Art, Design and Photography

Our Art, Design and Photography Department is a vibrant and productive space which fosters an ethos of individual creativity and learning. Our learners thrive as visual practitioners and benefit from range of creative pursuits and activities across art, design and photography genres.

Working with pupils from J1 all the way through to S6, the department offers pupils the chance to develop their skills through thoughtful experimentation and a variety of different techniques and approaches. Pupils can study towards National 4/5, Higher and Advanced Higher in Art and Design as well as having the opportunity to pursue a Higher in Photography.

In Junior School, we work with pupils to develop creative expression through the introduction of a range of projects and art activities, from expressive mark-making to 3D construction. Pupils are inspired by a selection of artists, designers and the world around them nurturing creative curiosity and producing exciting and innovative responses.

These skills are reinforced and developed in the early senior years ahead of pupils choosing their certification choices for S3 and above. Pupils have the choice of pursuing their creative talents at National 4/5, Higher and Advanced Higher in both Art and Design as well as in Photography (Higher only).

Across all certification courses, pupils focus on multiple elements:

  • Drawing as the basis for each project and the essential foundations
  • Problem solving through design-based projects
  • Higher order thinking skills through analysis of art and design works
  • Making and creating; each stage allows for complexity of making ion 3D, exploring materials and techniques
Art and Design - National 5

The National 4 and National 5 Art and Design courses comprise two practical folios of artwork which focus on Design and Expressive themes. Pupils develop a range of skills, through a variety of techniques underpinned by drawing and the visual elements.

There is a written paper and pupils will study, in depth, the work of two artists and two designers exploring themes such as composition, subject matter and working methods. As part of this process pupils will also develop skills in art appreciation and understanding across a broader range of disciplines such as Environmental art and Architecture to product and costume design.

In S3 pupils are introduced to a wide range of materials and techniques and begin to work on a chosen theme for their first folio of work. The focus here is on exploration of ideas and techniques, allowing pupils to develop their own unique style and begin to make decisions and problem solve their own ideas.

The two folios of work cover expressive and design areas.

Expressive folios may be selected from a range of activities such as

  • Sculpture
  • Painting
  • Collage / mixed media
  • Printmaking

Design folios may take the form of:

  • Textiles
  • Graphics
  • Product design
  • Interiors
  • Jewellery
Art and Design - Higher

Work at Higher is focused on building Expressive and Design portfolios with similar choices of medium and approach to National 5.

Themes for the Expressive folio may include portraiture, still life, the built or natural environment.

While pursuing their Design portfolio, pupils will learn about and work through the different stages of the Design process including:

The Brief

Investigation and Research

Development of ideas

Final Solution

Pupils will choose a theme from which to explore their design ideas, which may include: sea life, natural forms, mechanics or animals.

In both the Expressive and Design unit, pupils will learn skills, techniques and problem-solving strategies to work through this process. Pupils will complete investigation, development and final solution sheets that includes a Design Brief and an Evaluation.

Art and Design - Advanced Higher

Advanced Higher Pupils will continue to develop the skills learned in previous years and use this knowledge to complete either a Design or Expressive portfolio of work. Pupils will also produce a critical analysis project based on an artist or designer of their choice who has informed their Advanced Higher studies.

The Portfolio will include a maximum number of 16 x A1 sheets of Investigation, Development and Solutions and relevant Design Briefs and Evaluation forms. The written critical analysis unit is a maximum of 2000 words.

At Advanced Higher, the Portfolio theme is the candidate’s own choice and could be focused on a theme such as: still life, architecture or body adornment. The emphasis at this level is on experimentation and exploration of ideas and the project should be independently pupil-driven with a personal approach to the subject area.

Pupils are able to draw from the wide range of high quality resources and expertise available to them in the department to produce artwork which is innovative, challenging and ultimately reflects the pupil and their abilities.

Furthermore, Advanced Higher candidates will benefit from their own studio space in the mezzanine area of the Art Department. This personal, creative space facility will allow pupils to work independently and utilise their free periods and offers an authentic experience of life as an artist.

Photography - Higher

The Higher Photography Course enables learners to communicate personal thoughts, feelings and ideas using photography, and to develop technical and creative skills in using photographic media, techniques and processes. Learners develop a knowledge and understanding of a range of photography practice and analyse the impact of social and cultural influences on photographers and their work.

The course is practical and experiential, with an integrated approach to learning. Learners will develop practical skills in photography, drawing on their knowledge and understanding of photographic media, camera techniques and processes when developing their creative practice. They will produce investigative research before planning, developing and realizing their ideas for photography.

In the course, learners will demonstrate technical photography skills and show imaginative and personal creative responses when photographing a variety of subjects. They will also evaluate their photographic work and practice.

This course encourages learners to be creative, reflective practitioners, who are critically self-aware and who can express themselves and use photography in visually imaginative ways.

Learning in the course will include active involvement in creative photographic tasks and activities; and understanding how contemporary culture and social factors influence photographers and their work. The course will also provide opportunities for learners to: explore and creatively use photographic media, camera techniques and processes; critically reflect on learning; develop personal autonomy and critical thinking skills when negotiating the context and the content of their photographic work.

During the year the pupils will also have the benefit of working with a professional photographer in a practical/critical workshop environment.

Pupils choose their own personal project where they will research their chosen photographers and their work. They will also take up to 6 photographic shoots of 16 photographs, annotate and evaluate their work throughout and produce 12 final photographs which will be printed professionally.

All our pupils also benefit from various opportunities to learn outside the classroom with S3 pupils enjoying a trip to Loch Eil to explore environmental and landscape art and S4 pupils exploring workshop events at Kelvingrove Art Galleries. Contemporary artists and Designers are also welcomed and recent workshops have included visiting artists such as Glasgow based, jewellery designer Laura Murray and glass artist Siobhan Healy who offers pupils a fascinating insight into their work and practice. A photography masterclass from photojournalist David Gillanders affords pupils a unique experience, giving them a valuable opportunity to share ideas and learn from another professional practitioner. We also have enjoyed a visit from the Travelling Gallery, exhibiting the art of Gordon Douglas which gave pupils a taste of contemporary art and an insight into his mixture of creativity and theatre.

The department is a regular contributor, and regular winner, of several annual competitions such as the Rotary Young Photographer of the Year, the Royal Scottish Academy ‘Art for Schools’ Awards, Caledonian Club Art for Schools Award and the Scottish Portrait Awards among others.

Excellence at all levels is also recognised with our own ‘Artwork of the Week’ programme which sees a different pupil celebrated each week from across the school. 

Extra-curricular opportunities are also on offer with at least one club running each term such as an origami club, recycled jewellery and basket weaving clubs.


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To find out more about how we engender hard work and determination in our young people, come and visit us and meet our dedicated teaching staff and speak to our pupils.