Art is so much more than painting and drawing

Richard Harrison, Art Subject Leader at the British International School Hanoi, talks the importance of art and design to secondary education

Art lessons are now very different from the basic still-life drawings tasks and have become an interesting subject through technological applications.

We had a chat with Richard Harrison, Art Subject Leader at the British International School Hanoi, to learn more about the curriculum and the importance of art and design to secondary education.

* What made you want to become an Art Teacher? What do you expect students to learn from your class?

I have always enjoyed being creative and remember constantly drawing as I grew up. By the time I left school I had developed a passion for design and chose to specialize in Graphic Design at university.

However, throughout university I found that I missed the creative freedom that art can offer so decided then to train as an art teacher. I try to give students an element of this creative freedom in each project as it allows them to develop independent learning skills, creative confidence and more successful personal outcomes.

I often find that students initially perceive art as a subject limited to those with a natural ability for painting and drawing. With lessons that include photography, digital media, printmaking and sculpture I like students in my class to develop a broader understanding of what art and design can be.

I also think it’s vital that students learn, through practice and creative risks, that art and design can be developed into one of the most exciting future careers and many of these careers do not even exist yet!

* How is the Art and Design curriculum at the school? How is technology applied to the study of art?

The Art and Design curriculum at BIS Hanoi is incredibly varied. I want students to enjoy art and develop a broad range of skills using different media, processes and techniques so each project offers something new whether it is printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography or numerous other art forms. Integrated into this is an opportunity for students to develop an understanding of traditional and contemporary art-making practitioners from different cultures.

Art lessons are now very different from the basic still-life drawings tasks. For example, a recent project included using a combination of digital collage, Photoshop and charcoal to create a response to Rene Magritte’s ‘False Mirror’. Another project required students to digitally edit their portrait before using this as stimulus for their own large-scale painting.

I often think back to my own art lessons when I was at school and remember how much I enjoyed them. I always spent hours completing my art homework and thoroughly enjoyed the different projects we covered in school.

At BIS Hanoi, I have tried to create a curriculum which instills that same sense of enjoyment, work ethic and creativity. Furthermore I love to exhibit student work, it is great to see students throughout school taking pride in their work and celebrating each other’s individual responses to a theme.


* Is there any advice you would like to offer to secondary students who are thinking about choosing an art major for their university applications?

It is never too early to start building your portfolio! I would recommend photographing and uploading the best development work and final pieces to a free online portfolio. Not only is this a great way to show off your work but also a great way to see the variety of work and progress made through school.

Researching the course and university is also vital to a successful application. Each course will have its own requirements for the application and portfolio. Try to have a varied portfolio in school which shows a strong skill-set across different art disciplines and include process work from your sketchbook to show how ideas have been developed and refined. Once you have this and your research, you can be selective in what you submit as part of your application.

Some universities ask students to complete an extra project as part of their application so be prepared for this! One of my current Year 13 students, Ha Nguyet Dao, had a series of creative tasks to complete as part of her application. She will be going to Rhode Island School of Design next year where she will study Interior Architecture.


You can find more about Art teaching and learning at BIS Hanoi on Instagram at, or visit

The British International School Hanoi, as part of the world’s leading premium schools organisation - Nord Anglia Education - offers an outstanding British-style education to local and expatriate students from 2 to 18 years old in Hanoi. At BIS Hanoi, we provide rigorous, internationally-recognised curricula and qualifications including the English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate (IB). The school operates from a purpose-built modern campus with first-class facilities resourced to the highest level and staffed with dedicated and committed teachers, thus ensuring the education on offer is amongst the very best available anywhere in the world.

For more information, please visit The British International School Hanoi.



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