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A paint program tutorial.

Several years ago, when I found that the school computer lab was available during my planning period, I offered to introduce a group of seventh and eight grade study hall students to computer graphics. Many were at-risk students with poor attendance records. With only one manual, written well over their heads, I had to come up with another teaching method. My solution was to write a tutorial, set up much like a lesson plan. Each lesson explained two or more tools or techniques and gave a drawing assignment to complete before going on to another tool.

Since the class was open on a sign-up basis, several students were at different places on the tutorial and the experiences students taught the new users. This peer/helper approach verified for the students they were learning something others wanted to learn, which boosted their self-image. Soon we were the hottest class in school and these at-risk students were showing up at school just to use the lab. By the end of the year, we had five computer graphics published in a computer magazine and I had a computer for the artroom.

Since then I have used the paint program tutorial for student and adult classes. I have taught Deluxe Paint and Paintworks Gold on both the Apple GS and Amiga, drawing only with a mouse. This helps the students concentrate on the line aspect of their drawings and encourages them to learn a drawing technique they can rely on later when peripheral technology doesn't meet their needs. Any difficulty they first experience is offset by the geometric tool, and cut and paste too, and the save and undo keys. These allow them to take risks that paper and canvas won't tolerate. Mouse drawing also forces them to slow down, resulting in a nice contour line.

When the students have completed the tutorial, they begin to use the computer as an art media like any other. If they're not sure about a color scheme or composition, they experiment with the design on the computer. They are learning the advantages and limitations of their art tool on their own initiative.

The paint programs are excellent for teaching color theory and mixing. Although they are mixing light, the students can easily see how mixing pigments is similar. I find palette development the most challenging and rewarding part of computer painting.

Teaching calligraphy and cartooning lends itself well to the computer. The vocabulary of fonts and animation make the curriculum more relevant to students who hopes for a career in art. Once they learn one paint program they will find any new program easier to learn.

Best of all is the finished product. It will impress both artist and viewer whether the audience is another student, a parent or an administrator. This can lead to a bigger budget for more tools. One capability leads to another which keeps you and your students excited about art.

A paint program is a strong building block that is not hard to learn or teach. Approach it as any other media and teach it with the same type of lesson you use for drawing and painting - the basics are the same.

If there are computer and paint programs available to you, take them home over a holiday and spend some time with them; you'll find it fun and rewarding. If you're having difficulty, contact a local user group. They have members who don't mind a frantic call for help, because even the most experienced user was once where you are now.

Bettie Lake teachers art in Phoenix Elementary School, District #21, Phoenix, Arizona.
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Author:Lake, Bettie
Publication:School Arts
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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