We all accept that ICT opens up a whole world of possibilities for creativity, but it is important to keep the subject values at the forefront and not be sidetracked by beguiling computer techniques. It is always refreshing to see just how much good practice is taking place in our primary schools. This is evident in a new book, Art Through IT (pound;12.95). Written by Pete Worrall and Kevin Mathieson, it is a visual feast of exciting primary school IT projects.
This is not a step-by-step book, as it presumes that the teacher has a certain ICT ability and reinforces the necessity of teaching basic ICT skills to pupils. The great thing about this publication is that it has a large number of genuinely creative activities and contains numerous illustrations of pupils' work. With projects ranging from digital robots to virtual sculptures, illuminated numbers to multimedia presentations, it contains a great deal of inspiration. Although this book is designed for key stages 1 and 2, secondary art teachers could also find it useful.
Much of the work in Art Through IT was produced using Photoshop Elements.
Elements 2 (pound;39.12) is a very popular program for primary and secondary school use because it contains the most useable features of Photoshop in a very affordable and accessible package. It offers a lot of scope for image manipulation and also has layers for building up complex images. It even has recipes for creating certain effects.
Revelation Natural Art (pound;49) is also a great program for primary use.
It is a very slick natural media package, aimed more at drawing on the computer than image manipulation. It has a customisable menu bar, so that it can be used from Year 1 upwards. There is also an extremely simple, but effective, animation tool. The program's main drawback is the lack of layers.
The other two popular image manipulation programs, mainly used in secondary schools, are the complete version of Photoshop CS and also Paintshop Pro.
Paintshop Pro 8 (pound;51.04) has been redesigned and is now more intuitive to use. Competitively priced, it is a well-designed program that gives full control of image manipulation. It has the added bonus of the easy-to-use Animation Shop program. Photoshop CS (pound;255.31) has also been redesigned and offers some useful new features, such as a new file browser for easy sorting of images. Text can now be made to follow a path, and digital photographs can be automatically corrected for shadow highlight detail. It comes with ImageReady CS, which makes preparing images for publication on the web a simple task. Photoshop CS is a very comprehensive professional program which rightly remains the market leader.
A clever little screen saver program Xara Screenmaker 3D (pound;9) enables images to be pasted on to tumbling dice. Digital images or scans of artwork can be imported. I am sure that pupils would be delighted to have their work featured on this screensaver, which could be a great way of promoting the art department to the rest of the school. 3D text can also be used as a screensaver.
Another simple but effective program, IT3D (pound;40), makes the creation of 3D images on the computer a simple task. Take two digital photographs 3 to 4 inches apart (I found that using a tripod helped) and the software will combine them into one double image. Looking at the resulting picture on the computer screen or as a print-out through redgreen glasses makes the image appear to be 3D. This could be a good way of recording sculpture, or examining different approaches to perception.
The mouse is a notoriously bad way of recording gesture, compared to pencil, pen, pastel and paintbrush. A good way around this is to use a graphics tablet. The "pen" responds to pressure - press harder and the line gets thicker and the colour stronger - so it feels more natural to use.
Every computer does not need one, but at least having one in an art department will open up further creative possibilities.
Wacom has a range of graphics tablets, including the Graphire Classic (pound;59.57), which has an A6 tablet, pen, mouse and a copy of a very useable "painting" program. Best results are achieved when using Natural Media programs, such as Painter Classic, the exceptional Painter 8 (pound;312) and Revelation Natural Art, which all emulate "proper" art materials and can produce satisfying results. But don't forget, although these programs imitate "real" media, it is all just electronic trickery. The real trick, when using ICT in art, is to expand the pupil's creative experience.
If you only see three things...
Photoshop CS is superb. The whole feel of the program is significantly improved and it has enough tweaks and improvements to make a change worthwhile.
Also Photoshop Elements 2.
Adobe Systems Stand W70 Tel: 020 8606 4000 www.adobe.co.ukeducationpurchasingmain.html
Don't miss the Digital Workshop stand to check out Paintshop Pro 8, Animation, Shop, Photo Album (pound;15.29) and Opus Pro (pound;127.63) - the easy multimedia program. The company also has a new program called Inksaver (pound;25.50) which makes digital printing much more economical.
Also, be sure to seek out Berol E72 to check out the real Natural Media on display.
Digital Workshop G32 Tel: 0870 1202186 www.digitalworkshop.com
I liked Revelation Natural Art when I first tried it last year and it has grown on me since then. I know that many primary schools agree that this is a very sophisticated program which feels special for pupils to use.
Widgit Software SN10 Tel 01223 425558 www.logo.com
Other contacts Corel (Painter 8) www.corel.com
Folens Publishers (Art Through IT - ISBN 0 947882 618) Tel: 01582 470817 www.folens.com
IT3D SW69 Tel: 01234 708432 www.it3d.com
Wacom Z136(Graphire Classic) Tel: +49 2151 3614 304 www.wacom.co.uk
Xara Group (Screenmaker 3D) Tel: 01442 350000 www.xara.com