GCSE Art is a very popular subject but is tough and requires a lot of hard work. Although there won’t be any written exams, you will have a great deal to do over the two years and it can take up a lot of time. You don’t want your efforts to go to waste, so keep reading if you want some tips on how to get a 9 in your Art GCSE.
Planning is an essential part in gaining high marks in GCSE Art so you must show your thought processes, and progression towards your final piece whenever you can. Pinterest is a really valuable resource for finding inspiration and you can turn this into a research page for your portfolio. It’s important to use a variety of mediums throughout your portfolio, as this is something that examiners really look for. A big part of GCSE Art is analysis and a great time to do this is with studies on specific artists. When planning your final piece, don’t be over ambitious – make sure you can complete it within the 10 hours allotted. Do as much preparation for the exam as you can so you can use all the time to your advantage.
1. Showing Your Thought Process and Planning is Essential for Getting a 9 in Art GCSE
The process towards making your final piece is really important to record and write about as it contributes to AO1 and AO3 on the mark scheme. All your ideas and inspiration should be noted somewhere so you can turn them into a page for your portfolio.
There are many ways to demonstrate your research and planning but these are just a few examples which will show you’ve been very thorough when deciding on your final piece.
Select some images you found online or on Pinterest and write about them in depth. You should be discussing why the image interested you and what techniques you would incorporate into your own work. It’s important that these images show variety, some should link very clearly to the theme and others can be more abstract.
You need to document each step along the way, and this includes techniques that you didn’t like and decided not to use. By discussing why you won’t be using certain techniques, you are being critical and evaluating your own work, which demonstrates the development of your ideas. Similarly to this, you should keep your work that went wrong and talk about what you would do differently next time.
As part of your plan, you should create a ‘mini’ final piece. Depending on your medium, this could just be a photoshopped version or a sketch but be sure to show that you’ve practiced with the real materials and state why you chose them. The mock up of your final piece should include very detailed annotation to say what inspired each part, why you chose the materials and any other details that are relevant to your work.
2. Use Pinterest to Look for Ideas and Show Your Research if You Want a 9 in GCSE Art
With GCSE Art, you’ll need to spend a lot of time researching your theme and finding inspiration for your work. Pinterest is a great place to find photographs, artwork and techniques that you can implement in your work.
Once you’ve chosen your theme or word, create a pinterest board dedicated to your title and simply search for the word and add any images you like. Add in key words like art, artist or painting to refine your search and find images that are more relevant.
Over time, you’ll have a diverse range of images available to you in your Pinterest board and you can always go back to this if you need inspiration. You should also create Pinterest boards for techniques that you like or particular artists you want to study.
Not only is Pinterest great for inspiration but it can keep you organised and on top of your work. All the photos and images you like will be in one place, rather than saving them to your phone and losing them in your camera roll.
Most importantly, your research on Pinterest can be used to make a page for your portfolio! By showing the preliminary research you’ve done, you will be meeting the AO1 criteria which is all about developing ideas through investigation. When making a page about your Pinterest research, you could create a collage of the photos you liked and annotate them. You could also take a few photos and write about them in depth but you may want to do this as a completely separate page.
3. You Must Use a Variety of Techniques to Score Highly in GCSE Art
AO2 of the GCSE Art specification is focused on exploring ideas and experimenting with different mediums, so it’s crucial that you show a variety of techniques and materials.
Within your portfolio, you can have whole pages dedicated to experiments with different materials by doing swatches and analysing the outcome. With the analysis, you could write about what you did and didn’t like, how this may be used in your work, interesting colour combinations or what you would change if you repeated the technique.
You should also show a variety of mediums and skills within the other pages of your portfolio, don’t limit yourself to just using watercolour or pencil. It’s important to push yourself to try different techniques and, even if you don’t like the outcome, it can make for some really good analysis. As a general rule, you’ll get high marks if you use a variety of mediums and combine this with strong evaluation.
If you’re struggling to find alternative mediums, take a look at the list below.
- Oil paint
- Acrylic paint
- Oil pastels
- Ink or biro
- Staining with natural dyes like coffee or beetroot
- Lino printing
- Digital drawings
- Spray paint
- Nail varnish
- Salt or alcohol to make patterns in watercolour paint
- Adding texture with sand or eggshell
- Food wrappers
4. Analyse Work by Multiple Artists to Get a 9 in Your Art GCSE
It’s really important that you look at a variety of artists and study their work – by being critical and showing depth with your analysis you will reach the top grades.
I’ve already mentioned Pinterest being a great place to find inspiration but it’s also useful for finding artists, especially those who aren’t as well known. Once you’ve found an artist you like whose work links to your theme, create a Pinterest board of their work and choose a selection of pieces to analyse.
