Art Themes to Explore in GCSE & iGCSE

By The Arty Teacher - November 23, 2019

If you are looking for art themes to explore in GCSE or iGCSE lessons, the huge list below is a great starting point.  Thank you to art teacher Annie Chapman for this amazing list.  Some words link to art teaching resources on this website.

Aboriginal and native art

Abandoned places

Advertising/Consumption and consumerism, Rich world vs Poor world

Ageing, old and new, decay and change


Art & Words

Beauty.The beauty myth, Self-image

Beautiful vs Ugly


Book illustration and text

Casting Shadows

Colour and mood



Carnival and Celebration


Culture Patterns, objects, traditions:  eg: Africa, Asia. Japan







Design eg. clothes/shoes/campaign poster




Fear and Nightmares Environment

Faces and features

From natural to abstraction


Fragile things


Flowers and plants

Graffiti/murals/Protest messages



Inside out

Insects/butterflies in nature

In The News

Impressionism /light in painting

Illustrate a story


Landscapes of the mind, loneliness, loss



Magnification and macro




Money /inequality



Myths and Legends/Magic




Out of Place

Ordinary vs extraordinary


Pattern eg. patterns in nature/repeat patterns/rotational patterns

Planets/Save the planet/Space

Pop Art and Comics



Rich world-vs-poor world




Sea /coast


Stories and storytelling


Seven Deadly Sins




Secrets/a secret place

Still life


Time and Space

Time-lapse/freeze frame/movement


Tropical vegetation/Jungles

Trash and/or treasure

Through a Window


Under water

Vegetables and Fruit

Washed-up, things found on a beach

World within a world

Women in Art



This website is for art teachers.  I’m pleased that art students also enjoy it, but I am not able to respond to individual students who want help with ideas for their GCSE projects.

Please comment below if you have more art themes to explore in GCSE & iGCSE lessons and I will add them.

There is also a fantastic list of artists listed by theme on The Arty Teacher.  Click the link below to find out more.

artists listed by theme

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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26 responses to “Art Themes to Explore in GCSE & iGCSE”

  1. Vishva says:

    Would surrealism be a theme ?

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Vishva, Surrealism is a movement rather than a theme. I’m trying to think if movements have ever come up on the exam papers and I can’t think that they have. I don’t see why you couldn’t research into Surrealism if that was something of interest. There are themes within Surrealism such as ‘Dream Like Scenes’, ‘Illogical juxtapositions’, or ‘Distorted figures and biomorphic shapes’.

  2. Mari Walsh says:

    Hi, my son his in his 1st year of art gcse. He is a good little drawer but that’s it really, not particularly good at painting or using different textiles. we are a little confused as to the structure of the course….
    I do need to speak to his teacher but so hard getting to do this!
    portfolio/theme idea he has thiught of is western/ cowboy….came from his love of an xbox game. We’ve had a little look at the ladscape artists for that era and he has favourite characters from the game that he can sketch etc just not sure how to make it into a portfolio….any help would be grateful.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Mari,
      Hopefully his art teacher has shared the GCSE assessment objectives with him. You can see them on the following page:
      If you scroll down to ‘Assessment criteria grid’, in bold you will see the 4 assessment objectives. The first reads ‘Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.’
      ‘Sources’ can be artists, designers, film-makers, books, anything creative really, including the designers and artists who made the xbox game. I would suggest he created a research page all about the game, the publisher of the game, the artists. You can find all sorts of stuff online about the art in games. For example here I found some fan art on the Rockstar Games website:
      After this research page, he could photograph someone dressed up as a cowboy. Make sure he considers background, lighting, focus. Present these photos in the portfolio.
      Draw from these photos. Draw in different media e.g. pencil, ballpoint pen, fine liners, markers, chalks, charcoal (what ever he feels comfortable with). Draw on different surfaces: white paper, brown packing paper? Cowboys drink coffee: coffee stain some paper and draw on that.
      Hopefully once he’s done this his art teacher will be able to tell him what to do next!

