Art and Design
We aspire to offer a first rate, if conventional, Art and Design education. Our philosophy is that Art is the expression of an innate will to shape, mark, mould, transform or otherwise modify one’s surroundings, but it is subject to aesthetic cultural codes. Our teaching therefore is concerned with more than practical activity alone; it addresses the practical means of cultural expression.
Pupils are taught essential skills and basic theory in the context of contemporary and past Art practice. We devise detailed work schemes in response to a core departmental curriculum. To begin with, projects and assignments are fairly brief and quite prescriptive so as to focus upon the concepts and skills being taught. As pupils progress, more scope is given for divergence and interpretation. They are shown how to manipulate and structure the elements of form to create coherent compositions. We introduce them to the technical processes of painting, print-making and ceramics – among other media - and encourage them to use sketchbooks as a tool for gathering information, experimenting and recording. Selected techniques (such as those of certain contemporary and early modernist graphic artists) or Art Historical episodes (such as the Early Renaissance, Impressionism and Pop Art) are frequently taken as points of departure for projects by younger pupils. As their experience grows, they may choose which aspects of other artists’ work to assimilate and can decide how to apply them to their own creative ends. At A-level, our students are encouraged to site their practices in relation to themes or contexts they identify in the contemporary artworld or in the art of the past.
Art and Design is accommodated in a suite of studios off the A Wing which comprises the school’s gallery. In addition to a general purpose art room, there is a ceramics room, a print-making room and a designated Sixth Form studio. The departmental library and audio-visual resource is housed in a further room. There are facilities for three-dimensional work, screen-, relief-, and intaglio printing and high specification computers – both Macs and p.c.s – with software for digital stills and video.
|Head of Department||Members of Staff|
The broad aim is to capitalise upon the enthusiasm, curiosity and spontaneity of this age group while introducing the idea of Art as a language through which we communicate, record, analyse, explore and express ideas and things we see, remember and imagine. Art Historical and contextual study is used to explore modes of visual expression and communication in support of the idea of Art as a language. ICT is used as a means of spontaneous experimentation with the formal elements of colour, line, tone etc. The internet is used for simple research purposes. Pupils are encouraged to be self-critical but also to see the value of their achievements. Confidence and an awareness of the standards expected are encouraged too.
Projects are reasonably brief, engaging with a few clearly defined ideas. The approach is to develop the pupils’ understanding of formal elements and processes, first concentrating upon fluency, control and manipulation, then moving towards more complex projects as their confidence and understanding grows. During this year, pupils are introduced to one-point perspective, further extending their understanding of the idea of pictorial space. Reference to the work of past or contemporary artists/designers/craftspeople is frequently made in support of ordinary artwork.
Pupils spend half of the year doing two-dimensional Art and Design and the other half doing Ceramics. For the former, they take the work of a selected artist, style or movement as a source of inspiration for a pictorial composition. A contextual study is made in support of the practical artwork. Restrictive composition themes are devised so that pupils learn specifically about the use of pictorial space and pre-selected colour ranges or methods of using colour. The emphasis upon formal elements remains as does the continuing push for greater sensitivity, control and manipulative skill.
In Ceramics, they are introduced to clay modelling and construction techniques such as coiling, slab building and pinch pot structures. They also learn decorative techniques with fired and unfired clay. As part of the creative process of making 3-D structures, they find out about the hardening and drying properties of clay and transformations that firing and glazing bring about.
In Year 9, the subject is optional, albeit a popular one. Pupils may choose to pursue either two-dimensional Art and Design or Ceramics. The emphasis upon drawing skills continues in both disciplines so that, whichever they choose, they receive a firm grounding should they continue to GCSE Art and Design the following year.
In the two-dimensional course, assignments offer greater scope for interpretation, expression and choice of media, enabling the pupils to take the initiative and think for themselves. The self-critical ethos nevertheless continues as does the emphasis upon the importance of the formal elements such as line, tone, colour and composition etc. An understanding of the processes entailed in developing visual ideas is especially important for this year group. These include:
- developing an idea or response through simple preparatory work towards a product;
- organising, structuring, evaluating & modifying a drawing, painting, print or design;
- and the technical processes related to various media including print-making media and ICT.
Art historical study addresses the imagery of selected modernist movements as pupils are familiarized with the concepts and technical language associated with Art criticism and practice. The idea is that they should be become increasingly adept at articulating judgments and criticism and justifying aesthetic decisions.
In Ceramics we build on the foundations laid in Year 8. Pupils develop their skills using the three basic hand-building techniques: pinch pots and slab and coil construction. They explore the possibilities offered by the hardening, drying and firing processes as well as the use of oxides and glazes. The relationship between structural form and surface is explored - that is, how to use colour, pattern, texture or tone in relation to the underlying form. Part of the appeal of ceramics (and one of its occasional frustrations) is its unpredictable nature; when the kiln door opens, the results can delight and occasionally disappoint.
The skill of drawing will underpin much of what we do in Ceramics. The group takes the same drawing tests as other Art and Design students. Visual ideas are developed in sketchbooks where source material too will be compiled. ICT is used both for internet research and for image manipulation and editing. Pupils are to be shown how to document their investigations and they should explain creative decisions using the proper terminology. Over the year, pupils are made more aware of the communicative, analytical and expressive aspects of the subject and the way they relate to Art & Design practice in the world of work.
