Brain Health Fair Photography

American Academy of Neurology puts on an awesome free public event every year called the Brain Health Fair. This coincides with AAN’s rotating Annual Meeting. This year it was held in Washington DC. One of the cool things I get to do at AAN, besides graphic design and front end development, is the occasional event photography. And what a fun event to photograph! Here are some highlights.










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Freebie Textures

This summer, I’m taking Digital Painting with a Wacom Tablet through MCAD’s Continuing Education program with Lindsay Nohl. For one of our homework assignments we were asked to find some textures to add to our digital graphics in class. I took my camera around the house, and really had a great time hunting for textures. When I was done, I thought it would be great to provide them online as well.

Below are the thumbnails and web-quality images, but you can also download them at full-resolution at the bottom of the page. They are not perfect!

Feel free to use them commercially or for your own art. These are not for resale or for use in commercial templates. Do not republish or distribute on the web unless you provide a back link and credit to Shalanah Dawson.

DOWNLOAD Texture Photographs

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Two Great Sites on Learning Responsive Design

I was wandering the web looking for some inspiration for my next web design project, and I was amazed at how some sites responded well – and like magic – to any window size I made with my browser. I first noticed it on Smashing Magazine’s site (give it a try) and then very noticeably on CSS-Tricks (really quite well thought out). This is, of course, in reaction to our many tablets, large flat screens and tiny mobile phones. So I dedicated about 30 minutes a day for a couple weeks to learn about it.

I mostly relied on Fluid Grids by Ethan Marcotte and How to get started with Responsive Web Design by Ryan Boudreaux. For Ryan Boudreaux’s article, make sure you follow it all the way with the media queries and the images portion! I enjoyed both of these because they are step-by-step, you can even follow along and make your own test site. Happy coding!

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Pattern Making – (Way Harder Than It Looks!) Update 1

I am really enjoying the Pattern Making class through MCAD’s Continuing Education program this fall. It is definitely fun and very challenging/time consuming. I had no idea the time it takes to make a good – or even a bad – pattern! Here are my first attempts in the class. The first one is a “toss” pattern using arrows and the second set of patterns focus on the theme “Female in the White House” which isn’t really a holiday, but obviously something I’d like to see happen. Enjoy :) .

As a reminder… all rights are reserved for patterns below. Contact me if you would like to use them online, for publishing, or commercial purposes.

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Package Design – Illustration Class Update Part 3

Ever since my fingers were nimble enough, I have loved making friendship bracelets. It was a summer hobby as a kid and even recently I have stumbled upon finger weaving (which is great as well). So when we were asked to create a package design for an item that had been “neglected” by old or uninspired design, I knew my product right away – embroidery floss. Take a look at the idea below. I know there really is no market for this more elaborate packaging, but it was a lot of fun to create. The artwork was done using scratch board and the mock-up was created using Photoshop.


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Illustration Class Update Part 2

For this assignment, we were asked to create a portrait illustration of a 1960’s person and an object that goes with the person in some way. I chose Rachel Carson. She was a biologist who wrote about DDT and its affect on wildlife in her book “Silent Spring”. My first attempt combined both the object and a portrait of her (left) and in my second attempt (right two) I created little “icons” that could work in a website or as a favicon. All were created using Illustrator.

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Illustration Class Update Part 1 (MCAD Continuing Studies)

I am really enjoying my Illustration class at MCAD this summer. I was, at first, very hesitant to take such a class because I’ve never considered myself to be a very good illustrator; however, I have found it really great for exercising my creative muscles. I’ve also enjoyed having “assignments” again, because they really do open your mind to other problem solving techniques. See what I’ve been working on so far :) .

“Overheard in New York” inspired artwork in pen and India ink.
My quote went something like this, “Honey, flamingos don’t actually do anything.” It was apparently said from a mother to son in Central Park.

Opposing Point of View on scratch board used Photoshop to add text and text ornaments.
I skipped showing my first opinion piece because I thought it wasn’t my favorite work. My first opinion piece focused on nuns in America being singled out and persecuted by the Vatican. The following week’s assignment was to flip and create a work that displays the opposing viewpoint. I thought about how the Vatican must think of these nuns as rule breakers, not much unlike unruly school children.

Valentine’s Day Card in Illustrator.
I changed this assignment to be an anniversary card. Grant’s and my 1st year anniversary is this July. We met about 5.5 years ago at Como Park in St. Paul in the warming house before a broomball game. I was wearing a red hat.

20 stories in 60 minutes in Illustrator and Photoshop.
My image was inspired by the first 2 minute story in the NPR piece but definitely took some privileges on what I decided to illustrate.

