A COLLECTION of historic vessels, along with shipbuilding tools and rusting engines have fired the imaginations of students from Glasgow School of Art.

Now their work will be on show in an exhibition, opening on Saturday, at the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine that traces the life of Clyde shipbuilders and their vital contribution to the First World War.

Through visits to the museum, housed in the former A-listed Linthouse engine shop of the Alexander Stephen & Sons shipyard in Govan that was dismantled brick by brick and relocated to the waterfront location in Ayrshire 25 years ago, the BA Honours painting and printmaking students immersed themselves in the history of the Clyde.

The themes of Construction and Destruction: Remembering Clyde Shipbuilders 1914-1918 particularly appealed to Sam Stopford, Sam Drake and Adam Boyd.

"The idea for the exhibition already tied in with my work," explains Sam Stopford, 21, who grew up nearby in Ayr and was a regular visitor to the museum.

"I work with a lot of images from the media, layering them over each other until they become lost.

"To research my work for the project I worked with archive images. Before I started I only knew a little bit about Clyde shipbuilding but I didn't know how important it was to the war effort and how impressive it all was.

"I learned that it was something very important and it's a shame it has faded away. All the old parts of the machines here, it's a bit like a graveyard for them, it's quite sad."

A rusting ship at the museum caught Sam's eye.

"Aesthetically it's really interesting," he explains. "It's just remnants of a massive ship, there's something quite beautiful about that and the textures."

For 21-year-old Sam Drake, originally from Norfolk and now studying in Glasgow, his techniques of applying paint and then taking it off matched perfectly the construction and deconstruction theme of the project: these incredible ships were built in the war years on the Clyde, only to come under attack and potentially destroyed.

The subject of migration and the country's colonial history inspired Sam, taking him off on a journey of his own.

"I have looked more at maritime imagery rather than the actual vessels themselves. I was interested in the colonial side of things, the £2 trips to Canada and journeys people made," he explains.

"The ideas have really influenced me. I'm now looking at migration as a theme. I'm really interested in the journeys people make, either spiritually or physically.

"I just hope the people who come along to see the exhibition enjoy it, it will be nice if they can connect with the museum."

As well as paintings, drawings and video the work includes freestanding pieces and an impressive two-metre high silk hanging that will be attached to the iron girders along the museum's roof.

The collaboration between the students, museum and Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture came about thanks to an award of £11,000 from Museums Galleries Scotland's World War I Fund.

Glasgow School of Art student Adam Boyd, originally from Stoke on Trent, brought dazzle camouflage into his work.

Designed by artist and illustrator Norman Wilkinson when he was a Royal Navy volunteer during the First World War, his idea was all based on the art of confusion.

Norman realised it was impossible to paint a ship in camouflage that would hide it from the sights of a submarine commander. Instead, he proposed the opposite was the answer.

Rather than trying to make a ship vanish on the ocean, he developed a radical camouflage scheme that used bold shapes and violent contrasts of colour to confuse rather than conceal.

Bold shapes at the bow and stern break up the form of the vessel. Angled lines suggest the distinctive smokestacks could be leaning in another direction. And curves on the hull could be mistaken for the shape of the bow wave - created by water at the front of a fast-moving ship.

"Dazzle camouflage was used to confuse rather than conceal and that was what I wanted to do with my own paintings," says Adam, 21, "as well as using metallic's to mimic the objects in the museum.

"All my paintings conceal their meaning and the viewer only gets a certain amount from it, which is camouflage in itself.

"A lot of my paintings have really changed over the past couple of months and I'm still adding to them. I don't see this exhibition as an end to that work, it will continue on."

It could be said that the students are following in the footsteps of Muirhead Bone, who trained at Glasgow School of Art before becoming Britain's first official war artist in 1916.

The Clyde was a major supplier of battleships during the First World War and his work includes sketches of shipyards.

"The museum's nationally significant collection shows how Scottish shipbuilding influenced design across the world," says David Mann, director of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

"It also tells the hard, innovative and often inspirational story of our people and communities.

"We are thrilled to have led this project, which brings the history of Clyde shipbuilders and their families to light for a new generation and for the communities around our museum, whose descendants may have worked in shipbuilding.

"It has been a fascinating journey for the students, our staff and volunteers and it will be a big attraction for the thousands of visitors we welcome to the museum each year."

Construction and Destruction: Remembering Clyde Shipbuilders 1914-1918, opens at the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine, on May 30. Visit www.scottishmaritimemuseum.org