Image Credit: Ricardo Viana
If your child is studying for A-Levels in any Art and Design related subjects, chances are they will have to present a personal study.
The personal study is an investigation into a particular subject that a person studying A-Level art is interested in and wants to make a deeper exploration of. It may cover a particular artist, school of painting or a comparison of several artists work.
So, whether they are doing fine art, painting and drawing, arts and crafts, graphic communication, photography, sculpture, 3D, textiles or design technology, here are some tips for them on how to get the maximum marks.
I am writing this article from personal experience; I've written two personal studies, one for A-Level Art and Design: Photography and one for A-Level Art and Design: Painting and Drawing.
The personal study should, first and foremost, be about a topic that interests you. You will do a much better job, and will be much happier reading and looking at artworks on a particular subject if it is something you are interested in.
Think about artists or art movements whose work you feel strongly about. Passion makes the writing much easier.
Secondly you should pose yourself a question that you will answer in the course of the study. It is much easier to write a study when it has a specified purpose.
Here are some ideas:
Next the study should be PERSONAL. This means it should be about your response to the works of art. How does it make you feel? What story does it tell you? What do you conclude from looking at the picture, sculpture, or photograph?
Your study should be about your opinions and feelings. You can refer to other people's interpretations of a piece but you should always state this and never pass these opinions off as you own. Always write it in quotations and give the author's name.
A personal study is not just a biography of the artist. You will get few marks for simply re-writing a book on an artist's life. Biographical details should be brief and could be included as an appendix if you have too many words! Also, this is an art project, so make your study visual with lots of examples of artists works, diagrams and your visual responses to the works.
Image Credit: My Life Through A Lens
You should of course always refer to the syllabus for your particular exam board, but here are a few suggestions of things to include in your study.
Remember that there is no 'right' answer to your study; you simply have to show that you have thought about the artist's work.
These are two books that I found invaluable during my A-Level Art course.
The Story of Art - E.H. Gombrich
A bestselling history of art book and quite rightly so. From prehistory to the present day, this book is so well written that you can read it for pleasure.
This book is an investment, because if you decide to continue studying art you will still be referring to it all the time.
Approaching Art and Design: A Guide for Students - Rod Taylor and Dorothy Taylor.
Sadly out of print but you may be able to find it secondhand or in your local library.
This is a book which gives an approach to studying A-Level art and shows you the standard required to succeed. It emphasises the importance of basic drawing skills, then shows how to develop drawings into a final piece of work. It does mainly focus on drawing and painting skills but is also relevant to 3D and Textiles.
Finally, best of luck with your A-Level art!
Updated 2nd March 2023
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