Tag Archives: higher

About Face

What better way to start my new fresh faced blog than to focus on a great artistic pupil who I have been working with for the past year. Chantelle M (S5, OLSP) is an amazing artist on every level; driven, full of emotion and substance, observant and taking everything in – like a human sponge.


For her Higher Expressive Unit this year she focused on self portraiture and explored the idea of morphing faces, emotions and body parts fading in and out of consciousness. Her final piece (above) looked at the idea of what exists and doesn’t, is the subject fading from view or is she trying to obscure herself from us, but remains in sight. It is an enigmatic and thought provoking image.


Chantelle M received great praise when her unit was first verified at the start of the year and should do well when the results come back tomorrow morning. The final piece (a collage of book paper, tracing paper and mixed media including acrylic paint, pencil, charcoal) also won a local competition to design a school library card.

Face Paint


I haven’t taught Paula H for nearly a year now, so when I saw the higher work she had been creating with my friend and colleague, Miss McInnes, my mouth dropped open. Last year, she fought so hard to achieve a good result in her Standard Grade exam, getting a ‘1’ for her oil pastel self-portrait. The work she is creating now, makes her older work look like a monkey drew it. Below are just some highlights of her new painting skills and her highly analytical pencil drawings. Truly amazing.



UPDATE: She’s also just finished the painting below, I had to take another photo and show it off. Great work.


The Greenhouse Effect

Caitlin G (S6, OLSP) finishes off the shadowing on the leaves of the foliage in her drawing above. This botanical house piece has taken her weeks to finish, it’s an intricate pen drawing with an insane amount of detail. It’s form and use of dark and negative shapes help steer the eye around and across the work. This is just a small part of her advanced higher unit, if the rest of her work is touching anywhere near this one in quality, she should do extremely well.

Solar Powered

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find an Artwork of the Week this week, then was shown a nice idea by a Higher student at Castlehead High. Laura K has been working on her Lighting Design Unit for her Higher.

Under the supervision of Mr Meek, Laura has been able to make a model of a lighting idea for a brief aimed towards the Glasgow Science Centre. She aims to design the solar system influenced lighting structure for the Atrium on the ground floor. I was speaking to Laura and asked her would it be possible to manipulate her model into a photo of the atrium to actually see it in situe. Laura was not familiar with Photoshop, so I asked her if it would be O.K. to try and compose it myself.

Laura’s idea is not concrete and may change to incorporate a surface on the globe or glowing rods instead of the metal wire, though the featured pictures will give you an idea of her intentions.

Below is the composed image of Laura’s lighting idea in its larger scale above the cafe in the Science Centre and her original model for comparison.

Higher Ground

I had the chance to help out an S5 Higher class from St Benedicts today. The two period session allowed me the chance to witness what was being created, as well as lend some advice to the pupils working towards their Highers.

Adele M had already created a concept and an idea for her head jewellery design that was well rounded and considered. She worked on an experimental sampler of her jewellery ideas against different hair colours to test her colour choices. The teal brings out the red in the hair while remaining strong against both light and dark hair.


Valerija had been working on samples inspired by chinese dragon prints and sculptures. She focused on netting and string patterns, as well as experimenting with scaling and colour.


Dillon D worked on body adornment for the lower arm. His original drawings of cogs and machinery were clean, technical, detailed and eye-catching. I advised on trying to bring his two dimensional drawings into the well needed three dimensions. After frilling edges to a side panel, Dillon attached the top and bottom cogs with a glue gun to form a spool.


Mairi D was working on a vine and leaf inspired garment. Her drawings were very detailed showing tied strings, weaving and paneled motifs. She removed a rolled paper tissue leaf that wasn’t quite working and used PVA and paints to create sheets of transparent coloured plastic to cut leaf shapes from. She also experimented with folding paper leaf forms and plaiting wool and string together.


In front of Mairi, Toni W arranges her ideas and samples to form her first sheet. It’s hard to imagine your work collected together until you actually lay the materials out and play around with the composition and the layout. Toni had a lot of great ideas and nicely made samples that had been hidden in a tray, it wasn’t until they were laid out together that we were able to see her steady progress.


