Choosing Film Schools and Film Courses

Why film schools? It’s one of the default questions that aspiring filmmakers face when they plan to take film courses. Despite a line of argument that filmmaking often goes beyond the realms of theory and despite success stories of “untrained” filmmakers, the relevance of film schools in imparting the craft and technical intricacies of the medium stays largely unchallenged. You can learn many things, even motion graphics and visual effects. Though reputation of the film schools is critical in your search, it’s also important to realize that, ultimately, it’s the opportunity to develop hands-on and all-round skills as a visualizer and maker that seals it.

To start with, decide on the kind of films you would like to be part of. The independent film movement – that started off overlapping with anything off-beat – has now evolved into a strong market movement as well. The lines between Indie and commercial still exist but the movements are not necessarily countering each other all the time. These are exciting times for young mavericks to pursue their kind of cinema without getting completely awed down by the market compulsions.

Film Courses and Disciplines

Film schools, typically, offer courses across disciplines in filmmaking: editing, cinematography, sound, screenwriting, directing and more. It makes sense to decide on a primary focus area — say, directing — and supplement it with courses in cinematography, editing or screenwriting. Niche courses are pursued religiously at film schools across the world but inter-disciplinary curricula have also started catering to the needs of aspirants who look for an all-round education. The theory and history of film, along with its social context and evolution, and focus areas like literature and art are also being offered at these film schools.

Accredited Film Schools and Faculty

An accredited film school brings with it a stamp of stature and quality, that often makes the screening easier for the student. The Aboutfilmschools website traces a US example and points out that the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) is the independent organism recognized by the American Department of Education for accreditation of programmes of visual arts, apart from six regional accreditation organizations.

The stature of the school faculty is as important as the course material they deal with. It’s important to trace the industry standing of the faculty and distinguish between reputed academics who have published books on films but have collaborated in none and those who have the industry exposure and tutorial skills to match. Go for film schools that also offer guest lectures by speakers from the industry and have strong industry alliances to ensure internships. Studios, labs and libraries add to the film school experience.

Courses at Premier Film Schools

Alumni filmmakers who have made it big add a definite lure to the schools, like a Michael Mann or Mike Leigh does. But these are premier institutes like London Film School, New York Film Academy and the National Film and Television School, UK. There are other high and medium-range schools as well, offering basic filmmaking education in short-term courses at a moderate fee.

Learn Film Production With Online Filmmaker’s Schools or Programs

Movie making technology has improved over the years, so that tech-savvy children can edit footage from their family’s home movie camera, or digital camera and create short films, rolling credits, special effects, graphic overlays and more. Nurturing a child’s love of movie production doesn’t require a Hollywood-sized budget. Free resources for learning film and video production are available, from several different sources.

Online Screenwriting Courses

Script Frenzy is one free Internet resource for learning how to write a movie script. Scriptwriting must follow a very specific format, with differing margins for dialog and distinctive jargon for scene setup. Script Frenzy is designed to be a one-month screenwriting workshop, but the resources are available all year long and include character development advice, plot development and access to real movie scripts, for reference.

Internet-based screenwriting forums and websites have advice for would-be screenwriters, too. The Writer’s Guild Foundation offers several DVD lectures and interviews by successful screenwriters. Screenwriter.com offers a chat room-based environment where participants share their stories with each other and help develop their story and write their script. Courses are ten weeks long and participants can choose to opt out of either the story development or screenplay writing section. Prices range from $399-$1098.

Internet Movie Making Resources

Youtube has a few options for editing and creating graphic overlays, but for more flexibility, One True Media also offers slide shows and can upload automatically to the user’s Youtube account. Roxio and CreateSpace have features that allow users to have their film put onto a DVD. Users can even make money selling those DVDs. Amazon’s print-on-demand service that creates a copy of the DVD with options for designing custom cases and disc graphics, too. Experimenting with movie making software can be fun and educational.

For Screenwriting resources online; Celtx and Scripped offer free screenwriting software that’s designed to help writers execute the proper formatting. Scripped is a web-based program that enables writers to collaborate on a project and track changes, by hosting the project on a web-based server, which each user can update. Some screenwriting software is designed to import half-finished scripts from other word processing programs. Another popular feature, for self-production is the automatic creation of character lists & descriptions, integrated development of a shooting schedule and call sheets and location lists to help in pre-production.

