Saturday, November 14, 2015


Here's a fun website with how-to videos for all kinds of projects. Many ideas for lesson/ independent projects/ studio projects here:

- Patrick

Saturday, October 3, 2015

5 Year Anniversary!

This blog turns 5 years old this month! I have been updating Split Complementary with art education resources, lesson ideas, inspiration and local events since I was in teacher's college in 2010.

Now there are 108 posts and I hope to keep on going. Thanks to all the educators and visitors for checking out the blog! The most visited post has been: the Elements and Principles of Design.


- Patrick

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Art History through Thor

THOR: A History of Media and Art from an ancient story to a contemporary film

We start with a story.

Thor comes from Norse mythology. Norse mythology represents the spiritual beliefs of the ancient Germanic and Viking peoples. These stories are made of important metaphors, lessons, and beliefs that were put into poetry, so they could be memorized and passed on.

For hundreds of years it was passed down orally, spoken from one generation to the next. Verbal storytelling was the dominant media of the time.

A brief overview of the story:

Thor is the God of thunder, lightning, storms, strength, healing, oak trees and the protector of humanity. He is the son of Odin, who is the God of Gods. Thor’s trickster brother, Loki, is evil and conflicted. They live in Asgard, one of the nine worlds that are connected by the World Tree.

These characters and this story still has an effect on all of us, it’s where we get the names for Wednesday and Thursday.

Before writing on paper became a dominant form of media, the Germanic and Norse people would carve on stones to tell their story.

Thor’s hammer was worn as a pendant for luck and to symbolize their beliefs. These were made of metal during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Then in the 11th century the stories were written down in a book, and illustrated. The book is called the Poetic Edda. Here is a version that was done in 1908:

When printing was developed, in the 15th century, writing and images became available across greater distances. Drawing and painting on paper and canvas became more popular.

This image was first published in 1555.

This painting, done in oil on canvas was made in 1872. Many other paintings, sculptures, poems and stories have been created about this story since.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, black and white illustration became one of the dominant forms of media, to accompany writing. Here is an illustration of Thor from 1902.

In 1962, Stan Lee created the character of Thor for Marvel comics, drawn by Jack Kirby, written by Larry Lieber. Comics have been a popular form of story-telling from the time these were made up to today.

Kirby’s Asgard

Kirby’s Thor

Before the film was made, many artists worked on transforming the story
into images that would work in a film.

One of these artists is storyboard artist Federico D’Alessandro (head storyboard artist, and animatic supervisor Marvel Studios for Thor, The Avengers, Iron Man 3 and others).

He started the process by creating storyboards based on the script.

Other artists would be working on character development and set design as well, such as Production Illustrator Craig Shoji. He helped develop the environments.

Another artist worked mostly on character design, Michael Kutsche.

After the filming is done, post-production will add special effects and animation.

After the film is complete, the marketing becomes the important media. A central part of the marketing campaign is the internet presence of the project. One of the most important parts of the internet presence is the film’s website:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A fun intro to photography project

A fun intro to photography project for a grade 10 arts class:

1. Introduce some tips for taking good photographs
This video worked well with my class.

2. As a group, try to identify each of the tips in the work of a few professional photographers.

3. Individually choose a theme or place to take 9 photographs- each one demonstrating the application of one of the tips.

4. Individually, each student saves their best 9 photographs to a folder for submission and evaluation.

5. Group critique (2 or 3 students examples per tip).

Here are some examples of Steve McCurry's wonderful work (as well as the one above):

- Patrick

Friday, August 28, 2015

Back To The Future Project

I've always loved the first Back To The Future and this past spring I used it in my grade 10 Media Arts class for a few arts assignments.

The purpose of first Back To The Future assignment was to help students develop their ability to analyze works of media arts- starting with a format they are comfortable with- film.

Using the critical analysis process, the students watched Back To The Future and made notes and observations about some some of the dominant themes of the film. Such as: time, scientific invention, 50's culture, 80's culture, music and friendship.

The they made connections between the themes they identified and the way the film-makers presented their story- what was included in the shot? what music was used and when? how were the two different time periods portrayed? How is friendship represented?

One interesting observations that one student made was- the director included 88 clocks in shots throughout the film. Coincidence? - Probably, but interesting to note. What we can say for sure is that the film-makers went out of their way to include clocks, watches and time displays in every important scene in the film, constantly reminding the viewer that time is ticking.

The purpose of the second Back To The Future assignment was to have the students choose an idea from the film to create a product to commemorate the film- a kind of memorabilia for the 30th anniversary of the film.

Here is one example:

- Patrick

Still here...

I have been away from this blog for too long! But now I'm back. Since May, I've been busy with all kinds of different art education projects- and I will be posting about them here.

