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Predicting the future – with art

Discovery College student Susan Park has a vision of what classrooms will look like in the future, and it’s pretty cool

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 9:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 9:00am

[First published on 9 October, 2015] Susan Park is an artist with a unique talent. She can predict the future. The 16-year-old Discovery College student put her talent of foresight to use when she was asked to visualise what classrooms would look like in the year 2030 for a competition for IB World magazine.

Susan put pen to paper – or in this case, stylus to tablet – and her digital artwork showing the classroom of the future was chosen as the winner, and featured as the front cover of the magazine’s September issue.

While most of us would make leaps into sci-fi and fantasy when it comes to imagining the future, Susan took a more practical approach.

Susan says her inspiration came from the differences she had seen with technological advancements over the past few decades. “You see all the different decades in the schools and they have these different things and different characteristics based on the times,” she explains. “So I just based it off what I saw.”

Her research into the past gave her an idea of how classrooms have evolved and allowed her to see into the future to predict what technology schools might be using 15 years from now.

Her artwork shows a teacher projecting a 3D image of planets for a classroom full of excited students. The use of projection, Susan says, was a common theme she noticed when looking at how education technology has progressed. “The main difference between each decade was the projection, or the use of projections,” she says.

So instead of drawing some major technological advancement, she decided to go with something that seemed more realistic and achievable. “Because sometimes you think that in the future there’s going to be this massive difference and change, especially with technology,” she explains. “But I think it’s more of a gradual change.”

The future of education is something Susan is keenly interested in. “I want to teach in secondary school,” she says. “But I think not art,” she adds, laughing.

“I like art, but I think it’s very different to teaching art to students,” she explains.

Susan says that as a teacher, you have to devote yourself to your students and it’s about helping them find their own style and improving their technique. “It’s kind of for them, it’s not for you,” she says. “So it’s about your students, and I think for me, it’s more about myself when it comes to art.”

On the table in front of Susan, a copy of the magazine with her cover art lies next to a scattered pile of her other work. There’s a wide variety. There are pencil sketches on paper, notebooks of ideas and ink prints from carved block prints alongside charcoal portraits. But while the materials may vary, they’re all in Susan’s distinct artistic style.

“Right now I’m trying charcoal,” she says, pulling out a large portrait. “I think it’s quite nice because you can use it to accentuate features but you can also blend it in.”

Stark features and strong lines are the focus of Susan’s work. “I like cross-hatching,” she says. “It’s basically using lines to create shadows instead of shading. So it’s more explicit, I think, regarding the shadows and what you put in there.” She points out the shadows on her block prints and in her charcoal drawings as an example.

Susan made the artworks using traditional materials. But just like her cover artwork predicts, technology is moving everything forward. “Right now I’m really into digital art,” she admits. “It’s very broad and you can manipulate it very easily. You can use different types of brushstrokes, you can use different colours, and it takes so little time to do that.”

Susan created her classroom of the future using her dad’s Samsung and the stylus, and compared her work to the progress educational technology has made using projections.

“When you do these traditional things you have a lot of materials that also take a lot of effort. Like physical effort, to bring it out, use it and then clean up after it,” Susan says. “But when you create with digital art, it’s all there for you.”

That doesn’t mean that in the future all art – or teaching for that matter – will be done digitally though.

“I think traditional art will still be there,” says Susan.

“It’s just that digital art will be a bit more advanced, a bit more efficient.”