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Creativity Express: Activate Whole Brain Smarts CD-rom Review by Donna Campos

Madcap Logic
Creativity Express
PO Box 3609
Durango, CO 81302

Creativity Express is a CD-rom designed to teach the language of art through playful characters, animated movies, games, and projects. It covers artists and artwork from the 1200s up to the modern era and explains an extensive amount of art terms. Divided into four sections, the program includes a Home Base, Glossary, Art Gallery, and personal Portfolio. You can record the progress of four individual users at one time, and users may be deleted as necessary. The program depicts more than 150 works of art and provides basic information for 48 artists, including Raphael, Magritte, Degas, Gauguin, and more! Sixteen chapters of interactive activities include lessons on value, portraits, movement, museums, inspirations, and more. An "Idea Gizmo" provides creative ideas for projects both on and off the computer. (PDF instructions can be downloaded and printed.) There are no additional workbooks included, and basic art materials will be necessary for completing the off-computer projects. A starter edition of ArtRage 2.5 is included and can be used for computer-based artistry.

First, a student/user is introduced to the main characters: Tickles, Furnace, and Ruby. After this entertaining introduction to the program, the student may choose a particular chapter to view. Each lesson consists of a series of mini-videos and activities. After viewing the lesson, the student completes an interactive quiz. When all the items are answered correctly, the student acquires artist cards and virtual puzzle pieces. Completing the puzzle "unlocks" further activities. Also included are 32 Creativity Builders, hands-on activities to reinforce the concepts being presented. The Creativity Builders are also available in a separate chapter if a student prefers to go right to a particular item rather than viewing an entire lesson. Though not specifically designed for homeschooling, the program is a convenient tool for teaching art in a visually friendly, playful way.  

Intended for anyone between the ages of 7 and 97, this excellent program appealed to all ages in our home. There is a wealth of information presented, including some information on Buddha and a few odd facts (for example, Egyptians wore makeup around their eyes to protect them from evil), but nothing overtly religious was presented, and we never saw Christianity presented in a negative light. The explanations about old sculptures were thorough and would be excellent viewing prior to a trip to an art museum. The short movies are very entertaining while doing an excellent job of presenting the material. We laughed out loud at the giant wallet Furnace presented when imagining how people in the days of large portraits might carry family photos. The exercise on "Eyes" allowed manipulation of faces, raising and lowering eyebrows, positioning pupils, and moving eyelids to change expressions, a fantastic activity for our autistic son. The Digital Portfolio allows students to import and save their own artwork, personalizing the feel of the program. Notebooking students may enjoy designing a compilation of their completed activities from the "Idea Gizmo."  

Be aware that there is a discussion of prehistoric painting and a timeline that dates this period from 30,000 to 15,000 BC. Struggling readers may find the combination of written and spoken instructions challenging, as users must be fairly literate to proceed easily and without adult guidance. Also, computer-savvy "guessers" may move quickly through the program, but they probably will not learn the material as they should. Some artwork does include skulls and zombies, and portions of some of the works are covered with animation to avoid blatant nudity. We do wish the artist cards could have been printed off for use away from the computer, but cards could easily be hand copied by students for memorization. The only thoroughly annoying issue for our family was the necessity for the CD to be in the computer during use, which we consistently find frustrating in a busy family with multiple computer users accessing a single computer. Even with that deterrent, we still found the program worth the additional effort of inserting the CD each time we sat down to work another lesson.  

Creativity Express is a thorough computer-based art program. Collecting the puzzle pieces kept our students interested in completing more of the lessons and offered a good puzzle-completion activity at the end of the program. We enjoyed the little-known information about the artists themselves and especially appreciated the included quote from Da Vinci that all study should include observation, as it so perfectly represents much of homeschooling. I would encourage busy families to invest in the Creativity Express program, for it is a cost-effective way to present a wealth of information about art and art history to students of all ages.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2008