Mary Stewart Educator: Sample Digital Imaging Foundations Syllabus

Introduction to the theory and practice of digital imaging and the basics of time-based art and design. Fulfills computer competency requirement for art and design majors.

This introductory-level visual-arts class will emphasize creative inquiry using computer-based tools. We will explore visual organization theory, concept development, aesthetics, and visual structure.

You will develop your computer skills through projects using vector imaging (Adobe Illustrator), raster imaging (Adobe Photoshop) and time-based video (primarily, Final Cut Express). A PowerPoint presentation on a contemporary digital artist or designer will complete the digital toolbox for this course.

Class Format
Studio format, including hands-on work, critiques, demonstrations, and presentations.Technical skills are most meaningful when paired with creativity, and we will actively pursue both.

Recommended Readings
Digital Foundations, Adobe Photoshop CS3 Studio Technique, Launching the Imagination: A Comprehensive Guide to Basic Design, Film Art by Bordwell and Thompson

Course Objectives
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Use basic vector, raster, layout, and video editing programs effectively
  • Effectively combine elements of temporal organization to create narrative and associative compositions
  • Effectively utilize the power of juxtaposition, implication and metaphor
  • Employ collaborative as well as individual approaches to creativity
  • Use line, shape, texture and value as distinctive means of visual notation;
  • Speak and write critically about personal and peer artworks and propose alternatives.

Major Questions for This Course Include:

  • How are digital images constructed?
  • How can ideas be expanded using digital means?
  • What are the characteristics of time and how can they be visually manipulated?
  • What is narrative and how many ways can it be used in art and design?
  • What is non-narrative time design and when is it most effective?

Assessment Criteria

  • Skill acquisition and application. Based on the assignments you complete, how confidently and effectively can you use a range of computer skills and compositional strategies? (40% of grade)
  • Idea Development. Based on the sketches, rough drafts, and problem-solving proposals you submit, how many compositional possibilities did you invent? What range of ideation strategies are you using in creating effective work?  (35% of grade)
  • Learning Process. Based on attendance, motivation and participation are your contributions to brainstorming sessions and critiques substantial? Do you take risks? (25% of grade)

Each art and design project presents its own unique challenges. The most “effective” solution is the one that most fully communicates your ideas.

Attendance is required. It is impossible to fully “make up” a missed demonstration or critique. Arriving late also derails learning. Students that miss more than 8 hours of class for any reason generally earn a C or below. More than two unexcused absences will result in a C or below. More than 3 unexcused absences will result in a D or below.
Note: One project will be accepted one day late without penalty. One additional late project will be accepted with a one letter-grade penalty for each day it is late.

The Bottom Line
Classes within the Art Department are unique within the University system in that you are actively encouraged to discuss and critique the work of your peers and to cite areas where it excels, and where it needs improvement. To achieve this, as participants in the class, we build an environment of trust, honesty, and strong listening skills. This course has a heavy workload. If your schedule is heavy, drop the course now. This class will require at least 7 hours of work outside of class time per week. 

Basic Supplies
A basic digital camera: Canon Powershot A590 is good 
fine point felt pen
At least 6 blank CD-R disks
9”x12" or 11”x14" sketchbook
portable storage device (flash drive, at least 8GB or portable hard drive)

Please silence your cell phone during class. If you are in the midst of a family crisis (such as parent in hospital), put it on vibrate and let me know that you may have to step out briefly.

Basic Supplies

  • An inexpensive digital camera
  • At least 6 blank CD-R disks
  • Fine point felt pen
  • 9”x12" or 11”x14" sketchbook
  • Portable storage device (mini flash drive or portable hard drive)

Projected Calendar
Jan 7 – Course Intro, Assessment, and Intro to Lab Computers, Observation Exercise
Jan 12 –Mac OS and Intro to Design (White Space, Figure/Ground) Vector Exercise #1
Jan 14 –Text and Typography
Jan 21 –Anchor Points, Intro to Color Theory, RGB vs. CMYK, and Vector Exercise #2
Jan 26 –Tool Bar, Menus and Interface; In-Depth Pen Tool, and Vector Exercise #3
Jan 28 –Mandatory Lab Day. Must Bring Sketches and Materials for Project One.
Feb 2 – Mandatory Lab Day. Pixels and Resolution, Outputting Your Files.
Feb 9 – Intro to Photoshop & Raster! File Browsing with Bridge. Resolution Exercise
Feb 11–Basic Image Editing, Auto-Tools
Feb 16–Adjustment Layers and Adjustment Tools
Feb 18–Selection Tools, Refining Edges, Target Resolution, Scanning. Selection Exercise.
Feb 23–Blending Modes, Styles and Effects, MORE Adjustment Layers, Type Tool
Feb 25–Mandatory Lab Day. Must Bring In-Progress work.
Mar 2 –Printing From Photoshop and Our Inkjet Printers. 
Mar 16– Intro to the Digital Composite. Extractions, Layer Masks, and Channel Masks.
Mar 18 –Using Brushes for Painting, Healing, and Cloning. Portrait Retouching.
Mar 25 –Intro to Time Based Art and Time Based Tools. Artist Presentation Content Due.
Mar 30 –Working with Final Cut Express, Making Clips, Capturing Video and Adding Sound.
Apr 1 –  Editing Guidelines, In class Editing Exercise
Apr 6 –  Portfolio Introduction and Assignment. Tips for Working in Powerpoint.
Apr 8 – Stop Motion Demo, Continuing Editing Exercise
Apr 13 –Mandatory Lab Day. Must Bring In-Progress work.
Apr 15 –Outputting Video to DVD and Other Formats
Apr 20 –Exam, then Lab Time.
Apr 22 –CRITIQUE #4

Capstone Assignment
Each new program will be introduced through a series of short exercises. You must demonstrate your knowledge of each program and its creative potential through a culminating Capstone assignment.

Homework 1: Goals Assignment
The purpose of this assignment is to provide me with some background on your previous work and learn more about your aspirations for this course. Write anything you want, one to three typed pages, double-spaced, 12-point type. Please proofread, and use spell-check!

Consider: How long and for what reason have you made art? What are the sources of your ideas? What digital skills are you bringing to this course? What do you most want to develop? How can digital imaging expand or enhance your creativity? Concise sample:

Goals Statement Example
Photography is my primary interest. When I work with my camera, I am able to concentrate on composition, timing, and the beauty of the subject rather than focus primarily on technique. I enjoy viewing things from angles that people would not ordinarily see, so that I can expose even more the unseen possibilities in the everyday.

Many contemporary photographs are done digitally, and that is the mode in which I have worked the most. As a result, I feel that I have a good working knowledge of PhotoShop CS3, and I look forward to updating my skills with CS4. I know nothing about Illustrator, and look forward to mastering vector-based drawing. I want to learn Flash, which is also a vector program, and these skills will help me with that.

Of all the programs included in this course, Final Cut Express is of the greatest interest. I love shooting videos, and am eager to develop the skills needed to edit them effectively. I’ve worked with IMovie, which provides a very basic introduction to editing. Being able to push these basics further will greatly expand my possibilities. I am especially interested in “man on the street” interviews, as a way to illuminate the different perspectives we all have on current affairs. I would also like to explore ways in which sound enhances or changes meaning.

Mary Stewart email address:

Sample Assignments for Digital Foundations

Assignment 1:The Parts and The Puzzle
Assignment 2: Color and Communication
Assignment 3: Linear Narrative
Assignment 4: Juxtaposition and Association