Skip to content ↓

Art, fine art and photography

 


Aston's Art department aims to allow all boys, no matter their artistic strength or interest, to be given the opportunity, skills and freedom to use their creative ability, to flourish within a creative setting, and grow in confidence during their time here. Whether through the medium of (for example) painting, drawing, photography or graphics, we encourage students to express themselves artistically, and develop their eye and their visual and practical skills.

Photography is where art and science/technology meet: the ability to point a camera-phone and snap on auto mode does not make anyone a photographer! To draw, paint or sculpt well requires the acquisition of skill and learning the craft. 

Creative skills are important in every aspect of life, first and foremost as a medium of expression, but also to communicate about, record, explain, interpret, influence and reveal the world we live in.  Photography, for example, is used in every walk of life from the creative industries to medicine. The capacity to draw, use perspective,  visualise and see as an artist is a fundamental skill in, for example, architecture. To learn to draw, paint, capture images and use graphics also lays  a valuable foundation for rewarding and relaxing hobbies. Studying art demonstrates to employers and universities creativity of thought and a wide skill base. 

Our department has excellent fine art and photographic facilities, and we teach and tutor in our subjects with passion. Our students, whether studying study for GCSE or A Level through  painting and drawing or photography, make extensive use of our traditional photographic  darkroom facilities and small photographic studio, as well as extensive use of Photoshop (digital photo-editing software). These facilities  are shared with students involved in our busy photography clubs and enrichment programme where students learn key skills: a student needs to be able to control a camera  to achieve result he wants.

In years 7 to 9, art lessons primarily focus on drawing and painting, and students are encouraged to attend photography club and enrichment to learn about photography. For GCSE we offer (subject to numbers) both fine art and photography options.  We teach for example students who paint and draw to use cameras, skilfully and with understanding, as a creative tool; and photographers to look at both painters and photographers for inspiration. Both media are demanding in terms of skill, time spent on coursework, commitment and focus, but deeply rewarding.


Staff

  • Mrs M Simcox, Head of Department
  • Miss J Moore, Teacher
  • Ms T Smith, Technician
  • Mr D Healey, Photography tutor and school photographer

Trips and visits

Trips and visits are weaved into the curriculum as appropriate to provide opportunities to all year groups at various time throughout the year. Recent trips have included workshops with leading artists; museum visits; the Defence School of Photography; to local buildings and spaces to learn about architectural and urban photography; and to the RAF Museum at Cosford to learn to photograph man-made objects. We occasionally have visiting speakers including, recently, John Bulmer: the eminent British photographer and film-maker.  

Year 7

Summary of curriculum:

Autumn Term

An introduction to basic drawing, shading and colour theory skills leading on to the Matisse project This project will explore core drawing skills and develop boys understanding of colour and how to paint. Initially, students will develop a greater understanding of how to draw considering, scale, proportion, tone moving through onto colour theory. The theme will begin with Autumn leaves then move onto Matisse collages.

Spring Term: Mandalas

This project will build on the pupils understanding of colour and begin to introduce patterns in detail. Pupils will explore the spiritual meaning of Mandalas across the globe and begin to design and make their own. The intention will be to create large hanging of these around the department.

Summer Term: Bugs

This year’s theme will be bugs. Pupils will produce close up observational studies of Bugs. They will continue to stretch and challenge themselves with drawing and shading techniques. Looking at the work of various artists including Pop Art boys will develop greater contextual understanding. Year 7 will have their first big introduction to Photoshop. They will learn how to use the basics and move on to using layers. Creativity and design are key to the latter half of this project.

Main topics:
  • Colour theory
  • Pattern development
  • Observational drawing
  • Photoshop introduction
  • Artist research
Assessment throughout the year:
  • Books will be marked by the teacher twice per term, one being an HTA assessment, boys will then self asses.
  • There will be three CAT (Common Assessment Tasks) tests per year. These may not always be their final pieces.
  • All grades (9 – 1) will be recorded on the school system but inside the front cover of each pupils book boys will be expected to reflect and write a developmental comment for each assessment.
How parents can support their son’s learning:

Many students can feel they are not good at drawing or are less able. For most this is because they need to practice over and over (just like when you are learning to drive). At home, spending extra time drawing and shading will really build confidence and skills. Encourage them also to use their phone-camera to look for and create interesting images. Encourage them to speak to the teachers for extra support or advice to further develop skills.

