Palette of possibilities

5th January 1996 at 00:00
Martin Child surveys the growing array of computer resources for the art department

The computer is just a tool to be used in the art room. But this tool is beginning to have more functions than a Swiss Army penknife - and I expect someone is already working on a program for getting stones out of horses' hooves.

To use all the possibilities now available, you need a modern machine. Unlike the printing press, computers need updating. So when you visit BETT, as well as looking at the programs on offer, check out the latest hardware. Although it may be academic at the moment, if you know exactly what you want and why, then you will be in a good position to argue for better information technology facilities within your department.

So what should you make a bee-line for? Ablac will be showing Flying Colours, a comprehensive art package which includes ready-made templates for leaflets, invitations and greetings cards. The company will also demonstrate the latest version of Kid Works 2, to enable primary students to write and illustrate stories with sound and Kid Works Delux, which enables stories to be sent on the Internet. There is also Kid Cad, a 3-D building design studio.

For multimedia presentations look at the new sophisticated Multimedia Workshop, which allows professional quality document and video presentation. All of these programs are for PC or Mac.

At the Clares stand the latest graphical offering is Composition, a superb image manipulator for the Acorn Risc PC. It offers immense possibilities of image manipulation, including transposing parts of images to build up a single composition, with easy ways of masking and blending to give advanced and sophisticated graphical effects and photo-montages.

The Big Picture is an exciting art and image processing program from Longman Logotron. A natural development from the highly successful and simple-to-use ImagePro, this superb program has many new features and a whole new feel. It will run on any Acorn, with the Risc PC recommended.

Spacetech will be showing the professional version of Photodesk version 2. Additional processing capabilities make it an improvement over the pleasing original.

Micrografx Draw from Commotion, a friendly graphics program for the PC, is especially good at doing creative things with text. It has an extra 32 fonts and comes with a mass of clip-art images.

Of industrial quality, Autodesk software includes Autosketch and two excellent animation programs. 3D Studio and Animator Studio are both brilliant for creating professional animation on the PC. Iota offers the very simple to use The Complete Animator for Acorn or PC. It will also be showing Image Outliner which converts Sprites into Draw files on the Acorn. This is highly desirable when enlarging simple images, since there is no deterioration in resolution as the image is enlarged.

AVP has extended its useful PictureBase series to include Famous Faces from History and English Architecture, both of which are of interest to art departments and augment the pleasing Impressionism to the Twentieth Century and Art in the National Curriculum.

Other excellent CD titles include the now familiar Microsoft Art Gallery based upon the National Gallery collection, Investigating 20th Century Art by Attica, and Design Image Base by Longman.

If your school is wealthy enough, a liquid crystal display panel or projector will enable brilliant demonstrations or permit class discussion of images from a CD-Rom. Steljes will be showing the SmartView LCD Projection Panel. For Acorn, Videodesk from Irlam Instruments allows full-screen video editing on the desktop and enables titles and effects to be added. HCCS is showing Motion Picture, for the PC - a digitiser that grabs images from any video source.

Do not forget printers. A good colour printer is a great motivator. Integrex will be demonstrating its latest ink-jet printer, the Colourjet Master.

There is an increasing number of ways of investigating art on the Internet. Presently the most obvious possibility is to view current art catalogues, which should enable students to become familiar with what is going on in the contemporary art world. Students can also access a tour of the Louvre and look at images by the photographer Ansel Adams and the graphic artist M C Escher.

I am certain that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are sure to be many more possibilities in the near future. It could be worthwhile booking time at the Net@BETT to explore for yourself just what will be possible on the education superhighway.

In the 12 years that the BETT show has run, there has never been a more exciting time for art departments to get fully involved with the computer. This multi-faceted tool offers so many possibilities. In a very short time we have moved from penny farthing to space shuttle. I wonder where that space shuttle will now take us. One thing is for sure, if we don't get a ticket soon we will probably miss the ride.

* Ablac - stand 120. Attica - stand 317. Autodesk - stand 634. AVP - stand 355. Clares - stand 410. Commotion - stand 727. HCCS - stand 733. Integrex - stand 364. Iota - stand 331. Irlam Instruments - stand 408. Longman Logotron - stand 261. Microsoft - stand 231. Spacetech - stand 428. Steljes - stand 658

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