My GCSE Art students have been working on an art project titled The Blue Planet. We designed this project to be open-ended so students could work independently and really stretch their ideas. The outcomes were fantastic and showed a great range of techniques, skills and ideas which were realised to a really high standard.
We called the project The Blue Planet to tie in with the BBC series, but it could easily be changed to something similar such as ‘Underwater‘ or ‘Textures‘.
Inspired by issues brought up in the BBC Blue Planet series, the art students started their research by collecting images, materials and photographs related to the theme, then they mind-mapped their initial ideas. Here are some of the students’ title pages, which I completely love!
I really like it when students use their design sheets to respond to their theme, for example adding appropriate colours, small doodles or drawings and text in an appropriate style. I class this as part of the students’ personal response, which is one of the AQA exam board assessment objectives.
Students were given a brief at the start of the project – I think that giving GCSE students a brief to work from is important as they can interpret it in different ways! The brief highlighted a range of artists who worked in both 2D and 3D to give students a choice in their work. Students selected artists who would inspire their own work and give them ideas for the project.
Here are some examples of the students’ artist research pages. These are all included as examples on the presentation:
Moving the GCSE art project on from underwater textures and patterns to something that students could look at physically meant discussing current issues and ideas about pollution, waste and plastics etc. Since these were issues brought up in The Blue Planet series students could make links between these materials and the topic.
Next, students started to work on their primary research (collecting images to work from) and observational drawings. I spent quite a while on this to ensure the students could get really high quality outcomes. Some students liked the idea of incorporating litter or pollution so focused their drawings on those themes.
I have shared KS3 Observational Drawing Projects here – enjoy!
After the primary and secondary research and more precise observational drawings were complete, students started to experiment with materials, also taking inspiration from their artist research. These lessons were structured to split students into groups depending on what they were doing to help with classroom management.
This part of the project was really fun as students could be more independent and use a wider range of materials; some took the plastic / pollution idea and tried out different drawing techniques on plastic, whilst others worked in a more tactile, 3D way, thinking more about texture and colour.
I still had to structure the lessons to make sure students didn’t get ‘lost’, so I went through some basic experimenting with materials such as textured backgrounds, mono-printing and simple papier-mâché casting. After these lessons students started to generate their own ideas and, since they were KS4, I asked them to think back to all of the processes and techniques they had learned through KS3. The range of experimentation here was great!
After they had experimented with a range of materials and made links to their artist research, the GCSE art students refined their work by selecting the best of what they had done to create ideas for final pieces. Usually I would ask students to come up with two or three different final designs. These take the form of simple line drawing designs, with sections of colour swatches and samples to indicate what the final piece(s) could look like. It is also a good way for students to problem-solve and come up with an order to start making their final pieces of artwork.
The pictures below show progression from design towards final piece:
Finally, students could work on their final pieces, bringing together all of the research, experimentation, concepts and skills in really unique, personal and creative ways. I was so happy with the work from this group of GCSE students, and the project seemed to really engage and enthuse them… Having The Blue Planet BBC series playing on the board during lessons definitely helped 😂
Here are some final pieces and works in progress:
What do you think of the project and work? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts or ideas.