Encourage your son to attend photography club and enrichment to learn about photography, and to learn to use the family's camera, if you have one.

Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills.
Useful websites:

 

Year 8

Summary of curriculum:

Autumn term: Cubism 

Cubism will be the main theme for the autumn project.  Boys will be introduced to the work of a range of Cubist artists.  They will explore the theme of fragmentation within their own imagery.  Through portraits and still life boys will produce several Cubist-inspired pieces.  Photoshop will be used, and the concept of layers explored at greater depth. 

Spring term: Stephen Wiltshire 

Pupils will look at architecture as a theme and explore the drawing qualities of Stephen Wiltshire. Pupils will begin to use fine liners to sketch with, this will take perseverance and confidence to master.  Colour understanding, mark making and layering will also be covered to build up their core skills. 

Summer term: core drawing development 

Pupils will look at environmental art.  They will continue to explore core drawing skills but they will be challenged even more with the objects they are given to observe.  Portraiture will be introduced and the work of Arcimboldo will be explored in detail. 

Main topics:
  • Cubism
  • Architecture 
  • Portraiture 
  • Artist research 
Assessment throughout the year:
  • Books will be marked by the teacher twice per term, one being an HTA assessment; boys will also self-assess.
  • There will be three CAT tests per year. These may not always be their final pieces.
  • All grades (9 – 1) will be recorded on the school system but inside the front cover of each pupil's book, boys will be expected to reflect and write a developmental comment for each assessment.
How parents can support their son’s learning:
  • Providing opportunities to look at the work of other cultures through discussion and educational visits.
  • Understanding how ideas and art movements have developed on a time line. 
  • Go to local art galleries and photography exhibitions. Look at degree shows by getting on their mailing lists in the Autumn term. 
  • The Ikon gallery is nearby in Birmingham. 
  • Encourage your son to attend photography club and enrichment to learn about photography, and to learn to use the family's camera, if you have one.
Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills.
Useful websites:

Year 9

Summary of curriculum:

Autumn term: skateboard art 

We will look at skateboard art.  Pupils will be introduced to this contemporary and growing art form.  using work inspired by skateboard artists, Sam Levy and doodle art boys will explore themes and concepts.  Leading to the development of their very own skateboard design.  Line quality, shape, imagery and colour will be some of the main areas of study.  

Spring term: Michael Craig Martin 

We will look at the work of Michael Craig Martin and how he uses still life to develop his colour work. Pupils will use observational skills to develop tonal skills and drawing techniques. They will then go onto develop colour still life images on Photoshop and layer up in the style of Michael Craig Martin. 

Summer term: comics 

We will be exploring the art form of comics.  This project will look at how Stan Lee developed key characters using trade secrets!  This will then develop into pupils designing and developing their own characters and story boarding.  This project links really well with English and pupils are encouraged to write their own stories.  Text is also an important part of this project as is the development of backgrounds using perspective. 

Main topics:
  • Drawing skills  
  • Photoshop skills 
  • Illustration skills  
  • Artist research 
Assessment throughout the year:
  • Books will be marked by the teacher twice per term, one being an HTA assessment. Boys will also  self-assess.
  • There will be three CAT tests per year. These may not always be their final pieces.
  • All grades (9 – 1) will be recorded on the school system, but inside the front cover of each pupils book boys will be expected to reflect and write a developmental comment for each assessment.
How parents can support their son’s learning:
  • Demonstrating the importance of planning of ideas is critical to develop an artists thinking.
  • Look back and discuss how work may have been developed and why?
  • Talk about how ideas turn into products or pieces of work.
  • How could Photoshop or how does technology support art of today? Does it do this at all?
  • Asking big questions and developing your son's thinking is critical over this year.
  • Encourage your son to attend photography club and enrichment to learn about photography, and to learn to use the family's camera, if you have one.
Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills. 
Useful websites:

 

Year 10

Summary of curriculum:

September 2016 saw the launch of a new OCR GCSE Art specification.  All year 10 art and photography GCSE classes follow this.  Grades 9 – 1 are awarded in the summer examinations. Boys can pursue art or photography tracks, subject to class numbers.

