Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Creative Ways to Share Art with Kids: Every Picture Tells a Story

Edgar Degas   The Dance Lesson, c. 1879  National Gallery of Art
Engage Kids with Art: Help Them Find the Story
This concept is a great way to share art with children. As human beings we are hard wired to love stories and actually depend on them for our survival. It's how we share information and cultural values. Degas's The Dance Lesson is full of stories. As a docent at the Maier Museum at Randolph College, helping kids see stories in art is something we do all the time.

Finding the Digital Stories
In developing the app ABC.DC: An Art Alphabet, I selected 26 works of art from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. that are kid-friendly and created an animation for each work. With this piece, I wanted to add delicate lines to show her dancing. This simple animation brings the scene to life and encourages a deeper level of involvement with the image. Does this help you find the story in this painting?

Robert Peckham's The Hobby Horse is a slice of 19th century American life children will find amusing and curious. Who are the girls? Who made the hobby horse? What's it like to ride that hobby horse?  My toys don't look anything like that. Some kids may never have seen a hobby horse, especially one like this. The time and place may not interest a preschool child, but what will is imagining the fun of riding such a wonderful wooden horse. This master artwork is courtesy of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Animal Art Always a Favorite
This detail of John Warnicke's Wood Ibis, Scarlet Ibis, Flamingo and White Ibis was animated to give this ibis some classy moves. Ibis has proven to be a favorite with my 3 year old friends. The drum beat is infectious and the kids want to mimic the gesture. These very short animations are designed to encourage sustained engagement and to present a new way of looking at the art. All of the artwork from ABC.DC:An Art Alphabet is courtesy of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

About 25 years ago, spurred on by the "Digital Revolution" I was able to get the tools to learn animation on my Mac.Video and animation had become possible on a desktop computer for a mere fraction of what the big boys needed to do the same thing. I was fascinated with the idea of animating my own artwork. AfterEffects seemed a likely tool to make it happen. All of this dovetailed with my interest in educational media for young children and we were off to the races.

For many years I was providing clients with artwork specific to their projects. A high point was working with HBO Family animating over 40 interstitials for preschool children. This was linear animation for broadcast. Although I had done interactive design, it was the introduction of the iPad that was a real call to action for me. I realized it was a wonderful delivery system for children and that interactivity added additional potential for engagement. My initial interactive design was in Flash, I am now working on Demibooks Composer Studio.

Animating Art Objects
Animating art objects is not an original idea. The National Gallery of Art has their own app, NGAkids Art Zone. This robust app includes many works of art from their collection and many different ways to engage, including animation.

I am very interested in Asian art, especially Chinese art. I wanted to find a way to incorporate the amazing ancient Chinese bronze sculptures I love so much into a story. I am profoundly impressed by the skill of the artists who created this work over 2000 years old. The naturalism of these kid-friendly objects is astounding. 

Duck-form censer, Portland Art Museum
Date: 206 BCE/220 CE, Culture: Chinese, Medium: bronze
Here is how I brought her to life. 

What Tools Am I Using
I am still working with both AfterEffects and Flash. AfterEffect's Puppet Tool is used to manipulate/animate the duck and many other objects and images.  The Puppet Tool creates a deformation mesh over a still image. Pins are "attached" to indicate areas to be either moved or secured in place. I advance the timeline and set keyframes as the image is adjusted with the pins. If you look carefully you can see the mesh below and one pin.
This beautiful heron is part of my new project, The Birds Play DressUP:An Art Game currently in development.

Robert Havell after John James Audubon,American, 1793 - 1878
Louisiana Heron, 1834, hand-colored etching and aquatint, Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art
I used Flash to create frame by frame drawings over the Master artwork. This is what the interface looks like in the middle of animating the quail.

John Gould and H.D.Richter, Blue Breasted Quail, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

I am fortunate to have lived many years in the Washington, DC area and spend hours in its many art museums. I get to NYC fairly frequently and spend time in art museums there  and around the country. I want to share my enthusiasm for the amazing artwork I have seen with children and families who may not have the opportunity to see the work in person. Or better yet, they will get a chance to see the work in person and it will be like meeting an old friend.

Your Favorites
Do you know other examples of this same idea? Share your favorites with us. Your feedback on our projects is very valuable.

iArt4Kidz develops apps for preschool children. Visit our website, like us on Facebook and follow up on Twitter.

You can find our apps here.
Duck Takes A Ride:An Art Story and ABC.DC:An Art Alphabet

Bees Buzz & Lions Roar: Animal Stories in English & Spanish

I Can Do That: A Kids World Art Game

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