MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Photoshop Virtual Summit 4

Yes, Photoshop Virtual Summit 4 is here, running from May 2-6. This is a great event, loaded with Photoshop tutorials, tips and tricks, and it’s free. You can access the videos for 48 hours after a particular video, free of charge. But, I don’t have that much time to sit and watch everything, so I always purchase a VIP pass ($89, if you do the early bird special) that gives me lifetime access to everything, plus some extra goodies that only VIP holders get. It’s a great deal, really. Some of the tutorials offered this time around are Tips, Tricks, and Techniques for Working with Layers in Photoshop; The Art of Sharpening; Essential Techniques for Realistic Composites; The Power of Smart Objects, and Dramatic Lighting and Realistic Shadows in Photoshop Composites with Sebastian Michaels, who is the creator of several of the Photoshop Artistry classes that I take.

There are 40 tutorials in all and you can check out the event here. It’s a great deal, but it’s almost finished now, so hurry if you want to watch them. If you can’t, there will probably be a Summit 5 later in the year. And, if you’re interested in getting started with Photoshop Artistry, Sebastian is running a Summit special of the main Photoshop Artistry course for only $87, and believe me, it’s an awesome course and well worth the money. (It’s usually almost $400!) Here’s the link to that special offer. I don’t know how long that offer will stand, so check it out now if you’re interested. You’ll be glad you did. More later.

New Term at School

I’ve had the last month off after the first term at Vientiane College finished on April 9th, but we start our next term on May 9th. While the school had enough students during the first term to keep the doors open, so to speak, we’re all hoping that registration increases this time around, though the admin people don’t expect to reach pre-pandemic levels until next year, probably. But, everyone has their fingers crossed.

For the upcoming session I’ve got three classes so far out of my usual four. I’m teaching one class for middle-school aged kids, one adult class and one class in our Diploma program. That one is a Creative Writing class, something I’m looking forward to. I taught another writing class just as the pandemic hit back in 2020 and we had to cut the term short, so we didn’t quite finish our classes. Since then, the writing class has been revamped by the teacher who taught it last term and it looks like it’ll be a lot of fun!

For my fourth class time slot, I’ll be a cover teacher, covering for others who might be out sick or can’t make it to class for whatever reason at that time. Hopefully, the classes will fill up so that I can have a regular class then, but being a cover teacher is fine with me. It doesn’t affect my pay or the time that I have to be at the school.

Anyway, only a few days left until it’s back to work, though we have a mandatory workshop this Friday at 2:30 p.m. More later.

After a Long Time

Whew, it’s been a while, hasn’t it. Well, I’m still here, but a bit lazy (as usual). There’s really not a lot to report on; I won’t go into recent events around the world-you can read about those almost everywhere else.

Here in Vientiane, most schools have reopened after students not having classes for almost a year. At Vientiane College, we’ve been having face-to-face classes since January and everything appears to be running smoothly, though student enrollment has been down, as expected. The term finishes up just before the Laos New Year (Pi Mai), which runs from April 13-17 (that includes a weekend) and starts again at the beginning of May with Term 2.

I haven’t put up any digital art lately because I’ve been absorbed with my two favorite online RPGs, Lord of the Rings Online and Eve Online. I’d been keeping up with the subscriptions to both of them, so I thought I might as well play them for a bit. Naturally, I got sucked into them and began to spend way too much time with them, especially Eve. I’ve been spending less time with them lately, so I’ve kind of been getting back to digital art, learning and creating.

Here’s my latest composition, which I’ve titled “Homeward Bound.” I thought of the title before I remembered the Simon and Garfunkel song, though it was probably in my subconscious. Anyway, here it is:

digital art composition

Well, that’s it for now, but I’ll try to keep this blog updated more often (seriously). More later.

Boring Update

Well, it’s been a while, but there’s not really much to write about, though that is debatable. Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the government has eased some of the restrictions and has told all pertinent interests to prepare for more reopening soon. That’s not because the number of covid infections is going down; on the contrary, it’s been skyrocketing. The last few days Vientiane has had over 600 cases of infection with no signs of slowing down. I think the government has given up trying to keep this delta variant in check and is just continuing to get as many people vaccinated as it can. I think I read that about 40% of the population has been double dosed and many others have had one of two doses of the various vaccines that are available.