The coursework is out of 120 marks, and the exam out of 80 marks. 

Boys will produce a coursework portfolio over year 10 and the first term of year 11 handing this in,  mounted, in December. 

 

Main topics:

Fine art:

  • Observational drawing  
  • Painting 
  • Natural forms  
  • Sketchbook design  
  • Photography  
  • Artist research 

Photography:

  • History and relationship with painting
  • Learning to see, compose and light images
  • Essentials of camera handling, capture, workflow
  • Film and digital processing
  • Introduction to Photoshop
  • Sketchbooks and portfolios
  • Genres of photography
  • Photographing natural forms
  • Artist research
Assessment throughout the year:
  • All students will have their work assessed each half term (HTA) in the form of WWW/EBI and boys are asked to respond to this feedback. 
  • Each term they will be given a CAT test; this may be of a body or a piece of work. 
  • If boys begin to fall behind or underperform for any reason parents will be contacted via letter or e-mail in the first instance. 
How parents can support their son’s learning:
  • They will need to draw, draw, and draw, and take photos regularly! This is an area many students shy away from. They need to understand that without having drawings or photographs to work from, one has no visual stimulus to begin the project. 
  • Higher grades are achieved by students who look at their theme from all angles and investigate in depth. 
  • Go to galleries, get leaflets, form opinions and use the start of year 10 to try new processes and develop creative and imaginative ways of working. Many top artists' and photographers' work can be seen online: explore it with them. 

To own a sophisticated camera is not essential to do GCSE photography; most boys use their phones. But access to one  will increase students' versatility. The photographers' eye for an image and light is the most important thing to possess and train. 

Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills. 
Useful websites:

OCR website - http://ocr.org.uk/qualifications/gcse-art-and-design-j170-j176-from-2016/ 

Resources, tutorials and inspiration

There is significant overlap between painters, photographers and other artists in the collections of many large galleries. Tate, V&A, National Portrait, National Gallery etc. will have works from a variety of artists who use different media and stage exhibitions by painters, sculptors, photographers etc. Specifically for years 10 and 11 studying photography, the following will a good starting point for online research, ideas and useful tutorials.  

Galleries:

V&A Museum - has an extensive photography collection and a dedicated gallery.

National Portrait Gallery - London

https://www.nationalgalleries.org/visit/print-rooms/photography-collection

https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk

https://rps.org 

There are books and websites about the best photographers of all time. Here is one example: 

https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/features/the-best-photographers-ever 

Showcases of contemporary photography:

https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/photography

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c77jz3mdmyvt/photography

https://www.lpoty.co.uk

History, tutorials and technical background:

https://www.ilfordphoto.com Useful for film-based photography and related tutorials 

https://www.eastman.org Look at both their and Ilford's YouTube videos

https://www.cambridgeincolour.com

 

 

 

Year 11

Summary of curriculum:

September 2016 saw the launch of a  new OCR GCSE Art specification.  All year 10 art and photography GCSE classes follow this.  Grades 9 – 1 are awarded in the summer examinations. 

The coursework is out of 120 marks and the exam 80 marks. 

Boys will produce a coursework portfolio over Year 10 and the first term of Year 11 handing this in mounted in December. 

Main topics:

Fine art

  • Observational Drawing  
  • Painting 
  • Natural forms  
  • Sketchbook design  
  • Photography 
  • Artist research

Photography: in year 11 students develop the skills they have learned and practised in year 10 and focusing on specific themes or subjects they wish to document and interpret.  The course involves

