Art isn’t just about paper and paints, in this day and age we mustn’t neglect that newest of art forms – digital art. It’ll be interesting to see whether the arrival of the computer in the late 20th century turns out to have a similar effect as that of the arrival of photography on artists in the 19th century. Then, arguably, it helped to kick-start the arrival of abstract art – after all, who could compete with a camera when it came to representation. Artists had to paint something else, something that a camera, concerned only with surface reality, could not achieve – inner truths, emotions, etc. Even in representational art it encouraged new ways of seeing, new ways of composing a picture.
There can be a somewhat snobbish attitude to digital art, an attitude that takes it less seriously, and regards it as somehow less skillful, than ‘real’ art. Certainly it throws up new challenges, new potential, new issues to explore – for example where does the role of the artist and that of the computer start and finish? There are also issues of long-term preservation, and of copyright, and then there are the artists who are exploring and blurring the boundaries between the more traditional techniques of fine art, and those of digital art….
Encouraging children to try out and experiment with this newest of art forms can expand their creative horizons, and help develop their computer skills. The internet is a vast place, continuously growing at a rapid pace, and there is lots out there to help children develop their digital creativity. So I have put together a select list of some of the best that I’ve come across so far:
There is no shortage of sites that allow you to colour in an image digitally, and becasue I’m sure you’ll have come across them, I’m not going to list any here. They are great for young kids, as they get a pleasing result very easily, and can then be printed off. They may need a little help to get the hang of what to do, but it’s great hand-eye co-ordination practice, and gets them familiar with using a computer mouse.
However, in addition to the onscreen colouring, there are also some sites which allow you to create your own ‘customised’ colouring sheets, by combining a variety of motifs and backgrounds as you see fit:
http://www.crayola.com includes this as one of the elements on its site, which also includes lots of ideas for art and craft activities.
http://www.haringkids.com – If you like Keith Haring’s artwork, his website also has a section where you can create and digitally colour your own colouring sheet in the style of his artwork. This one is great for young and old alike.
Digital Drawing & Painting
Beyond ditital colouring, the next stage is digital drawing and painting, where you create a composition of your own. It can be tricky to control the mouse for this kind of drawing (it’s much easier if you use a digital drawing tablet) but it’s fine for playing about with abstract scribbles or simple drawings. However some sites will also allow you to create compositions using drag and drop and a range of motifs that you can combine or customise at will.
One of the most entertaining elements of this site is an interactive facility to create your own street art on an empty brick wall – great fun for budding Banksys. It also includes a number of other artistic games, with added art history education along the way, and the ability to create your own gallery choosing favourite works from the Tate collection, or allowing children to upload their own work to share with the world.
This site is well worth a visit – it’s not intended just for kids, but it includes a whole range of art and craft activities. There are games to create your own pop art and cartoon art, a children’s book to create, and lots of other entertaining online creative activities.
http://www.kerpoof.com– owned and operated by Disney, this site has a number of online drawing tools, including the ability to create your own animated movie, and create your own story book which you can print out.
You may well have come across this site before – it’s an online facility for creating Word Art in the form of word clouds. Not one for young children, but entertaining for older kids and adults! It’s really easy to use, and they also make great posters if you print them out.
In addition to these there are quite a few online drawing applications, of varying characteristics and levels of sosphistication:
http://www.zefrank.com/scribbler/ Create a simple scribble, and then sit back and watch it ‘develop’ further – it’s quite entertaining to see what’s created from your original scribble.
http://artpad.art.com I liked this one, because it’s very simple, and allows you to splash paint around with a bucket as well as using a brush. At the end you can ‘frame’ it and post it to the online gallery to share with the world.
Another simple online drawing tool.
http://bomomo.com – Digital drawing with a difference. Not particularly aimed at kids, you can have lots of fun creating semi-random compositions with a variety of digital tools. You can also save the finished result onto your computer.
http://www.studioludens.com/repper/lite/ – this online application allows you to create your own repeating patterns. It’s not a children’s site, but older kids could use it, and I’ve certainly bookmarked it for future use. There is a ‘lite’ version which is free, and a more sophisticated version which you pay for.
There are no doubt lots more out there – so if you’ve come across any that you’d like to recommend, do add it as a comment.
And finally, if you find your child really takes to digital art, there is also dedicated software aimed at children such as the Art Attack Double Pack. For older children it’s also well worth investing in a graphics tablet – these vary in price tremendously, but you can get a perfectly reasonable one to be going on with quite cheaply. I’m not knowledgeable enough to advise on a good starter model, but I’ve been happily using a fairly cheap A5 size Wacom digital tablet for some time now.
If you’ve come across any digital art sites, particularly any suitable for kids, then add a comment below, and I’ll add them to a future post.