Renaissance Computing: If Da Vinci Had a Dell

2003 Missouri Scholars Academy Course Description
By Richard P. Vogt

Goal: Familiarize students with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop by using theartistic achievements of the Renaissance as a vehicle.

Phase I – Familiarity
  • Discuss the general state of the world during the Middles through the 16th Century.
  • View examples of Illuminated Manuscripts to show the bright use of color to depict a story, though the figures are unrealistic.
  • Create an Illustrator document utilizing the Shape Tool, the Text Tool and the Color Palette that is similar to an Illuminated Manuscript: Text augmented by color and a border and perhaps rudimentary figures. Creating and Saving a palette also covered as well as the difference between CMYK color and RGB color.
  • View examples of Byzantine Mosaic Iconographic art to show angular figures against gold-mosaic background. Place a photo or other human image in Illustrator as a fixed, faded background. Utilize the Pen tool to outline the human figure, introduce layers to produce a background of shapes symbolizing a mosaic by implementing the Move and Rotate commands, then hide or delete the original placed image.
Phase II – Implementing Artistic Principles
  • Discuss the achievements of Pre-Renaissance artists (Cimabue, Giotto, and Martini) in terms of humanism combining with Byzantine art forms and the discovery of fresco painting.
  • Discuss in-depth the achievements of Early Renaissance artists (Brunelleschi, Masacio, Donatello and to some extent Van Eyck) in terms of the discovery of 1-point and 2-point perspective and continued humanism and realism.
  • Create two Illustrator documents furthering the mastery of the Pen Tool and the use of Layers as well as incorporating perspective. One document is 1-point while the other is 2-point. Students may create sketches on paper to be scanned and placed as a background layer for tracing within Illustrator. Once complete in Illustrator, the student utilizes the Scale Tool to reveal the significance of Vector based graphics. Vector mathematics is reviewed.
  • The scale Illustrator document is exported to Photoshop to reveal the significance of bitmap-based graphic software. Once in Photoshop, the image is touched up with various tools such as the Smudge Tool, the Airbrush Tool, the Magic Wand, the Eraser and the Sponge Tool. The image is then exported as a jpg or gif image, with an explanation of each type of image format.
Phase III – Creating Artwork
  • Discuss in-depth the achievements of High Renaissance artists (Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rafael) in terms of the overall maturity of conventions such as humanism, realism, chiaroscuro and perspective, as well as sfumato and mystery, and possibly rotated figures and disproportionate features for emphasis. The works of Botticelli may serve as a contrast to the rigid application of perspective principles with its focus on artistic attractiveness and emotion, thus encouraging students to create personalized pieces that selectively apply principles.
  • As a final project, students are encouraged to focus on one masterpiece to use as a model whereas digital photos or scanned photos are modified in Photoshop and then place in a setting created in Illustrator to achieve the overall effect of the masterpiece. The masterpiece (such as “The Last Supper” by da Vinci) should be from the Early Renaissance or High Renaissance and depict at least one human figure. The goal of the final project is to combine skills learned in Photoshop and in Illustrator to create a personal piece of art implementing various artistic principles born during the Renaissance.
  • Facilitate a discussion of the comparisons that could be drawn between modern times and the Renaissance in terms of political, religious and economic perspectives. Include the influence of the de Medici family on economy, government and life as well as the religious events of the Crusades followed by the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire and eventually the Church of England. From this point, other computing projects could be interspersed with work of the final artistic project, such as creating a Visual Basic program to calculate the Fibonacci sequence or a database/spreadsheet to exemplify basic banking principles and/or confirm rules of proportion for the human body.
  • Selections of the final projects are presented in slideshow form during the Class Sample presentation at the end of the Academy.