  3. Charlotte Burns says:

    Hi, I am a teacher at a school in England. We have had our new brief for our y11 exam and the theme is ‘MAKE MUSIC DAY’. We are stuck for ideas on what the students could research into as well as artist who relate. Any help would be appreciated.


    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Chloe,
      I hope you’ve discovered my ‘Artists Listed by Theme’ page. There are some artists listed under the theme ‘Music’ that might be useful to your students. You can see it here:
      I hope your school has a music department. I would be straight up there to borrow instruments as some students might want to start with photography as instruments are so photogenic.
      Other ways students might begin:
      Photographing a friend listening to music.
      Ask if anyone plays an instrument and use their own experience as a starting point.
      This article was interesting:
      They could pick their favourite band and promote them as if they were playing at ‘Make Music Day’.

  4. Peyton says:

    Hello Mrs! I’m a current IGCSE art and design student, our school doesn’t have a art teacher yet. I have no idea what to do, should I start with making a portfolio on my own first? thank you! A topic I want to do is “behind the eyes” it’s a topic surrounding mythical creatures and mythology. would this be appropriate? thank you so much!

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi, That sounds like a very difficult situation. I’m surprised your school is letting you do an art course without an art teacher. Are you in your first year of the course? What have you completed since September? I would first try and find a couple of artist that create artworks about mythical creatures and/or mythology. Produce some research pages on them in your sketchbook. Then try and think of something real that you could draw (a primary source) that relates to your artists. (This will depend on the artist you have chosen, but it might be something like animal skulls if your school has them) You could also work from secondary sources, perhaps images of lizards? Or could you get a real octopus from a fish mongers and draw and photograph it? (I’ve had students do this!) You could then use your drawings to create mythical creatures of your own. Make sure you work in a variety of media and on a variety of surfaces. Hopefully this would be a start. Let me know how you get on.

  5. Amadeu Sousa says:

    Hi The Arty Teacher, I am teaching iGCSE Art and Design for the first time. Just wondering as to what you would consider as an ideal number of themes that can be introduced to a class over the course of two years. Is it several or is it a matter of concentrating on one theme only throughout the entire course? Much appreciated, thank you.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Different teachers structure the course in different ways. At my school, we do one theme in Year 10 with two main outcomes. In year 11 they do another theme (we run this a little bit like a mock). Then they do the externally set task from January.

  6. Great job! ” The Arty Teacher”
    The resources and responses you provided are very helpful and so inspiring.
    I teach Igcse Art and design in keystages 3,4&5 in Africa.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Hi Cletus, I’m so pleased to read that you find my resources useful and inspiring – thank you 🙂

  7. INA BHARAWAJ says:

    Interesting and informative. I am an igcse teacher.would like to see the blog

  8. Brenda wafula says:

    Have just come across this blog…. hope to gain more!!

  9. James says:

    Hi Arty Teacher,

    I am an art teacher in Africa Nairobi Kenya teaching IGCSE Art & Design.
    Just wondering if you still do this blog.
    Any materials would be appreciated including advice on Photography.

    Kind regards.

  10. Vongai Brenda Gogwe Sibanda says:

    Good day what ideas could I work on for Stories or story telling

  11. The Arty Teacher says:

    Hi Annabelle, That sounds like an excellent theme to me. Don’t worry about it – enjoy it. You could go in so many directions and make it personal. Within that theme, you can look at one aspect of it and then flow into other areas of it.
    Here is a list of artists you might like to look at:

  12. The Arty Teacher says:

    ‘Inside Out’ is a great topic. You could do a person without drawing a person e.g. A house on the outside where the objects in the house represent the person, or a jewellery box where what is in it represents the person. Both these could be 2D or 3D.
    Or make a book (or a box) where the outside is the personality you show to the world and the inside is what you keep hidden.
    You could take a more literal approach: You could do fish and fish skeletons. If you didn’t want to do a portrait, you could still do feet or hands and draw them and also the bone structure or x-rays.

  13. Mutsawashè says:

    This is really helpful thank you so much for sharing these I’ve already gotten an idea of what I want ❤️

  14. Julie Anne Unsworth says:

    Thankyou, I am very interested in receiving any newsletters

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