The Digital Art Space
Learning Art and Design in a Digital Classroom
The earliest memory I have of an art class was in grade school when I was thrown into a world of concepts, techniques, and a plethora of art terms that served as the foundation of later acquired skills. I had my pencils, a drawing pad and an object I was to render while the teacher wrote out terms on the blackboard. Between spelling out chiaroscuro and deciding on a shading technique, I was, for the most part, overwhelmed. I was never a fan of all the technical exercises, but they were an integral part to honing a skill. Once the techniques were understood, they were applied to practical use. Similar teaching methods persisted well into my university years. I was once again learning and practicing through repetitive exercises and concept-driven projects.
If we were to dissect the anatomy of any one of my art classes, it would have three obvious components: the instructor, the subject or medium and the students. All three exists in an ideally nurturing environment where the interaction between student and instructor is of mutual benefit. The environment I speak of refers to the physical space in which the student and the teacher occupy and interact in. The physical space, for me, was the open studio of a university building with its aging plaster walls, large windows and the lingering scent of paint and aerosol cans as persistent as the traffic humdrum outside its walls. However, the classroom itself no longer has to exist in a physical space. The digital age has transformed the way we make art and the space we make it in.
A digital classroom functions much like its counterpart. It has all the basic parts that makes up a traditional class setting. How do we then judge the merits of a digital classroom in relation to its counterpart? The appeal stems from three key points of interest for prospective students looking for an alternative to the traditional classroom structure: individual-focused classes, accessibility, and a global community support.
Online education of any subject caters more to the needs of an individual than is possible in a physical classroom. Lessons have moved away from being electronic carbon copies of source materials with the aid of interactive media. It has never been more true in relation to learning art and design in a digital art space. While we have migrated outside of the art studio, the essence of learning by example, and peer reviews survive in many of these online communities, but with the perks of individual customization.
Online communities like Skillshare and Lynda.com are an excellent source for art and design classes taught by industry professionals. Signing up for these classes provides students the curriculum to cater to their needs with much more flexibility than a typical classroom or studio may offer. A student can start a design course, and proceed through each lesson at small increments fitting to their schedule. Accompanying video tutorials, guided exercises, and individual assignments allow the student to learn more so from doing said examples in conjunction with the interactive media. It is the same for taking an online art course like digital painting.
When I took concept artist Noah Bradley’s Artcamp, a 12-week art intensive, my fellow course mates and I were given access to hour-long art demos each week. Oftentimes, we were encouraged to dive into doing our weekly exercises alongside his guided videos. In a way, it is a reflection of a teaching technique that is present in traditional classrooms, yet, it is the accessibility of these classes that make it so appealing to a wide demographic.
Global accessibility provides a highly flexible learning environment, but also is an affordable way to acquire a specific art or design skill without having to pay the brunt of an in-campus class. Students are able to handpick the kind of lessons they wish to learn, and experience the lesson at a pace in which they prefer and ideally succeed in. Continued access to the curriculum enables students to return to previous assignments and exercises with the same convenience as before. Once projects are completed and students have submitted their work, the online community operates much like an in-class peer review. Students receive feedback and critique through message boards dedicated to encouraging user interaction. For instance, Skillshare has a function at the end of each completed exercise to post up work for other students of the same class to view and critique. Similarly, Artcamp encourages students to post up assignments and exercises for peer evaluations.
The digital classroom provides a unique experience to learning art and design – its curriculum focuses on accessibility, individual-oriented classes, and community support that are adaptable to a wide demographic including prospective learners looking for an alternative to the traditional classroom structure without sacrificing any of its advantages. Regardless of the way we learn a skill and where we learn it from, having more creative flexible venues to study and explore is an advantage to the artist’s growth relative to the times he or she is living in. In support of digital classrooms, I, for one, am not adverse to learning at my own pace in my own time while in the comfort of my pyjamas.