Noodling around with Photoshop and Chagall

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i and MY village3.jbg I and my  Village 3




The simplest delineation of copyright rules is set out BEAUTIFULLY  by Daniel J Lewis in Copyright Laws for Bloggers and Podcasters.   Sarah Ovenall, a collage artist also gives a nice description. But nitty gritty explanations are helpful, too.  Stanford University has a website with up to date copyright basics and explanations of the the fair use exception to copyright protection.  See

Good news and bad news … in the reverse order: Bad news: when you have a tricky question on copyright, its really best to consult a lawyer.  Good news: there are lots of resources for artists including the FREE resources of the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts.  When you contact them, as I have, you need to give them a few weeks lead time to find a lawyer and for you to set up a conversation with that lawyer and give them time to answer your question.  They also hold seminars for artists.  Their website is

Don’t think of copyright as only your enemy as a creative.  It can also be your friend.  For example, you may want to license your work for use. Here is a site that I came across that helps artists and designers do just that.  And you own your images when you make them.   It helpful however to put (c) (year created) Your Name on  the work to provide people with notice that you  own the work. You can also send slides, photographs or cds, etc to the copyright office to register your work.  This provides you with additional protections against anyone taking your work and trying to pass it off as their own or dilute your market.


The following is MY understanding of the copyright laws.  I am NOT a copyright lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV.  Thus, the following summary just synthesizes my understanding of copyright laws as it effects the use of these items.


If you are using an image in the context of sharing news, or commenting on something or parodying it, you are in pretty good shape.  Similarly, you can use an image for purposes of teaching, but the image needs to be shared only with the students in the class.  Thus, it would need to be on a blog that is limited to those individuals.  The image should be attributed to its maker and its source.

The safest, no-cost images to use are those that are in the public domain or are your own images, pictures and drawings.  You can find public domain images at sites like Wikipedia Commons,, which has images, sounds and videos, or flickr’s Creative Commons,  Additionally, you can research which images are in the public domain through standard Google Searches. Or you can purchase licenses to use images from a number of new sources,, or stock agencies such as

The trickiest use of images not your own are when you use an image and “transform” it into something of your own.  Use of other people’s images in collage is generally NOT exempt from copyright protection, unless the use is very minimal.  Even applying computer filters and monkeying around with a still identifiable image is generally NOT exempt from copyright protection.  Personally, I felt that Fairey’s use of the Obama photograph was transformative.  But he settled that case so we don’t know what a court would have done.  THE BOTTOM LINE: IF AN IMAGE IS NOT IN ONE FOR EDUCATION, RESEARCH, PARODY, NEWS or COMMENT (i.e. the categories in Fair Use Factor  #1), BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT USING IT!

Section 107 of the Copyright Acts sets out a four factors balancing test for determining fair use of copyrighted material:

  1.  the purpose and character of your use (education, research, parody, news or comment, or  transformative use are fine).
  2.  the nature of the copyrighted work
  3.  the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for the work (and its derivatives).

See more at: Ultimately, its a balancing test, and whenever things are balancing tests, it really means that the outcome is up to the judge.


Youtube has the best summary on what nonpublic domain videos can be be used without violating   copyright law, with examples of acceptable use of videos for news reporting, parody and remix.  A really good example of what they claim as an acceptable fair use remix is Donald Duck meets Glen Beck in Right Wing Radio Duck.


YouTube explains that “This remix combines short excerpts from different source materials and creates a new message about the effect of provocative rhetoric in times of economic crisis. Works that create new meaning for the source material may be considered fair use.”  Note that the video also clearly provided attribution of whose voices were used and where the characters came from

That said, you are safest to use your own videos, public domain or videos you have permission to use.  If you use or do anything to your own video, you are in the clear.  If you put it show it anywhere, make clear in the video or the link that it was done by, is owned by you, example: (2014)(c) Your Name Here, all rights reserved.


The Student Television Network has a nice discussion of what copyrighted sound clips and videos can or cannot be used or sampled and what the limits are. The organization notes that even just taking 30 seconds of a song is insufficient to protect and artist from violating the copright law.

