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									                                   ICT in Art

(Published TES, November 2004)

As if on cue Shahin lets out a, “Wah!” “Thank you,” responds Jo Easton,

his Art Teacher. She had predicted this response moments before whilst

talking the group through a particular procedure. “Fill with pattern,” she

had said, “and you‟ll all go „Ooh!‟”. And he did.

Her GCSE art group were using Adobe Photoshop to explore repeating

patterns, the sort of images made familiar through the work of Andy

Warhol. Jo Easton had scanned in packaging from everyday products,

such as Kit Kat, Rice Krispies and even a packet of Japanese crisps, then

taught her pupils how to bleach them to make line drawings and fill a page

with them ready for the next stage of adding colour. To the sceptic this

might seem like an electronic version of colouring in. “This is just the

start,” explains Jo, and to prove the point Louie begins to talk animatedly

about how he is going to use different reds getting lighter then darker

again as he works down his page of forty or so Juicy Fruit wrappers in

three columns. Whilst he prefers doing art by hand he recognises the

strengths of the computer. “I suppose it‟s quicker. More efficient.”

His classmates agree. “You can try out the techniques, like „stroke‟ and

you can use ideas on the computer then do them with paint,” adds

Kimberley, “But doing it by hand is more relaxing. This is more technical,

you have to think more. It‟s more natural with a paintbrush.”

Despite the occasional “Wow” moment there is little novelty value in using

computers in art for this group, they have been doing it since they
started their GCSE course back in September and see them as just

another tool. They work in near silence, the only sound the chirruping of

mouse clicks and the hum of traffic on the road outside. A study in

concentration and commitment to their studies. However, for some of

them this hasn‟t always been the case. This mixed group of year 11 pupils

are working in 3rd Base, part of the Tower Hamlets Pupil Referral Unit

working with Key Stage four pupils who are no longer in mainstream

schools, for all sorts of reasons. Their application to their work is

admirable and should be well rewarded come the exams.

“They do the GCSE in two to two and a half terms,” explains Jo, with

impressive results. “We get the whole range from G to A star. Generally

it‟s C or above. The moderator last year thought that the ICT work was

„A‟ level. Within the context of the whole GCSE it has a place. I never see

it as separate.”

Using ICT starts at the beginning of the year with the well established

technique of printing digital photos on acetates then projecting them

onto paper using an OHP, literally an image duplicator in the vein of Roy

Lichtenstein. “The OHP is a really good tool that is used by a lot of

contemporary artists. You can develop drawing skills that way, but it‟s not

a substitute for drawing,” explains Jo Easton. “I think it helps students

develop a sense of line and texture. It shouldn‟t be used as mere copying.

They have to change or recompose the image in some way. It becomes

more personal. Tightly framed, but personal.” She recognises the

attractiveness of the images, that they are, “very seductive. The quality

of colour. The flatness. It is very compelling.”
She sees ICT as a way of feeding the fine art skills, that students can

use the filters in programs such as Photoshop to experiment with some of

the formal aspects of painting such as line, tone and colour. It is this

aspect that Jo Easton sees as important. “There‟s always the „Undo‟

button and the History Pallet so you can go all the way back. It is very

clean and quite removed.” It is perhaps this sense of removal that means

the class prefer the real tools to the computer. As Jo acknowledges,

“There is definitely always going to be a place for that physical

experience. You‟ve got to know what it is like to physically smudge

something even if you have done it on the computer.”

There are also fewer opportunities to talk to each other when working on

computers, apart from asking a neighbour, “How did you do that?” and

sometimes calling out, “Jo.” From watching a demonstration on a data

projector they are now working on their own machines. All of them

comfortable with the language of this medium, “RGB,” flatten,” “stylize”

and more slip comfortably from their lips. Having created bitmap images

the group have overlaid one on another then offset the upper one.

Amy, meanwhile has added her own technique to those suggested rubbing

out parts of the top image to bring through the bottom one. This all fits

well with Jo Easton‟s aim of exploring texture, layers and mixed media.

Already some of the group have applied similar techniques to digital

photos. One output is a striking self-portrait on the art room wall made

up of black and white checks which started life as a bitmap, once suitably

filtered and stylized it was projected onto paper and each square painted

by hand. Another project saw digital collages from Photoshop printed and
used to create physical ones by hand, building on and developing what the

computer could do.

It has taken the group a while to get to this point and it has not always

been easy. “I have had students who would work independently on painting

or drawing, but who would not work independently on a computer,” says Jo

Easton. “They can get horribly lost in Photoshop so you have to really

restrict the area they work in. They can come up with their own ideas

after that. They are set quite tightly controlled tasks using specific

tools. Within that they have choice over what they do.”

The effort is clearly worth it, as Kimberly proudly shows off her

interpretation of the Campbell‟s soup tin made famous by Andy Warhol

she declares, “Jo, I‟m a genius.” And no-one disagrees.

Hints and tips for using ICT in Art

Before you begin be clear about your aims for the lesson and know the

tools. Your choose of resources might be determined by what the school

has available, if not there are a range of programs on the market from

“Adobe Photoshop”, (designed for manipulating images), to “Painter” from

Corel (which emulates painting techniques) depending on what you want to

achieve. Consider doing a course, perhaps at a local FE college, to get to

know the program, particularly for industry standards. If you want to use

digital cameras, scanners and graphics pads check that they are available,

that you know how to use them, and how to transfer images from them to

the computers.

In the lesson;
      Explicitly teach the skills and techniques you want your students to


      Begin with tightly organised activities using limited tools and


      Think about how the ICT will fit in with the scheme of work. Is it

       completely self-contained or part of a bigger project? Check the

       syllabus for exam courses.

      Make sure you can get the output you want. Will you need special

       papers such as photographic or transfers for copying onto cloth?

      Make sure you have technical back up, that the program is working

       and that help is readily available during the lesson.

Finally be prepared for when the pupils begin to experiment and explore.

Help them to keep the focus on the artwork and to see the ICT as a tool

to achieve this rather than as an end in itself, and to appreciate their

creations as that.

For more information about ICT in Art visit the National Curriculum in

Action site at http://www.ncaction.org.uk/subjects/art .

John Galloway

June 2004

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