Digital drive

20th January 2006 at 00:00
As a teacher of art and design, I am frustrated at how little "drawing" is done these days. Increasingly, there is an over reliance on second-hand imagery and digital media in the creation of work. I continue to impress upon my students the importance of direct observation and drawing but most do just enough to meet the requirements of the course. I am not some "die hard" type but the recent decision to dispense with life drawing on "cultural grounds" has left me bereft. Because our Muslim pupils were unable to take part in life drawing classes it was considered "discriminatory". This, coupled with poor attendance and the negative results of a trendy questionnaire given to students as part of an enfranchisement move, meant that life drawing was deemed irrelevant.

Since the Sixties, drawing has become increasingly irrelevant but still continues to be a course requirement in some form or another for art and design courses, so I am surprised to hear about the lack of life drawing in your department. I am a great believer in drawing and the skills that underpin it, but I am also a great believer in the cultural relevance of digital media. Whether we like it or not, we are teaching the binary generation. They understand computers, remember how to use them, teach themselves for fun and even teach their teachers and parents how to use them. Their knowledge elevates them beyond their elders and is understandably addictive. This expertise should be encouraged. With less able pupils, digital media is a wonderfully motivating tool in art and design. The results are instantaneously attractive and, because of their innate gift, pupils are able to create extremely sophisticated images that would be difficult to achieve with traditional materials.

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