Schools, of course, are shut down for now, and they have been since near the end of April. However, some schools are doing online classes, and Vientiane College is among those who are doing so. I teach one class a day from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and one on Saturday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Teaching online has been fun and interesting, really. But, it’s sucking up my time like a black hole. I’m still learning and improving my ability to use Zoom and Google drive, classroom and other items from Google. It’s been somewhat of a steep learning curve, but I’m starting to get better at it. One of the major reasons I like teaching online is that I don’t have to ride my motorbike back and forth into Vientiane six days a week! But, if I want to go into the city to get groceries, there’s no problem doing that.

It’s left hardly any time to do any digital art for now, but I hope to get back into it soon. I miss being able to play around in Photoshop and other painting/compositing/etc. software. I could probably spare 30 minutes a day here and there, but I prefer to spend more time per session than half an hour. Hopefully, I’ll have some art to post here soon. I’ve got my fingers and toes and eyes crossed that we’ll be getting back to a near-normal state soon. More later.

Digital Art–Rivals

Here’s my newest piece of digital art, one I’m titling “Rivals.” The photos and background textures are mine, except for the two birds–the one at the bottom and the one at the upper left; I got them from Pixabay.

digital art

In the news, Vientiane is still in lockdown, but the number of new community cases has fallen, and the school is being allowed to open on September 1st. Hurrah!! Hopefully. Although the number of cases has dropped from where it was, we’re still getting some. There were 7 cases reported a few days ago, but the government didn’t tighten up the restrictions already in place. The big concern might be the huge number of imported cases, Laos workers returning from Thailand by the thousands. About 10% of them have the virus and are being hospitalized or put under observation. They’re mostly quarantined off from the general population, so perhaps we won’t see much of an uptick with community cases. Thankfully, there have been only a few deaths reported. Keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well as far as the school reopening. More later.

Lockdown Continued

Yes, we’re still in lockdown here in Vientiane, though the government has eased some of the restrictions. Important for us is that some schools can begin to reopen, though most won’t be able to start up again until September; that includes Vientiane College. It’s frustrating, but, overall, the Lao government has been doing fairly well at keeping the virus out of the country. Lately, the only cases have been from Lao workers in Thailand who have been coming back to Laos. The government checks everyone at the border crossings and hospitalizes all who have the virus. I think there are a bit more than 2,000 people who are hospitalized at the moment, but there have been five deaths, which is five too many. Compared to our neighboring countries, though, we’re doing pretty good. Thailand and Vietnam have been getting hammered by the Delta variant, and Cambodia and Myanmar have also been having problems. Hopefully, vaccinations will keep increasing here in Laos (and elsewhere) so that this crap will end.

As far as Vientiane College is concerned, it will open again in September if all goes well. Thankfully, the administration has continued to pay us throughout the lockdown and most of the teachers are now doing some extracurricular work to prepare for September. I’ve been making some short (2-3 minutes) videos for posting on the VC Facebook page. I’m making some vids about idiomatic expressions (“piece of cake”) and a “Did you know . . .” series that other teachers are also doing. (Did you know that the 10 most common words in English are . . .?) I’ve also been doing some other odds and ends to try to earn my keep. LOL

I haven’t been doing much digital art lately, but I’m going to get back in the groove very soon. I’ve been playing around with Photoshop actions a bit, and here’s a comp that I want to work on some more. It’s an original photo of paintings being sold by a vendor in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic. I hope to add some more extras to it soon. More later.

Digital Art–Requiem for a Lost Civilization

My latest creation is called “Requiem for a Lost Civilization.” The ruins and the landscape are from photos of mine taken at the ancient Roman ruins in Volubilis, Morocco. The other elements are “stuff” I have from the various digital art courses I’ve taken from Photoshop Artistry, which I’ve recommended before and I’ll continue to give it a huge thumbs up.

