“They’re talented and intelligent,” says our Master Art teacher Andrew Strachan. “I can guide them and give them advice and direction. I can tell them artists they may look at and galleries to visit. But they have to do the work.”
Mr Strachan has been a teacher at our college for 15 years. In that time he has had 13 students place Top in the World in their Cambridge curriculum Art exams, including two in a row over the last two years.
Last year’s graduate Sophie Macdonnell is his most recent success.
“Sophie had tremendous ability in dealing with form, and with light and dark. I told Sophie on her first day that she had a good chance at doing very well this year if she set goals and targets and never had a day where she wasn’t focused on the work. She wanted to try. And she succeeded. Sometimes she would go home and finish three paintings in one night.”
Alumna Katherine Yang was Top in the World the year before. Her portfolio focused on the intersection of art with mathematics. She’s now studying at Stanford University.
“She had the intellectual ability to look in depth at ideas and that was evident in her work,” Mr Strachan explained.
So what are the characteristics of his students’ success?
A strong idea and an understanding of formal technique, he says.
“Understanding form and tone, line and colour, space and depth. Working from observation and being able to look in depth at an art-making problem. Strong ideas from the outset. That’s where it all starts. Then I’ll see if a style can be developed from those formal beginnings.”
From there it’s up to the student. “Yes, there must be a focus and a desire to succeed on the part of both the teacher and the student. But at the end of the day, the student must have the dedication, passion and discipline for the subject. And they do.”
In 2016 Andrew Strachan received a certificate from Stanford University for exceptional teaching.
His students have also received numerous Top in New Zealand awards.
Fellow Art teacher Debbie McLachlan from our college has had ten students place Top in New Zealand.