First of all, my partner and I have started a new blog for our studio work and adventures:

More to follow...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fibonacci Trees

The Fibonacci sequence is a fun way to show students how math and pattern can be found in art and nature. I've used this subject in the Grade 10-12 Visual Arts classes, in the aesthetics unit of the Grade 12 Philosophy course - and I've seen it used in Science, Math and Computer Science classes as well. This is a great example of a rich interdisciplinary topic for students to explore.

The basics about the Fibonacci numbers can be found here.

In the image above, I used the Fibonacci sequence to space the trees and the levels of the branches. This would be a good Visual Arts project, have students research the numbers, develop various templates and grids based on the sequence and use the spatial relationships to create an image.

- Patrick

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Advertising and Graphic Design Lessons

I am teaching a Grade 10 Media Arts class this term and we're in the middle of a fun unit focusing on advertising and graphic design.

I started out teaching them the four fundamental principles of graphic design (see previous post with handout). 

Next, the students were introduced to the program Adobe Illustrator. 

After exploring the design principles with some Illustrator exercises, the students were ready to try designing a logo for a future business or product. 

To give them some background in the history of advertising and design, we watched the film Art & Copy.  

The kids enjoyed it- it gave them a look into the industry and an understanding of the different jobs involved.

After using the creative process to design their own logos, it will be time for the culminating project of the unit: use the four principles of design to re-create a favourite film poster, featuring a new logo for the film or the production company. More unit and lesson ideas to come as we work through the course...

- Patrick

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Emily Carr at the A.G.O: From the Forest to the Sea

A new exhibition opens this weekend at the AGO: Emily Carr, From the Forest to the Sea- and it looks awesome! I've always found that the real point of her work was missed when her paintings were placed next to, or compared with the Group of 7's work. This article from the Star presents a thorough review of the exhibit and, although I do not agree with their assessment of the Group of 7's work, they do offer a refreshing take on Emily Carr's work:

Looking forward to checking out this show and bringing my class. I will post a personal review after and discuss the student response to her work. For more information check out the A.G.O. site.

- Patrick

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Dress- What is going on?

On Friday, the internet went crazy about the colours of this dress. About 50% of people saw the dress in the image above as blue and black while the other 50% could only see white and gold. 

The actual dress is blue and black as seen in the photo below.  The exposure of the photograph above makes some people focus on the contrast and see gold and white. 

CP24 feature one expert explanation here, and claims the colour is in the eye of the beholder. Since colour is a psychological phenomenon, this makes sense. What is still puzzling is why approximately 50% of people interpret the image one way and the other 50% another way.

Just to see, I played around with both images in Photoshop to try and create both colour schemes, here are some comparisons:


The image of the dress on the far right above has the most extreme exposure and the most gold and white and has the following colours using the eyedropper tool in Photoshop:

The whitest part of the dress is light blue.

The lightest part of the gold is seen here- and is a mid-tone.

For the original image of the dress that caused all the hype, the colours are similar but darker:

The whitest/lightest part of the dress is a mid-tone blue.

The lightest part of what some people saw as gold is a dark-tone brown. 

You can see in these colour comparisons how the dress has colours in the mid range between black at the bottom (the actual colour of the dress) and gold at the top (the over-exposed photo of the dress); and dark blue at the bottom of the other Colour Picker image and light blue leading to white at the top. 

The psychology comes into it when the individual chooses to veer towards the lighter side or the darker side and whether they are sensitive to the overexposure of the image or not. If they are sensitive to the overexposed nature of the image, the mind will colour-correct to the blue-black colour scheme. However, if the mind accepts the photo as regular light, they will see the gold-white colour scheme. The photo of "the dress" seems to be a new addition to the history of optical illusions.

- Patrick

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the A.G.O.

The new exhibit at the AGO looks amazing: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now's The Time. This is the first major retrospective of the artist's work and I cannot wait to check it out. I've already heard good things about it and the educator's night was well attended. 

One of the reasons that I'm excited about this exhibit is the accessibility of Basquiat's images. It's a refreshing move away from the often snobby, pretentious high-brow art world (seen in too many shows- where viewers stand around sipping drinks and pretending to understand the meaning behind artwork that really speaks to no one). This unfortunate part of the art world gives all art a bad name and distracts from the power of visual creativity to actually communicate something. This criticism is not directed at the A.G.O., who always have something thoughtful to check out, but to an unfortunate majority of other galleries. 

Just a little rant. I hope you enjoy the show!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Graphic Design Unit: Movie Poster Project

Happy New Year!

To start the year off, here's a fun and easy art project. This would work for a unit on graphic design.

Step 1: introduce the 4 fundamentals of graphic design. (see handout below)
Step 2: allow students to build an understanding of the 4 fundamentals by working through a few exercises
Step 3: review what worked and what didn't work in the exercises
Step 4: introduce the poster design project

Poster Design Project:

Part 1: use this article from the Globe and Mail to see some of the most successful movie posters from 2014

Part 2: write a summary of how your favourite poster uses the 4 fundamentals

Part 3: create a poster for your favourite movie using all 4 fundamentals