Author Archive

October 30, 2012

A Professional Graphic Artist who is a Teacher … OR A Teacher who is a Professional Graphic Artist?

What am I? A teacher? A professional Graphic Artist/developer? HMMM….

Maybe I can figure this out by discovering which came first…Which occupation came first for me? Was I a teacher of the digital arts first, or a professional digital graphic artist/developer? Well, in my case, they pretty much came simultaneously.

I had gone into the UCLA Extension program because I was offered the opportunity to work with UCLA Law School to design the graphics for their new admissions application website. At the time I did not have a clue what digital graphics were or what I needed to deliver to them. I had 3 months to learn it and deliver. I had gotten my hands on Photoshop 3  (NOT CS3, but 3!). I had to figure out how to use it, and FAST. I also had to learn about website production. I jumped in and took the classes I needed to help me, and got the job done on time. I had so much fun, I signed up for their Professional Designation in Digital Arts certificate and spent the next 3 years immersed in the world.

When I graduated from my UCLA Extension program, I was offered an opportunity to teach Final Cut Pro at a small private college. I told my friend who was the connection with the college that I had just learned it. He was so adamant with his argument…”Well, you know more than they do!” So, I took the challenge. I found out that I LOVED teaching the digital arts!

My teaching career got a bit stalled because, well, I never graduated from college. I didn’t have a Bachelor’s degree (this is a whole ‘nother story!). So, after 3 years of going to school for the digital graphics arts, I was in the rhythm of studying and went back to school. I graduated from CSULB with my BA in Studio Art, and went on to Pepperdine U get my Master of Arts in Educational Technology so I could teach in a “real” school.

In the meantime, my digital arts career and skills grew. I garnered a few key clients that allowed me to progress my skills and digital arts knowledge. I discovered not only how to do them, but how to work with clients in the professional world. When my opportunity to teach again came to me, it was because I had industry experience as well as the digital arts experience. I was hired to develop a digital media class for the web. It is now called Digital Media Production as it now caters to all devices.

Today I split my time between teaching my classes; Photoshop, Dreamweaver II, Fireworks, the Digital Media Production class, building my new classes; Adobe Edge Animate, Social Media, and WordPress,  with my freelance digital arts career. So, which one comes first in my life? Which one is “me”? If anyone asks me (other than a prospective client!) what I do, I first say I am a teacher. I feel that every job I complete as a professional artist/developer is a step in learning what is out there to share with my students. Bringing the real world projects into the classroom is a key feature in my classes. My students LOVE this! They appreciate that I can show them tips and tricks that will help them move their careers forward quickly when they are ready.

Technology is changing at a break neck speed. Studying is key to staying on top of  the curve. Do I study because I am a teacher, or do I study because I need to provide the newest and the best for my professional clients? The circle keeps going around. I am a teacher. I am a professional digital graphic artist/developer. My studies include growing my skills in teaching as well as technologies. It takes many hours of study to keep up with the technology changes going on right now. As a teacher, I MUST stay ahead of the game. I have to be ready to provide appropriate tutorials that teach the students what they will need to be competitive in the world when they graduate. I also need to build my skills in the newest technologies so I can provide my clients with the most up to date technology for their companies so that they can stay relevant and on top of their competitors. It is also for me! I love to learn.

And, just one plug here…
Now that is where to go to learn the newest any time!

If someone was to ask if there were any careers in this world where working in one builds the skills for the other, I do believe I have the answer! The circle keeps turning….

3:19 AM Permalink
October 1, 2012


When teaching a beginning Photoshop class, it is very easy to elicit OOHS and AAHHHs from my students. Showing them a filter or an adjustment layer can set the classroom into a frenzy. Two weeks ago, in my Media Production class, we covered how to change a type layer into a shape layer (PS 5) and use the pen tool to create a typographic design. I could not get through the lecture because the students wanted to try it… like NOW! Last week, it was animation in Photoshop (Our department does not have AfterEffects). One of the students began planning a birthday animation surprise for her sister.

I love it when I get this type of reaction in my classes. It is something I strive to accomplish. As mentioned, it seems to be easily accomplished when teaching Photoshop. It becomes more difficult for me when teaching anything web related. I have been teaching our Dreamweaver II class for 7 years now. It is an eye opener class for the students, as I do not hold their hands as much as in a beginning class. I lecture and demonstrate a taste of a new technology, and then I set them free to learn and discover it on their own. It is a skill I feel is necessary because they will be on their own soon. As important as this is to a graduating college student, it may not elicit as many loud cheers for the technology they have been sent out to learn, as it can be time consuming to “master”. I do get very excited students when they learn that they can do it themselves.

My Dreamweaver II class does not teach where the buttons or commands are, or much that was covered in Dreamweaver I. The class is geared towards actually using the tool and discovering how to incorporate the new technologies out there, such as jQuery and web fonts. Dreamweaver CS6 has made this much easier for me, as it has incorporated them into the interface. So, this semester, I got a very excited group of students that came in with some extremely fun projects. And, it wasn’t Photoshop!

