion animation without a plot is very cool looking at first but, in order for your short videos to be truly engaging, your audience has to care about what happens next. This is true even if the video is only a few seconds long.

In order to help you figure out your simple plot, it is necessary to create a storyboard. My students recently started using the website Storyboard That to help them organize their ideas. Normally, unless you pay for membership,  Storyboard That  will not allow you to download your work without a watermark, will limit how long your stories can be and will only allow you to create two stories a week. However, you can get a 14 day free unlimited trial to see if you think it is worth purchasing. 

The unlimited version allows you to upload your own photographs and drawings to create completely original storyboards and does not limit the length of your stories or how many you can create a week. You can also create specific assignments right in the app and view your students' creations while they are still in progress.  

First you create a teacher account and then you connect the app to all your Google Classrooms. Once you are done, you provide each class with a link they can use to set up their student accounts under your teacher account, using their school email.

 Once the accounts are set up, you and your students can use and personalize the characters and settings provided to tell completely unique stories of unlimited length as often as you want. 

My more advanced students, after creating their digital storyboards, used them as a jumping off point to draw their own comic strips. My students who aren't as comfortable drawing, found they had an accessible vehicle for telling  ambitious and original visual narratives.

Here are the instructions I gave my students in order to introduce them to the basics of visual storytelling:

Create a 6 panel storyboard. 
Follow these specific instructions to create your story:

In the first panel of your storyboard, show your main character in their ordinary life, doing ordinary things
In the second panel of your storyboard, make something major happen to that character to take them out of their comfort zone.

In the third panel show everything possible going wrong

In the fourth panel show them trying to fix whatever is wrong.
The 5th and 6th panels are up to you.
Does it work out?
Are they successful?
What do they learn?
Do they get their happily ever after?
Figure out a way to conclude your story by panel 6. 

Using these guidelines resulted in an amazing variety of stories, many of which reflected our collective anxiety at being quarantined and isolated during a pandemic. Check out this storyboard by high school senior Kader Biteye:

Below is a YouTube tutorial I created to introduce my students to Storyboard That

Of course, with simple stop motion and paper cut out animations, it may be just as easy for you to draw a storyboard by hand. 

I suggest you check out the Storyboard That website anyway, just for fun. I found that once I started playing around with the graphics I got one inspiration after another.

Okay, there you have it folks! You may be stuck at home during a global pandemic but you have all the tools you need to create great art. Start experimenting. See what you can do. Every expert was once a beginner.

Stay safe, be patient, and get creative. Just remember, when they closed the Globe Theater, during a pandemic, William Shakespeare stayed at home and wrote love sonnets. He survived and kept creating, and so will you. I promise.


Storyboard and animation by Jaylyn Murillo