Art is by no means an ‘easy’ subject, as many people like to think. Nor is it a very complicated one though if you approach your tuition right.
As an Art or art history student, you need to strike a good balance between doing the things you love (i.e. the creative side of you) and backing them up with hard evidence and research (i.e. the sensible side of you) if you are to succeed on the course with an excellent grade.
You can’t just study visual arts at GCSE because you like drawing or painting.
While it can be an advantage for fine artists, gone are the days when you could just draw lifelike portraits or pretty landscapes and get awarded top marks for your efforts and your natural ability to be creative. You must be inclined to analyse what you see and to experiment with various styles and medium if you want to fulfil the conceptual requirements set out by examiners at the exam board. However, this might add to the appeal when it comes to someone who isn’t necessarily naturally ‘gifted’ as an artist by their own admission.
So, if you can’t draw or make sculptures, for example, but you are fascinated by the history of art and enjoy playing with different contemporary art methods then this course could be right up your street.
Throughout the course, you’ll get the opportunity to focus on one or more of the following areas:
As you can see, the amount of mark making on paper or on a canvas required is actually very little throughout each semester (unless, of course, you want to go down that path).
The definition of art is that it is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
The key words here are ‘visual’ and ’emotional’, which seem to sum up what the examiners are looking for when awarding the top grades in this arts education. If you can evoke a range of feelings with the sight of one single artistic creation, then you are on your way to fulfilling the requirements set out by the curriculum.
Your GCSE final piece will be looked at alongside your portfolio and exhibition. Photo credit: Bilderschachtel Photography on Visualhunt / CC BY
Anyone who already loves Art and has shown an interest in Art for most of their life will tell you that it is hugely rewarding and satisfying, even if it is only an interest and not something that you actively experiment with yourself.
Exploring and developing your skills as an artist, however, offers a deep sense of personal achievement, sometimes being referred to as a type of therapy because of its therapeutic and calming values, but it can also lead to fulfilling artistic career opportunities.
Aside from the obvious though, there are many advantages to being involved in Art through your Key Stage 4 studies and beyond (i.e. sixth form art course, foundation art course or an art degree like a bachelor of fine arts).
1. Improved focus
As a thirteen, fourteen, fifteen or sixteen-year-old student, the chances are that you have a mobile phone, a tablet, or even both. Your parents may see this gadget as a sense of security, but you probably love playing games on it, texting your friends and browsing the internet!
In this modern, twenty-first century society that we live in, there are so many distractions which that have cropped up as a result of all of this intelligent technology, and we are therefore living our lives through this media lens instead of engaging with real-life issues in a normal, sensory human way. Art can help to turn this around, by encouraging us to use our own minds, and overturning attention deficit disorders and behavioural problems.
Taking the time to look at art pieces in a gallery or to create a piece of art work of your own requires a great amount of focus and concentration.
Learning how to switch off from your surroundings and to apply yourself fully to a task is an important skill and can be transferred to other situations in life whereby you need to give something or someone your full, undivided attention.
Not only does it give us an escape from the digital world, it also helps to teach us how to like ourselves again. We are so rarely alone with our own thoughts nowadays as we often fill our time with mindless activities on our gadgets but, by producing forms of art, we can get back in touch with ourselves and learn more about us as individuals.
2. Enhanced personal confidence
Following on from the above point, Art is all about self-expression. But by displaying artworks in public expositions or art museums for accreditation, it opens us up to scrutiny and judgment. That is often why some famous artists are seen as controversial and are sometimes encouraged to stand up and explain their works and defend themselves from widespread media criticism.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, when viewers of your pieces are in awe of what you have created and the message that you have tried to convey, then that is a time to feel very proud with yourself. Critically acclaimed artists will have a number of followers and will be seen as highly influential to their discipline.
Because of the influential nature of Art, displaying works is a very personal process in which the artist and their values and beliefs are effectively on display too.
By doing just that, your confidence, communication skills, and expression are distinguished, developed and improved upon and can then be used as preparation for other areas of life which aren’t necessarily related to the field.
3. A great social setting
The art community is made up of a very varied group of creative individuals each with their own specialization, from graphic designers to photographers, sculptors to fashion designers, and printmakers to painters. But everyone shares a similar passion, which is their love for Art.
Art museum events can be great opportunities to meet like-minded individuals. Photo credit: Gunn Shots (Irregular Access) on VisualHunt.com / CC BY
Whether you find yourself being taken to gallery events as a result of a school trip or to international exhibitions thanks to your hard work at further education paying off, attending any kind of public art event is a wonderful way to meet new people who share a common interest. You may also find yourself being influenced by other artists or learning valuable lessons from them!
Art presents a great opportunity to make new friends with people whose paths might never have crossed with yours.
4. A better appreciation of history, geography, and culture
Artistic expression is not a recent development, sources of Art date back centuries before Christ and have been evident consistently throughout history. The earliest cave paintings, for example, gave us an idea of what life was like during those ages and also suggested where colonies of humans and animals might have taken up residence.
Moreover, looking at artwork from different parts of the world can help us to understand more about the different countries, their heritage, and their traditions.
Taking part in an art course, like AQA’s GCSE Art & Design programme, will give you a solid foundation as an art lover and artist and will increase your chances of success in the professional world.
However, the benefits of art classes are much wider reaching than the obvious artistic skills that you gain from studying Art . The skills that people develop will assist them in many different aspects of their life but, more importantly, they will discover many new things about themselves along the way (i.e. they will begin to solidify likes and dislikes and cement values and beliefs).
It can be quite hard to know where to go with an Art GCSE, pre college diploma, baccalaureate, arts degree or master of fine arts, in terms of a prospective profession but you may not realise that an art program is interdisciplinary and lends itself to a number of sectors because of its creative nature.
Even the most professional of businesses are in need of some artistic flair!
However, if a career in the Arts world is what you have your heart set on, then you will already know that creativity and imagination are the two most basic skills you will need to succeed. And a GCSE Art course can help you to develop these non technical skills in abundance!
When you enter the fashion world, you don’t automatically start designing the top trend-setting clothes. It is the same, in essence, when you start an Art course.
Don’t worry if you aren’t a natural artist from the offset, and begin your time on the course feeling a little unsure of yourself. Everyone has to work towards becoming good at something, and just because your artistic flair doesn’t engage until a few months in doesn’t mean that you are any less of an artist or that you will gain a lower mark in the end.
What GCSE Art teaches you is to keep a portfolio of evidence of every artistic thing you do, or every relevant experience or engagement you have. For instance, keep receipts from art exhibition days or college art courses you have attended, and never discard any old art collection that might be used to represent how you have evolved as an artist.
When it comes to careers, an Art & Design course can be beneficial to routes such as fine art, illustration, teaching of humanities, fashion design, architecture, astronomy, politics, new media, photography, art history, expert in cultural studies, animation, body art (i.e. jobs at tattoo parlours, for example) and web design.
Art at GCSE can be beneficial to a range of careers, one of which is illustration for video games or books. Photo credit: Neil Tackaberry on Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND
However, if you aren’t completely sure which area of the field you want to pursue, you have the opportunity to choose among a range of apprenticeships after you leave sixth form, or apply for further and higher education study programmes.
As we have mentioned, even serious businesses like banks and solicitors go on the search for artistic talent, particularly when it comes to their advertising needs.