Jennifer E is working on about five ideas at once. She jumps from twisting wire, to gluing cloth, to mixing glitter in PVA and plaiting wire. She has lots of ideas which are slowly being brought together to form three ideas for wrist and hand adornment.


And lastly, but certainly not leastly, Mhairi I, beside Jennifer, works on a cloth sample based on a butterfly wing. An old pair of tights wrapped tightly over a piece of formed wire, her sample is skillfully stitched using colourful threads and an awful lot of patience.


So there you go, examples of work in progress from seven S5 pupils studying at higher level. With such an intense course, there is no time to waste, pupils are constantly under pressure to produce samples, experiment and develop their ideas. You can only guess where their development may lead them…

Design For Life 4 Real


Most pupils don’t know to which extent they are learning to become a successful artist or designer in Art & Design. To pupils, the subject is still a hobby, something that you enjoy doing. I try my best to push the fact that they will learn skills that can take them progress in a career that they will enjoying doing everyday. Although the curriculum doesn’t allow an overall view of Art & Design as work, it does give an insight into how it’s made, especially the design content.

Pupils will know that when working with a design, especially at a high level (intermediate, higher etc), you must provide three examples of design. This also helps when gauging what a client wants. With any piece of design that I do, it is important to give the client a range of ideas to help them decide what they want. Most lazy designers don’t consider the client and only do what is necessary, leaving the client feeling trapped to one idea and not saying anything about issues they may have with the design. It is then fairly unlikely that that client will ever contact you again for further designs. It is therefore important to consider who you are designing for and getting a brief of what they would like.

The working example I am going to show you is for an exhibition held in my home country of Northern Ireland. The exhibition is for ‘The Recessionists’, a collection of painters and artists who have got together to provide affordable artwork during this harsh time. Now it’s fairly tough to design for non-creative clients, it’s ten times as stressful when you are designing for artists or other designers.

After speaking with the client on the phone you have a vague idea and notes of what they want. I suggest you sit down and sketch out a few examples. It is fine to leave them as sketches, though I find it helps the client choose, if you’ve prepared clean, digital examples for them.

I thought of my three ideas (actually four, but I disregarded the worst one). The first idea came to me as soon as I saw some of the landscapes that would be shown in the exhibition. The mountains look like a graph, a sliding graph of lost shares or money. So I came up with the idea below.


The second idea came from the fact that the paintings would be affordable and on sale. This made me think of the competition between the big supermarkets and how they advertise their products. My next idea would be based on Tesco’s advertising.

recessionists 2

The last idea (and the idea chosen by the clients) would be based around someone who hadn’t much money looking into the fact that they’d like to go along to the exhibition. It would be a scattering of coins and information that would tell the onlooker about the exhibition as well as give them an insight into its aim and audience.

recessionists 3

The three ideas are then emailed to the client, who is allowed time to choose and fine tune any details they’d like to change. As stated before ‘The Recessionists’ have gone for the last idea and it will now be finalised and the final draft, emailed to them.

The three ideas and the final idea will have taken around 5 hours to complete. This is very slow in terms of commercial design work, most companies are ruthless with their time and expect an output in a short time. This is why I work for myself and can remain happy with the project, putting as much time into it as I see fit. Should you choose the design path, you’ll have to make the decision to either work for a company in a fairly safe job, but work underneath a manager or walk the uncertain path of working free-lance (for yourself), not knowing when and where the next job may arise.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at an actual insight into how design works outside of school. The basic principles are there, the initial thoughts and plans, the three ideas and the development into a final idea. When you get to it being second nature, you don’t really need to show your workings anymore, especially if you’re not graded for them.

I will show you the final idea when it’s complete.

Frayed Edges


Claire-Louise C from Notredame decided to create a CD booklet and package for her Higher Design. This involved months of research, photography, image and resource finding. This collection was then brought together to form an eight page booklet and jewel-case leaflet.


Based around the band ‘The Fray’, Claire-Louise had a very clear theme in her head. She wanted to mix together old burnt pages of books with images of antique jewellery and magical creatures.


While all this was going on Claire-Louise also had to learn composing images in Photoshop, how to scan them, clean them up, how to lay out a CD package with correct resolution and sizing. Then she had to finalise them for printing and then bind and trim the prints to a professional standard.



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