EduArt: Encouraging Creativity

EduArt: Encouraging Creativity


Jaroslav Vancat



This article discusses the essentials of educational EduArt project, supported by Czech Ministry of Education and European Social Fund. In this project was developed a pilot methodology of encouraging creativity through deepening of imagination implemented in the elementary schools. Project EduArt applies semantic analyse of modernistic painting in form of graphical methods application and educational software application.

The concept of EduArt project is established in expressiveness of the pictorial elements, pictorial objects and pictorial clusters interrelations and its semantization based on personal experience and knowledge of the pupil. The educational software EduArt Editor enables pupils to examine interrelations between particular pictorial elements, objects and clusters gradually, in variations and not to understand construction of painting as un bloc. Gradually increasing structure of pictorial elements, objects and clusters, both static and dynamic, allows understanding principles of visual media.

Generally, structural construction of the image in EduArt project motivates the pupil’s imagination and creative capabilities.


Key Words: Structure of Picture, Creativity, Project EduArt, Elementary Education.


1.            Introduction

For The EduArt project is designed to encourage the creativity of pupils utilizing the help of pictorial methods, especially ICT. Its methodological principles apply the results of a semantic analysis of the pictorial message, offering a rational method for constructing the image that is very accessible and applicable in practice by each pupil. It allows him or her to understand an image not merely as a reflection of reality, as was the custom in the universalist discourse, but instead to comprehend the image within a more pluralist discourse as an expression of the pupil’s own experiences and own notions of reality. In this way it enables each pupil to actively employ their personal and by definition unique experience of interaction with reality within social communication. 

Semantic analysis regards the image message as being also an arbitrary sign, meaning that both its form and content are negotiated by a social agreement (Goodman, 1997), its content being determined by its difference as compared to other signs (Derrida, 1972), based on the mutual relationships of its constituent parts. Still, in everyday practice the traditional notion of representation as a “realist reflection of reality” retains great influence. According to Solso (1997) such representation evinces simultaneously occurring traits which contribute to the fact that we regard an image as an “imprint of reality”:


  • This the relative size of objects,
  • their closed or open form,
  • the degree of shading,
  • the orientation of objects in relation to the viewer,
  • their elevation - the height of objects from the base of the image,
  • the gradient of their texture,
  • their color intensity,
  • in relation to the image as a whole their atmospheric perspective linear perspective



To comprehend above listed parameters of the “realistic” image at once during the creative process is demanding activity even for an experienced artist, and therefore it is hardly surprising that the simultaneous achievement of all of the cited parameters is practically impossible for pupils and students in the process of elementary education. The achievement of the parameters of a “realistic” image has been made possible only through the means of photography.

The above-cited “reflexive” concept, the concept of illustration derived from the notion of “representing reality”, was first employed in pedagogic terms as early as the late Renaissance, by the Czech philosopher and educationist Jan Amos Comenius in his seminal language textbook Orbis Pictus. By now, this “reflexive” concept of representation has managed to produce images of virtually every place on earth. There is no such reality, on land, at sea, underwater, or in the air, that has not been expressed through this representative concept of illustration - a periodical consistently dedicated to such a mode of expression is exemplified by the magazine of the National Geographic Society. The expectations connected with this reflexive concept of the image currently seek fulfillment in so-called virtual reality, in which according to its adherents it is impossible to distinguish the difference between interaction with reality, and interaction with its mere signifier.

Opposed to the concept of “reflection”, Cézanne introduced creation of the image as a sign, the emergence of which can be rationally controlled as with a natural language, through the establishing of a relationship of structural hierarchy of the means of representation. To achieve this he employed pictorial spots, produced as the “byproduct” of Impressionism - Cézanne subsequently declared the spot element  - “everything in nature is derived from the cylinder, the sphere and the cone” - and used them to reconstruct pictorial objects based on the interplay of their relationships  - “there is no such thing as line or modeling, there are only contrasts”. He thus opened way towards a manner of relativist thinking in the understanding of the pictorial sign. With some degree of exaggeration we may say that the entire body of avant-garde art since the beginning of the 20th century until the emergence of Post-Modernism was based on the exploration of this elemental foundation of the image and the exploration of the possibilities offered by its relational organization. This is the case with Cubism or Futurism, for instance, as well as for various forms of non-figurative representation.

Another crucial revolution in the disintegration of reflective expression was realized by Duchamp’s discovery of the ready-mades[1].

In our semantic concept this act must be understood in broader sense - as the removal of a pictorial object from its original context and the re-planting of it in a new context (for a long time, this was prevented by an understanding of this act merely in the specific context of the presentation of art). The function of the object destined for relational confrontation is thus not carried, as in Cézanne, merely by the pictorial element, but by a structurally higher pictorial element - the pictorial object (see Image 1).




Image 1 - Three Levels of Pictorial Structure


In personally introducing this creative method, Duchamp was also the first one to point out that the content of this kind of representation which arose in this relational manner was not determined by the artist alone. Rather, the interpretation would always depend on the concrete experiences of the viewers as well, and the ways in which they would then relate the work to their personal experiences as a response to their perception of its contexts.

Duchamp’s discovery was subsequently generalized by the Surrealists: they termed the intersection of the symbolic contents of the individual in this way with defined objects as the magnetic field - and thus they would have each viewer search their own minds and memories for the intersection of their experiences, or to create them in their imagination. Since this time, the image could be permanently regarded not as a mere reflection of reality, but as a relation - on at least two of the structural levels of the objects themselves, or of the elements of which they are made up. Thus the image simultaneously became the means which made it possible to define a personal experience of reality and also test this in process of communication (see Image 2).


