What is Copyright? - 5 Myths about copyright


Ahhh, Copyright. A vast sea of “grey area.” There is a lot of confusion when it comes to copyright. What is it? Who/what is protected? When can you copy something? Why can’t I use this image, but I can use that one?

I have battled through teaching copyright for the past 5 years and I think I have finally come to understand it. At least, I understand it as well as any non-legal minded art teacher can. :)

My first year teaching, I am ashamed to say that I taught this lesson by downloading a PowerPoint, reading through it one and a half times, and then groping through the lesson slide by slide, trying to ignore the blank stairs that I was receiving from students.

Today, I actually enjoy teaching about copyright (insane, I know). I like the debates that inevitably crop up in class. I like clearing the muddy waters for them (or at least making the waters a little less murky).

In the next few blog posts, I am going to wade through the copyright issue and hopefully give you at least an inkling of what it is all about.

The first thing that we talk about is purpose; why do we have copyright in the first place? Answer? For the creator! The law allows for creators to have control over creations for a set period of time.

Next, we discuss the many myths associated with copyright:

  1. If it is on the internet, it is free to use!
    • The internet is a vast market place for everything from fine artowrk to exotic bird handling e-books! There are many resources that are free on the internet, but there are many more that are not!
  2. If there is no copyright notice, it is free to use!
    • Under federal law, the creator need not post their copyright notice. So unless the item specifically says “public domain” or “free to use,” DON’T USE IT!
  3. If I change the image, I don’t need anyone’s permission!
    • Adding a pig snout to a professional picture of Barak Obama is not necessarily going to transform the image enough in the eyes of the photographer to keep them from knowing that you used their image. Permission would be needed!
  4. If I don’t profit from it, it is free to use!
    • It all goes back to the market. If my use of an image of Hilary Clinton hurts her chance of winning the election, you better believe that someone will be checking to make sure that the image I used was not taken without permission!
  5. If I only use part of the image, it is free to use!
    • And this one is very similar to the previous one, I could take that picture of Hilary Clinton and obscure it so that only her eyes can be seen. But if someone recognizes that the photography was taken with out permission, I could be in big trouble!


I am not sure how I got into politics there, I promise I don’t usually discuss politics on my blog...

In the next few weeks we are going to dive head first into the infamous topic of copyright (fun!) and hopefully by the end of it you can at least recognize when you can and cannot use specific images or graphics.

Do you have any questions about copyright? Is there anything that you just don’t understand? Write a comment below and I would LOVE to help you figure it out!

Valentine's Day Lesson

valentines day post

Sometimes I forget about incorporating holidays into my lessons. I know at some schools celebrating holidays has been frowned on, but so far not at my school (cross your fingers, hope to die..).

Anyway, I don’t always incorporate holidays, often I forget about them until they are just a few days away…so without further ado, here are a few ways to do something special for Valentine’s Day this year:A day or so before Valentine’s Day, say something like: "Ok, class, I want you to use everything we have learned so far to make a one sided Valentine’s Day card. Open a new document and make it 5”x7”. Have fun!”

  1. Another thing I like to do is point them to some online tutorials. There are tons of sites out there that teach step-by-step instructions for almost everything. Here are a few that I liked (but I have to be honest with you, I didn’t test them all…):
  2. If you don’t remember until the day of, and you are feeling totally stressed and guilty because you didn’t get as much done as you wanted and kids aren’t enjoying your class as much as you hoped and you are behind in grading and… my advice is to STOP, have some chocolate, and pull the kids out of whatever you have them doing and play a game with them. It can even be an art game. I mentioned one that I like to do in a previous blog post.


Don’t feel stressed about feeling the need to incorporate every holiday. YES, you are the art teacher. NO, you don’t need to feel guilty for the things you are too busy to do. 

Whatever you choose to do, just remember, that teaching art should be fun! Hard at times, yes, but fun nonetheless. If you have the time, try one of these tips out, if not, wait until next year. Valentine’s Day will be here again in 365. :)

Are there any tutorial website that you like? Let me know in the comments! 

Relax and rejuvenate before the coming semester!


