Academic Technology

Spotlight on… iPads in Drawing I

Spotlight on… iPads in Drawing I

Julia Randall’s Drawing I students present major projects for in-class critique three times a semester. With 30 students in the class Julia can only devote 3-4 minutes to each student — not enough time for the kind of feedback she feels they deserve. Using a camera and a loaner iPad from ITS, Randall has devised a way to continue talking with her students about their work after class.

Annotations on a photo of a student drawing for Drawing I, done on iPad

During critiques she takes photos of each student’s drawings, to be uploaded later to the iPad. Then using an app called Brushes, she employs a fine drawing line to annotate each photo, layering what looks like a simple chart on top of each student drawing.

While marking up the drawings with Brushes, Julia uses another app, Voice Memos, to record 5-8 minutes of detailed comments for each student. She sends the photos and recordings to the students, who then have visual counterpoints when listening to her comments. When fall course evaluations rolled in, two thirds of her students included their appreciation for this innovative feedback.

The iPad is also moving digital drawing in exciting directions, driven by portability, stylus support, and software features, such as the ability to record and play back the stages of a drawing’s creation. After discussing David Hockney’s iPad drawings in class, about a third of  Julia’s Drawing II students expressed interest in using a tablet to make art. While most students do not yet have iPads, two who do are working on digital projects this semester. Julia encourages students with iPads to use them as sketchbooks or diaries, and to explore the potential for collaboration and animation.

In her own art-making Randall deploys the iPad as a prototyping device, roughing out ideas before committing in full scale on paper. One thing she finds missing is the critical tactile feedback of pencil or brush on paper — something the iPad can’t do. At least not yet.