Lower School

Through art classes, our youngest students have the opportunity to explore a diverse studio experience working with many mediums including pencils, printing, 3D projects, fiber and paint to name a few. Students begin the journey of understanding the elements and principles of art, gaining a deeper understanding of different artists and styles while developing coordination, fine-motor skills and visual sense. Students in third and fourth grade continue to refine these skills. Our older students work more independently and begin to discover their own artistic styles and more fully incorporate their understanding of form, media and technique. The curriculum is a spiral approach. Many connections are made to studies students are exploring in academic classes such as math and science as well as other humanities.

Middle School

Visual arts classes engage the natural curiosity, creativity and energy of our Middle School students, helping them develop an understanding of design principles and expand their knowledge of the visual arts. As students refine their own work, they increasingly evaluate and synthesize multiple approaches, rather than seeking a single solution. This mindset helps students develop into critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers.

Students in the Middle School have the opportunity to take studio art, woodworking, ceramics, sculpture and Computer-Aided Design (CAD).

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  • Grades 5 – 6 Studio Art

    This course covers fundamental skills, techniques, knowledge and attitudes necessary to produce and understand visual art. A variety of artistic media are explored across a range of subjects and styles. Fifth grade assignments may include organic and geometric object studies, value scales, warm and cool self-portraits, assemblage, aerial and one-point perspective, and a collaborative project. Additional projects at the sixth grade level include monochromatic painting, color wheel and complementary color study, self-portrait drawing from observation, collage and assemblage, block prints, and interior space and linear perspective study.
  • Grades 5 – 6 Woodworking

    The course begins with formal instruction of proper safety procedures and with basic drawing and design to elicit students’ creativity and to build their confidence. Students discover how a variety of materials can be used in different ways and learn about the history of the craft and the role of mathematics in successful woodworking. Projects take into account the developing nature of each student’s skills. In the fifth grade, students are introduced to handsaws, Dremels, tape measures and many other tools. They receive instruction on how to carefully measure and shape wood with a band saw and develop competency. Through projects such as making clocks, they create unique carvings and designs. In the sixth grade, students carefully measure, cut, carve and shape wood to make projects like birdhouses, carvings and toolboxes.
  • Grade 7 Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

    In this class, students design objects and models using specific software programs. Then, utilizing tools in the Makerspace such as the 3-D printers, Surface devices, and Greenscreens, students create objects and pieces of art. With the goal of promoting creativity and exploration, the class is an artful combination of math, design and technology.
  • Grades 7 – 8 Studio Art

    Studio Art covers fundamental skills, techniques, knowledge and the attitude necessary to produce and understand visual art. A variety of artistic media is explored across a range of subjects and styles. Seventh grade projects may include organic and geometric object drawings, drawing from a still-life, self-portraits in the style of an artist’s painting, linocut printmaking, and landscape and aerial perspective studies. Additional projects at the eighth grade level include charcoal still-life drawing, monochromatic acrylic painting, analogous painting, relief prints and linear perspective studies.
  • Grades 7 – 8 Woodworking

    Woodworking projects take into account the developing nature of each student’s skills. In the seventh grade, students carefully measure, cut, carve, shape and laminate wood to make projects such as custom chess boards and hand-carved paddles. In the eighth grade, students cut, carve, shape, and laminate wood to make projects such as custom lamps and hand-made boxes. At both grade levels, students may participate in the completion of group projects such as Adirondack chairs and tables. Students begin each semester by producing scaled drawings, calling on the design skills and creative ideas from the prior year. Over the course of the term, they are introduced to more involved techniques with a variety of wood materials and tools. The history of the craft and the mathematics inherent in the woodworking process are included in the curriculum.
  • Grades 7 – 8 Sculpture/Ceramics

    This class introduces students to working and thinking in 3-D. This hands-on class includes a variety of traditional sculpture materials such as wood, clay and wire as well as contemporary media and found objects. Students will learn different sculptural techniques including; carving, paper mâche, wire and assemblage. Ceramic hand-building techniques will include coiling, slab building and modeling. Students use these techniques to create original sculptural forms using both observation and imagination. Students are encouraged to use their problem solving-skills to produce thoughtful, original and imaginative work. The class will look at a number of sculptors both historical and contemporary. Students will start to build their art vocabulary and develop the ability to think critically. With these tools they will be able to speak about art in an informative manner during group critiques.

