AI and Lichtenstein

I am exploring the potential and dangers of AI in art education. It is a confused and confusing arena for an art educator at the moment. There is a need for careful reflection and to take note of the story of the baby and the bathwater. But in my casual experimenting I found myself, like everybody else, exploiting the capacity of AI to combine unrelated ideas and images. In my case the combination of art and spoons was an obvious query.

I suspect this trick will quickly lose it’s appeal and become a cliché. Novelty is not the same as creativity. However, I did find the notion of spoon design in the context of Lichtenstein or Picasso’s ‘Desmoislelles d’ Avignon’ amusing.

I asked AI to make a picture of me – a 75 year old, bespectacled, art adviser with a grey beard. It’s an endearing cliché, but a cliche nevertheless, and layered with bias, mysogyny, and racism.

Cold drawing

Pett near Hastings

Really cold but this is a very interesting beach with all sorts of debris and trees that have fallen from the cliffs. (Note to self) Must come here in the summer with a larger sketchbook and charcoal.

Playing with AI

I’ve been working on various projects and have found that AI has made life easier. It has been useful in providing outlines, summaries, lists, commonly accepted explanations, more comprehensive descriptions and presentation of information than my old memory can muster unaided.

I have put these experments into a small Canva site so that I can share the ideas with friends.

Knowledge or skill

I’m doing some work writing about a new art curriculum in Saudi Arabia and at the same time reflecting on the implications of the publication of a new Ofsted Research Paper about UK art education. The paper is rather impenetrable and probably not fit for purpose as a consequence – because teachers, and me, can’t easily understand it. But it states that it is now for teachers to make choices and decide upon the curriculum that they feel is best for their students. Until fairly recently these matters were laid down in the UK National Curriculum for Art. That teachers have a choice is a good thing, but it is quite a few decades since these matters of educational philosophy were discussed in many school art rooms.

For me it has meant going back and rummaging in old archives, dusty hard drives and rereading once familiar old books about educational philosophies. One by Maurice Barrett was the first book about Art Education I had read and which inspired me for much of my career. He was writing in 1979 about the choices that teachers could make as they developed their curriculum. (Art Education: A Strategy for Course Design) It was subsequently rather subsumed by the National Curriculum orthodoxy that followed. But today it once more has a relevance as art teachers are again being required to make choices and justify them.

In the middle of this reflection and revision of theories I found myself sitting by the fire with my granddaughter. I was working on a spoon and she crocheting a bikini top. Both of us untaught in these media and both making a similar, shallow concave shape – just intuitively using our fingers to feel and tease the shape into existence.

A few days earlier I had been reading about, and discussing with an old friend, concepts of ‘powerful knowledge . I was uncomfortable with the notion of having to refer to everything as some sort of ‘knowledge’ as the Ofsted report suggests. I think what Erin and I were doing was some sort of sensate response to materials and the qualities of form, shape and texture: possibly function as well. I don’t know if there is a metaphor for curriculum purpose and content in art here. But it seemed a curious and unusual alignment of ideas and questions about making, skills and purposes in art education.

More bits of wood

I think these should be called ‘interesting bits of wood that could be used as dibbers’. So far I’ve done 17. I have found some old seasoned branches on the marshes which carve well and have a really good colour when treated with oil. So these will keep me going for a while. Ostensibly I’m making them to be sold to raise money for a charity, but actually it’s just enjoyable whittling.

Lost this argument

I tried to explain what a dibber is used for, but my granddaughter would have nothing of that. They were obviously wands for magic and she wanted one. But she was quite adamant that she didn’t want any of the curvy bits. She was so concerned that I would be tempted to add some discreet ‘curvy bits’ that she drew me a picture of the design and the pattern. So much for my artistic pretensions.

The magic dibber, I mean wand
A quick design by Lara to make sure I got it right

Starting point

I have been an art educator all my professional life, as a teacher, senior examiner, lecturer, senior advisor, inspector and consultant. I had set up a website for art teachers even before Bucks County Council (my employer at the time) had a website of it’s own. I abandoned this when I retired from Bucks, though there are traces of my work scattered around the Internet.

But occasionally it is useful to share what I am doing now with friends and colleagues, so I have once again set up a ‘danchina’ website. It is really just an opportunity to gather a few creative strands together in one place and note how they evolve.

I am not a fan of hyperventilated, over sharing social media, so I’ll just keep to a simple website and blog that I can manage from my phone.

Perhaps I will gather up some of the earlier professional stuff, more as a reminiscence than a publishing programme. However, as teachers are now being required to reinvent the wheels that we reinvented some years ago, there may be stuff which stimulates ideas. I’ll see.

Dan China