A Level Fine Art Course

Ashbourne A level Fine Art students explore a great selection of art and design areas so they can choose their art pathway, develop their own style, create an impressive portfolio and prepare for a career in the art world.

A level Fine Art at Ashbourne

Ashbourne students have the choice to experience a wide variety of art and design activities, such as drawing, life drawing, silk screen printing, sculpture, digital design and graphics, photography, fabrics and textiles. This allows them to make an informed decision, based on their interests, aptitude and skill, on which subjects to specialise in. They are also offered plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents and artwork both at Ashbourne and further afield, as part of their professional development.

A level Fine Art students develop the confidence and technical skill to express their ideas and convey messages to change the way people see the world. This course requires critical thinking, independent research, appreciation of historical and contemporary context and evaluation of their work. All of which are excellent preparation for a wide variety of career pathways.

Studying at Ashbourne helped me to explore new horizons in art and discover the diverse culture of London. Also taking A level History of Art helped develop analytical skills which are absolutely necessary in order to formulate my aesthetic.

Lidiia, Foundation Art and Design, Central Saint Martins

Preparing for a career in the art world

The Art Faculty offers expert guidance and comprehensive support for students applying for art degree courses at university. Students take part in group critiques to analyse and develop their work, join portfolio preparation workshops and receive one-to-one support during the application process.

Many of our students go on to apply to prestigious art colleges in London and the UK including Central Saint Martins, Chelsea, Camberwell and London College of Communication (all part of UAL), Slade (UCL), Ravensbourne, Westminster, Kingston and Brunel. We often encourage students to enrol for full-time preliminary Art and Design Foundation courses prior to degree study and have strong links with Foundation course providers such as the City and Guilds of London Art School.

Career pathways

Fine Art students have a wide range of traditional careers paths to follow including practising as a professional artist, directing and curating at galleries and museums, creating mural art, promoting art in the community, becoming technicians, printmakers, sculptors and teaching, for example. Students may also delve into the digital world where the demand for new media software and graphic designers, illustrators, multimedia artists, online publishers, and video, animation and gaming artists is growing at an unprecedented rate.

Fine Artists today are able to reach a worldwide audience almost instantaneously thanks to the internet and new media technology. Now they can market and sell their work directly to people around the world without having to go through traditional channels, although galleries and other art institutions remain highly influential. To survive and thrive in such a competitive industry artists need to be versatile, multi-skilled and able to promote their ideas and work – something greatly encouraged at Ashbourne from the very outset.

Showcasing artwork

Ashbourne’s Creative Arts Evening allows current and former students the chance to share their art, music, poetry and fashion at a nearby venue. Students and staff from across the college also take part in the very popular annual Ashbourne Revue to show off their skills and talents in art, fashion, music, dance and drama. This is a fantastic chance especially for art and design students to unveil their masterpieces.


Prize-winning arts students

Art and Design students have been invited, by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to exhibit their work at the beautiful Victorian Leighton House museum in Kensington as part of an annual borough-wide schools exhibition. Ashbourne students have always been very successful at this event and have often won prizes for their work. This invitation also entitled them to put forward their artwork for the Art on Loan programme where local businesses pay to hire, and occasionally buy, students’ art.

European trip

Every year Ashbourne students have the chance to visit a major European city, such as Rome, Athens, Madrid, Florence and Barcelona, during the Spring half term. The trip is an extremely popular cultural experience that takes in many of the cities’ fine art galleries. It is a fantastic opportunity for A level Fine Art students. It is also a real highlight of many students’ time at Ashbourne.

What is covered in the course?

Students experience a variety of art activities during the first year and begin to build up a dynamic portfolio, which constitutes 60% of the overall result. At the end of the first year students will complete an internal assessment and exam to ensure they attain a suitable standard to progress to A level for the second year.

During the second year Fine Art students go on to study drawing, painting, mixed media, sculpture, installation and printmaking in more depth. They learn to respond to and record images using a variety of approaches such as observational, analysis, creative expression and imagination and will develop a greater understanding of space, composition, rhythm, scale and structure as well as colour, tone, texture, shape and form.

Students will be introduced to a wide range of techniques including underpainting, glazing, wash and impasto, modelling, carving, casting, constructing, assembling and welding etching, engraving, drypoint, mono printing, lino printing, screen printing, photo silkscreen and lithography. They will also examine how images, artefacts and other modern and historical art forms have been created so they can apply and contextualise these processes in relation to their own work.

There is an externally set assignment at the end of the course which constitutes 40% of the final result.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the AQA specification for A level Fine Art.

Who teaches this course?

Nick Cheeseman

MA Fine Art (Chelsea College of Arts, UAL); BA Hons Fine Art (Staffordshire University); PGCE Art and Design (Bath Spa University)

Nick brings a wealth of experience and passion for teaching art to Ashbourne. He is a practising artist who has exhibited his work across the UK and has been teaching for more than seven years. He has also been an Edexcel exam moderator for GCSE and A level. Nick joined the college in 2016.

Caterina Lewis

MA and BA Fine Art (Central St. Martins); PGCE Art and Design (Institute of Education, University of London)

Caterina is a practising fine artist who has plenty of experience curating exhibitions and working with galleries. She has been teaching art and design for many years to a wide range of age groups including at GCSE and A level and joined Ashbourne’s Art Faculty in 2016.

Reading and resources


The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change, Robert Hughes
Hailed as the best, most readable and provocative account of modern art ever written. Covers one hundred years of modern art from cubism to pop and avant-garde.

What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art in the Blink of an Eye, Will Gompertz
What’s the point of modern art? BBC Arts Editor and former director at Tate Modern Will Gompertz takes you on a whirlwind tour to hear the stories behind the masterpieces, meet the artists and help you understand what you’re looking at.

The 20th Century Art book, Phaidon
Presents 500 artists from across the international art scene highlighting iconic works and classics of the future.

The Story of Art, E.H. Gombrich
Classic for all art lovers exploring selected art history from the perspective of the artists.

Publishes books on art, photography, design and contemporary culture.

Koenig Books
Independent bookshop specialising in art, architecture and photography with branches at the Serpentine Gallery and Whitechapel Gallery.

Gallery bookshops
You will find a wide range of art books at all the major galleries including The National, The Portrait, Tate Britain and Modern and the Royal Academy.


Art news, reviews, views, events and comment from The Guardian and The Telegraph.


What’s on and where
TimeOut’s guide to art in London keeps you up to date with current and upcoming exhibitions at galleries across the city.

A Level Menu ☰
A Level Menu ☰