Merry Christmas!

I hope that the semester has ended well for you. I am specifically thankful for those of you who have followed me through my digital adventure. I have so many plans for the new year, both for this site and for my classroom and I really hope that you will join me as I add more lessons and insight to this site.

Be sure to do something FUN over break! I have been working like a dog over this last semester and I definitely need this reminder! If you are a workaholic make sure that you take some time off to BE with family or friends this holiday season.

What I mean when I say that is don’t allow your worries about school to take you from the people you love this Christmas. Take at least a day and don’t allow yourself to think about anything related to work. When your mind drifts to school matters, pull yourself back to where you are and be present with your family.

It is wonderful to be devoted to your job, but everyone needs to refuel. In fact you can take some of the stress off of yourself in the coming semester and purchase the 9-week lesson course and video tutorials that I have created for graphic design.

I am very excited to announce that it will be available NEXT WEEK! This is your very last chance to get the pre-sale price ($19) for these lessons.

But whatever you do, try not to stress. Worry only feeds fear, and neither of those emotions are any good for us!

Now I was hoping that you could help me with something. I have created a survey that outlines what will be included in my lessons, but I want your feedback. Is what I have created what YOU would want? Should there be something added? Is there any part of them that you would never use?

As I create more content and more lessons, I want to make sure that it will be something that will be beneficial to you. So PLEASE go to the survey and tell me your thoughts. I anxiously await your response!

PS: Here is the link to the survey:

Here is the link to pre-order the first 9-week graphic design lessons:

And don’t forget that you can sign up to get FREE Adobe Illustrator Introduction video series by signing up for the email list below or in the side bar.

Again, Merry Christmas! May God give you rest and contentment this fine holiday season!

Option Bar Basics…REALLY Basic

option bar

The option bar is directly related to the object you have selected. It gives you…wait for it…options for the object.


For example, if you have a text box selected, you would expect to be able to change the font, text size, text orientation, color, etc:

Option bar with text selected


If you have a shape selected, you can change the fill color (inside), the stroke color (outline), or perhaps the opacity:

Option bar with shape selected

If you have an image selected, you will be given options for it’s placement on the page:

Option bar with image selected

This is an easy one to understand. Just remember that it changes with the object you have selected and it will give you specific options based on what the object is.

Again, this is a VERY QUICK outline for the tools. These are the things I wish I knew when I was getting started.


If you want a more comprehensive rundown, check out my free Graphic Design in Illustrator introduction video tutorials.

Did I leave anything out? Is there anything that is confusing you? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Tools to Get Started in Illustrator


The tools panel is what controls everything you do in Illustrator.


Just like you wouldn’t be able to use a hammer to screw in a screw, if you don’t have the right tool or don’t know how to use the right tool in Illustrator, you will be unable to do achieve the effect that you are looking for.


When looking at the tools in the toolbox, I like to start with the most simple of tools. No matter what version of Illustrator you have (mine is CS6), your version will have these simple tools:

  • Selection Tool (Black Arrow): This tool allows you to move things (objects, text boxes, or images) around and resize them.
Selection Tool
  • Pen Tool: Truth be told, this tool takes some practice to get it figured out. I plan to have a more in depth discussion on it at a later date. But basically, it is a very precise line tool. You can make curves or straight lines in one fail swoop!
Pen Tool
  • Type Tool: You guessed it…you type with it! You have two options when using the type tool, you can either single click and then your type will continue on one line forever. Or you can click and drag to make a box. If you do this then your type will stay inside the box you draw.
Text ClickText Box
  • Shape Tool: There are a number of shapes that you can whip out in Illustrator. I am not going to get in to specifics here, but if you click and hold on the shape tool, you can see the default shapes. Once your shape is selected, just click and drag your curser to create your shape.
Shape Tool
  • Color Picker: The color picker is important not only to select the color of the shape, but also to select the stroke (or outline) of the shape. Simply select the object you want to recolor, then double-click the color picker to change the color. If you double-click the solid box you will be changing the fill (or the inside of the shape) and if you double-click the box with a square cut out of the middle you will be changing the stroke (or outline).
Color Picker


Again, this is a VERY QUICK outline for the tools. These are the things I wish I knew when I was getting started.


