THE state of Bowral High School's art department is quite a pretty picture, with high-achieving students and award-winning teachers.
Last year was an "unprecedented" year for the school as five out of 18 visual arts students had their HSC major artwork selected for ARTEXPRESS, which showcases the best works of art by secondary students throughout NSW.
The success does not stop with the students, with Bowral High School's visual arts teaching staff also recognised for their own efforts last year.
The 2014 Sir William Dobell Foundation Art Award for Excellence was awarded to the visual arts faculty of Bowral High School at the Art Gallery of New South Wales last month.
Creative and performing arts head teacher Timm O'Regan said the award was recognition of the school's consistently high results in visual arts, the work of teachers in the students' art making and the role teachers play in the engagement of young people in visual arts.
"We've now had 13 students in ARTEXPRESS in the last five years, which is an enormous achievement," he said.
"We've been above the state average for over five years and get a good percentage of Band 6 results each year."
Mr O'Regan said the award began with Sir William Dobell's wish to donate money to the people of NSW for the advancement of visual arts among young people.
"Our work in visual arts is project-based learning and kids are able to identify a project to work on and learn through.
"It's them creating their own learning."
Mr O'Regan said that project-based learning was evident in each stage at Bowral High School in order to equip the students with the skills and responsibility necessary to undertake a self-guided task in their senior school years.
"By the time the students get to Year 12 they have enough skills and knowledge to know what direction they want to go in and what they want to explore."
Perhaps one element of their success is the positive attitude shared by the teaching staff in the faculty.
Art teacher Michelle Young noted the camaraderie between herself and her colleagues.
"We all chip in and help guide the kids because that's what we're here for. We have an open door policy and just because one Year 7 class has one teacher, doesn't mean they won't get to see what the other teacher and other students are doing in their class.
"We're always popping in and out of each other's classrooms, sharing ideas and suggestions."
The art teachers are very much about recognising the root of their success and have implemented a symbolic tradition at the school.
"We plant a magnolia tree for each student who gets into ARTEXPRESS. When the tree is in flower the current students know their major work is almost finished, and the school community can share in the success of our students," said Mr O'Regan.
"We liked the sense of growing it represents, because our forest is blooming."
Ms Young said the positive relationships helped teachers to get the best out of their students.
"I think it comes down to the faith and trust between the teachers and students here. The students need to trust in the guidance their teacher gives them, and the teacher needs to trust in the student's ideas," she said.