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St Gabriel’s

St Gabriel’s

  • Whole School Open Morning - Saturday 2 October

Head of Art

Interview with Mr Paul Spurrett, Head of Art

Can you tell us a little about your education?
I went to an all boys state school and co-educational Sixth Form in Didcot, Oxfordshire.  After a year out, I studied for my degree in Graphic Design in Reading.

How did your interest in art develop?
I always found it easy to pick up a pencil and draw or colour things.  My mum was good at drawing, so perhaps the gene passed down from there.  I used to play a game called Warhammer when I was younger, however, I was more interested in painting the intricate models rather than playing the actual game!

Do you think anyone can learn to be an artist or are you born with a natural talent?
I think art is very similar to sport.  You have to practise in order to become better and you do not need to be good at every type to be considered a skilled person.  Having natural talent can help things develop a lot easier but, with the right mindset, anyone is able to learn new skills. 

What artists do you find inspirational?
Joseph Beuys had the guile to use art to convince people that he was a completely different person.  That was pretty cool.  I love Graphic Design (obviously), installation art, abstract expressionism and portraiture. I always find it quite remarkable how a face can be presented in so many different ways.  My favourite sculpture is 'Cloudgate' by Anish Kapoor.  I also love any art that is used to put a smile on people's faces or mocks the corrupt things in this world.  We all need a laugh sometimes!

Do your current A level / GCSE students have a particular interest in a specific area?
A lot of our GCSE artists are keen to create a portraiture project, overall they are all brilliant at coming up with their own projects (Photography and Textiles too). We have students exploring all kinds of interesting themes such as Black History, Skateboarding, Conspiracy Theories, Beauty, Feminism, Pollution, World Culture, Fantasy, Surrealism etc.  Come exhibition time, every student's work looks amazing.

Why did you choose a career in teaching?
I had an end of degree exhibition at New Designers in London which started on the Wednesday. It was an opportunity, as Graphic Designers, to showcase our portfolio and encourage business and clients to employ us.  The Thursday morning was the 7 July and I was due to catch the Kings Cross underground train about an hour after it was hit by a terrorist bomb attack.  After the rest of the atrocities had happened that day,  London was like a ghost town for a week and so nobody came to the exhibition.  I decided to go snowboarding and gained my instructor qualifications.  A knee injury kept me back in the UK after the second season and I really enjoyed the teaching element of the instructor programme.  So, I put my degree to good use and went to study my PGCE at Oxford Brookes University.

Have any of your students, gone on to university or made a career out of art?
Yes, I have had a few students who continued their path within the creative industries.  Illustrators, artists, photographers and graphic designers. It is really lovely to see how much they have flourished and developed. 

What do you think are the benefits for students looking to study art?
Creative industries bring in over one hundred billion pounds worth of income to the UK every year.  The clothes you wear, cars you want to drive, TV shows you watch, advertisements you see, magazines you read, they have been created by people with artistic influences.  The lateral thinking skills you learn are different to traditional subjects and it is a great way to express yourself. 

Is there a key message you want to share with pupils interested in pursuing art?
Only pursue it if you enjoy it.  Do not force something you do not want to do.  Do not negatively compare yourself to others.  Set your own goals.  Be positive.  Express yourself.  Be open minded to trying new things.