If you want a more comprehensive rundown, check out my free Graphic Design in Illustrator introduction video tutorials.


More Illustrator run-down to come next week! But in the mean time, what did you think? Did you think there are any tools I left out?

3 Reasons Why Illustrator is the Best Tool for Budding Graphic Designers

For someone who has never used it, diving into Adobe Illustrator can seem like diving into the middle of the ocean without a life vest. Eventually, you just get tired of treading water and find yourself sinking.


I vividly remember this feeling when I first began teaching design. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Of course, quitting wasn’t really an option for me. I couldn’t just quit teaching in my 3rd week.


So, I trudged through it and after making many, many mistakes, I found some good solutions to the problems that I came up with.


I have been working on a video series called: “Learning Adobe Illustrator AND the Elements of Design”. In it I will be walking you (and/or your students) through the Illustrator program and exploring the elements of design.


I will be releasing this video series at the NEXT WEEK (I'm pretty excited!). For now, however, I just wanted to briefly talk about WHY Adobe Illustrator is the best place to start when learning graphic design.


  1. It is what the experts use. It may not be the least expensive digital program on the market, but whenever I go to graphic design websites I constantly hear designers talking about using AI (Adobe Illustrator) and a starting platform. Especially when they are talking about logos or graphic posters.
  2. It is design friendly. Unlike Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator is forgiving when it comes to designing. If your line or shape isn’t exactly right, you don’t have to erase it completely, you just need to adjust it a little or rearrange your designs.
  3. It uses vectors instead of bitmaps. I won’t get into deep detail on the difference between the two, but a vector is preferable to a bitmap when it comes to design. A bitmap is basically a picture made up of thousands or millions of little colored squares, if you zoom in too far your details will look “pixelated” or blurry. Whereas a vector will never be distorted, no matter how much you enlarge the design.


Again, I will be releasing a video series on Adobe Illustrator at the beginning of November. I really like to start my graphic design off right when it comes to these digital art programs and I feel that my video series will be a step in the right direction.


Sign up for my newsletter! My video series will be out soon, be the first to try it!

Adobe Illustrator...scary or fun?


One of the more challenging aspects of my job has been introducing new digital art programs. When I started teaching 4 years ago, I was literally one day ahead of the students.

Not only that, but I would also be teaching the Adobe Illustrator (or Photoshop) program and constantly have to stop to help students with technical difficulties.  I felt like a chicken with my head cut off for the better part of an hour whenever I had to introduce the Adobe programs to students. I found myself dreading teaching new techniques in any digital platform.

This is no longer the case today. I don't credit myself as an expert; there are still aspects of all the digital programs I use that I continue to tweak and change year by year. However, I have found something that I think you will find truly helpful, especially if you are just starting out.

In that first year, there was one thing that became obvious to me: YouTube had become my best friend. I truly do not know how anybody taught without it. There is a YouTube video out there for everything! The tough part is finding the right YouTube video.

After a few years of muddling through the internet, I finally decided to make my own instructional videos. This decision became a necessity when I was preparing for maternity leave and found that there were no ready made videos that taught exactly what I wanted to teach.

I wanted a video series that would teach not only the Adobe Illustrator (and eventually Photoshop) program, but also taught the fundamentals of design, or the elements of design.

I soon found that the students not only responded better to this method of teaching, but they actually enjoyed the learning process. With these videos, I could introduce to the topic, have a short discussion with the students, and then let them loose on the series.

This meant I was free to roam around the room and answer questions as they arose, instead of making the whole class wait for one or two students who were having issues. Students could work at their own pace and they learned the material much more readily.

I am working to make this series available to you. FOR FREE. I want your feedback. I want to know what you like, what you don't like, what you think should change.

At the beginning of November, I will have a FREE Adobe Illustrator video series. In this series, I will be teaching how to use the Adobe Illustrator program and use the elements of design. This is unique to anything that I have found online.

Click the link below to sign up for my email list to be informed of the release of my FREE video series.

