GCSE / IGCSE / A Level Art Exam Ideas 2013

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This article aims to help GCSE, IGCSE and A Level students come up with ideas, interpretations and artist models for their 2013 Art Exam papers. Responses are given to topics from a number of different exam papers from examination boards such as AQA, Edexcel and CIE. These suggestions are not intended to be a complete list, nor to provide ‘perfect’ ideas: rather they have been supplied to help you with the brainstorming process. Final selection of ideas should only be made in conjunction with advice from your teacher.

As noted in the 2012 Art Exam topics article:

No topic is inherently boring. Even the most mundane can result in beautiful work. What matters is not the thing or even the idea, but the way it is interpreted; the way you respond to it, what it means to you and whether it wriggles inside and kicks at your soul.

It is important to remember, too, that it is not always necessary to have an exceptionally clever or original interpretation. Sometimes a literal or simple approach can be conveyed in a imaginative, skilful and unique way. If you have spent days searching for the ‘perfect’ interpretation, consider whether this time would be better spent starting and creating artwork. Good artwork takes time. Stop fretting about whether your idea is perfect and begin.

Force (GCSE Art and Design Edexcel)

  • Brute force / violence (relating to a particular circumstance, scene or activity)
  • Athletics / human strength / physical activity (focused on one particular activity or sport)
  • Movement involved in a particular forceful action

Paintings depicting movement by Simon Birch and David Agenjo:

paintings depicting movement
The movement related to a particular forceful action could be explored in a similar way to these beautiful paintings by Simon Birch (right) and David Agenjo (enlarged detail, left).
  • Peer pressure (relating to a particular behaviour / action / activity)
  • Trees / landscapes ravaged by wind
  • Rain lashing a particular scene
  • A boiling hot summer’s day / icecream melting
  • Decay / rot / mould: an outdoor structure succumbing to the forces of nature
  • Aftermath of an earthquake or some other natural disaster
  • Floods / slips / erosion / cars swept away in swirling flood waters
  • Bombs / terrorist activity
  • Gravity / falling / precarious sculptures / structures

An imaginative painting exploring gravity by Jeremy Geddes:

Jeremy Geddes art
Jeremy Geddes has produced some amazing artwork showing fantastic scenes exploring weightlessness / gravity / figures exploding through windows etc. A great artist model to look at in relation to force.
  • Scientific analysis of forces (old textbooks / diagrams / scales)
  • Friction
  • The conversion of one force to another: i.e. an old mechanical plough / pulleys / cogs

Beautiful works from a series entitled ‘Man and the Machine’ by Kelani Abass:

kelani abass artist
Large, textural paintings exploring the interaction between man and machine by artist Kelani Abass.
  • The force of waves disintegrating items at the edge of the sea
  • Electrical force fields
  • Political / religious forces
  • Societal obligations to conform
  • Human perseverance in a trying circumstance / willpower / desire to survive / force of life
  • Breaking or smashing something
  • Car crashes

Clever collaged artwork by Patrick Bremer:

partrick bremer art
The aftermath of force: selecting a destroyed / ruined item and seeing beauty within it, such as this collaged artwork by Patrick Bremer, might be a good approach to the Force GCSE Art exam topic.
  • Recycled items being crushed together prior to transporting
  • A building being demolished
  • A still life where items are balanced precariously / crushed from above / squashed
  • A wreckers yard

Striking scenes by Jason Webb:

Jason Webb art
These depictions of semi-sculptural arrangements of building waste by Jason Webb could be considered as the remnants of forceful action.
  • A nut cracker
  • Breaking something obscure and unexpected into tiny pieces and reassembling these, or using as the basis for a still life

Example of an abstract sculptural form created by Cornelia Parker:

cornelia parker cold dark matter
‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ by Cornelia Parker is created from discarded fragments from an exploded garden shed. The ultimate deconstruction of force.
  • The human body subjected to forces of some kind: pushing / pulling / shredding
  • Mental forces and the way these shape or deform our being

Intriguing artwork by Henrietta Harris:

portraits by artist Henrietta Harris
These captivating portraits by artist Henrietta Harris could be interpreted in terms of the force of human emotion.

Art2day has also put together a collection of images that might inspire here. For more artist model ideas, please visit the Student Art Guide Pinterest Boards.

Juxtoposition (IGCSE Art and Design CIE)

  • Siblings sitting side by side
  • Unexpected items sitting side by side on a refrigerator shelf, or in a pantry, or supermarket shelves
  • Different species of animals living happily in close quarters
  • Wild animals alongside tame / domestic
  • Unexpected combinations of objects at unexpected scales

Surrealist paintings by Matthew Grabelsky:

Matthew Grabelsky surrealist art
These striking artworks by Matthew Grabelsky juxtapose unexpected items, creating intriguing surrealist images.
  • Healthy food alongside unhealthy food
  • Multiple views of a single person within one portrait
  • Unexpected items in bowls of food
  • Drawings of items alongside actual items (integration of drawing with photography: drawings of drawings)

Beautiful print by Aaron Horkey:

Aaron Horkey prints
The juxtoposition of first-hand source material alongside printed image: an exploration of the artistic process: cicada print by Aaron Horkey.

