Stretch and challenge for Year 12 Art students: Part 1 – Lines of enquiry

It’s fair to say Year 12 Art students have had a challenging first term. Rather than taking a single theme, or a particular media or technique, we decided to complicate things somewhat, taking 3 lines of enquiry and weaving them together.

This is where our lines began:

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Line 1: TC#1: Artists make marks…
TC1

Our Threshold Concepts have been developed to provoke reflection on the ‘big ideas’ within Art learning. The TC#1 illustration hints at the earliest marks made by primitive man, and also child-like scribbles. The red lips (also formed by the palette) are a playful connection to Cy Twombly, who also formed part of our introduction – an example of how an artist (and even viewer) can be drawn to spontaneous, expressive markmaking.

Line 2: Drawing Development Timeline

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Alongside TC#1 we began at the start of this drawing development timeline: The ‘Scribbling Stage – the first kind of marks that we make; scratches at the surface, abstract records of kinesthetic activity.
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Line 3: The Visual Elements

As some of our Year 12 students did not study art at GCSE, and others arrive from different schools, it was important to ensure that basics were covered too. Hence the Visual Elements as our third strand.  We began with ‘line’ (like scribbles do too).

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As a class we considered the visual and physical appeal of scribbling, and even how the noise of scribbling itself can be satisfying. It’s fair to say staff encountered some confused faces. However, truth be told, a tangled start was a deliberate ploy to undo some of the preciousness that GCSE can foster. I’m convinced deeper learning takes place when students have to think hard, struggle a little, and join dots on their own terms.

Students were provided with a range of prompts, from physical activities that reduced pencil control, to various 3 dimensional scribble-like forms – noodles, wire etc. Interesting conflicts arose from the scribbly nature of the objects, and the methods required to document these.

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Because of the changes to A2 assessment we are placing even more emphasis on literacy skills and the descriptive nature of art language. Students are being provided with short texts to unravel (such as the example below). They’re also being subjected to regular verbal repetition, and higher-order questioning.

Whether it’s the unpretentious mark-making of a child, or an artist’s considered attempt at spontaneity, a scribble is a record of an action, an existence, a trace of a moment in time. Scribbles evolve. They have a beginning and an end. A scrawled, continual line can quickly become a knotted mesh of texture and form; a series of arbitrary lines can conjure unexpected shapes and patterns.

Examples of higher-order questions:

  • When does a scribble – or any kind of line drawn, or mark made – become something else, such as ‘recognisable’, ‘meaningful’, or ‘art’?
  • Does a highly controlled, sensitive observational study always have more value then a seemingly unconsidered scribble?
  • What makes an abstract, expressive mark/scribble more appealing than another?
  • Should an art student be taught to draw accurately before having opportunities to work in more abstract or expressive ways?

scribbles

Within these introductory lessons we incorporated a range of artist drawings – Cy Twombly, Henry Moore, Giacometti, Frank Auerbach, Jackson Pollock, to name a few. We’ve been moving along our various strands rapidly since – across TC2 and 3; Pre-schematic and schematic stages; SHAPE, PATTERN, FORM; and so on. Students are starting to piece together a more complex understanding of art history and, without the AS race, it feels like a deeper kind of learning is evolving. I’m really excited, this is a lovely class with tremendous potential.

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