A significant proportion of each Year 10 and 11 cohort opt for GCSE Art and Design. They are taught in groups of about 14 – 18 which follow a common work scheme. Our approach is to focus on the development of creative ideas rather than the acquisition of skills. The latter, we believe, will generally follow the former. Scope is thus afforded for personal interpretation and choice of media. While technical proficiency and the acquisition of skills remain important, they serve as a means to an expressive end rather than as ends in themselves.
GCSE students may be involved in a range of activities including drawing and painting, print-making, photography and the use of digital and various other contemporary means of expression. To begin with, they follow a channelled route which helps them to learn the processes of working independently. As the course progresses though, they are encouraged to find their own direction, albeit subject to sound technique and the informing principles of Art Historical and / or contextual study.
At present, we follow the Edexcel syllabus. Like other Art syllabuses it apportions 60% of the mark to coursework (Personal Portfolio) and the remaining 40% to an examination. The coursework takes the form of an extended project of approximately 45 hours and the examination entails a 10 hour exam after approximately 20 hours of time for preparatory work. Further details can be found in the Edexcel syllabus - click here to view the syllabus.
A-level Art is different from GCSE but it leads on from it quite naturally. We build on the foundations laid at GCSE but emphasise the processes entailed in various kinds of artwork - e.g. expressive, analytical, illustrative, etc. Understanding gained during the GCSE course is deepened through an emphasis upon the handling of media, the substantive properties of the painting/print/drawing surface and the significance of formal elements. At times, for example, the distinctions between painting, drawing, printmaking, collage etc. may become quite blurred as the student explores their possibilities and limitations. See examples of A-level work through this link.
Our students’ work should not only increase in range and fluency, but also in substance and depth. To this end, they have a weekly Contextual Studies lecture which surveys the prominent moments in the modern western tradition from the late nineteenth century onwards. They are also expected to attend the life drawing course. Our students will thus acquire, we hope, an increasingly sophisticated grasp of contemporary art, its debates and practices.
At the end of the Lower Sixth year, students, in dialogue with their teachers, devise the programmes of study and related topics for the researched Personal Study required for A-level. During the Upper Sixth Year, they will produce a body of preparatory and exploratory studies leading to 2, 3, or 4 items of finished artwork. The idea is that their practical artwork is informed by their concurrent research for the Personal Study. The latter is supervised at regular intervals by the teacher to whom they have been allocated. The A-level course concludes with Unit 4, a 12 hour examination preceded by a period of preparatory work.
We currently follow the Edexcel syllabus. It awards 60% of the overall mark for coursework and the remaining 40% for the examination. Further details can be found in the syllabus - click here to view the syllabus.
The school’s cultural life is enhanced by a programme of exhibitions of work by prominent artists, staff and former students. They include the following highlights:
- Advent Term ‘10 Exhibition of the portrait and preliminary studies of Martin Johnson by Bryan Organ
- Advent Term ‘14 Exhibition of recent sculpture by Dave Morris and recent paintings by Lorraine Marsden
- Lent Term ‘15 Exhibition of recent paintings by Greg Harris
- Trinity Term ‘15 ‘Elemental Connection’, a performance piece by Annie Wright, Oxford Brookes University
- Advent Term ‘15 Recent paintings by Paul Wright, Kevin Fazackerly, and Mark Shattock
- Lent Term ‘16 Exhibition of works on paper, textiles, ceramics and glassware by Gillian McFarland, Ruth Singer, Michaela Hawes, and Graeme Hawes
- Advent Term '16 New Beginnings and exhibition of work by alumni of this school who had just graduated
- Lent Term '17 Touring exhibition of Chinese Calligraphic and Brush drawings
In addition to exhibitions, we usually host one or two visiting speakers each year – sometimes former students talking about their experiences in Higher Education, other times lecturers enlarging upon the cultural significance of the cities we make residential visits to, and occasionally practicing artists or designers speaking about their work.
There are usually a couple of workshops each year. The most prominent of these is the long-established Life Drawing workshop for our Lower Sixth students each Lent Term. Weekend workshops have included ceramics, print-making and life drawing. In addition to these, there are occasional Studio Days for our A-level and GCSE students which are arranged on an ad hoc basis.
The Art Rooms are a hive of activity most lunch times and during many evenings after school when our students continue their work or drop in for extra help or guidance. Furthermore, there are various lunch-time clubs and activities including a junior Art Club.
There is an annual tradition of tours to foreign cities of cultural interest which is open to GCSE and A-level Art students. Over the years there have been many memorable visits to Copenhagen, Paris, New York, Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Study trips to London are regularly arranged for GCSE and A-level students. There is also an annual trip to the Royal Academy Summer Show and London Art School degree shows for students in Years 9 – Sixth Form each June, and occasional visits are made to the Loughborough University School of Art and Design degree shows.
The focal point of our year is the Art, Design and Technology Show which is held on the last evening before the summer half-term holiday. This is the occasion when A-level and GCSE Art is show-cased. The Department is proud of its record of success in public examinations and of its record of students who progress on to top Art and Design courses.
Art Scholarships are offered on a competitive basis on entry to the school at Year 7, 8 and 9 and on entry to the Sixth Form. They are open to internal candidates on entry to the Sixth Form and Year 10.