Back from Cambridge!

Punting on the River Cam - I was too busy to go punting during my PGCE! However, I'm hoping to have a go when I'm back in Cambridge for my Master's degree.

It’s been a very exciting, intense and rewarding year. I have just completed my PGCE (teacher training) in Secondary Art & Design at the University of Cambridge. I am so sorry for the lack of blog posts over these past few months, but I will try and make up of it over the summer. In the meantime, here’s a little update in words and pictures of what I’ve been up to since starting my studies in Cambridge last September:

The beautiful Homerton College, (my college at Cambridge).

Despite the long, cold winter, it didn’t take long to settle in at Cambridge. The course consisted of lectures and seminars at the Faculty of Education, balanced with teaching placements in schools in and around Cambridge. The image above was taken one morning walking back from lectures to the lovely Homerton College. Homerton is known as “the friendliest college in Cambridge” (agree!) The college also boasts a dining hall to rival Hogwart’s (more on that later!)

Two thirds of the PGCE consists of time spent on placement (i.e. working as a teacher in schools in Cambridge). As any teacher will know, standing up in front of a class for the first time is a daunting experience. There is so much to keep in your head! There were many challenges for me to overcome during my training, and to be honest, I feel as though breaking out of my “comfort zone” has been a major theme in my life over the past year. One concern that I had prior to starting my PGCE centred around my skills base in art. My background is in African and Asian art / art history, with a focus on Islamic and traditional arts. As a secondary school art teacher, I knew I would have to expand my skills base to include all kinds of things that felt unfamiliar to me. It’s been years and years since I’ve tried portraiture, for example, or made any textiles, or looked at Surrealism in art. Would I be able to cope with all the new skills I was expected learn, and also to teach? Part of me was very apprehensive about this, while another part of me welcomed the challenge. Here’s how I got on. Below are some examples of my student’s work from the PGCE. The first few images are from a year 9 project (ages 13-14) on photorealism, inspired by the artist Chuck Close:

A photorealistic inspired portrait by one of my students. Acrylic paint on hot-pressed paper.

Thoughtful and sensitive pencil work. This student has used Chuck Close's grid method to help scale up the proportions of their face.

This student took a slightly more abstract approach to her work, mixing in oil pastel and charcoal with her acrylic work.

Another beautiful and expressive pencil portrait... I had a really talented bunch of kids!

The aim of this project was to help students develop their tonal skills, use of scale and proportion through portraiture. Students used pencils, charcoal, oil pastel, chalk and acrylic to help build up their portraits. We explored the work of photorealist artist, Chuck Close, discussing and analysing features of his style, learning about his grid technique, and watching clips of him at work in his studio. The class also produced a group piece of artwork, where each student recreated a section of a Chuck Close portrait. The individual pieces were then assembled together to form a class artwork:

Chuck Close group project

In addition to the Chuck Close portraiture work, I taught projects on the modern landscape, still life (based on the work of artist Wayne Thiebaud), Surrealism, print-making, fashion collage and clay casting. Some of the artworks produced from these projects are on display in school. Once I’ve received photos of the displays from school, I’ll post up more students work on my blog.

I also had the opportunity to bring in some of my prior knowledge and expertise to the art classroom. I set my year 7 students a project on Islamic tiles, where they researched traditional geometric and floral patterns to help them develop their own designs:

Year 7 Islamic art ceramic tiles (unglazed)

Year 7 Islamic art ceramic tiles - glazed but unfired.

Every now and then, the trainee art teachers at Cambridge were treated to mini workshops in various aspects of art and design. Through the duration of the course, I realised that each of us had own areas of strength and expertise, just as everyone also had gaps in their knowledge which needed to be addressed. These mini workshops in drawing, textiles, photography and printmaking helped us to expand our skills base. They also gave us a much-needed opportunity to make our own art during the course! Once you start teaching, there very little time to create your own artwork. I began to relish any chance to get into the studio and make my own work!

A drawing workshop for trainee art teachers at the beautiful Faculty of Education art studio.

My favourite, favourite workshop of all! Printmaking at Curwen print studios.

My favourite, favourite workshop was the day spent at Curwen Print Studios, where we had the chance to try drypoint etching. For those of you who don’t know, drypoint etching is a process of scratching a design into acetate, applying ink to the surface of the design, then rolling acetate and paper through a press to create hand-crafted prints. Now, printmaking was one of those techniques that I was slightly apprehensive about teaching, seeing as I’d never done much of it before. By the end of the day, I’d fallen so much in love with the technique, that I was making plans to buy my own printing press! Honestly, I feel as though if someone had introduced me to printmaking earlier in my career, I may well have decided to become a printmaker instead of a painter. Thinking back to my day at the print studios still makes me smile, and gets me excited about how I might use printmaking in my work in the future.

Rolling designs through the press.

Some of the work on display at Curwen Print Studio.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a second-hand press up for sale, do get in touch! It will probably be out of my price range, but a girl can dream…

Here is some of my work from the day:

My design, scratched onto acetate and inked up ready to go.

A set of prints produced from my etching

Experimentation with coloured paper

Tweet tweet!

Still trying to refine the technique...

During the last week of the course, we had some time to collect resources and carry out research in the galleries and museums of Cambridge. My friend and fellow art trainee, Alanna spent a very happy, relaxing morning sketching in Cambridge Botanical Gardens:

Cambridge Botanical Gardens

All in all, it was a very busy, challenging, inspiring and rewarding year. I am going to miss Cambridge, but I wont be gone for long! I’ve been offered a place on the MEd (Master of Education course, with a focus on Art, Creativity and Culture), which I will be completing part-time from September 2013 whilst teaching in my new job. I am very much looking forward to starting both my MEd, and new teaching job after the summer!

I will leave you with an image taken at our celebratory dinner held at Homerton College during the last week week of term:

PGCE celebration, Homerton College.

Don’t you think it looks a bit like Hogwarts?

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2 Responses to Back from Cambridge!

  1. Pingback: Teaching Resources: Islamic art | Ayesha Gamiet - Art, Illustration and Design

  2. Medina says:

    Ayesha, this is amazing! I haven’t checked in here for so long but it seems you’ve been a very busy bee. Lots of love to you my dear, will email you in a mo xxx

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