A computer used for its graphics capability is both a tool and a
medium--paints and brushes, clay and kilns,etc. Because computers handle
graphics so well and so quickly (and no mess!), they ought to be an
integral part of the artroom--and at least one graphics program should be
available in every classroom.
Another big advantage of using the computer is the way changes can be made
or unmade so quickly, giving students an opportunity to explore
possibilities--something many need desperately to learn--or correct mistakes
A computer can adapt to almost any learning/working style. I think one of
the reasons I enjoy working on the computer so much is that it fits my style
of experimenting, exploring and responding (rather than pre-visualizing each
detail). If you prefer to have it all planned out in your mind first, you
can do that or you can sketch and experiment first. Or you can sketch on
paper, then work on the computer--or work out your ideas on the computer
A computer makes possibilities available to even the youngest students that
they couldn't possibly do otherwise (unless you have unlimited equipment and
time) e.g. image manipulation that would take hours--and sophisticated
Almost any two-dimensional project you would use in an artroom or classroom
can be adapted for doing on the computer--which is a great help for the one
(or no) computer artroom! Let one group do it on the computer and compare
results, or let students who wish to, do it that way as extra credit or
make-up or independent study.
There are lots of ways a computer can be a part of 3-D projects, as
well--even with a plain old paint program. Just do some creative thinking...
A computer keyboard isn't a substitute for pounding a chunk of clay.
Computers are just another tool--artists create art, computers don't, but
artists can use computers to make art.
I know this is getting long, but I'd like to add a bit about choosing
programs. Be careful! Most of the kid programs are gimmicky-and the kids
will concentrate on the gimmicks rather than "learning to create art". The
one exception I would make is Kid Pix for the youngest ones. I know some
adults who like to play with it, too, but that's like choosing baby food
when there's other things available!
You are looking for a program that is intuitive enough that a student (who
is at all familiar with computers) can enjoy using it with a minimun of
instruction. At the same time, you want a program that is sophisticated
enough to handle an unlimited amount of learning and experimenting. That's
a tall order!
My choice (if anybody would give me such a thing!) would be as follows (and
these choices are dictated by the (PC) programs I have tried.)
K-1 or 2: Kid Pix II
2-4: I am not satisfied with the choices for this age. Crayola Artist is
the best of the kid programs. If you have old computers, Deluxe Paint II
is equally old but still has some good features (I keep it on my computer
for its symmetry tool). If you have more powerful computers, I'd use the
Crayola program but introduce them as quickly as possible to the next level.
5-on up: I know I'm talking money here, but it's an investment, that's all I
can say. There are two kinds of programs--vector and bitmap--and some
hybrids are coming out, as well.
A vector program is primarily a drawing/technical kind of program. You can
change the size of images with no problems. Using them means learning a
different kind of thinking, so they are not quite as intuitive. If you need
precision, however, you need one of these. Possibilites--Smartsketch (a
hybrid),Corel's Xara (both under $100); CorelDraw ( 3 is under $100, but the
newer versions are easier to use, as well as doing more)
Bitmap based programs work much more like traditional artist tools. Windows
Paintbrush is a very simple one. (But it's better than nothing--and you can
learn an awful lot about color just from manipulating the custom colors here.)
Most of the kid programs are bitmap based. I tried very hard to like
Fauve's Matisse which is a middle quality paint program (I still hate it!)
I'd still spend the money for Fractal Design's Painter (or better yet, find
someone who has upgraded and will donate their old Painter 2). This program
is professional in quality but (as long as your kids are willing to accept
some guidance in what they experiment with) even second graders will have a
ball with it.
Another alternative is Corel's Photopaint (buy it alone or as part of a
CorelDraw suite). You can draw, paint, manipulate images, etc. (Photoshop
is another sophisticated image program, but Photopaint will do much the same.)
If you do a lot of drawing of people--try Poser (Fractal Design). I was a
bit disappointed in it, but it would be great to follow-up with on for older
And don't forget the plug-ins--Kai's Power Tools will get the experimental
juices really flowing (just be sure to check that you have the programs it
works with--Photoshop (preferred), Photopaint, Painter, etc)
And of course, there are 3-D programs and ray-tracing and animation and
movie editing and on and on...
Sorry this got so long--I do tend to get wound up about the possibilities of