Photographer Spotlight: Michael Eastman

Michael Eastman is a contemporary photographer who has become famous for his beautiful photos of decaying ruins. He compares himself to a painter, wielding his camera like a brush and seeing the world as a palette, full of lush colors and textures, patinaed surfaces, and, always, light. He shuns the use of artificial light and uses long exposure times instead, waiting as long as it takes for the natural illumination of the room to expose his film properly. “I’m drawn to things that either reflect light or transmit light,” he says. Through precise framing, Eastman makes the overlooked extraordinary and, often, abstract. “You can’t do more as an artist than change the way a person sees the world,” he says.

Here are some examples of ways Michael Eastman has taken gorgeous photos of ugly places:


Michael Eastman




Michael Eastman_10









Today we will:

  • take photos of subjects we would normally overlook
  • create a new blog post with the photos we took during today’s class

Spring Photo Project #1: Photographing the Mundane

I frequently hear, “but there’s nothing good to photograph here.” Our next project requires you to find beauty in boring or ugly surroundings. The point of this project is to open your mind to photographing things you would normally overlook. With enough practice, this exercise will eventually teach you how to take a good photograph of just about any subject matter or location.

We will examine the work of photographers who purposefully take photos of mundane subject matter, and come up with our own take on finding beauty in the mundane.

Here are some examples of great photos of mundane subject matter:
Michael Eastman

Michael Eastman

Michael Eastman

Michael Eastman

William Eggleston

William Eggleston

William Eggleston

William Eggleston









Over the next three weeks, you will take as many photos as possible of mundane subject matter.
The more photos you take, the better your final product will be, so try to take photos outside of class, too.

Project requirements:

  • 10-12 aesthetically appealing photographs or mundane or traditionally unattractive subjects (this means you will probably need to take at least 50 photos to get 10 good ones!)
  • photographs show an understanding of previous photography lessons and assignments
    • taken from an interesting camera angle
    • have a clear subject matter
    • image is in focus
    • any distracting elements have been cropped out
    • levels have been adjusted so the image has appropriate contrast
  • daily progress posted in a new blog post at the end of each class (post the photos you have taken that day, or before and after images of any photos you have edited)
  • final group of 10-12 edited photos and a 150 word artist statement posted in a final blog post for the project

Reminder: Daily blog posts back up your work in the event of a computer crash. They also enable me to see if you are on the right track with your project. Failure to post progress means a zero participation for the day. (That includes posting something like “my computer didn’t let me upload today.”) If you didn’t create a backup of your work with a post, you will not get credit for that post. Blog posts account for 40% of your grade in this class, so consider accepting these free points.

Today we will:

  • take photos of things we have previously considered boring or ugly
  • create a new blog post with the photos we took during today’s class

Previewing what our designs will look like on an actual t-shirt

Once we finish vectorizing our design in Illustrator, we will use Photoshop to preview what our designs will look like on a t-shirt.

Here are some print-resolution t-shirt images to start with. You must use one of these images, both because our actual t-shirt color options are limited to black or white, and because they are large enough that they will print at a high resolution.

black_tshirt_women mens_black_tshirt

white_womens_tshirt white_mens_tshirt

Follow these steps to get your design on a t-shirt:

  1. Open your t-shirt design in Adobe Illustrator.
  2. Delete the layer with your original sketch.
    (Click on the layer with the sketch, then press the trash icon trash at the bottom of the layers palette.)
  3. Unlock all remaining layers.
    (Click on any lock icons lock in the layers palette. When the lock icon disappears, it means you have unlocked the layer.)
  4. Select the black arrow tool from the top of the toolbar. black_arrow
  5. Click and drag the arrow across the entire design area. This should select all the pieces of your design.
  6. Copy your design by pressing control + c.
  7. Download the t-shirt image of your choice from this post.
    (Click on the image to view it full size, then right click -> save image as and save it to your student number.)
  8. Open Adobe Photoshop.
  9. Open the t-shirt file you have downloaded from this post.
  10. Paste your design onto the t-shirt be pressing control + v. Several options will pop up. Select “paste as SmartObject.”
  11. Scale your design to the correct size by holding down shift AND scaling from the corner.
    (If you don’t do both of these things together, you may distort your design.)
  12. When you are happy with your design, press the “enter” key.
    Here is an example of what a design might look like on a t-shirt:
  13. Save your design as both a photoshop file and a jpg.
  14. Upload the following two files to your blog:
    1. a PDF of your final t-shirt design (this is what we will print on the t-shirt)
    2. a jpg of your design on a t-shirt

Today we will:

  1. create a mock up of what our designs might actually look like on a t-shirt in Adobe Photoshop
  2. create a blog post with
    1. a PDF of your final t-shirt design (this is what we will print on the t-shirt)
    2. a jpg of your design on a t-shirt
    3. a 150 word artist statement describing your t-shirt design

Day 3: Creating our Vector T-Shirt Designs in Illustrator

Today’s essential question: How will I turn my paper sketch into a vector design in Adobe Illustrator?