I brought in my tablet and demonstrated Proto to the class three weeks ago. When they found out the HTML and CSS files can be brought into Dreamweaver to work on, they again got all flustered and wanted to dive in immediately. The big question at that time was “Is there anything like that for the desktop, or do I have to buy a tablet?”.  I could only answer, not yet, and I am not sure.

Then on September 24th, it was my turn to get excited when I attended the Adobe Create the Web tour in San Francisco. When I returned to my classroom, I felt privileged to tell the students that YES, there is a desktop version of the Proto tool, but oh so much better!

When I played the keynote  video piece about Reflow for them, cheers erupted in the room! YES, real cheers. All of us are so excited to get our hands on this piece of software and give it a try. I have yet to cover the new Dreamweaver CS6 responsive web design tools. It may be difficult to get them excited over them. Reflow stole the show. That is OK with me. Yahoooo, YIPEEEEE, and OH BOY… even I am excited.

Keep it up Adobe, you guys are really nailing it with some fun tools for us to use and teach. Incorporating the most popular technologies into our favorite tools makes the teacher’s job easier, and the users very happy. When the job can get done faster, we love it!

6:35 PM Permalink
September 30, 2012

Changing Digital Tool Sets and Education


Tools. Craftsmen love their tools. Without a proper set of tools, their jobs would take much longer, and probably would not be done as well. If you were to speak to someone who works with tools, they would tell you that they have favorite tools among their collection. You will hear a story about how they will use these favorite tools constantly, and utilize the rest only when necessary. The craftsman will covet and care for these tools, as old favorites just cannot be replaced with new ones and have the same feel in their hands.

When better tools do come about, the craftsman may give them a try. It may take a while, but the new tool probably will work just as well, and probably better than the old favorite. Suddenly, the craftsman has a new favorite tool, and has found that it saves time and produces solid work.

I spent many years working with hand tools as a jeweler. I have a set of favorite tools that are on the front of my bench. I have new ones that I bought along the way to replace the favorites, but they remain in the cupboard waiting for me to pick them up. One pair of pliers had been in my hands for over 30 years, the “needle nose” is long gone, ground down so many times to keep them sharp. One day I just could not get the tip into the spot I needed to get the work done. Out came the new ones and the job got done, quickly and cleanly. Out went the old ones.

My full time days as a jeweler have been replaced with digital media production and teaching the techniques. I have been having fun producing and teaching the skills to build websites, videos, digital graphics, etc. for over 12 years now. I have favorite tools and technologies for doing my work here as well (Ok, mostly Adobe’s toolset!). I have seen tools and technologies come and go during this time. Some of them I was very happy to watch disappear (Director), some I miss.

This industry is always changing. Learning never stops. There is always a new technology or “digital trinket” coming out that needs special treatment from us to work. Right now, our industry has been turned on its ear with so many new and evolving technologies that are coming out much faster than ever before. Technologies are here and in the hands of consumers that our current tool sets do not provide what we need to get our work done in a timely fashion. All of a sudden, I don’t have a tool (let alone a favorite tool) for some of the jobs I need to get done.

I am always studying to keep abreast of what set of tools are available so I can work efficiently and keep my students on the cutting edge. Adobe is providing its users with toolsets that are moving forward at almost as fast a pace as the technologies. The new set of Edge tools and services are indicative of the company’s hard work to provide the cutting edge tools necessary for today’s HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript environments.

I teach in a community college’s Computer Information Systems department. Besides Microsoft Office, our classes include web design/development and the study of computer applications. The Adobe applications our department focuses on are Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, and Flash (gone are Flex and Flash Catalyst). Right now, we are in a broil over how to proceed with our department and college web developer/designer certificates. It may take a student 3 (now with budget cuts maybe 4) years to get through the certificate program. Technologies are changing too fast to keep the certificates stable for that amount of time. If we do not change them, we risk becoming stale and out of date, providing an education that will not be what employers are looking for when the students graduate.

Our certificates dictate certain Adobe application classes are required be taken, with others as electives. When the landscape of application/technology choices change so fast, the certificates become out dated in months, not years. With the “death” of Flash as a web technology, Flex and Flash Catalyst were “killed” too. Flash I is still a requirement for our certificates, Flash II is an elective. Flex and Flash Catalyst are also electives. Our certificates are becoming “littered” with technologies that are not pertinent, and missing the ones that have become so.

The Flash platform technologies will not provide the job skills necessary for our students studying web technologies when they graduate. It is very difficult to ever know, in our field, what will be the job skills in 4 or 5 years, but we have to try to provide what we know right now to the best of our abilities. As of today, this is HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript. The release of Adobe Edge Animate this past week, with the offer of using Animate free for one year, should help to make the transition from Flash animation to HTML 5 animation a bit easier. The willingness of the instructors and curriculum committees to let go of their favorite old technologies and learn the new ones fast enough to keep moving forward is a key factor.

Schools and technology departments must make an effort to plan the new methodology for teaching the new workflows at a speed equaling the various technologies release, a plan to embrace the tools that will provide the modern skillsets for our students. The college’s ability to provide pertinent certificates will require some study and discussion to come up with an answer that will allow the fast pace of change.

Loving our tools means we love to work. Sometimes, even when it is so difficult, we must leave the tools we love and embrace the new ones. A modern web requires modern tools.

12:48 AM Permalink