Tag Archives: intermediate

Still Life… Still Important.

S3 (St Benedicts) have been working towards finishing their investigation sheet of their expressive intermediate exam. The investigation sheet requires pupils to draw analytical studies of their chosen area; still life.

Peppers are often used as an introduction to still life drawing. This is because the pepper is an interesting natural shape, it’s surface is shiny, it’s insides are filled with detail and crevices, it is colourful and varied. The Pepper is the perfect object to learn observations skills from.

Below Robert shows good use of contrast, he has a great personal style to his drawing, it is free and scribbled. It has character and with practice, Robert should be able to fine tune his scribbles to get a controlled, stylised style.



Above Antonia adds more detail and tone to her flower study. She uses cross-hatching to add darker tones, as well as hatching to the contours of the petals to give her drawing form and substance. While below Heather uses her clean and patient tonal skills to bring volume to her Pepper.


Below Robyn works her scratchy style into her pepper. It is such a great expressive style that will also be useful when using pastels or paints, her use of multiple lines to cover the surfaces of her objects helps draw the viewers eye into the object. It’s like staring into the framework of how the objects are made.



And finally, above, Edward uses a similar style to help raise his flat objects from the page. By shading along the contours of an object, you can help to show the viewer the form and dimensions of the object. It’s a simple trick, though it has helped Edward make his pepper more realistic and make his drawing more interesting to to look at.

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.

Cowie & Banks Cheat Sheet

The last of our freebie resources, another cheat sheet for Cowie & Banks aimed at the expressive part of the intermediate exam. I know that a few of the pupils that read the blog will find this particular resource useful. As with the previous revision cards, things to take notice of are the inclusion of the date of birth in the painters’ names (86 for Cowie, 62 for Banks), the points to remember read as the phrases ‘Dad’s Comic’ and ‘Slick Poor’ and the artists’ life time-line can be remembered by a few simple points.

Download from the ‘Box’ (bottom right-hand column).cowie-banks revision

Tomorrow we will return to looking at pupil work. Thanks for all your interest in the resources this week and downloading over 400 copies from the ‘Box’.

It Would Impress Jimmy Choo


I’m still browsing through my old hard drive, cleaning it out and finding lots of beautiful artwork. This triptych comes from the talented hands of Gemma S, created in 2007-08. A beautiful intermediate expressive study of still life objects, mainly shoes. The final piece (lowest image) is absolutely extravagant, its success definitely helped with the contrasting black and white pattern background.




Braque Expressive Art Studies Resource

Yes, you’re right, I am too generous. I have decided to upload my Art Studies resources so that you may use them, change them, be influenced by them or laugh at them… your choice. I will upload one resource a day for the next week.

Today’s resource is for Intermediate Art though I’m sure it could quite easily be used for any class (age 13-18). A double page study of Braque’s life and technique, the resource should be used for Historical Expressive study. I have found it to be very successful due to it’s easy to learn time-line, it’s heavily worded, though easily explained word banks and its appealing layout.

Braque is an extremely interesting character, much more interesting than Picasso. It feels like Braque was the Picasso that could have been, the unlucky Picasso. It also amazes me that when it comes to Cubism, Picasso is the first artist who comes to mind, though Braque plays just as important a role in its creation.

The full two page PDF file can be downloaded from the Box section on the right and can be printed in colour or black and white, though colour would benefit the study of the painting; ‘Violin & Palette’.

A note: When teaching with this resource, I find it very helpful to get pupils to draw out the painting in their books, replicating each line and shape as closely as possible, them ask the class to identify what each item is. It’s strange how pupils fail to notice objects on first impression though after copying the painting, they start to notice the musical score, the curtain, the nail and the bow.

Braque Front

Readers Of The Lost Art

Some of you might have heard that poor Chelsea B‘s (S3 – Gleniffer High) final piece had gone missing over the summer, though if you hadn’t, imagine the loss of an important final artwork for a certificated exam.

After arriving back from my Disneyland activity week escapades, I had returned to school in July to sort out work for mounting and to make sure that my classroom was cleared of my belongings (my cover had came to an end). While there, I had realised that the piece was missing, but had just presumed that Chelsea had taken it home over the summer to add to it.

School then started back up in August and it had came to my attention that the final piece was missing. Chelsea had not taken it home and it was not in my large class folder. It was possibly the worst thing that could happen to a pupil.

Imagine that you had spent months on a piece of work that had then just disappeared. You thought that your expressive unit was complete and that you had only your design unit to worry about in S4. The teacher that you thought had your piece had now left school and texted your new teacher telling her that he didn’t have it at home. The final solution was just gone. It must have been very nerve wrecking for Chelsea.

For a week I worried about what must be going through Chelsea’s head. Was she worried that she would have to start the piece all over again while completing her design unit, did she blame me for its disappearance, was she tearing her own place apart looking for a piece that she knew wouldn’t be there anyway?

After checking my own materials and resources at home, I knew that I definitely did not have the piece and that if it was anywhere, it had to be in school. I arranged to return to the school in the afternoon to search for it. Getting there, I searched the obvious places; Chelsea’s class folders, other class folders, old folders, drawers that were used to store work and yet, there was no sign of the artwork.

After around 30 minutes of looking I decided to comb my way through the new card storage and there it was (pictured below)?! I had found it! I have no idea how it got there, though I obviously blame myself and believe I must have misplaced it in there somehow. I may never know, though all that was important was that the piece was recovered.


Organisation of pupil artwork is extremely important. No matter the quality or the importance. Though all planning cannot account for human error. I know that when dealing with lost items, it’s usually because the pupil has not looked properly in a box, or a drawer or a folder, though when a teacher can’t find the item, it’s easy to get frantic and presume the item is lost forever.

It’s crucial that searching is done as soon as possible to reduce further movement. Obvious places are usually the most rewarding, though don’t rule out the inevitable weird place; in a cupboard that no-one ever uses or even in the bin. I was not extremely lucky this time, I was just thorough.

Hopefully, Chelsea can now move on and concentrate on her design unit and is relieved that the drama is over. I know I’ll sleep better.

Unknown Masterpiece

As a teacher, it can be hard to escape the bubble of your classroom and view artwork that is happening outside it. Gallery viewing and pupil work events can take up a lot of time and be a nightmare to get to. Organisers always seem to organise these things during the working day and hold them in some hall in the middle of nowhere.

It is sometimes worth the effort though. About a year or so ago I had the chance to attend an event showing Intermediate work across Scotland and found the work below. There is so much involved in the three sheets, they are full of emotion and drama. I was absolutely flabber-gasted when I saw them.

I have no idea who they’re by or what the final grade awarded was, though I’m sure you’ll agree that they are an inspiration for those of us wanting to change the idea of what Intermediate portraiture is about.

Here are a few of my ideas of why these sheets work so well:

• there is no main focus around someone wearing a school uniform, so the work looks less institutional and amateur.

• the use of stripes and colourful pattern makes the sheets jump out.

• the sheets are completely jam-packed. It’s like the work has had to be squeezed into the sheets. It looks like the pupil had more work that we were able to see due to space restrictions.

• the portraits are not the usual face on, no smile or expression, ‘I’m sitting on a school chair in school’ pose. Each image is mixed and usually features two people interacting.

• it’s mostly done in painted media.