The specification for junior cycle Visual Art focuses on the students’ practical and cognitive engagement with art. Students will be enabled to progressively improve their skills as an artist/craftsperson/designer in a space that is safe for them to explore ideas and diverse processes both creatively and imaginatively. This can be achieved through the interconnected strands of the disciplines of art, craft and design. A student will experience learning in each of these three strands as they progress through their junior cycle.
Art, or fine art, is the expression of creative skill in a visual form. It emphasises ideas, feelings and visual qualities through imaginative and/or technical skill. Apart from the creation of artworks, fine art also encompasses the study of art through appreciation and critical discussion.
Craft is the application of a range of particular artistic skills and knowledge to produce artefacts of aesthetic worth. With an emphasis on processes and materials, the artefacts created may represent either traditional crafts or a more individual approach by the craftsperson.
Design is the process of planning, problem-solving and creating. It can be a response to a brief, a need or a situation. Emphasising the process of planning, problem-solving and completion, with drawing as a means of thinking, formal visual elements and imagery are used to communicate messages and ideas.
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While the learning outcomes associated with each strand are set out separately in this specification, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation. The students’ engagement and learning are optimised by a fully integrated experience of art, craft and design. To give further emphasis to the integrated nature of learning, the outcomes for each strand are grouped by reference to five elements:
- Critical and visual language
- Visual culture and appreciation
- The art elements and design principles
Each element focuses on the acquisition of new knowledge, skills and values. As the student progresses through each of the strands, there will be systematic development of their fundamental knowledge, principles and values, including the key skills through each of the elements.
Critical and visual language is used by students to discuss, understand and assess an artistic work, whether it is their own or another’s. It allows students to explore imagery more fully and in a more thoughtful way. Students can use critical and visual language to communicate their ideas to their teacher, other students or the wider community. The ability for the student to use it builds a higher level of competence and confidence when they respond to and engage with the visual culture of the contemporary or historical world and natural and built environments.
Drawing is the fundamental language integral to all of the activities undertaken by students in the three strands of art, craft and design. It is essential for enquiry, expression, documenting and communicating visual information. Drawing from observation, including primary sources and life drawing and experimental and imaginative drawing, as well as developing ideas through 2-D, 3-D or digital methods are important for students to experience. Drawing is also an art form itself. Students need to experience and develop their drawing skills over the three years of junior cycle.
Visual culture and appreciation recognises that the modern world has become a more visual place encompassing a wide range of visual stimuli such as architecture and urban design to advertising, new media, the internet, fine art, craft, design, photography, fashion and more. Non-text-based cues and images are visually read at a much faster rate than text-based messages. At times, bombarded with images, students need to understand and decode these visual messages, as well as the visual culture of other societies too. This knowledge and understanding needs to be communicated using language familiar to the students but also the critical and visual language associated with the three strands of art, craft and design.
Art elements and design principles (AEDP) are the building blocks of any work of art a student will create. Their application in 2-D, 3-D or digital works can be analysed by considering their use either collectively or individually. The art elements include the dot, colour, line, shape, tone, texture and pattern. The principles of design include balance, tension, symmetry, harmony, light, space, scale and contrast.
Media choice and use is an important element that cross-cuts the three strands of art, craft and design. Media are the means to interact, create, connect and communicate with others. In the work, which students undertake to create, they can use traditional tools and methods or new, contemporary or digital means. Media also encompasses the knowledge of techniques or processes too.
The Visual Art specification has been designed to assist teachers in planning learning experiences for students and to enable them to develop their knowledge, skills, understanding, aesthetic values and attitude as well as helping them to take ownership of their learning. Visual art is primarily a process and as such involves the whole student, incorporating their personal outlook, aesthetic and growth. As students gain experience through their learning and creating of work across the three distinct strands of art, craft and design, they will be developing their artistic, critical and aesthetic skills. These, and other opportunities that may be planned by their teacher will further reinforce the interlinking connections of the five cross-cutting elements.
Part of the learning experiences of students in Visual Art over the three years of junior cycle involves developing an understanding of aesthetics and the use of the art elements and design principles in their own work, as well as being able to analyse these in the work of others. As students develop their skills through the use of different processes and media and in their approaches to creating realised work in all of the three strands, they will also learn to experiment with and decide on suitable media, whether contemporary or traditional. In seeing that the world does not stand still, students will also be enabled to see that neither do the methods artists/craftspeople/designers/architects employ to question and respond to it. Students will also be enabled to experience the three strands of art, craft and design through the use of digital and new media.