You can buy license to use music or sound at places like: or find royalty-free music on line,  Creative Commons is one of the several sites that the Student Television Network lists for obtaining music for use,

Teaching Animation for Social Action

The final project in the Corcoran’s Digital Media for Art Educators course this fall was to create a digital tool for teaching art.   The tool I propose using here is using Digital Animation.  The Context is to teach/use Digital Animation an an integrated part of a 10th grade curriculum on civil rights and the relationship of people, their representatives and the political process.  The Art component focuses on developing additional skill sets to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas.  The object is to help students find their voice for affecting political or social change and to create safe spaces for social expression.

The following basic power point is a Social Action Unit, containing four separate lessons.

social action animation

1. Thinking

2. Traditional Media for Social Action

3.  New Media for Social Action

4.  Photojournalism


The Digital Media tool is taught in Lesson number 3: New Media for Social Action

This class comes after classes in the art room and history class room about social engagement, protest and activism.  By the time students reach Lesson 3, they will have identified a few issues that they care about or things they would like to see celebrated or changed.  They will also have created posters or signs on a political or social theme and they will have engaged in an advocacy writing project in their social studies class.  (A specific theme or idea may be presented in collaboration between the art and social studies teachers).   Thus, by Lesson number 3, students will be asked to think about how to convey their advocacy through a short (15-30 second) animation project.   This will be a 3 day, 45 minute project.  In the first class, the animation tool Animation Creator will be introduced.  The teacher will show a video short from of her own with an example of how the program can be used for political express or protest:

GWU-Corcoran Merger

Then the teacher will do a live demonstration of how to use Animation Creator on an iPad.  This animation will be very basic and show how to use the tools of the program to draw, to go back, to correct, to create a background, then how to create duplicate frames and manage frames, then how to use these tools to create movement and manage the speed of movement.  The first class will be used for this general introduction and some basic noodling around.  The second and third class relating to this lesson will be for each student to create a 15-30 second animation which makes an advocacy point or a statement about an issue chosen by the class or the student.  At the end of the third class.  At the beginning of a fourth class, the class will view all of the videos and assess the effectiveness of the animation in communicating a point of view, as well as the aesthetic features of the video.

The Fourth Lesson in the Unit will focus on photojournalism and will be a collaboration between the social studies teacher and the art teacher.  This collaborative project will  be designed for students to engage in in-depth investigation and reporting on issues raised in their social studies units.


In these days of easy access to images on the internet and fun digital tools for “riffing” on images, it is very easy for an artist to take an image (copyrighted or otherwise) and play with it, making it into something more. In the case of the famous Obama “Hope” poster of 2008, it is clear that artist Shepard Fairey, made an obscure photograph taken by AP freelance photographer Mannie Garcia into something significantly more.  Absent Fairey’s creative digital manipulation of Garcia’s 2006 photograph and his enterprising action, creating posters of the manipulated image to support Obama’s campaign (and the Obama campaign’s use of this image), it is without question that this photograph would have had very little value to the Associated Press, or anyone else.

posterAB                                                                                                           Mannie Garcia/Associated Press The original photograph of Barack Obama and Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster.(1)

In my perfect world, a digital artist would credit the photographer for image, go on to do his or her magic with digital tools and then share a predetermined portion of his or her profit (say 10-20%) with the original photographer.  In my mind, this kind of an outcome would financially benefit both artists and give further public credit to the creator of the first image.

But that is not the way the copyright laws were written.  Rather they grew from a series of concerns that significantly predated the launch of Photoshop in 1990.(2)  The drafters of copyright law sculpted the law around the idea of an original work where the creator would exclusively own specific rights to their work for a specific (and long) period of time.(3)  This included the right to make or authorize derivative works, works based on the original copyrighted work.  The exceptions to this time-limited exclusive ownership includes fair use (used for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research) of the copyrighted work. (4)

Granted, Fairey did not credit AP/Garcia with authorship or ownership of the original photograph. He clearly should have done that.  Had he done that, I believe that the tenor of the case would have/should have  been different.(5)

His fate stands as a warning sign to other artists about the dangers of using photographs that are outside the public domain as a basis for artwork.  Fairey settled with Associated Press, providing the corporation with an undisclosed amount of money.   Then Associated Press sued Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom Inc. and Zumiez Inc., for selling T-shirts with the Obama “HOPE” image, as part of its effort to protect its copyright in the original image. (6)  In the end, it appears that Associated Press and not the innovative artist benefited the most from this whole debacle.  Moreover, Garcia, the photographer the took the original photograph probably profited little from the use of his photograph. (NB: I have no concrete information on this point, it is just a hunch).

