Continuing a Series

In Art Projects
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In my last post, I gave you taste of what it’s like for me when I start something new. I was beginning the work of creating a series alongside my advanced students to help mirror the process I wanted them to follow. Now that the series is complete I’d like to show you a little behind the scenes of how it came together and my final products. If you remember, when I left off, I had just begun the process of merging scanned images of fall leaves with photos that I had taken of the trunks of the trees they were gathered from.

I was working in Photoshop to create my combined images. I thought it was going to be a simple process of just adding my photos as layers and then changing the blend modes to create a double-exposure effect. Just like in the beginning, nothing is ever as simple as I think. When I layered the photos, they just blobbed together and the texture from the bark overshadowed the color and veining on the leaf. I tried masking out the area in the leaf so the bark wouldn’t show through, but all that did was leave me with an image that looked flat and simple. I took a deep breath and decided to commit 100% to the project in that moment. I reminded myself that if I was expecting my students to create something detailed and thoughtful, I needed to be doing the same.

I needed a way for my leaf image to stand apart from the bark as if it was really there. Zooming in, I used the selection tool to make a very precise outline of each leaf.

I made a copy of the selection and used it as the basis to build a shadow. I changed the copy layer to black and white, added contrast and then used the gaussian blur filter to soften the look. I nudged that layer over and down slightly so it looked like the light was coming from the upper left corner of the frame. Then I added another layer to serve as my vignette.

When I finally combined all my layers, I was much happier with my outcome than my initial attempt. Here are the finished products for my series:

Looking back on the project, I’m really pleased with what I made. It was a great way to force myself to stay accountable and finish since I knew that my students would call me out if I didn’t show them the completed project. It also helped them understand that creating something meaningful takes time and rarely goes according to plan. That to mess up is normal – even for teachers.

Trying and trying again – Angie


  1. All of the photoshop is Greek to me, but the mental process, “am I doing this? I am doing this!” that is so familiar. And what a great example you are for your students – doing the work to the standard you hope they will. I’m certain your effort spurs them to expect more of themselves!

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