Online Degree in Film Production

Many online colleges and universities offer filmmaker’s courses. Even students who aren’t old enough for college can sometimes register for classes. Clarify the student’s goals before signing up. The ultimate goal may simply be to learn more about production, or specific skills, or software programs, like Final Cut Pro. Alternatively, the goal may be to get a bachelor’s degree in film production from an online filmmaker’s school. Either way, help is available.

MIT’s OpenCourseWare offering is entirely free and the Music & Theatre section has a few listings for potential filmmakers, like script analysis. More of their courses are for designed stage theatrics, rather than filmmaking.

Learning Animation at Home

Creating a short movie with stop-motion animation, with action figures, dolls or legos is an activity that kids can do without auditioning actors or enlisting the help of a lot of people. Making flip-books is one way to help kids understand how stop-motion animation works. A variety of software can be used for stringing images together. Gimp is free and can be used to create animated GIF files which can be attached to an email or added into any web page. Movie making software like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie for Mac can also be used to create videos using stop motion animation.

Kids who enjoy making movies may grow up to be professional filmmakers, or they may move on to an entirely different field. Either way, the lessons learned working within the confines of the formats and available technology stretch beyond visual communication and just having fun. A new appreciation for the art and talent behind the latest movies, cartoons and video games may develop. If you want to know more about professional visual effects, visit here

10 Unusual Still Life Ideas

Creative Painting Inspirations

10 Unusual Still Life IdeasThe key to finding good still life painting ideas is keeping an open mind. Compositions can be found in unusual areas as long as the artist is willing to look.

painting ideasStill Life Painting Ideas in the Kitchen

The kitchen is full of different textures, shapes and finishes. Because of this, there is an unending supply of still life inspiration in this room. For example:

  • Rummage through the silverware drawer and come out with a handful of utensils. Lay a dishcloth on the counter and toss the handful of silverware onto it. Each piece will make an interesting design as it overlaps onto another piece.
  • Arrange a grouping of pots and pans like a cityscape. Vary the heights of the pieces and make sure that there are several items with different finishes for visual interest.
  • Arrange dirty dishes in the sink and fill it with suds and hot water. The sheen of the water and the transparency of the bubbles will add a challenging element to the painting.

Still Life Painting Ideas in the Kid’s Room

Children’s items are full of color and shape. When looked at with a fresh eye, the artist can find a multitude of still life subjects in a kid’s room. Try these ideas:

  • Arrange video game controllers and games into a teetering tower.
  • Rummage through a toy box to find damaged dolls, broken trucks and other well-used toys to produce an interesting commentary on a child’s life.
  • Collect baseball, football, Magic, Pokémon, or other cards that children collect. Arrange them on the child’s bed.
  • Look under the bed. Use a homemade viewfinder or a camera viewfinder to crop an interesting composition.

Still Life Painting Ideas in the Toolbox

creative inspirations
A person’s tools say a lot about their personality. Depending on the person, the tool box and the types of tools can very drastically. Consider these types of toolboxes and tools as still life subjects:

  • The Artist’s Toolbox- This can include paints, brushes, pencils, markers, colored pencils and more. Try to arrange the items in their storage and in abstract groupings.
  • The Mechanic’s Toolbox- Grab some wrenches, screwdrivers and nails and scatter them on any interesting background such as cement, greasy corrugated cardboard or shiny chrome for an interesting composition.
  • The Seamstress’ or Tailor’s Toolbox- Open the lid to any sewing box and you will find an instant subject; simple open the lid and look down on the contents. The composition is framed and the mix of threads, buttons and shiny needles will add instant textural appeal to any painting.

Artists can use these ideas, or use them to brainstorm ideas of their own, for new, interesting still life paintings.

Paint on Fabric Without Expensive Artists’ Supplies

Paint on Fabric Without Expensive Artists' SuppliesAlthough batik has been around for almost 2,000 years, it is Java, Indonesia where it has become a well developed art in its own right. Batik is a labor intensive art that involves applying wax to fabric and immersing the fabric into dye. If more than 2 colors are desired, the wax is removed and the fabric is waxed again before immersing in a third color. A more direct approach to painting fabric can lead to innovative works. By using paint instead of dye, and instant potatoes instead of wax, multiple colors can be applied without multiple steps. Here’s how to do it.

