Surviving IB: HL Visual Arts


What do you feel about Visual Arts?

If you’ve ever experienced an unexplainable itch to pick up a pencil or brush and let your creative juices flow, then the Visual Art is the subject for you! The visual arts are all around us, we see it in the packaging of products, in advertisements, even in the form of architecture. Yet, there’s so much more that can’t be listed. The visual arts can take the form of almost anything, from sculptures to paintings to animations; the only thing that’s limiting you is your own imagination. That said, the Visual arts are also something deeply personal, with your creations coming from within and being a way of expressing yourself.

What strikes me as the most beautiful thing about taking Visual Arts is that there’s really no right or wrong answer. For example, there’s always a fixed answer to an equation in mathematics, but in art, its up to you to make the most out of it, to create whatever you see fit. There’s an inherent freedom that comes with taking this subject and going to the art room after a long period of mathematics or physics provides almost a sense of relief.

  1.    Three to five most vital survival tips to studying Visual Arts

Taking Visual Arts doesn’t require the typical type of studying for subjects which involves cramming your head with facts and memorizing notes so you’ll be able to cut down the hours spent mugging at Starbucks! BUT you’ll spend just as much time as your friends who are studying Economics, bringing your pieces to life in the art room.

Time Management! This is probably the most crucial tip in this course. As aforementioned, you’ll have a great deal of freedom in creating your pieces and you may even spend a week just visualizing and conceptualizing to bring your pieces to life. However, you’ll have to deal with three different components simultaneously; your exhibition which is worth 40%, your process portfolio which is worth another 40% and finally your comparative study which is worth 20%. A lot of students will be tempted to just focus on your exhibition and leave assembling your process portfolio and comparative study till the very last minute, but designing and filling in these two components will take a lot longer than you’ll expect.

Save everything! Yes, even those initial sketches that you’re embarrassed by. This will help tremendously and save a lot of time in assembling your process portfolio, which are screens which depict the steps that you took to reach at the final piece of work. You could even scan in those sketches and print out multiple copies and play with these copies. For example, seeing how the sketches would look if they were done in different colors.

Stay focused! With art periods ranging from 40 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes, you’ll be tempted to do absolutely nothing in those 40 minutes periods, telling yourself that by the time you set up and take out your brushes and just as you’re about to make that first stroke on your canvas, the bell rings. Instead, you’ll probably spend those 40 minutes periods lounging on the sofas in the art room and pretend to do some form of work. Don’t make the same mistakes as your seniors!!! Spend those precious 40 minutes working on your comparative study instead!

  1.    Three to five most vital survival tips to taking Visual Arts exams

Visual art examinations take the form of critiques in which you showcase all your work up to that point in front of the teachers and classmates and explain the rational behind them.

Hence, there aren’t really any exam tips except the previous three tips. Just make sure you have the required amount of exhibition works to showcase. You’ll also be questioned on the concepts behind your pieces so make sure you really take your time in coming up with a solid theme and concept which links all your pieces!

  1.    Three to five most vital survival tips for Visual Arts IA

The Visual Art IA takes the form of the comparative study which is worth that 20% of your IB grade. You’ll be required to compare three different art works by three different artists from different time periods and regions. BUT, since this is visual arts it wont be an essay, but rather screens (like Powerpoint or Photoshop slides) showcasing the differences and similarities between the three different pieces of work. Furthermore, you’ll be expected to use as few words as possible and instead try to explain those comparisons visually.

Visit museums! Where better to find your three artists than actually seeing their artworks in person rather than your computer screens. In addition, these museum trips will provide an excuse for your art class to go out together and bond. STPI (Singapore Tyler Print Institute) and The National Art Gallery provide great opportunities to search for potential artists for your comparative study.

Work on it constantly! Your comparative study is worth 20% so its something to be taken seriously! Its also something that you can work on over the weekends when the art room is closed since everything is in your computer.

Find artists/ artworks that actually intrigue you! You’ll be working on your comparative study over the course of the two years so its best to find something that gets you excited and an artwork that you wouldn’t mind going out of your way to research on.

  1.    One thing to look out for

You’ll spend a lot more time than you expect on this subject, especially when it comes to crunch time. However, with proper time management you won’t have to worry.

  1.    If I could turn back time…

Taking HL Visual Arts taught me skills that go far beyond the classroom and it introduced me to a wonderful bunch of people who share the same burning passion for the visual arts. However, if there was one thing that I would have done differently would have been to manage me time a lot better. That said, taking the subject did allow me to strengthen my art skills and grow as a person.

Jonathan Wong graduated from the class of 2016.

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