Bridge the Gap Between Sketchbook and Digital Media


A few weeks back, I wrote a post on "Using Sketchbook to Balance Digital and Physical Art”. Mostly I wrote about how to use the sketchbook as a spring board to creating art or publications in computer graphic design classes.

In the coming weeks I will be discussing the use Adobe Illustrator to help students learn the elements of design. As students travel through the Adobe Illustrator journey, I want them to find visual examples of the terms we discuss in class.

This is ANOTHER OPTION for introducing the elements of art through the sketchbook which I discussed in my “Elements of Art and the Sketchbook” post.

Basically, I have them find visual examples of each element from magazines and paste them into their sketchbooks. Then, they briefly describe how they know that an element has been used.

Below are a few examples:

 Color 1Line 1Texture 1

I feel that it is just as important to teach them how to SEE the elements of design, as it is to USE them in their own designs. Too many times I find myself just letting them work on their own art and they lose the opportunity to learn how to see!

This cut and paste option may not allow the students to show their creativity, but it does allow them to recognize good design when they see it. And I believe that is a very valuable trait in a budding designer.

Do you do anything like this in your classroom? Comment below and share your thoughts.

5 Tips to Keep the Sketchbook Alive

In a perfect world. I would have no problem getting kids to do their sketchbook assignments done and every assignment would relate to what I am teaching in the class and it would all be perfect…


However, being that I teach at a public high school, I know that will never be the case. So as per my experience over the last four years I have come up with some tips to using the sketchbook as a tool, but also having assignments that the kids are, for the most part, willing to do and some even enjoy doing.


  1. Keep on a schedule. This is something that I have always tried to do, but have not always been successful. I try to give the sketchbook assignments on Tuesdays to be turned in the following Monday so that they have the whole weekend to work on it if they wish. By doing it every single week, the kids are never surprised by the due date and they can always assume that they will have something to turn in every week.
  2. Do (at least some) of the assignments with the students and have several examples (either yours or a previous student's example). Nobody knows better than a teacher that there is really no time to be spared. Somehow there always seems to be something to do. However, by completing a sketchbook assignment with the students, they somehow feel that you are not doing something unpleasant to them, rather, you are giving them something worth doing.
  3. Give them some class time to work on it. In my first few years of teaching, I thought that the sketchbook assignments should be done outside of class because I needed to give them homework. Most of the time, they do need to work on it at home, but by giving them time to work on it in class, they at least have a start on the assignment, and they know exactly what you want them to do. What you don’t want to do is give them a five minute description of what you want them to do at the end of the hour and expect them to complete it the way you want it done. That just doesn’t work.
  4. Don’t expect the kids to do every assignment. Unfortunately, I have found not all students love art. Some of them are there for an easy A and some of them are there for the course requirement. Don’t give up on them, but keep encouraging them to do the assignment. But whatever you do, don’t have pity and extend the due date. You know the saying, “Give a mouse a cookie, and he’ll ask for a glass of milk."
  5. Don’t give up! I believe that the sketchbook is an essential part of the art teacher’s arsenal. It allows students to explore their skills and allows the teacher to hone skills as they complete projects given them.


I love the sketchbook, and I love seeing what the students can come up with the prompts I give them. I wish that they would all develop a love for sketching out their thoughts and that they would desire to create something new and exciting, but I have to settle for what I can get. Some will, some won’t. I just need to be consistent and do what I can to inspire those who will be inspired and not give up on those who will not.


If you find these tips helpful, or if you have some to add, leave a comment below and let me know!

Plan to Live


I have been toying with the idea of making a planner to help my organize my life. There are so many things that scream for my attention everyday (both at school and at home) that sometimes I feel like a gerbal in an exercise ball. Going fast, but going nowhere!

I have looked at dozens of planners and have not yet found what I am looking for. So I thought, "Why not make my own?"

So I am wondering, if you had the perfect planner, what would be in it? The sky is the limit. Lists, calendars, sketchbook pages, anything you can think of!

Below is what I have come up with so far. Feel free to try it, then come back with suggestions to make it better!

Daily Planner

Tell me what you think!