After doing so much evaluation, it can be difficult to think of what to write so here are some good starter questions when looking at an artist’s work:
- What materials did they use and how could I use them?
- Did they incorporate any interesting colour combinations?
- How has the artist’s background influenced their work?
- Have they explained the meaning behind their art and how do they show this?
- What aspects of their work do you like?
- What things don’t you like?
- How does their work make you feel?
- What do you think the artist’s intention was?
- How did people at the time react to their work?
- How have you been inspired by this artist?
- Is there anything you could use in your final piece?
- How does their work link to your theme?
- Are there any techniques that are popular with a certain art style or time period?
Select a specific piece of work by the artist and try to recreate it, you can be very literal with this or make it more your own style. Either way, this allows you to analyse the artist’s techniques and whether you would want to use them in your final piece.
5. To Get the Best Grades in GCSE Art, You Should Do Your Own Photography
By taking your own photographs to reference, you are further developing your ideas and meeting AO1, 2 and 3. If you just use photos by other photographers or artists, you’re failing to show complete originality and this could lower the marks you receive. Certain themes won’t be suited to literal photographs, but you can use your own photos to practice colour schemes or still life.
When taking photographs, don’t worry if you don’t have an amazing camera. It’s much more important that your photos will be good for reference and show some creativity. As you would expect, you should annotate your photos to explain all the choices you made and explain how they link to the main theme.
Once you’ve taken your photos, you should edit them – this could be done on Photoshop or you can physically edit them. Some interesting ways to edit your photos are to paint over the image with a specific design or impactful colours, or you could embroider on the image (make sure you have some sturdy paper to avoid any rips). You could also cut up your photos and make a collage or use Photoshop to change the colour scheme. Try multiple ways of editing the photos and write what you did to each and what you liked or didn’t like.
To take your photography page even further, you can take your favourite photo and recreate it using pencil or paint, whatever medium you prefer. This could even be the foundation for your final piece but, if not, all the work contributes towards it and makes for great evidence of experimentation.
6. When Planning Your Final Piece, Make it Manageable if You Want to Reach the Highest Grades
Many students make the mistake of having a final piece that is far too big to be completed in the time limit because it would look ‘impressive’. In reality, your final piece will be much more impactful if it is actually finished and shows a lot of skill.
Coming up with an idea for your final piece can be really difficult but it’s really important to focus on the small details. If your work is detailed, the examiner will see the thought you’ve put in and it’s also a demonstration of your skill.
You need to make sure that your final piece clearly links to the overall theme you’ve chosen and it must clearly correlate to the rest of your portfolio. Obviously, you won’t score very highly if your final piece has nothing to do with the rest of your work! Your entire portfolio is meant to show the stages leading up to your final piece so showing the connections is very important.
Make sure that you draw from the techniques and mediums you used in your portfolio as this helps connect the planning stages to your final piece. It also means that your final piece will look better as you’re using techniques that you have practiced a lot.
It’s very easy to get carried away when deciding on your final piece so ensure that you listen to your teacher’s advice. If they seem wary of it being completed within the 10 hours, it’s a good idea to scale down your work and make it more manageable. They’ve had years of experience and may have been examiners before, so take the advice they give and make sure you apply it.
It’s worth saying that your final piece should be in a medium you’re generally comfortable with and in an art style you like working with. If you are interested and enjoy your work, the quality will be much higher and you’ll probably complete it much faster. It also makes the 10 hours go a lot quicker!
7. Preparing For the Exam Will Save You Time and Move You Towards a Grade 9
When you get into your GCSE Art exam, you’ll only have 10 hours to get everything done. At first, this seems like a long time but it goes very quickly! In order to finish on time, you need to plan and be prepared.
The first thing to do is preparation before the exam even starts. This could be mixing your paints, printing off images, creating a lino stamp or just having all the resources you need and, importantly, making sure your area is clean and tidy. It’s important to check with your teacher and see what you’re allowed to do in advance as exam boards have strict rules on how much preparation you can do.
To keep yourself on track, make a list of everything you need to do and put it in order. As you complete each part of your list, tick it off so you can see how far along you are and what you need to do next. This will also help you keep track of time and ensure you finish within the time limit. Alongside this, make a list of all the materials or mediums you’ll need and have those on your desk ready to use. This will prevent you wasting time and running around the classroom trying to find the right paint.
When you write up your to-do list, there are some things that make your work better but aren’t a necessity. Try and save these until the end of your list so if you do run out of time, you still have a completed piece of work. Of course, if you do have extra time at the end use all of it and add as much detail as you can – this will always help move you to the higher grades.