Digital Art In Digital Learning

(“Overlay” by Kendyl Chin (’22), a member of Mr. Lopez’s Digital Art Class) Most students on campus would normally find Mr. Polo Lopez ’08 in the Learning commons at lunch or after school or in the gym as the Men’s Volleyball coach. Now he is the teacher of CB’s new Digital Art class, a course […]

(“Overlay” by Kendyl Chin (’22), a member of Mr. Lopez’s Digital Art Class)

Most students on campus would normally find Mr. Polo Lopez ’08 in the Learning commons at lunch or after school or in the gym as the Men’s Volleyball coach. Now he is the teacher of CB’s new Digital Art class, a course filled with students of a wide range of artistic ability and experience.

Mr. Lopez has been involved with the arts since his time as a student at Christian Brothers.

“I was always a good student, but I never really knew what I wanted to do. I remember having Mr. Macintosh in my intro class freshman year and I remember having Mr. McGovern my sophomore year.” says Mr. Lopez. “I remember in both of those classes people started competitions. There was a self portrait competition, stuff to hang up in the display windows, and my name kept rolling around and getting recognized and I was like ‘maybe I’m good at this’.”

After college, Mr. Lopez returned to the CB campus in 2015 as a coach and substitute teacher. He was always eager to help out in art classrooms.

“There was this current of what was the next move for the arts department,” he said. “Anybody who would let me talk I would jump into their class and talk about art history, I’ll talk about a project. Everyone knew I was the person to talk to for stuff like that so when the digital art position came up I jumped on it right away and took what I knew from undergrad and grad school, and I got to build a class out of it.”

Being in a class with students new to art means that the course has a slower start than other most other art classes. Newer students need to learn the fundamentals of art, such as line, shape, form, space, before getting into larger projects and experimenting with features exclusive to the digital medium.

As a student in his class, the way Mr. Lopez has structured the class to simultaneously cater to both experienced and inexperienced artists has kept me engaged with the material. Even the most basic fundamentals are tied to something exclusive to the digital medium. Even when the lessons are not the most interesting to students who have taken art previously, it is still good to refresh on the fundamentals.

“First and foremost people think that art is this raw talent that you’re born with, and to some degree, the creativity might be, but the process of how you’re doing stuff that’s all skills that you learn just like any other skills” says Mr. Lopez. “I also want to touch in with my artist kids because it’s a new form for them, so there’s some learning curve there that they don’t know either.”

Mr. Lopez expressed how teaching a class that takes place on an iPad is tough with the iPad’s limited processing power.

“I have been able to all along share my screen and show you guys very easily what I am doing, but because we’re getting into a lot more complicated stuff, there’s a lot more processing in the app as it’s going and it can’t run both programs [Procreate and Microsoft Teams] at the same time.”

“A week and a half ago I was doing demonstrations and it cut out on me a lot,” Mr. Lopez adds. “Other teachers have the potential to use paper or something else or send a video. Everybody’s learning that and I always want to make sure that what I am making is engaging.”

Similar to other classes, the atmosphere of the class is immensely hampered by digital learning. Art classes typically include a lot of critique and peer review, and it’s hard to get that feedback when nobody wants to talk on a Teams call.

With digital learning allowing students to attend school from anywhere with an internet connection, many students are taking this opportunity to attend class while out of town. With digital art requiring only an iPad and a stylus, it is much easier to attend class from other locations than more traditional art classes. An iPad and stylus is more transportable than a large canvas, brushes, and paints, making the class easier than others to not only attend from places other than home, but also making it an easier class to transition into hybrid learning.

“Influential Portrait” by Owen Barabe (’21)

Mr. Lopez says that going into the hybrid learning schedule, he plans to change the atmosphere of the class more so than the structure of the curriculum.

“I’m just going to be excited to see you guys to see you guys in person” he says. “When it comes to instructing on a laptop. it’s so weird and foreign. I’m the person who spends time talking about peoples’ day — I want to get to know you guys so much better.”

Emma Frink (’21) who shared her excitement and interest in taking the class.

“Mr. Lopez is very patient with us and always makes sure we
understand the lesson or our task for the day or week” she says.

Emma had not taken an art class prior, but was interested in trying something new.

“I was in video production in a prior semester, and wanted to
try a different form of art. It is also a new elective, so I wanted
to be one of the first students to try it out.”

As a member of Mr. Lopez’s Digital Art class and the Four Year Art Program, I can say that the class is unique to other art classes offered at Christian Brothers. The range in students’ skill levels and the new artistic medium that are present in this class make it a different experience compared to other art classes.

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