Materials & Supplies Needed to Paint on Fabric

fabric painting art supplies

  • Lightweight fabric – usually white, but there’s no reason other colors can’t be used
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Fabric medium for acrylic paint – this is optional, but thins the paint, reducing stiffness when dried. Some brands need to be heat set, others don’t.
  • Box of instant mashed potatoes
  • Pencil
  • Paint brushes
  • Frame to stretch the fabric – the easiest frames to use are those you can easily find from quilt and craft shops.
  • A squeeze bottle for the potato resist, an empty mustard bottle works well, if the tip is too small, the resist won’t flow.

Steps to Paint on Fabric

  1. Stretch the fabric on the frame so that it is taut and smooth.
  2. Draw the lines for the resist on the top of the fabric freehand, or tape a design to the back of the fabric and trace onto the top of the fabric and remove the design. The side with the pencil lines will be the back.
  3. Mix instant potatoes with hot water to the consistency of white glue and place into a squeeze bottle.
  4. Squeeze a line of resist along the pencil lines of the design and let dry thoroughly.
  5. Take the fabric off the frame, turn it over, and put it back on the frame with the side with the dried resist down.
  6. Squeeze more resist along the design and let dry thoroughly. Hold the frame up to the light, as shown in the photo below (click on the image for a larger view) to check that all lines have absorbed the resist.
  7. Paint the design, using either water or medium directly on the fabric.
  8. Once the paint is dried, heat set the paint, if required, and soak the fabric in warm water, rinsing a few times until all of the resist has been washed away.

Batik designs

It’s possible to use many techniques, including watercolor techniques, for the actual painting. The only restriction is not to use a lot of water which will loosen the resist. Best of all, it’s possible to paint fabric without a large investment in a different kind of paint or resists. Potato starch is much easier both to apply and to remove than wax.

Tips for Buying Paint Art Supplies

Tips for Buying Paint Art SuppliesFor new artists, buying art supplies, especially paint, can be overwhelming. With hundreds of brands, sizes and qualities to choose from, many wonder where to begin. Follow the tips in this article to jump-start an art education.

To begin, paint is either:

  • Heavy-body (thick consistency) or Liquid (thin consistency)
  • Artist Quality (high concentrations of pigment) or Student Quality (low concentrations of pigment)

Tempera Art Supplies

Originally used in Renaissance-era fresco painting, tempera remains very popular in elementary schools because, unlike watercolors, acrylics and oils, tempera is non-toxic. Though everyone is familiar with the student-quality versions, opaque egg tempera is available for artist-quality use.

Great care should be exercised when using liquid tempera, as the paint dries very quickly once exposed to air. Tempera paints are available in liquid, cake and economical powder form.

Tips for Buying Paint Art Supplies - watercolorWatercolor Art Supplies

Available in three forms:

  • Pan watercolors, which come in trays of dry to semi-dry pigment cakes, are easily transported and best suited for outdoor use.
  • Tube watercolors are typically heavy-bodied, good for opaque applications and should be diluted with water before use to avoid cracking.
  • Liquid watercolors, which come in bottles or small jars, are best used for transparent coverage.

Watercolors dry quickly and clean easily with soap and water.

Acrylic Art Supplies

Very popular with new artists for their ease of use, acrylics are available in tubes or bulk jars. Like watercolors, they dry quickly and clean with soap and water. Acrylic paints come in three forms:

  • Heavy-bodied acrylics are typically higher quality and the most versatile, able to be thinned with water or applied thickly without cracking.
  • Liquid acrylics are thinner than heavy bodied acrylics and are better suited for watercolor-like applications.
  • Acrylic gouache (say ‘gwash’) can be applied to a variety of surfaces and so is typically used in craft projects.

Also in the acrylic family is the canvas primer, gesso (say ‘jess-o’). Originally made with animal glue, modern gesso uses acrylic binders, which create a flexible painting surface for both acrylic and oil paints. (Without gesso, paint would soak through canvas.)

