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Advice to the Budding GCSE Artist

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    Dear TSR,

    Thank you for clicking on this post - I hope you find it useful and informative. So, you are considering taking Art for GCSE? It can be one of the most rewarding subjects out there, and is often great fun, so this post really isn’t designed to put anyone off taking it. However, I would urge you to weigh up the pros and cons before making your final decision:

    - The lessons are often more laid back than most (there aren’t many other classes where you can listen to music and chat whilst you draw!)

    - It’s not one of the subjects that involves learning facts, so there aren’t ‘fact’ tests for example.

    - If you enjoy producing advanced drawings or other pieces of art in your spare time, or find drawing relaxing, Art would be a very good subject for you, as it will present itself as both an emotional outlet and a GCSE!

    - Mostly coursework based. Every mood-board, pen/pencil transcription, painting, analysis annotation, critical study, photography display, (etc...) you put into your sketchbook will, when you finally submit the book as coursework, contribute to 60% (for AQA anyway) of your overall grade. This takes off some of the pressure for the exam.

    - You will probably be required to visit Art galleries and make a critical page of the exhibition you saw. This is a serious pro if you frequently visit Art exhibitions for pleasure.

    - There is only one exam for which you have a few weeks of initial preparation. It is a practical exam which lasts the whole day. If you don’t finish the task on the day of the exam, you have another week (I think) to complete it — just about the best exam you could get.

    - You can really be yourself and develop your own style.


    - Regarded as a ‘doss’ subject — completely and utterly unfair, but it is still considered that!

    - Having to visit Art galleries is time consuming.The sheer quantity of assignments you will be given per lesson, and the amount of time you have to spend on them, is something you cannot even begin to contemplate until you have started the course. It is very likely that you have not worked on a project that is comparable to what you have to do every week on a GCSE Art course. Be prepared to spend entire weekends and many evenings per week on your Art assignments. REMEMBER: YOU WILL HAVE OTHER SUBJECTS TO FIT AROUND ART.If you’re not a natural artist and you have to put in those extra hours to bring your work up to standard (like me), or if time management is not your forte (also like me!), your experience will be incredibly stressful. Sometimes people can adapt to the stress; but many find it very difficult, and the burden will grow ever greater as the course progresses.

    -The pressure is on from day one! Since your sketchbook will be submitted as coursework, each assignment you are given has to be completed to the highest of standards for the top grades. Because everyone starting the course will be at slightly different levels of artistic ability, some will find this considerably more challenging than others to cope with. Whilst it is certainly not impossible to progress at the beginning of the course, and indeed many do so very quickly, you will need to do so in a short space of time so the mark you get in your coursework will not suffer as a result.

    -There is nothing more disheartening when you have put in endless hours of work, yet you feel your piece just isn’t up to scratch. Do NOT underestimate the enormous impact being demoralised has on not only how you perceive your work, but your ability to complete it. Often, after hours of working, it seems that everything you do just makes the piece worse. This increases the stress that you endure, and makes you feel like you are not making any progress. Therefore, the quality of your work decreases, as does your motivation to complete it. Arguably, one could feel this way with any subject; however, this isn’t quite the same, as art is a practical skill, rather than something you can memorise or even understand. If you did not do well in a Science quiz, for example, you can go and re-learn the facts, with Art you are trying to develop a skill in a limited amount of time — and that is tiring and frustrating. In short, it can feel like you are not getting out what you put in a lot of the time, so you do not find it a rewarding experience despite the hours you put in-that is the worst part of it all in my opinion.

    - Visiting Art galleries can be very time consuming

    - You have to be comfortable showing your work to others (often the whole class.) This happened quite often.

    What are the Alternatives?

    Subjects change at GCSE and often become more interesting. If you are good or okay at a different subject, even if it’s not your favourite (obviously don’t take it if you despise it), you could give it a go, and it will most probably turn out to be quite enjoyable. You may find yourself better served taking a different subject — most humanities and languages do not take up nearly as much time an Art GCSE does, yet are more respected (if that matters to you.)If you don’t want to take up a different subject, or your school won’t let you, try taking up a new sport (exercise helps your brain function after all), an instrument, or some other extracurricular activity — there is so much you could be doing to become a more well-rounded individual, rather than sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end filling up your sketchbook and being stressed. In fact, if you took different GCSE subject, you could definitely fit an extracurricular subject around that— so it’s definitely not one or the other. Depending on how quickly you can complete assignments, this may not be as easy for Art students.

    Answer these Questions HONESTLY:

    This could be a good way of telling whether or not you would love or loathe Art GCSE. PLEASE NOTE: this is by no means an official quiz — there are several factors that contribute to making a good GCSE artist; part of the beauty of the subject is that everyone can exhibit their unique in their style and strengths-but it can give you a good idea as to whether you’d be able to cope with and enjoy the demands GCSE Art will present you with.

    *** Very important
    ** Fairly important
    * Quite useful but not essential

    - Do you work on complicated and time consuming art projects in your spare time, on top of your academic studies? If so, do you enjoy it, or find it relaxing? YES/NO ***

    -Are you really the type of person who will spend hours giving attention to every little detail until they are perfect (this is not just about drawing/painting; it is also about presenting things such a critical studies or photography displays), and one who does not lose their patience when doing this? YES/NO You would be amazed at how many marks are lost for inconsistencies in even the smallest details (e.g.: photos not being cut out straightly). ***

    - Can you think creatively or ‘out of the box’ about presentation, and won’t mind experimenting? YES/NO **

    - Can you draw/present to a consistently high standard without having an ‘off day’? YES/NO Remember, every assignment will go into your sketchbook and that will count towards your final grade. ***

    - Are you a frequent Art gallery visitor? YES/NO *Are you ‘ahead of the pack,' so to speak, when it comes to presentation and drawing ability? (Don’t worry about sounding big-headed) YES/NO * If not, it really does not matter — so chill . However, if you are, it will narrow the jump between KS3 and GCSE Art making your experience a nicer one.

    Even if you don’t fit all the criterium, you can still do it if you really want to! To be honest, the only way you can really tell if GCSE Art is for you is to try it:

    TOP TIP!

    During a holiday, give yourself 4 days to complete 2 A3 Biro portraits, for example, alongside some other holiday homework. But here’s the catch, only work on them at the time you would normally start your homework, as if it was a school day. Remember you will be doing this week in week out.

    Everyone’s experiences of GCSE Art vary hugely. However, what we can all agree on is that Art is certainly not a ‘doss’ subject, and sadly is not respected in the way it deserves to be. Thank you for reading, and good luck in whatever subjects you choose to do!
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