STEAM Ahead: Printmaking & Mathematics at Rochester Institute of Technology
By Rachel Simonson.
By Alan Singer, Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology
STEAM ahead in my printmaking class at Rochester Institute of Technology. Our current environment in my School of Art classroom takes into account the tradition of making prints by hand but adds to this new parameters including the ability to use current technology to derive and render imagery for 2D and 3D printmaking. We delve into the realm of mathematics to begin to use the computer like a digital Etch A Sketch.
The computer as a tool at the most basic level uses applied mathematics to render imagery on a screen via the raster (grids of pixels a la Photoshop) or vector-measurements from Point A to Point B (a la Adobe Illustrator). What the artist needs are tools that make the expression of visual ideas a tangible reality. Great things can be accomplished on a computer, and I explore a way of taking student’s initiative in creating content and helping them to make very substantial art for all to see and contemplate.
Having students make the jump from seeing things from a purely analytical approach to an artistic and aesthetic position is not easy, nor is the approach from the other way around easy at first. Artists often take a natural intuitive perspective in their creative pursuits with their ability to visualize, then fashion something with their hands into the painting or sculpture we see. The art is in the artist, in their hands, and now we are going to extend that to include the computer as a tool, as an extension of the artist’s mind, eye, and hand coordination.
Software is the key to having a sophisticated tool like the computer function in the manner which will best fulfill the artist’s demands. In my class we download free programs like 3D-Xplormath and Cinderella 2 and Ornament to open the doors to create interesting compositions. Had someone told me as a grade school student that I could visualize mathematical imagery, I might have been much more attentive to my school lessons in seventh and eighth grade! So as a youngster, I was interested in how things work, and as a Professor in the School of Art at R.I.T. I am interested to see how students respond to creating imagery from mathematics.
By Alan Singer.
As I said, software is the key and I have people to thank like Richard Palais in California, who started the work on 3D Xplormath in the 1990s and it is still an interesting part of my printmaking tool box. Why I am interested in this process? It is because my students demand it, and I do have a life-long interest in all aspects of the STEAM educational challenge.
Taking analytical tools to create visual art is not a new thing per se, but there is a huge amount of unexplored territory there if you have the keys to this new land. I have been making digital transfer prints for over a decade, and I am finding that there are endless possibilities in using technology to create engaging imagery. So, first the teacher has to inspire the students, and show examples of what can be done, then give them tools to create and with their guidance, see what happens.
In my classroom, which is also the printmaking studios, students first create content on a computer and then transfer that content onto paper, using a transfer film. This film I found through my work with the Digital Atelier, and they have a wonderful assortment of products and video classes that you can find on their website (DASS – Digital Art Studio Seminars). Using this transfer film allows one to control the printmaking process and use it in a very creative manner. So art students – even those who claim they are no good with mathematics - can actually create interesting prints that employ the visualization of mathematics, and they can get over their feelings of inadequacy.
By Tony Hexuan.
By Elissa Yi.
In my class students can learn about levels of symmetry by drawing with the Ornament program. They can sit down and get to work immediately, without thinking about the different kinds of symmetry that exist, and it does not become a block or hurdle to jump over. The end result is a great learning environment that inspires students to see for themselves and work at developing color and composition using a new perspective.
Alan Singer is an artist, writer, and professor in the School of Art at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Alan has a deep interest in STEAM subjects, and they are an integral part of the art he creates for exhibitions and for books he has illustrated. In 1982 he worked on a series of U.S. postage stamps honoring the “Birds and Flowers of the 50 States”. He has exhibited his art at The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. as well as gallery shows mostly in the east. Visit his website at: http://singerarts.com/alan/, and Alan has a popular blog called “ The Visual Artworker."