Because white gesso is made with acrylic binders and a titanium dioxide pigment, there is little difference between it and unnecessarily expensive white acrylic tube paints.

Oil Paint Supplies

Tips for Buying Paint Art Supplies - oil paints

The traditional choice of fine art painters, oil paint is available in tubes or bulk cans. Though complex in composition, oil paints still essentially have two parts: a pigment and a binder made from a drying oil like linseed or walnut.

Since drying time can vary with color and application density, oils can take anywhere from six months to one year to fully dry. However, drying mediums can be added to quicken the process.

Most oil paints are heavy bodied and require a thinning agent, such as additional linseed or walnut oil or artist-quality turpentine, for most applications. Oil paints must be cleaned with turpentine or mineral spirits.

Best New Artist Starter Colors (Affordable Equivalents)

  • Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue (Azo Yellow Medium)
  • Cadmium Red Medium Hue (Naphthol Red Medium)
  • Cobalt Deep Blue (Ultramarine Blue)
  • Titanium White – oils only (substitute white gesso for acrylics)
  • Burnt Sienna

Buy Primary Colors

From the brightest and most brilliant colors (hues), all others are possible. Granted, it’s easier to buy a beginner’s set of paint, flushed with varying tints and shades, but new artists should take the time to experiment from scratch.

Understanding how colors interact is an essential part of becoming an artist. That said, for large-scale paintings that will take days or even weeks to complete, it is worthwhile to buy specific tints and shades of color. Without precise measurements, replicating exact colors is at best difficult.

Buy Medium or Deep Hue Colors

It’s a common misconception that it’s easier to darken a color than lighten it. For example, to turn ultramarine blue into a turquoise, just add white (called tinting). The blue is still blue, only lighter. However, it is much more difficult to turn a turquoise into a deep-hued blue. Simply adding black (called shading) dulls the color, turning it from blue to gray. Deep-hue colors offer the best flexibility for color mixing.

More on the color black: For most painters, black is rarely needed. A blue or purple mixed with a brown is a great substitute for, and will often look better than, a straight black.

Carefully Shop for Artist Paint

Typically, primary colors with the deepest hues are the most expensive. Side by side, two colors of tube paint could look nearly identical, but carry significant price differences.

Avoid Discount-Marketed Artist Paint

Cheap acrylics and oils have a higher binder to pigment ratio than professional-quality paints. Paints with less pigment typically don’t cover well, often requiring many coats to achieve a brilliant hue. While this may not be as important with transparent watercolors, it is an issue with opaque applications involving acrylics and oils.

Though it’s best for beginning artists to buy affordable paints, the cheapest are simply not worth it.

What You Should Know About Cataracts

What you should know about cataracts

Everyone has heard of the term ‘cataract’ and most people know someone who has had cataract surgery. But cataract is a term that is very widely misunderstood. When I ask people if they know what a cataract is they invariably reply that it is a skin or film that grows over the eye when you get old.

A better explanation is that just behind the iris and the pupil (which is actually a hole) there lives a lens that can change shape to allow us to focus at different distances. As time goes on, this lens, which is completely transparent at birth, begins to go yellow/brown and cloudy and this is called a cataract. At a certain stage it gets to the point where the cloudiness is affecting the vision so much that a person with the condition needs to have it corrected either by surgery or through the use of prescription eyewear. Thankfully, through the advancements in ophthalmology, safe yet value-for-money contact lenses are readily available.

The video below explains what happens if a person has cataracts.

Cataract surgery has progressed tremendously since the days (WARNING – if you are squeamish, DO NOT carry on reading, skip instead to the next paragraph!) where the local healer would take a hard blunt object, bash the eye of the patient repeatedly until the cloudy lens would get dislodged and then end it off by spitting on the eye of the patient, presumably as a disinfectant to prevent infection. (This procedure may still be carried out in certain tribes in very isolated parts on the world and I actually watched a video of it  many years ago. Two guys had to hold down the patient to stop him from escaping due to the pain. Not something you forget too quickly!)

Nowadays cataract surgery can be carried out as a day case procedure (meaning you don’t stay in hospital overnight), through a very tiny incision, under local anaesthetic (which is good because when a person has a general anaesthetic, it considerably increases the risks to the patient) and a new replacement lens in inserted.

Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implantation

Intraocular lens implantation is a procedure that uses ultrasound to disintegrate the cataract, but there is now an option of using a laser for both the initial incision and the cataract disintegration. After the lens of the eye is removed, the replacement lens is inserted to correct the vision problems. If an intraocular lens is not implanted after the cataract is removed, special contact lenses are prescribed. The patient even has the option to choose prescription contact lenses that enhance eye color naturally.

As an artist, I am very particular about eye health. Vision is important to every artist out there. So for our succeeding updates, this site will also explore the different options for cataract surgery, the advances in intraocular lenses (the replacement lens that is inserted), whether special eye drops can be used to prevent the need for surgery, what are the causes of cataract and whether anything can be done to slow down its progression.

If you would like to ask a specific question about cataracts that you want me to address, or if you would like to share your own or your family member’s experience of cataract surgery, please use the comments section to be in touch!

Alternatives to Stretched Canvas for Oil Painting

Most artists enjoy trying new materials. Here are some alternative surfaces for painting in oils. Most are easily found in art supplies sources.

Stretched canvas is the most common surface for oil painting. Canvas practically defines the genre. Let’s face it, people are used to seeing paintings on canvas stretched on frames. It may be traditional, but stretched canvas is NOT the only surface that artists can use for painting in oils.

Alternative painting surfaces and supports:

  • Paper Materials
  • Panels
  • Unstretched canvas.

Paper Supports for Oil Painting

Paper as a support for oil paintings has never really taken off. There are a few good reasons for using paper materials, but also potential bad problems. Paper is light in weight and less expensive to use. Also, paper supports take up much less space than either canvas or panels. These features make paper materials seem like a good option.

Potential paper supports:

  • Museum board
  • Canvas paper
  • Stiff cardboard
  • Watercolour or bristol paper.

All paper supports need a barrier between the paper and the oils, such as acrylic gesso or acrylic varnish medium. Without question, only acid-free or rag products should be attempted. There is some question as to how archival paintings on paper will be as they age. These supports tend to be flimsy and may lead to cracking or damage to the oil surface as it hardens.

Museum board or illustration board is a multi-ply cardboard-like paper with a nice surface for artwork. Canvas paper has a prepared canvas-like texture and is available in pads. Various cardboards can be coated and painted on, but cardboard is noted to be susceptible to dampness and breaking down quickly. Watercolour paper or bristol paper is archival, but the flimsiness doesn’t bode well for a hardened oil surface.

Panels Alternative to Stretched Canvas

Panels are attractive support for artists. They are thinner and take up less space than stretcher frames. The solid surface may be better suited to oil painting preservation. And wooden panels are common to the tradition of oil painting from the Renaissance on. All panels must be coated before painting on with oils.

Panels for Painting:

  • Hardboard or Masonite
  • Birch or maple plywood
  • Wood boards

Artists have been painting on Masonite or hardboard panels for long enough now that they are considered archival. The disadvantage to these panels is that they may warp. Large size panels need to be braced or framed. Smaller panels up to about 16 x 20 are usually not braced.

Plywood is a tempting large, smooth surface. However, plywood is susceptible to separation of layers and splitting along the surface. Wooden boards are seldom wide enough alone and joining boards together to create a larger surface may lead to splits in the surface much later.

Unstretched Canvas

A canvas that is pre-coated with gesso may be painted on without being stretched. The flexibility of cloth without backing or support makes it

less desirable for oil painting. The unstretched canvas can be taped to a lightweight firm backing, such as gatorboard or foam core, and then painted. After it is painted on, it may be simply stored flat, transferred and mounted to a hard panel surface, or stretched onto a frame.

There are many reasons for seeking alternative support materials. Convenience, weight, storage, and aesthetics are some of the motives. Stretched canvas paintings remain the most common supports, but artists are wont to experiment. As long as the materials are prepared specifically for oil paint qualities, there is a great degree of success in using alternative materials for supports.

Choosing the Right Easel for Painting and Drawing

Choosing the Right Easel for Painting and DrawingArtists in the market for a new easel for their art studio may be stunned by all the choices. There are metal easels, wooden easels, A-frame, H-frame and French easels and all types of features that may make the easel more attractive to certain types of artists, and useless to others.

