A few thoughts on how to prepare a GCSE portfolio.

AO1 Assessment Objective 1:
Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.

What that means is look at artworks and say what you think of them. If you want some help with that, read the questions in the How to analyse… document (bottom right)

Art is about communicating ideas, you should show that you have seen visual ideas and tried them out in artform…

A good exercise is to copy an artist’s work. Only do this if you are analysing the process. Why not take photos of it half-complete and another when it’s finished.
Print the photos and stick in. Write on the photos what you did first second and last.

Mix test colours (like you can see in the picture–>) Make sure you name the colours (as written on the paint pots). this makes it easier to get the right colours again.

Analyse the composition, look for division: by thirds; perspective; objects that ‘lead the eye;. These are all methods that artists use to subconsciously steer the viewer’s attention through the picture. Even in the most abstract image, there will be some kind of narrative that can be read over time.

You don’t have to finish copying the whole picture, a selection is often good enough to get the idea. In that case, keep construction lines, vanishing points and underpainting visible.

Annotation for AO-1

Written annotation might be used to develop ideas through the investigation of sources showing:
critical understanding and contextualisation;
information gathered;
links to intentions;
analysis of and reflection on selected sources;
how initial thoughts and ideas might be developed etc).

Here is an example of analysing a Painting.

Analysing a painter’s work. In addition to making notes about the content of a painting, you should try to understand how a painting was made.
Analysis needs some investigation. ‘Investigation’ means trying out the methods for yourself. Many schools will ask you to copy some or all of an artist’s work. This gets you marks for sure. To get the most marks, you should work out the sequence the artist went through.

You could write it a bit like a recipe with colour palette and materials listed (like ingredients at the start of a recipe). Then go onto a method. List the stages in the same order the artist did them.

Here’s an example:

Materials – acrylic on heavy grade paper.

  1. paint the ground light brown (sanguine),
  2. mark out the sky area and paint it pale blue,
  3. mark out the foreground;
  4. paint in loose dark tones;
  5. add light tones;
  6. start adding realistic colours;
  7. add smaller details.


Add prints of your step-by-step photos into your sketchbook. You can add notes round the sides, or on clear overlay, draw arrows to point out bits you are writing about.

This example above is relevant to painted artworks: there are many other ways of doing it and your challenge is to find out exactly how your chosen artist did it. Your artist copy should be done in the same series of steps in the same order.

Originally posted on school’s internal VLE 2021

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