Upper School

The Upper School offers a range of introductory and advanced coursework in two- and three-dimensional media, including ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, portfolio development, sculpture, studio art, and woodworking. Coursework is studio-based to encourage and foster exploration and independent work. Through intensive instruction in traditional and contemporary notions of art, styles and techniques, students acquire a comprehensive understanding of both the elements that compose artworks and the ideas that make them meaningful.

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  • Studio Art

    This semester-long entry-level course provides an overview and introduction to the visual arts through the use of a variety of art tools and materials. With an emphasis on studio production, this course develops higher-level thinking skills and art-related technology skills. Students engage in creative expression through a variety of art experiences that sharpen their awareness and perception, permitting them to create in-depth works of high aesthetic quality. Art history and culture are incorporated into the art experience as an enhancement for art appreciation. This course provides students with studio experiences, using a variety of media in various areas of art exploration. Projects are based on the elements of art and principles of design. Students acquire skills necessary for more advanced art courses.
  • Ceramics

    This course introduces hand-building, sculpting, slab-work and wheel-throwing. Students learn the technical processes involved in forming and firing. This course is designed to teach students several methods of hand-building pottery, as well as throwing on the potter’s wheel. Students also learn about various sculptural techniques and have the opportunity to create sculptures in clay. The course covers types and methods of glazing, so students are able to choose glazes that will enhance the final outcome of their piece. Class presentations, topics and critiques are designed to give students a better understanding of aesthetics and history and to increase a student’s visual literacy and problem-solving abilities. Basic glaze and clay chemistry and physics are also covered. These techniques are explored in the context of ceramic art historically and in its contemporary concerns.
  • Drawing

    In this semester-long course, students learn numerous skills and techniques for representational drawing, focusing on and capturing what they see and using value, shading and contrast to create a sense of form. Gesture and line quality are carefully considered as powerful means of expression. Using both conventional and nonconventional drawing tools, students investigate mark-making and the use of color as it relates to the development of symbolic and expressive form. Students use a sketchbook to document research, growth, reflection, personal imagery and ideas. They develop an awareness of how cultural, political, historical and personal influences can be incorporated into their work. They also develop technical versatility and skills while using the visual elements and principles in compositional forms. Students are encouraged to become independent thinkers who contribute inventively and critically to their culture through the creation of art.
  • Painting

    In this semester-long course, students learn about the unique qualities of different types of paint, including watercolor, acrylic and oil. This studio course provides a fundamental theoretical and technical approach to making representational paintings on canvas. After an initial overview of color and composition, followed by a brief cycle of basic color-mixing and paint handling exercises, most of the remaining in-class time is spent actually making paintings, with ongoing guidance and critique of works in progress. Students work primarily from life—in still-life, portrait and landscape contexts—to develop skills in using cohesive color schemes and painting techniques. Students are introduced to relevant contemporary and historical artists and art styles and learn to compare, analyze, evaluate and discuss their own work as well as the work of others.
  • Photography

    Photography is a semester-long course in which students create pictures and maintain digital photography labs and weekly journals. Basic photography is introduced early in the course. Students are taught the history of photography, digital printing, camera function and photographic techniques. As the course progresses, students are exposed to more advanced aspects of lighting, composition and subject matter. Additionally, creative and experimental photography allow students to explore the use of photography as a documentary and artistic medium. All of these skills can be used in a wide variety of career paths. Students maintain journals, documenting their camera’s technical features and capabilities. They must select a photograph each week and critique their work carefully.
  • Advanced Photography

