The International GCSE Art project that you’ve been waiting for: Top in the World

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This phenomenal International GCSE Art Coursework project was completed by Tingjian He (Jim), while studying at ACG Strathallan College in 2011. Tingjian not only gained 100%, but, along with another student in his class, was awarded the prestigious TOP IN THE WORLD placing for the CIE October examination session. Achieving the maximum mark in every assessment criteria, Tingjian’s Coursework project is an excellent source of inspiration for teachers and students alike.

Tingjian submitted fourteen A3 pages (a sketchbook), with a final A3 acrylic painting. Based on a ‘Coastal Environment’ theme, he explores natural forms such as skulls, harakeke (flax) flowers and landscapes, as well as man-made items such as fishing floats and ropes.

GCSE Art sketchbook drawings of floats and rope
In a large graphite drawing on acrylic wash, Tingjian records shape, proportion and tone with ease. He confidently replicates a range of surface qualities, including the woven texture of a rope and the shiny reflective surface of a fishing float. It is important to note that while a candidate’s skill is expected to grow over the duration of the course, the first impression that a student gives the examiner is very important. As with this International GCSE sketchbook, the examiners should be hit with a student’s effort and skill from the very first page.
GCSE art sketchbook example
Tingjian’s second sketchbook page contains another highly accurate drawing from observation: a mixed media drawing of an animal skull. Working primarily in black and white, students are able to focus on tone and form, gaining proficiency in these areas, before contending with colour. Without a doubt, this is one of the most outstanding International GCSE art sketchbook pages I have ever seen.
GCSE Art sketchbook fish drawings
This International GCSE Art sketchbook page introduces colour, with a vibrant and messy acrylic wash forming the background of the work. This technique encourages creative experimentation and provides a welcome contrast to the highly accurate and controlled drawings that are added over the top (note that the coloured ground also gives colour to the fish themselves).
GCSE Art sketchbook natural forms
Here Tingjian’s sketchbook page includes reference to New Zealand artist Jason Hicks. Following a written evaluation of Hicks’ artworks, where students have the opportunity to demonstrate their art-related vocabulary, drawings of flax (harakeke) flowers and other natural forms are painted in the style of Jason Hicks. Here we really see Tingjian begin to use painted acrylic layers in his work, with both dry-brushing and masking techniques.
GCSE art book
Part of the mock examination, this page in Tingjian’s International GCSE Art sketchbook continues to show experimentation with media, form and colour.
GSCE Art sketchbook drawing of birds
This is the sketchbook page in which Tingjian really clinches his First in the World placing. With a technical skill and understanding of composition rarely seen at the GCSE level, Tingjian produces an absolutely draw-dropping research page.
GCSE art sketchbook layout - artist analysis
Here, Tingjian examines the work of New Zealand printmaker Andrea Mae Miller. Note that while this International GCSE Art project focuses upon Painting and Related Media, artist models who work outside of this genre are more than acceptable (as long as their work is relevant). In this case, the beautiful etchings of Maori carvings have an eerie aesthetic that clearly influences the development of Tingjian’s work.
GCSE Art projects
In this sketchbook page the artwork of New Zealand painter Harold Coop is analysed. Note that there is rarely any need for students to complete large, slavish replicas of artist work: the imitation of small parts of a painting is usually all that is needed for students to gain an understanding of technique and style (which can then be applied to their own work). See also how the quick pencil sketches showing the basic compositional structure of an artist’s works can be a great way for students to understand how parts of a painting connect and relate to one another. …Yet another comprehensive page in Tingjian’s International GCSE Art project.
IGCSE art artist study
Returning to artist model Jason Hicks (who was studied briefly within an earlier sketchbook page), Tingjian acquires the painting techniques that really help to inform his final work. Note the tidy, comprehensive notes which accompany this thorough IGCSE Art and Design submission, indicating to the examiner that this student is hard-working, conscientious student.
GCSE Art development of final artwork
This images shows the development of Tingjian’s final painting, which is developed and refined over the last four sketchbook pages.
GCSE art final piece
International GCSE Art final piece: A mature and confident conclusion, Tingjian’s combines his own ideas related to his chosen subject-matter with the style of the artists studied. Superb!

Tingjian’s Coursework project is visible in the YouTube clip below:

ACG Strathallan College has a thriving and dynamic Art department that has achieved great success under the guidance of Art Teacher and Curriculum Co-ordinator Jo Palmer. Over the coming weeks I will bring you more articles about her exceptional art students who have achieved brilliant results (including Tingjian’s 100% IGCSE Art exam).


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