  • Improving compositional and lighting skills.
  • More systematic and advanced approaches to camera handling, exposure, focus and lighting. 
  • Exploring darkroom and digital processing.
  • Improving Photoshop skills.
  • Choosing and exploring particular genres of photography.
  • Photographing natural forms.
  • Artist research and using their ideas as basis of creative imaging.
  • Developing the capacity to apply core photographic skills to a wide variety of different subjects.
Assessment throughout the year:
  • All students will have their work assessed each half term (HTA) in the form of WWW/EBI and boys are asked to respond to this feedback. 
  • Each term they will be given a CAT test: this may be a body or a piece of work. 
  • If boys begin to fall behind or underperform for any reason parents will be contacted via letter or e-mail in the first instance. 
How parents can support their son’s learning:
  • They will need to draw, draw, and draw! This is an area many students shy away from.  They need to understand that without having drawing or photographs to work from one has no visual stimulus to begin the project. Photography needs equal amounts of practice and experimentation!
  • Higher grades come from students who look at their theme from all angles and investigate these in depth. 
  • Go to galleries and photo-exhibitions, get leaflets, use the department's library of books on artists and photographers, form opinions and continue to try new processes and develop creative and imaginative ways of working and seeing
Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills. 
Useful websites:

OCR website - http://ocr.org.uk/qualifications/gcse-art-and-design-j170-j176-from-2016/ 

See year 10 section. 

 

Year 12

Summary of curriculum: A Level students are introduced to a variety of experiences employing a range of media, processes and techniques through workshop style lessons that will contribute towards their portfolio and development of skills.  As the course progresses each student will form a chosen area of study which will develop as their main portfolio. This will be confirmed and outlined in collaboration with each student after February half-term each year. 
Main topics:
  • Drawing  
  • Painting  
  • Photoshop 
  • Photography  
  • Artist research 
Assessment throughout the year:
  • All students will have their work assessed each half term (HTA) in the form of WWW/EBI and boys are asked to respond to this feedback. 
  • Each term they will be given a CAT test: this may be a body or a piece of work. 
  • If boys begin to fall behind or underperform for any reason parents will be contacted via letter or email in the first instance. 
How parents can support their son’s learning:

Useful resources on AQA 

Able and inspired opportunities: We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills. 
Useful websites:

See year 10 section for photography resources. 

 

Year 13

Summary of curriculum:

A Level students continue to be introduced to a variety of experiences employing a range of media, processes and techniques through workshop style lessons that will contribute towards their portfolio and development of skills. As the course progresses each student will form a chosen area of study which will develop as their Main portfolio.  This will be confirmed and outlined in collaboration with each student after February half-term each year. 

Main topics:
  • Drawing  
  • Painting  
  • Photoshop 
  • Photography  
  • Artist research 
Assessment throughout the year:

Component 1: personal investigation 

No time limit • 96 marks • 60% of A Level non-exam assessment 

This is a practical investigation supported by written material. Students are required to conduct a practical investigation, into an idea, issue, concept or theme, supported by written material. The focus of the investigation must be identified independently by the student and must lead to a finished outcome or a series of related finished outcomes. The investigation should be a coherent, in-depth study that demonstrates the student’s ability to construct and develop a sustained line of reasoning from an initial starting point to a final realisation. The investigation must show clear development from initial intentions to the final outcome or outcomes. It must include evidence of the student’s ability to research and develop ideas and relate their work in meaningful ways to relevant critical/contextual materials. The investigation must be informed by an aspect of contemporary or past practice of artists, photographers, designers or craftspeople. 

Component 2: response externally-set assignment 

Preparatory period and fifteen hours supervised 

• 96 marks • 40% of A Level non-exam assessment 

Separate question papers will be provided for each title. 

Each question paper will consist of a choice of eight questions to be used as starting points. Students are required to select one. 

Students will be provided with examination papers on 1 February, or as soon as possible after that date. Preparatory period – from 1 February following receipt of the paper students should consider the starting points and select one. Preparatory work should be presented in any suitable format, such as mounted sheets, design sheets, sketchbooks, workbooks, journals, models and maquettes. Supervised time – fifteen hours following the preparatory period, students must complete fifteen hours of unaided, supervised time. 

How parents can support their son’s learning:

Useful resources on AQA 

Able and inspired opportunities:

We regularly take part in outside competitions and encourage all our pupils to get involved. Pupils are welcome to offer short art lessons as part of their Mastery and Leadership skills. 

Useful websites:

See year 10 section for photography resources.