Open (IGCSE Art and Design Edexcel)

  • Architectural openings – looking through windows / doorways / framing of scenes
  • Bodily openings (wounds / scars)
  • Open mouths: the never ending desire to be fed

Example: Scotch Tape Series by Naman Photography:

scotch tape series
Manipulation of bodily openings: the Scotch Tape Series.
  • Pile of open books / letters / desk scene
  • Animals in cages / open latches / gates / escape
  • Birthday scene – unwrapping / opening presents
  • Unexpected packages containing random items
  • The peeling open of nuts / fruit / vegetables / discarded skins
  • Animal carcasses

A great Foundation sketchbook page depicting open hanging carcasses by Seamus O’Dare:

sketchbook page exploring meat carcasses
Sketchbook page showing the analysis of artists who explore animal carcasses: a suitable topic for the IGCSE Art and Exam theme ‘Open’.
  • Gutting fish
  • Open scissors / surgical instruments
  • Open hands / fingers / holding of precious items
  • Breaking open something unexpected

Example by Dennis Sibeijn:

digital art by Dennis Sibeijn
This digital artwork by Dennis Sibeijn depicts an unexpected item broken open.
  • Open boxes / cartons / packaging
  • Grocery bags spilling open
  • Flies landing on a food item that was left open
  • Opening seedpods

Beautiful drawings by students of Monica Aissa Martinez:

observational drawing of pinecones
Beautiful observational drawings of pinecones: the opening of seedpods.

Floating (AS Art and Design OCR)

  • Swimming / diving
  • Ducks and ducklings
  • Something horrific floating in water
  • Rubbish / litter clogging waterways
  • Hot air balloons (showing the interior mechanisms / people etc)
  • Floating seeds / seedpods
  • Gravity / weightlessness
  • A body caught at the bottom of the sea

Covert and Obscured (AS Art and Design Edexcel)

  • Masks / disguises
  • Makeup / concealment
  • Carrying out an embarrassing activity / action in private
  • Unexpected objects buried in soil
  • Wrapping in layers

Amanda Duke has also collected some great artist models for this topic on Pinterest!

Inside, Outside and in Between (A2 Art and Design Edexcel)

  • Please see our extensive list of subject matter suggestions for the ‘inside / outside‘ topic in our 2012 Art Exam ideas article (most of these could align perfectly within the Inside, Outside and Between topic).
  • The Saatchi Gallery has also produced a good resource here.
  • This Pinterest Board by Amanda Duke has some great artist model ideas related to Inside, Outside and In Between, as does Art2day.

Student Art Guide members are also actively discussing this topic and sharing ideas within our forum! Join the discussion!

Rolling (A2 Art and Design OCR)

  • Rolling pins / baking scene
  • Road rollers / diggers / construction workers
  • Children playing – rolling down hills etc
  • Spinning wheels / cogs / mechanical items
  • Roller coasters / spinning rides at amusement parks
  • Rolling random items down hills
  • Runaway vehicles
  • Items blowing across sand in the wind (rolling tumbleweed etc)
  • People pushing a vehicle stuck in mud
  • Kids playing with marbles
  • Forward rolls / gymnastics
  • Rolls of paper – beauty in the mundane
  • Rolls of skin / fat
  • Old fashioned bicycles

An amazing painting by Edie Nadelhaft:

painting by Edie Nadelhaft, artist
This extreme close-up painting of folds of human flesh could be interpreted in terms of folding, rolling skin.

Taped, Tied and Bound (A2 Art and Design OCR)

  • A chained animal
  • Animals trapped / entangled in rubbish / litter
  • Zipping up of unexpected items (zips in flesh etc)
  • Taping / tying of the human figure (see the Scotch Tape Series above as well as the captivating drawing below by Gillian Lambert):
Gillian Lambert Art
An intriguing observational drawing by Gillian Lambert that could easily fit into the Taped, Tied and Bound A2 Art exam theme.
  • Swings tied to trees
  • A person tied up by their hair
  • Washing tied on the line
  • Bundles of random objects tied and bound together
  • Bound onions, garlic and other vegetables hanging to dry
  • Blood relatives: inescapable ties between generations / family

There are also some great photos that could inspire ideas for this topic in the Student Art Guide Pinterest Photography Board.

Narrow starting points

Some examination boards set students a range of topics – those which are open and interpretative; others which are descriptive and narrow. This range of topics is to cater for individual student preferences: some students prefer to have more flexibility with their topic choice; others relish the security and direction provided by a set starting point. It is not important which style of topic you select: what is important is the quality of the work you produce in response to your chosen (or given) topic.

Examples of more directed starting points within the 2013 IGCSE, GCSE and A Level Art exam papers include:

  • A seated figure leaning forward with hands resting on a walking stick
  • The upper part of a person trying on clothes for their next holiday

In topics such as this, the initial decisions you must make are less about interpreting the topic (although an element of interpretation is required) and more about:

Selection of Subject matterSome helpful recommendations include:

  • Ensure your chosen subject includes a range of different surfaces / textures / patterns (not an excessive quantity – this runs the risk of resulting in images that are too busy or complex, but enough to ensure that your images have variety and visual interest).
  • Ensure your subject is accessible first-hand.
  • Aim for subjects that have personal relevance (i.e. if people are included, draw people who are important to you).
  • Consider backgrounds / surrounding imagery.

Composing the subject in an aesthetically pleasing way (partly influenced by artist models).

It is important to note that if you choose (or are given) an open-ended starting point, these decisions must be made too!

Some final reminders

The best Art exam topics (or interpretations) are:

  • Significant and important to your life in some way
  • Able to be seen / experienced / explored first-hand

The above suggestions do not attempt to explain how an idea might be developed. Development should occur naturally as your project progresses. You are not expected (or even encouraged) to have a clear idea of where your project should end up at the outset. To understand how to move forward with your idea once you have chosen it – or indeed, how to begin – read our article about Development of Ideas (although targeted at A Level Art students, this is helpful for GCSE / IGCSE students too).


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