I added some textures, some adjustment layers and some photos from the Ultimate Universe Creator by Skybox Creative, then ran the whole thing through Nik HDR Efex Pro 2. Finally, I added a Color Lookup adjustment layer in Photoshop.

requiem digital art

Still Locked Down in Vientiane

Yeah, we’re still in lockdown here in Vientiane, even though there haven’t been that many cases of people testing positive for the covid virus. The Laos government has extended the lockdown in the capital until July 4th, at the earliest. They’ve eased some of the restrictions, but schools are still not allowed to open in Vientiane, and that includes Vientiane College (VC). Most of the rest of the country is doing fine and other provinces are not locked down. The government has previously stated that the lockdown won’t end until there are 14 consecutive days of no covid cases. If they stick to that rule, this lockdown in Vientiane will never end until everyone is vaccinated. Luckily, I received the second dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine on Wednesday last week, and, happily, I didn’t have any bad side effects from it like I did with the first dose. Also, many people in Vientiane have been getting either their first or second dose of the various vaccines that are available, so that’s a very positive sign.

Although it’s mostly closed, VC will be able to start some of the daytime classes this week, classes that are restricted to adults that have been vaccinated. These are mostly scholarship programs and government or military classes. The administration is sending a proposal to let the school start evening classes next week with the stipulation that only adults who have been vaccinated will be allowed to attend. Here’s hoping this entirely-reasonable proposal will be accepted. Because our younger students can’t yet be vaccinated, they will be excluded from classes for the time being. The school has also begun training teachers in conducting online classes, in case we’re put into a rigorous lockdown later on. So, adult students who sign up now will still be able to have classes without worrying about being forced to stop, even if face-to-face classes wouldn’t be possible.

A big shout out to the administration; they’re continuing to pay teachers for June even though we’ve not been working, and it’s been indicated that we might get paid for July also, even if we’re still kept from teaching. Beyond then, I’m sure that if we’re not able to open, there will come a point at which the school will be unable to pay us. I’m prepared for that eventuality. This lockdown is starting to get boring, so I hope I can start teaching again soon.

Good News Day

This is actually from my journal of May 31, so it’s a bit old.

It was a pretty good day. First, I went to my doctor to renew my high blood pressure meds, and he told me that they had a new test that checks for the presence of blood clots, so I took it. They took a blood sample, ran the test and reported that the results were good-no clots. Hurray! That’s something I worry about because I have a bad case of varicose veins, but he said they shouldn’t be a problem because of the anti-coagulant I’m taking for the blood pressure protects against blood clots.

As a side note on visiting the doctor’s office, the attendant always weighs me. I’m down to about 163 pounds (74 kg), down 5 pounds from a couple of months ago. Awesome!

I’ve had it in mind to look at buying a smartphone, my very first one. I took a survey from Vientiane College (where I work) that wanted some information about conducting online classes if we get shutdown in the future because of a lockdown due to covid concerns. We’re closed right now until June 21st (hopefully, it doesn’t get extended). Some of the questions concerned phone apps, like What’s App. I don’t really have a good phone; I’ve got my old Lenovo tablet, which is basically good only for reading on the Kindle app. It’s pretty lousy for anything else, so after seeing the doc, I thought I’d go to one of the big Samsung stores and look at the phone I had in mind, a mid-priced Galaxy A52, which seemed to check all the boxes as far as what I was looking for in a phone. So, I was just going to look, right? Well, I don’t have to look anymore-I bought it. $412. I’ve never had a REAL smartphone before, so I’ll be having fun with this for a while.

This, from today’s events, June 8th. The number of cases of covid in Vientiane has been dropping steadily, down to just a few or only one for the last couple of days. Today there were only two found in the city and none found throughout the rest of Laos. That’s great news, of course, and hopefully we’ll be able to open school on the 21st, as planned. More later.

Digital Art–Taekwando Nightmare Dream

Vientiane lockdown has been extended for another few weeks, up to June 4th. At the rate people are still showing up with the covid virus, this lockdown will never end, it seems. The school is scheduled to open on June 10th, and I certainly hope that happens. The administration was kind enough to pay everyone for the month of May, though we didn’t do any work, but if the same lack of work extends far into June and beyond, I’m fearful that there won’t be any income for a while. Got my fingers crossed.

So, what to do with all this time off? Create some more digital art, of course. Here’s one I’m calling “Taekwando Nightmare Dream.” I was originally just going to practice creating displacement effects in Photoshop, but my Muse had other ideas. All the photos are mine, except for the fellow delivering the flying kick on the right side, which I got from Pixabay; they were taken when I worked in Andong, South Korea way back in 2005, and they’re photos from a phys. ed. student demonstration, except for the photo at the upper left. That’s one I took of my former taekwando master showing off. I added some textures and a few other bits and pieces. Enjoy.

digital art

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