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Summer Learning

It is funny because as a teacher or a student, we all look forward those last couple weeks of school to summer vacation. We think days at the beach and hours of reading or computer games, but to me the best summers are where I get to take a couple classes myself! Currently, I am taking one class via and two MCAD Continuing Education classes.

I just stumbled upon Learnable when I was searching for coding classes in web development. Most of the classes run upwards of $600 which is a bit spendy. But through Learnable, I can take classes for $15 a month. I’m taking PHP & MySQL Web Development for Beginners currently but will definitely take HTML5 before the summer is out too.

At MCAD, I’m taking Intro to Screen Printing, which I’ve actually taken before but would like some more studio time and Intro to Illustration. I have enjoyed every class I’ve taken through MCAD. I will definitely post some of my work by the end of the summer :) .

-Shalanah Dawson

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Graphic Design Donation to PADS. – Helping Kenyan Girls Go to School

Since it is summer and class is out, I’ve been itching to do some graphic design. A good college friend of mine, Megan Greulich, contacted me about helping her set up a domain name and WordPress site for a fundraising project she had in mind. Since all the proceeds of her project go straight to the cause, and she was putting her own money into the website, I thought it was the perfect time to donate some design.

Charity Kroeker, Megan’s co-worker and founder of the idea, came across AFRIpads after visiting a town in Kenya. She noticed that girls were not attending school, or even in some cases dropping out, simply because they did not have adequate feminine products. In order to make a direct difference in the town she visited, she started PADS. – Perfect Attendance Dignity Squad – to raise money for the 1,315 female students to have the feminine products they need for a whole year. All the raised donations will go straight to the town through AFRIpads.

Under a very tight deadline, I worked on three posters, cleaned up the logo and put together the graphics for the WordPress site.

Take a look! And donate! It only takes $6.50 to help 1 Kenyan girl for a full year!

Have a good summer!
-Shalanah Dawson

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Photoshop Scale Project

New this trimester, inspired by the work of Slinkachu, Waconia High School Graphic Design students created images that played with Scale. Instead of photographing small people doing jobs in the macro world, my students used images off the internet and transformed them to make large images appear small and small images appear large. This was done with the aid of Photoshop. They worked to match the color, blur/sharpening, brightness/contrast and shadows to “sell” the image. See some of their work below. Click on the image to see their full gallery this Spring.


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MLK Day “I have a dream…” T-Shirts and Community Input Artwork

Waconia High School remembers MLK Jr. by having a day of service – a part of Make It Count. Our school worked with Kids Against Hunger over the school day to create meals. In order to offset some of the costs of this service project, we decided to sell t-shirts that promoted MLK Jr. Day of Service. I created the design below.

If you are interested in buying one let me know! We still have some smalls and mediums left over. :)

In our classrooms, teachers are encouraged to take part in service projects of our own or remembering MLK Jr. legacy. Inspired by the artist Candy Chang and her community input artwork, I created these small sheets of paper that students could reflect on their own personal goals that they could work towards. Amy Fischer, an art teaching co-worker and department chair, suggested they make them artistic as well – as you can see some students really enjoyed! Here is a selection of their dreams. It is a really simple idea, but I loved getting to know our students better through it.

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Interactive Photography Ed Website – Columbia College Chicago

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on Digital Photography for a new course I’m teaching at Waconia High School. I knew that Columbia College had an awesome photography program and an amazing free gallery – Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP); but, I didn’t know they also have a educational website on how to use cameras – Foundations Photo Lab. I really enjoyed “Motion and Shutter Speed” in particular. There, I found some great examples of how shutter speed affects the same shot. Look around. It is an awesome resource!

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Origami Documentary

I have always loved origami; ever since kindergarten, when I learned how to fold fortune tellers. There is something so fun and satisfying about bringing an object to life just from one square sheet of paper. This Thanksgiving weekend, my husband suggested that we watch a documentary called “Between the Folds”. It is an excellent film about all aspects of origami – the creation, the many artistic viewpoints, the mathematical and physical complexities and their real world applications. I highly recommend it!

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History of Feminism in an Art Comic & Movie

I arrived early to a broomball game at Augsburg’s Ice Arena so I decided to take a stroll down to the UofM Katherine E. Nash Gallery. They had work on display by Lynn Hershman Leeson. I greatly enjoyed my time in college where I got the chance to study the feminist art movement. Lynn Hershman Leeson had several artworks/exhibits on display. But I particularly love the comic book !Women Art Revolution by Spain Rodriguez that accompanies her movie about the rise of the feminist art movement. The comic book is so awesome because it quickly recounts the movement as it started and grew in a very understandable and witty way. I’m very impressed with the power of comics as teaching tools.

Here is an excerpt from the movie, by Lynn but was not on display, about how difficult it was to battle sexism and break into the art world. This clip is all-ages-friendly but the movie is suited for older audiences.

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