Here is a guide to help even new artists weed through the choices to find the perfect easel for their needs.

 Wooden Easel vs Aluminum Easel

When it comes to the material choices, one is not necessarily better than the other. Wood is a classic choice for easel construction, but metal has many advantages as well.

– Advantages of Wooden Easels:

  • Sturdier construction
  • Less likely to wobble during the painting and drawing process
  • They often come in a wider variety of designs

– Advantages of Metal Easels:

  • Lighter and more portable
  • Many fold up and can be stored away in small areas
  • Easier to clean because they are non-porous
  • What Types of Easel Styles Are There?

If an artist looks hard enough, she will find an unending amount of various sizes and styles of easels. There are three main styles, though.

A-frame or tripod easels are shaped like the letter A with an extra leg jutting out to support it. This three-legged structure makes it easy to fold up for storage. The problem with A-frame easels is the lack of support on the upper part of the canvas. Also, this type of easel isn’t a stable as other easel types, though they are often less expensive than H-frame counterparts.

H-frame easels have a square-shaped frame with a crossbar or tray that runs along the center to hold the canvas. H-frame easels are very sturdy and support the canvas from top to bottom. The only problem with this style is that it takes up a lot of room. Space conscientious artists should look for a version that folds flat so that it can be stored against a wall of the art studio or under a bed. Both the H-frame and A-frame easels come in large floor sizes or smaller table-top designs.

French easels are small boxes or cases with pop-up painting supports and extendable legs. These types of easels are made for plain air painting since artists can store their supplies in the easel and carry it to various locations easily.

What Features to Look for in an Easel

Besides size and construction material, easels come with a wide array of features. Here are some easel features that artists should look for:

  • Telescoping legs make A-frame styles take up even less space.
  • Extending support bars keep even large canvases steady. Make sure to look for information on
    how large of a canvas the easel will accommodate.
  • Look for built in trays and cups for holding art supplies.
  • Make sure the canvas support bars are wide enough to hold deep, gallery-style canvases.
  • Rubber tipped feet keep tripod and A-frame legs from slipping during the painting process.
  • After considering all of the easel’s features and options, an artist will be able to make an informed decision when buying this high-ticket item for his art studio.

Tips for Sketching with Watercolor Paints

Sketching with Watercolor PaintsSketching with watercolor paints instead of traditional dry media can give you the advantage of colorful, textured sketches that offer a more complete impression of a scene. Here are some tips for getting started with watercolor sketching.

Watercolor Sketching Tip #1: Keep it Loose

The first key to sketching with watercolor is to keep your hand loose and use big, sweeping strokes. This will speed the sketching process and leave you with the feeling and composition of a scene without taking too much time. Remember, you’re not trying to make a painting worthy of a frame. You just want to record what you see for a complete painting in the future.

Watercolor Sketching Tip #2: Skip the Details

One of the best reasons for sketching with watercolor instead of sketching with dry media is simplicity. Broad strokes and a loose hand will keep your sketch spontaneous, but you may still fall into the trap of over recording. To combat this, always use the biggest brush possible. Using a larger brush will help you record the big picture, not all the fussy little details, keeping you more focused on capturing the atmosphere and composition of the moment.

Watercolor Sketching Tip #3: Paint in Chunks

If you are a stickler for details, go ahead and paint them, but not with your composition sketch. Do separate sketches of the details that catch your eye. For example, if you are sketching a busy farmer’s market you should paint an overall composition sketch, a sketch of the gourd display, a sketch of the intriguing older lady, a sketch of the farmer’s dog…you get the idea.

Watercolor Sketching Tip #4: Use White to Your Advantage

Your first instinct may be to cover your white paper with color, but not so fast. Use the white to your advantage. Use it to signify light in your sketches. The pure white paper can be highlights, sun bleached areas or just a visual note to yourself to leave an area lighter in color.

Watercolor Sketching Tip #5: Carry a Minimum of Tools

Nothing is more distracting than having a jumble of painting tools that you don’t really need. Keep it simple.

Follow these tips as you fill the pages of your watercolor sketchbook and you will end up with sketches that are useful references for your paintings.