MontanaRon

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

Trying to Keep Up

I’ve been going through all my digital art resource files, trying to add them to Lightroom or to Photoshop. Such things as textures, photos, actions, patterns and others, ad infinitum, have been accumulating and haven’t been processed. In addition to adding these items to my large main laptop, I’ve been trying to get them added to the new smaller laptop. It seems like I’ve got hundreds of zip files from various sources that I’ve downloaded but haven’t unzipped them to put them into their relevant software locations. It’s a Herculean task that appears will never end. But, you know what “they” say: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

However, I have made some time for creating at least the beginnings of some new digital artwork. Here’s one that is just the germ of an idea. I don’t yet have a title for it and it’s probably only about 20-30% finished, but it’s been fun to work on so far.

More coming later. (I’m hungry–time to take a bit of “elephant.”)

Unsuccessful Digital Art

Not every digital art composition is successful. When I post a piece, I’m usually satisfied with the results and ready to throw it out there for others to see. Though it may not be as artistic as it might be, I’m usually OK with “less than perfect,” whatever perfect means. (I don’t think there really is any such thing as perfect.)

But, there are compositions I’m not satisfied with and that I have resigned to the basement corner, so to speak, for whatever reason. Maybe the work has no focal point or it doesn’t tell a story or it just doesn’t suit me for a myriad of other possible reasons. So, I don’t post them. Below are a few that I began working on and then stopped, giving up on them. For now. I will probably revisit them at a future date.

Here’s one I kind of like, a nighttime desert scene. In fact, it’s posted on my blog and I may have put it up on Facebook, but I’m not satisfied with it. It’s pretty nice, I think, but there’s no focal point, no story in the making, nothing to really capture a viewer’s attention. I tried adding some figures to it, like a camel caravan or some marauders preparing to raid the city, but they just didn’t work out so I abandoned the piece. This is one, though, that I’m sure I’ll come back to eventually.

I once read an internet site that had photos of some amazing nighttime gardens from around the world. I thought I had bookmarked the site, but I can’t find it now. Anyway, I got inspired by the photos and decided to create my own night garden. Here it is below. It features a Van Gogh-style impressionistic sky and a weird looking, but actual, building in Bangkok. I got frustrated with it and stopped, but I’m sure I’ll get back to this one, too.

The next one has potential, but again, there’s no real focal point. It’s from a photo of some artwork for sale on a sidewalk in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. I tried to add a tourist taking a photo, but that didn’t work out. I might come back to this one, too.

Finally, here’s one I probably won’t come back to, not without some extensive rework. It’s some buildings from Vientiane with an elephant walking in front of them. What’s the point, the story? Hmmm, probably won’t come back to this one.

The upshot is that not every composition is satisfactory to me and I have to learn why that might be so. Can I make them better, but not “perfect?” I’m sure I can. I’ll let most of them sit a while back in that dark corner of the basement and bring them out into the light later, dust them off and give ’em a go.

New Laptop

I found that I’d have some extra time at the school this term because a couple of my scheduled classes were cancelled due to low enrollment in those particular classes. The number of students we have in all classes is up a bit from last term; it’s just the luck of the draw that these two classes lacked students. I still have two classes to work, from 6:45-8:15 in the evening M-F and at 10:45-12:15 Saturday morning. But, because I’m still receiving my standard salary I have to act as a cover teacher, filling in if someone calls in sick for the early class from 5:00-6 and 9-10:30 Sat. If there are no absent teachers, then I have that extra time to do whatever.

I tried hauling my big laptop back and forth from home to the school so that I could work on digital art or whatever else I wanted to do, but that laptop is a bit too heavy and bulky to run around with, so I purchased a new laptop a few weeks ago to use at the school and keep locked in my office desk. It’s a Lenovo Yoga Slim7 and it’s a nice portable rig, with a 1TB SSD internal drive, 14″ screen, and a few other nice features. Cost about $1300, which, of course, is more expensive than buying the same outfit back in the ‘States. Naturally, after I got it, teachers started calling in sick, so I haven’t had much opportunity to make extensive use of it, but I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity now and then.

The new laptop–kind of looks like this.

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

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