Interview with Leah from Mind Creativity: art workshops for kids

Oct 03, 2012 No Comments by

Interview questions: Marianna Feitiero,  Journalism student, University of the Sunshine Coast  – Leah Robinson – Mind Creativity: art workshops for kids

In my research I found a great number of “independent” professionals who teach Computer Art to children by means of workshops or after class lessons, but very few cases of schools that have included this category in their program. How do you feel about that? Is it important for children to be exposed to computer-generated art at school?

The federal government has funded hardware as part of its Digital Education Revolution Initiative. In NSW DET has funded have Adobe Creative Suite software for the schools. I believed this to be a great time for schools to get into digital art and that they would require outside services to get them ready.

In my own experience I have found it very difficult to find schools that are open to digital media – even as after school activities on their premises for their own students. The parents want this – but the schools have no incentive to provide it. The schools don’t have 3d animation software – and that is what the kids want to learn.

I am not sure how much digital art is in the curriculum, but I believe that it gets incidental attention, ie it’s used as a means to an end – using an Adobe app to assist with completing a task, that is part of a project. There seems to be no focus on digital art as a subject of its own – nor is it seen as an art medium in itself.

Yes I believe it is important for children to be exposed to computer art at school because they must be prepared for their future – for the global language of the future. See more in answer to last question.

There is an article in your website about how art improves students’ mental health. In which ways do you think Computer Art in particular can help a child’s development?

I like to use art therapy concepts in my computer art exercises. Exercises to improve self-esteem and self-image can be translated into computer art projects with rich multimedia outcomes. The multimedia art format allows them to tell their personal story – by combining video, sound, images, text and animation. It is much easier to produce a comprehensive outcome, which communicates ideas and information effectively by using the scope that digital technology allows. They have increased options for self-expression, imagining a positive future for themselves and their world, identifying with their heroes. Ultimately they can learn to feel connected, empowered and responsible for humanity and the planet through inhabiting virtual worlds and communities, etc.

Creativity in general produces innovation and promotes original thinking. Computer art can help a child’s development in that they learn technical and creative problem-solving skills which give them confidence and resilience. It is often collaborative entailing the development of teamwork and organizational skills. Jason Ohler[1] points out that computer art also helps a child’s development in that they:

  • learn associatively rather than linearly
  • develop improved cognitive function
  • have improved motivation – receptive to learning

According to your website, you have experience in both traditional and digital media. What are the differences in the ways children respond to each one of them? For example, do the show more interest to one of them, do they tend to find one is easier than the other, etc.?

I find that some kids say they can’t draw in the traditional sense – yet they love computer art classes. They really love animation. A lot of the time they don’t need to be able to draw. Kids who like computers want to emulate their favourite game characters, animated icons and so on. They spend a lot of their leisure time gaming – it’s a world they exist in. My classes attract students who are already computer literate.

It is important to maintain traditional art and drawing skills. I always include drawing as conceptual tool, ie. They are asked to draw rough ideas as sketches on paper before they start on the computer. This is useful when they get carried away with the technology and forget about their project idea. There will always be a need to visualise with drawing – whether it is done on paper or on a computer. I believe in technology being used creatively – as an imagination amplifier – not for its own sake.

The students do not show as much interest in traditional drawing – it’s the computer art that excites them.  They see the computer as, among other things, a tool to draw with – why use pen and paper?

Why have you decided to focus your workshops on digital art and on children?

I have digital media skills and I saw that it is not being provided for children as a field in its own right. Visual arts practice went through this phase in the 90s when digital art became a recognized as a field of study in university courses and in the eyes of granting bodies. Somehow primary schools have been left behind.

I chose digital art for children because I want to help equip upper primary school children to multitask in their mediated digital world. I wanted to turn my skills toward creating courses incorporating a variety of exercises carefully designed to unlock children’s creativity and develop self confidence, problem solving skills, resilience, and of course FUN! I believe in the power of art to communicate complex ideas and improve the world through beauty – I want to help create more visual communicators in the world. I want to demystify the nature of art and increase awareness and value in the minds of people – of art that is everywhere around us in so many forms. The digital devices and artforms of the future are unknown at present. I believe they will be virtual worlds where every activity in life can be conducted. We need to invest in creative minds to build these worlds for our future way of life.

Finally, do you think Computer Art is more likely to be mainly produced by new generations? Why? Why not?

Yes I believe computer art is the art medium of the future. We are experiencing a “shift from text-only to multimedia environments.“[2]  Children grow up with technology and are native to these multimedia environments. They need to become fluent in the use this technology as their fundamental literacy form for all types of communications. The professional world in which today’s children will find themselves, is very different to the workplace of today. Digital media is the new global language. Imagination and creativity are essential to the job roles of this innovation driven workplace.

Some other things you might find useful:

Future Classroom  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3141437.htm



[1] Jason Ohler, Art Becomes the Fourth R, page 4-5 http://www.jasonohler.com/fourhtr This article originally appeared in Education Leadership Magazine, October 2000.

[2] Jason Ohler, Art Becomes the Fourth R, page 6 http://www.jasonohler.com/fourhtr This article originally appeared in Education Leadership Magazine, October 2000.

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About the author

Leah is an experienced visual artist of both traditional art and digital media with a background in graphic design, video and photography, through individual projects, as a lecturer and through industry. Leah has taught web design, multimedia, digital photomedia, and new media theory and practice at a number of universities, TAFE colleges and schools. She achieved a Master of Visual Arts in digital media and is a qualified Workplace Trainer and Assessor.
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