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The Virtual Gallery was a collaboration between the Computer and Art departments at Campbell Hall School. Every year the Art department was holding an art show, in which sixth grade students select an artwork by a famous artist and they try to recreate it on their own. The finished product was presented in the yearly art show, which was open for parents and guests. At the same time, I was introducing sixth graders to Painter—a professional painting application—in computer class. The upcoming art show and the enthusiasm that students expressed using this application, gave me the idea of trying to create a digital version of the artworks. Students started their paintings by using the pencil tool to make the drawing while looking at the original and used a rich variety of brushes and artistic styles, such as: impressionist, Van Gogh style, oil, acrylic, charcoal, etc. to paint it. The final product exceeded my expectations. In order to create an impressive presentation of these outstanding works, I decided to make a multimedia presentation of the artworks, presenting each student’s work on a separate page. Each page contained the student’s name, picture, artwork critique, and the actual masterpiece. I used Macromedia’s Director to create a slideshow of the paintings, using transitions to move between the pages. The presentation became part of the yearly art show and drew a lot of praise and enthusiasm. The project’s success attracted the interest of other faculty and staff. In particular, the admissions department, which used it to present to prospective parents, as a model of student work at Campbell Hall.
I think that this project was a great learning experience for students. The best way to learn art is to try to emulate the masters. And by drawing a masterpiece, students experienced the problems and difficulties that professional artists have to go through when doing their artwork. In computers, using a professional tool to work on a real-life project is the best way to master the tool. Students came out of the experience with a better appreciation of the work of the artist and with a future vision of the potential embedded in digital art.
This experience was so rewarding for the students and for me as a teacher, that I would definitely repeat it again. However, I would extend the experience, by encouraging students to create their own artistic creations and print it on canvas, to enhance their feeling of artistic achievement and encourage them to create additional artworks.