    In this semester-long course, students enhance their skills as photographers. Students are taught an expanded range of digital printing, camera function and photographic techniques. As the course progresses, students are exposed to more advanced aspects of lighting, composition and subject matter. Additionally, creative and experimental photography allow students to explore the use of photography as a documentary and artistic medium. All of these skills can be used in a wide variety of career paths. Students maintain journals, documenting their camera’s technical features and capabilities. They must select a photograph each week and critique their work carefully. In Advanced Photography, students undertake increasingly challenging and sophisticated projects.
  • Sculpture

    This semester-long course helps students develop an understanding of the interaction of forms in space. Using basic sculptural processes and readily available materials, students investigate three-dimensional ideas and decision making. Sculpture introduces fundamental studio skills in designing three-dimensional art works, using various three-dimensional media processes. Students are introduced to different artistic styles from realistic representation to interpretive abstractions. Art appreciation, history and theory are woven into 3-D projects that are integrative, inspire creativity, and develop problem-solving skills.
  • Woodworking

    This semester-long course introduces students to the wood medium, beginning with the basics of shop safety. Students become adept at using a wide variety of tools and machinery, including traditional hand tools and modern power equipment. Students learn about traditional joinery, how to execute joints and how to select their proper application. Students produce a range of hand joints, including dovetail joints, mortise and tendon joints and shoulder joints. The proper use of tools is discussed with an emphasis on understanding their use in different applications. This course emphasizes the use of mathematics and helps teach collaboration and problem-solving.
  • Advanced Woodworking

    This semester-long course enhances the skills that students have previously acquired. In advanced levels of Woodworking, students—under the direction of the teacher—undertake increasingly challenging and sophisticated projects. Cabinetry, furniture making and sculptural work are typical of the type of project work undertaken by students. In-depth design concepts and construction techniques are also explored at this level.
  • Portfolio Development

    Portfolio Development is a yearlong course for students who are serious about the practical experience of art and want to develop mastery in conceptualizing, composing and executing their ideas. Students in this class focus on developing a portfolio that embodies the standards of skill and quality that art schools seek in their candidates. In building the portfolio, students explore a variety of concepts, techniques and approaches designed to help them demonstrate their abilities as well as their versatility with techniques, problem-solving and ideation. Throughout this course, students work on observational drawing and painting, exploring a range of styles, media and subject matter. Strong pieces of work reflecting careful observation, technique and skill are completed in class through direct observation. Students also expand their range of contemporary subjects, styles and techniques. They are introduced to a variety of traditional and contemporary artists, and learn to write and speak critically about artwork. When each piece is completed, students photograph their work and save it in digital form. They also share their work in group critiques, an important element of the course.
  • Portfolio II

    This is a yearlong course that builds upon the student’s technical skills, advances the development of the student’s personal aesthetic and empowers the student to gain confidence in the personal direction of his/her work. More advanced technical drawing, painting and printmaking are emphasized in the first semester. In the second semester, a body of personally driven work is inspired by research on selected artists. Students are encouraged to attend National Portfolio Day, visit galleries and museums and college collections on their own, and participate actively in the artistic community. They are encouraged to carry sketchbooks with them as much as possible and to document all that inspires them. They are also encouraged to work in the studio after school or during free periods, when appropriate.

Art Exhibitions

Students have several opportunities throughout the year to show their work to the school and community in a gallery setting. Each year, the fine arts faculty in grades K–12 curates a winter and a spring art exhibition and hosts opening receptions for staff, faculty and friends to come together and celebrate the work of our art students. In addition, student work is submitted to several juried and non-juried art competitions and exhibitions throughout the year.

Visual Arts Chair

Sarah Isusi chairs the fine arts department at GSB. She is in her fourth year at Gill and teaches Upper School Studio Art, Drawing and Painting, Portfolio Development and AP 2D Design. Isusi holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting and a Master’s of Art in Teaching from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master’s of Fine Art in Painting from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Prior to coming to Gill, she taught International Baccalaureate Art and Design to Upper School students in Baltimore and later developed the Fine Arts program for a Charter School for Performing and Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She is an active member of the N.J. Art Education Association, as well as the Center for Contemporary Art in Bernardsville and the Print Center of N.J., where she shows her work annually.

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Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.