Lessons From Children

or: Using Gimp, a Grandfather Learns How to Use Gimp

Merlin Whitewolf

Recently, my son and his family moved. They had bought a house and were moving into it as first time home owners. I offered to help and made the drive there to give what assistance I could. My daughter-in-law assigned me the job of "designated babysitter" and refused to allow me to do any heavy lifting. She's a very wise woman.

To be a babysitter means that you must watch out for and take care of children, but it often turns out that they're doing as much for you as you do for them. That was the case for me when I decided to have my granddaughters, ages 10, 8 and 5, learn to use Gimp as a way to entertain them during the move. I have no delusions as to the skill with which I can create graphics. I know next to nothing of this marvelous skill, but I chose to use this as more in keeping with catching the interest of the young.

The 8 year old granddaughter started off. That is, on the morning we started this, she was the first out of bed after me. When her sisters awakened, she was almost done with the wallpaper that she made. This is how things proceeded, as near as I am able to remember:

We opened Gimp and chose "New" and 1600 by 1200. Next she chose a color. I had thought that color choice would be a fairly simple thing, but it isn't really so in every situation. When you're adding effects to it, your color choice may need to be changed as the effects you're going for may alter the color in a way that you do not want. Or as she put it, "That makes the color different. We have to use another one."

Choosing which effects and how to apply them was another lesson for me. The way an effect behaves by default is not necessarily how you want something to appear, so you look for and apply changes until you get what you want. The "undo" under the "edit" menu saw a lot of use as first one color and then another and as first one effect and then another was chosen.

Finally she announced, "That's it, Popa. It is the best we can do."

Here is the wallpaper she created:


After a long day of moving household items and of course, playing, my youngest granddaughter took her turn at graphics creation. At 5 years old, she is an amazing artist. She was very decisive about which colors to choose and where and how they were to be used. The only difficulty she had was in having Gimp to show the color choices that she wanted. I learned a lot from her about making slight alterations in the color choice menu to get just the right shade of color and the right amount of light or darkness to each color.

Her wallpaper was created in the shortest amount of time. In part, that may be that she had already seen how her sister had made choices, but it is also that she has a natural ability to create art. That is my firm belief.

Here is the wallpaper that she created:


It has what might be termed a typical 5 year old's 'in-your-face' look, yes, but take a closer look at it. In the main field there are subtle squares of light and dark. In the center there is an eye. The pupil of the eye is a striped egg of many colors. She created three levels of artistic effects in one picture. Each could be taken to be a single creation, but she chose to combine them into one and thus made a more 'advanced' creation. I found this to be very impressive.

Last, but definitely not least was my oldest granddaughter. She took longer than the others to create her graphic. She chose first one combination of color and effect and then another. The "undo" function was used more in her efforts than those of her sisters. When something didn't work for her, she was ready to try another choice. She went through several effects choices for each color before she would change to a different color.

It might be said that she had a hard time making up her mind. I think that she was wanting to see how an option would look before she decided if it was a keeper or not.

This is the wallpaper that she created:


She took her time in choosing this exact shade of blue and the exact width of each turn of the spiral.

Stare at it for a moment. Do you get the sensation that a subtle movement is going on? What else might you see there? Think on it. A 10 year old chose to create this effect.

My granddaughters are eager for me to return for another visit. I must bring my laptop, of course, as they want to create more graphics. I wonder what they will create next?