Today we will begin tracing over our t-shirt design sketches in Adobe Illustrator.
We will view a demo at the Smart Board and then follow these steps:

  1. Open Adobe Illustrator.
  2. Select “New Print Document” from the pop up screen.
  3. Create a new file in Adobe Illustrator with the following guidelines:
  4. Place the photo you took last class the file you just created. (File -> place) (DO NOT try to open your photo in Illustrator! This will cause strange things to happen.)
  5. Create a new layer by clicking on the “new layer” button at the bottom of the layers palette on the right side of the screen. new_layer_button
  6. Go to the toolbar on the left size of the screen and select the pen tool. pen_tool
  7. Trace over your first shape. (You may need to decrease the opacity of this layer so you can see what you are tracing. You can do this by clicking on the transparency icon transparency_icon on the right side of the screen and decreasing the opacity so it is below 100. transparency_window)
  8. Bring the opacity back 100% and adjust the color if necessary.
  9. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you are happy with your vector illustration.
  10. Save your Illustrator file, and then save a version as a .pdf
  11. Create a new blog post with the PDF of your progress. I do not expect you to finish your design, but I do expect you to post what you worked on today.

Today we will:

  • Review how to vectorize a design in Adobe Illustrator
  • Create a new print document in Adobe Illustrator, place the photo of our sketch in this file, and begin tracing over design in Illustrator
  • Save the file as a PDF and post today’s progress to our blog

Day 2: Creating a Final Design with a Balance of Positive & Negative Space

Today’s essential question: How can I balance the positive and negative space in my t-shirt design?

We talked about the artist Shepard Fairey (creator of the Obama Hope poster) earlier in the year.
Did you know Shepard Fairey has a clothing line? Several of his designs serve as great examples of how to balance positive and negative space:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.53.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.54.15 PM_cropped

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 3.55.50 PM_cropped

Today we will:

  • create 2-3 black and white thumbnail sketches of potential t-shirt designs, coloring in the positive space with a Sharpie. Here are some example of what I am looking for:


    Created by Ler


  • Receive feedback from peers & Ms. Lawson on strongest design
  • Photograph our strongest design
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • The photograph of our sketch
    • A few sentences explaining how you have balanced the positive and negative space in your design
    • Reminder: You are required to post your progress to your blog every day. Failure to do so will result in a zero participation grade for the day. Several people are currently failing the course because of they choose not to update their blogs.

If you are planning on purchasing a t-shirt with your design on it, mention this in today’s blog post.
A white men’s t-shirt costs $10, a black men’s t-shirt costs $16, and a white women’s fitted t-shirt costs $16.

Vector T-Shirt Design Project Requirements and Timeline

Today we will start a t-shirt design project. You may choose to buy an actual t-shirt with your design. The pricing is as follows: $10 for a white men’s cut t-shirt, $16 for a black men’s cut t-shirt, $16 for a white women’s cut t-shirt. Money is due to Ms. Lawson by Friday, April 24.

This is a short project, and as such, you will have six classes to create your t-shirt design.
Please follow the timeline below to make sure you stay on track:

Day 1
  • Introduce Project & Requirements
  • Brainstorm Project Ideas
  • Post Project Idea and Inspiration to blog
  • Start 2-3 thumbnail sketches
Day 2
  • Go over more examples of designs that feature a balance positive & negative space
  • Finish 2-3 thumbnail sketches in Black & White
  • Feedback from peers & Ms. Lawson on strongest design
  • Photograph strongest design
  • Post photograph of sketch to blog
Day 3
  • Review how to vectorize design in Illustrator
  • Begin tracing over design in Illustrator
  • Save as PDF and Post progress to blog
Day 4
  • Continue tracing over design
  • Save as PDF and post progress to blog
Day 5
  • Discuss how to potentially add color
  • Continue tracing over design.
    Optional: Save file as a second version and add more than one color
  • Save as PDF and post progress to blog
Day 6
  • Discuss how to put design on t-shirt in Photoshop
  • Put design on t-shirt
  • Post the following to blog:
    • Final Design
    • Design on t-shirt
    • Artist statement
  • Peer Critique by leaving comments on your classmates’ blogs

Project Requirements

  • Original concept (DO NOT merely trace over an image you found online)
  • Concept sketched out on paper, then traced over in Adobe Illustrator
  • Shows a balance of positive and negative space
  • Free range of color, but if you choose to use more than one color, you will submit two versions (one in black and white and one in color) as shown below:
  • Final design posted to blog in two forms
    • as a PDF of the design only


      Jason – Grade 9

    • as a PNG of the design on a t-shirt


      Jason – Grade 9

  • 150 word artist statement

Here are some t-shirt designs created by past students

Shirt Design - Liam

Liam – Grade 12



Ler – Grade 10



Jordyn – Grade 10



Alyssa – Grade 10

Today we will:

  • Introduce the project requirements and timeline
  • Brainstorm ideas for our t-shirt designs
  • Create a new blog post with the following
    • our t-shirt design concept
    • inspiration photos
  • Begin sketching 2-3 thumbnail sketches in black & white that illustrate our design ideas