But that is not the end of the story,  Fairey’s story has another cautionary tale to tell.  Apparently, during the copyright trial, Fairey tried to falsify some records to indicate that his Obama poster design came from another photograph.  That led to CRIMINAL charges for Fairey.  In order to avoid jail time, he pled guilty to misdemeanor contempt of court charges for destroying documents and fabricating other paperwork.  He was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $25,000. (7)

Bottom line: take your own photographs to riff from, or make sure the photographs are in the public domain or get permission!



1.   Photograph (AP) from “Shepard Fairey Pleads Guilty Over Obama ‘Hope’ Image”

2.   Works published/created in the United States are protected by copyright for the life of the artist/author plus 70 years.  Works for hire or created by corporations are protected for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.


4.  17 U.S.C. 107.  The law includes a four part balancing test to determine whether a use is a “fair use” within the copyright law.

5.   But this is just my gut opinion, others argue that attribution without permission will not save an artist from copyright infringement under the fair use doctrine.  See discussion in



Image Manipulation and Digital Drawing Presentation

Hi folks,

I wanted to make sure that you got all of the info and links from this presentation.  Here is my presentation Image Manipulation and Digital Drawing.  The powerpoint part of the presentation shows how to use Adobe Photoshop to cut out images from photos and paste them onto other backgrounds that you have manipulated with Photoshop filters:

Digital Drawing powerpoint



I used the image I created as part of a flyer for an upcoming retreat  that I am running with a yoga instructor: DOWNTIME: Yoga and Art Retreat, Nov. 14-16:

retreat flyer3


You can get Photoshop and other Adobe products in its creative suite like Illustrator for $19.95/month while you are a student.

(PS, i just figured out how to add the above as a live link…. , first flick the staple looking icon for add link in the “Visual” bar, then go to add media, then do to the add url line on the left hand side, put your link in url line then, name it in the line below.  and press the button on the bottom right to insert it in your blog;  I’m sharing this because it took me a while!!!)


The other part of my presentation on Monday was about Digital Drawing.  I had a ball playing with many applications on my iPad.  These FREE apps included Kids Doodle, Sketches, DooDooColoring Book and Kaleidescope.  I believe the Kids Doodle link was on my iPad (or suggested to me) when I got the iPad a few years ago.  The other links i found through this article:

Each of the apps I chose for this presentation were very intuitive. And they also all had large reverse buttons where you could easily undo what you did.

Here are photos of the images I created with these programs:

Sketches    Done in Sketches


kidsddodle.jb   Done in Kids Doodle

kidsdoodle.z  Done in KidsDoodle (by a kid)

doodoocoloringDone in DooDooColoring Book (Princess)

Unfortunately, the Kaleidescope app only saves as a movie and not an image so I could not include it here



One of the cool things about these drawing apps, in addition to the fact that they were very intuitive and free, was that when I finished each drawing all I needed to do was click the “reel” icon on the bottom and a movie was created of how i created each image… Boy, you could do a lot with that as an educator!! Unfortunately, while i could email and download those videos, I was unable to figure out how to add get them into a format that this blog platform would allow to upload.



That’s all folks.  I hope this was helpful.




PS: there is another app for iPads called Loop which is for aminating line drawings.  Haven’t figured it out yet.  (But life is long…I hope)

Using photoshop

I remember learning photoshop over 18 years ago — the big thing then was being able to use layers. Now, PS has much larger capacity and more bells and whistles graphic-wise, with filters that make oil paintings and such out of images. My favorite enhancement is the free transform feature.

Working on PS in a classroom context was super because by asking questions, I was able to move through blocks much faster. PS is frustrating as I do get stuck a lot when working on my own and it feels like I am on an isolated desert island!

One other thing I liked about the PS projects in class was the fact that were were all sent off to do our own projects. This fits very well with my style of teaching: Provide tools and set the table. Then let the students at it! My role, as I see it, is to support my students’ intellectual and creative development.

I remember learning photoshop over 18 years ago — the big thing then was being able to use layers. Now, PS has much larger capacity and more bells and whistles graphic-wise, with filters that make oil paintings and such out of images. My favorite enhancement is the free transform feature. Working on PS in a […]

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