LORAIN – Lorain City Schools, in the expansion of the district's fine arts offerings to students, has an addition this school year that blends technology and artistry, allowing students to create digital works of art with just as much creativity and originality as any painting or drawing.
The long-term goal is to prepare students for careers in graphic design, communications, website design, and more. But, for now, students are learning how programs like Adobe Photoshop have a place in art class.
To truly see how this art concentration can open new doors for artists, look no further than the explosions of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and CryptoArt, which have found a way to monetize art in the digital world. Some of the most sought-after digital art pieces have sold for tens of millions.
Lorain City School is not ready to put its students' artwork on the auction block yet, but students already imagine the possibilities.
"If you have an idea for your original artwork, but you can't figure out how to do it, digital art allows you to enhance your work and really bring your idea to life in a new way," said Eva Faleer-Solozano, an eighth-grade student, who recently had her painting "Eternal Bliss," earn an honorable mention in the 2023 Lorain County Region of the Scholastic Art Awards.
Jumping into the fray to help develop this new curriculum for students is longtime Longfellow Middle School art teacher Jackie Murdock. Digital art is offered to seven- and eighth-grade students as part of art class and is an elective at Lorain High School.
Murdock, who has been instrumental in guiding students and their artwork toward success in several local art competitions, said digital art lives in the same world as a painting, drawing, sculpture, or other visual art composition. On Wednesday, Murdock and Artist in Residence Meghann Utrata spent art class helping students not to draw or paint on paper but scour the internet for copyright-free images that they then uploaded into Photoshop to add to their comprehensive project on an endangered species.
Art teacher Jackie Murdock painted this image of a monarch butterfly to show her students how to use original artwork in digital art.
Art teacher Jackie Murdock used her original painting and Photoshop to create this digital image.
Utrata is an adjunct professor in the Visual Communications Department at Cuyahoga Community College and is a freelance artist and designer.
"Ms. Murdock really paved the way for what I am teaching the students," Utrata said. "I see a natural progression for her students to get into digital art. They already see the art they create and understand how colors and art mediums work together. This is just another layer."
Utrata said learning to use the programs and technology—students have access to Apple MacBook Pros and Wacom Drawing tablets – is the biggest barrier in the classroom.
"But once students learn and grow, they will just explode," she said. "That's when you really see their creativity come out."
As with many components of Murdock's art class, student projects are a mix of content areas like English language arts and science. For example, with their current endangered species project, students selected an endangered species to study, wrote a research paper, and created a drawing or painting featuring their selected creature.
Those tangible images have been captured digitally and will be the basis of their digital art projects.
Eighth-grade student Jordan Brown said he doesn't know what he will create, but he said he knows it will be cool to see his clown fish project in a new way.