Why Art Education Needs an Upgrade

Look at your computer. You were probably looking at it already, unless you’re on your phone––in which case, even better. Look through the apps you have, the rainbow of icons you can effortlessly scroll through, maybe open one. Observe the splashscreens, the fonts, the headers, the logos.

There’s a reason why most popular applications are visually appealing: they are works of art, designed by artists and programmers alike, seamlessly melding digital graphics with code to create a user-friendly experience.

What does this have to do with art education?

Absolutely everything.

When people think “art class” they picture painting, pencil drawing, and maybe some modeling clay. These skills are vitally important––especially, in my opinion, the fundamentals of drawing.

However, being exposed to digital art is becoming more and more important for people of many different careers, from product development to website design.  Click here for a very cool post about product design in consumer technology today by Adriana Lee at TechnoBuffalo.

What can schools do better, then, to help prepare students for this rapidly changing industry? As a 15-year-old self-taught graphics and game designer, I have a few ideas that I’d love to share with you.

 

Traditional art is still important!

Digital art will never quite replicate the organic purity of an oil painting or a charcoal sketch. However, technology is making it easier for traditional artists to share, collaborate, expand on, and improve their work.  Watch a video of Tim Von Rueden turning a pencil sketch into a digital painting:

 

It’s not fun being a one-trick pony.

On teaching or learning how to use programs: Technology is constantly evolving. The “next big thing” could instantly make a software you’ve mastered obsolete and outdated.

For this reason, learning which buttons to press in order is not nearly as intuitive as learning what the buttons do and why. When someone understands both what to do as well as how and why it’s done, they become capable of adapting to any kind of software, no matter how many updates or new versions are released. In point of fact, this adaptability is a skill that applies to much more than just graphics technology.

 

Is it affordable?

Many students crave new and more professional outlets for their creativity, and digital art software offers unlimited “paper” and access to every color known to man. Here are some of my favorites.

Free or Inexpensive Digital Art and Design Solutions to Check Out:

FireAlpaca

PaintTool SAI

Sketchbook Express

GIMP

Paint.NET

InkScape

For Sculptors and 3D artists:

Blender

Sculptris

Are you one of those cool iPad schools? Check out The 5 Best iPad Apps for Designers by Digital Arts

Not to mention that there are student and educator discounts for many more programs like Adobe Photoshop! As Adobe’s website says, “...creativity is no longer an elective. It’s the future.”

Is your school’s art program keeping up with the demands of the times? Are you considering introducing new creative technology? Leave a comment on Twitter @iSchoolAdvocate and @tehshmarah!


Sarah “Shmarah” Almeda is a 16-year-old tuba-playing work-in-progress that likes to make cool things! She hopes to make cool things for the rest of her life, such as video games, fruit dogs, and brownies with hidden Oreos inside. Snazzy hats, smiles, and encouraging teachers are among her favorite things. She goes to New Milford High School (that’s New Jersey, not Connecticut) and you can find her on Twitter @tehshmarah.