Image 2 - The Magic Fields of Surrealism


The implementation of this structuralist methodology to the entire visual art history overshadows aesthetic criteria and emphasizes such relational principles of pictorial construction. We may subsequently grasp and structure the construction principles of the new media.

The basis of visual expression is the expression of the object. This has also been the sole subject of representation since the beginning of human visual expression in the Paleolithic Era. The entire history of image expression, from the art of the earliest civilizations until the end of the Byzantine period, had also grappled with the question of the organization of a larger number of objects. Due to using clay cylinders, early civilizations invented the organization of objects according to planes, whether horizontal or vertical. Byzantine art invented the principle of the organization of the image according to an axis, using symmetry. At the same time, the image in all periods represented an organized territory, as opposed to the “rest of the world”, which lacked any type of such organization. 

The philosophy of universalism that emerged during the Renaissance was also projected into the organization of the image. Henceforth an image represented the spatial unity of the organization of the Universe, but no longer as objects related to one another, but instead as they related to the observer. This was expressed above all in the relative size of objects which denoted the ratio of their distance from their viewer. This is the concept mentioned at the outset, which became gradually adopted as “realistic”.  

This Universalist concept of the image is however at the same time a totalitarian concept. Its crisis was unwittingly summed up by Blaise Pascal when he stated that it was possible to controvert a person’s mistake which had been arrived at by taking a wrong position of observation. Pascal called for identification of the right place from where all might be observed truthfully.   

The pluralist approach showed that there was in fact no such “truthful” place, and that on principle, even the identity of this position of observation could not be achieved. According to the historically oriented understanding of the universe, as outlined by Y. Prigogine, I. Stengers (1984), the time at which we could arrive at such a position of previous observation renders it as a totally different place, with radically different relationships. Every person operates in an individualized and unique reality which cannot be repeated in terms of time - and this is precisely the source of our originality, creating the need for both our personal testimony of this individuality, and the need for the social coordination of these individual contexts. This situation has two consequences for both the creation of pictorial signs and the production of other kinds of signs.

Thus no sign is and can be in its basic form a signifier of reality, but rather the demarcation of the unique experience of its author. In holding these pluralist attitudes, no one should be stripped of the opportunity to create and present to others the signs which express this individuality of their own experience. Although educational practice to date has been quite different, as pictorial expression - in contrast to literal expression - have been produced by specialists for us, given the growing power and importance of pictorial expression this ability should be cultivated in each individual. The employment of the structuralist approach offers such opportunity to everyone. The recipient is capable of shifting the relations of pictorial objects and pictorial elements in relation to his or her own experience and to interpret these differences. New media has become an almost indispensable tool for this activity, a tool for the generation of the desired alternations, of their testing and interconnecting. When compared with previous pictorial tools they offer a pictorial flexibility and variability, a processional and multi-level structural understanding. The pictorial sign thus becomes a crucial tool for learning and thinking.

However the individual sign utilization constitutes a reaction to the unique personal interactions, these still must be socially tested and coordinated. Each person should thus have access to the interpretation and communication through pictorial means. This requirement is gradually coming to be realized with the advance of technology: the pictorial sign thus also becomes a crucial means of human communication.

Pedagogical practice shall accommodate without any delay to the demands of professional life. We must to cease understanding the image as merely a form of illustration and to approach the teaching process with goal to enable our pupils with knowledge to create it and use it as a tool for the re-structuring of knowledge and the expanding of communication is indeed the first and foremost requirement of truly creative instruction that activates the pupil.

In the spirit of the above-cited principles, the EduArt Project has generated a methodology for daily school reality focused on working with the relational structure of images for Czech elementary schools, and is continuously developing the EduArt Editor to generate representations based on relational principles. In contrast to similar efforts that are based for instance on thought-maps or vector graphics, the uses of which are close to relational perception, this project offers a rounded understanding of representation which enables the development of the pupil’s imagination on several pictorial structural levels (from pictorial elements to pictorial objects, up to pictorial clusters), in their dynamic expression (the movement and transformation of structures), also bringing it closer to the pupil’s own consciousness and linguistic understanding of reality. At the moment we are developing a networked solution which will also make it possible to multiply the uses of this method for generating representation by the comparison, exchange, joint organization on group, grade and educational level, which will add the effect of evaluation to instructional process.



[1] Ready-mades exhibited as he did “manufactured” objects created outside of the traditional domain of art, such as for instance his Bottle Dryer, Fountain, or Bicycle Wheel, in the context of the visual arts.




Arnheim, R., Entropy and Art. An Essey on Disorder and Order, University of California Press, 1971. ISBN 978-0-520-02617-9.


Derrida, J., Marges de la Philosphie, Les Editions de Minuit, 1972.


Goodman, N., Language of Art, Hacket Publishing Company Inc., 1997. ISBN 0-915144-34-4.


Prigogine, I., Stengers, I.,. Order out of Chaos; Man´s New Dialogue with Nature, Bantam Books, New York, 1984.


Solso, R. S., Cognition and th Visual Art, MIT Press, 1997. ISBN 0-20-19346-9.


Jaroslav Vancat, PhD.

Faculty of Humanities, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic.