This Personal Study was completed by the talented Mary Faber. while studying A Level Art (CIE 9704) at ACG Strathallan College in 2004. A simple, yet elegant ‘book’ presentation, Mary’s Personal Study focuses upon the painting techniques, processes and compositions of New Zealand artist Russell Hollings. gaining an overall grade of 91%.
Mary began her study by completing an Outline Proposal Form. This was submitted to CIE for feedback at the end of April, once her A2 Coursework project was well underway. This meant Mary was able to clearly establish how her Personal Study might assist and link to her Coursework before she began. (It is no longer a requirement that the Personal Study relates to the Coursework project – although it can be advantageous if it does).
NOTE: Outline Proposal Forms are available through the CIE Teacher Support site. which is password protected (teachers have access to this) and can be submitted to the examiners electronically; alternatively, forms can be photocopied from the back of the 9704 syllabus booklet).
Within the Outline Proposal Form, Mary describes her intentions as:
To thoroughly analyse the painting processes and techniques of Russell Hollings, from initial preparation of a painting surface, through to final application of paint. I will discuss the effect of various marks and brushstrokes and how such a painting style conveys mood and meaning. Links will be made to well known international artists who use similar painting techniques. Finally I will discuss how these painting processes and techniques can be used in my own painting.
Presentation is a crucial aspect of the Personal Study and must be given considerable thought. Mary created a square ‘book’, bound along the left-hand edge with a black spiral bind. Pages are cut from lightweight A3 sheets of reddish-brown card. This colour was selected as it echoes the hues used throughout Russell Hollings’ paintings and thus visually links the presentation together.
Text has been printed onto high quality cream paper, which is also used as the backing mount for illustrations. This allows Mary to combine hand-crafted illustrations with computer generated text in a tidy, cohesive way.
It is not necessary to fill a Personal Study with slavish copies of paintings (this wastes time and does not always generate the rewards that more investigative or analytical illustrations can provide), however, the cover can be an ideal place to wow the examiner with a carefully imitated reproduction. Here, Mary has copied one of Russell Hollings’ works, proving immediately that she has an outstanding level of artistic skill.
The introduction to Mary’s Personal Study contains historical and biographical information about Hollings, allowing his artwork to be understood in context. This information is gleaned from a studio visit as well as books and other sources. As a reminder, factual information should never be regurgitated directly from another source – nor should pages of irrelevant information be submitted. This sort of material should always be presented – as Mary has done – in the student’s own words, integrated with original commentary and discussion, in a way that is relevant to the topic at hand.
Beautiful photographs are used through Mary’s Personal Study. These photographs are well-composed artworks in their own right. They demonstrate that Mary acted with independence and initiative on her artist visit – composing excellent images that help illustrate her written analysis. Rather than simply photographing final works, she has recorded Hollings talking about his work in progress, still life arrangements, a series of works in progress, painting palettes and so on. These all serve to inform and support her discussion which focuses primarily upon the techniques and processes used in Hollings’ work. It is important to note that all of the images have a small caption beneath them, so that it is clear how these relate to the discussion (it is always surprising to hear how many students leave images entirely without identification or comment – something that is not recommended).
Here, we see clear evidence of learning and involvement in the Personal Study. Here the illustrations on the left are a combination of original photographs and selective imitations of parts of Hollings’ work in progress – a practical examination of the way Hollings layers paint upon a canvas.
In this page of her Personal Study, Mary briefly compares Hollings’ painting technique to that of Impressionist artist Cezanne. There can be advantages to referencing historical or ‘world famous’ artists: this provides an opportunity for the local artist’s work to be understood in context and also for the student to analyse well-known pieces of art which can teach them a great deal.
An important aspect of the Personal Study is the detailed analysis of art or design work. At an A2 Level, students are expected to have a good grasp of art-related terminology and to be able to analyse composition in terms of the visual elements (colour, line, texture, space, tone and so on) with comments related back to the original intention of the study.
Several years ago, the A2 Art Personal Study essay had to relate to the candidates own coursework experiences (as noted above, this is no longer necessary). As such, Mary has included a short section explaining how Russell Hollings provided inspiration for her A2 Coursework project (alongside a photograph of one of her Coursework paintings). It is important to note here that many students seem confused about the role of their own artwork within the Personal Study, believing it is necessary to create their own individual works specifically for the study. This is not the case at all. The emphasis should be upon the work of the artist/s studied.
As with any formal essay-based project, the A2 Art Personal Study should have a conclusion – summarising the findings of the project (Mary’s conclusion is not shown). It is refreshing to note that even in the bibliography (where sources of information and well as the artist himself are acknowledged), Mary has not lapsed in her attention to detail. Text and image have been composed on the page with the same beautiful aesthetic quality with which the project began.
A skilful, creative and articulate A Level Art student, Mary is now an exceptional typography designer .
If you would like more information about this topic, please read the Student Art Guide introduction to the A Level Art Personal Study .
About Amiria Robinson
This article was written by Amiria Robinson. Amiria has been a teacher of Art & Design and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of Art and Design work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. Amiria has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. She is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor. Follow Student Art Guide on Pinterest .
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You ALWAYS have the option to design your own project. You need to submit a project proposal form. You also need to develop a rubric and submit it for approval or set up a time to meet with me so that we could develop one together.
You cannot do the same project more than once. You must choose a different project for each unit.
INTERACTIVE MUSEUM EXHIBIT for Kids – A curator for a local history museum has hired you to create an interactive exhibit related to the civilization you are studying. This is a modern exhibit hoping to attract children of all ages. Therefore, you should include various forms of technology – perhaps a video projected on one wall, a computer linked to websites about the culture and/or an audio recording. The exhibit should include examples of music, art, and literature. However, you must be creative about how these aspects are presented. The more children can touch or manipulate objects, the better – a puzzle to complete, pictures accompanied with an audio tape, costumes or props for children to try out, etc.
This is a 2-4 person project
NEWSPAPER – Create your own newspaper from the civilization being studied. The newspaper would include sections such as: Local News, World News, the Arts, Business, Real Estate, Calendar, Religion, Sports, Opinions, and Comics. It could also include advertisements and a crossword puzzle. Use a newspaper to guide the process.
This is a 2-4 person project
MAGAZINE – Create your own popular culture magazine. The magazine could include sections such as: Top Ten Lists. Fashion, What's Hot and What's Not, Interview with a Famous Person, How to …, Medical or Health Advice, Best Sellers, the Arts (reviews on art or literature), It can include puzzles, craft ideas, recipes, advertisements. Really, the sky is the limit here. Use pop culture magazines as support.
This is a 2-4 person project.
WRITE and PERFORM your own T.V. SHOW – a special for the history channel, a bit of investigative reporting (similar to 20/20), reality T.V. show, a sitcom, a T.V. talk show, a variety show (like Saturday Night Live), a news show, – you choose. This is a project that must be performed and videotaped. The show could for modern audiences or written for audiences of ancient times (what if they had television?). This is a 2-4 person project.
FAIR or PUBLIC EVENT – Plan a public fair dedicated to the civilization you are studying (think Renaissance Faire) complete with food, entertainment, music, and craft booths. All members of the group must attend the fair as a character from the time period being studied, each person representing a different social class. Invitations for the event should go out to the intended audience encouraging dressing in costume. You can have a staged re-enactment of a battle, a scene from a play, a speech, or a dance performance. This is a 4-8 person project.
FUTURE MEETS THE PAST – A time machine has brought someone from the past to our time, to your house. It is your responsibility to explain to that person how things are different now. (think Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure ). This can be a live performance or it can be videotaped. You must write a script including at least the two characters mentioned above. This is a 2-4 person project.
GOVERNMENT WEBSITE – What if the civilization you are studying had the internet? What would the government website look like? What would it include? Some possibilities are links to: Leaders and/or Representatives, Employment, Businesses, Money and Taxes, Education/Schools, Environment and Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Tourism, Defense, and a Parks and Recreation Department. This is a 2-4 person project.
WRITE A CHILDREN'S BOOK – Aveson School of Leaders needs a children's book that they can use to teach students about the civilization you are studying. The information should be presented in a way that is accessible to children, including photographs, illustrations, or drawings to support the text. This is a 2-4 person project.
CREATE A MULTI-MEDIA PROJECT – Create a PowerPoint presentation that can be used to teach others about the civilization being studied. It must be interactive and include audio and/or music, video, and links to multiple websites. Each page must contain a visual related to the content.
A CLOSER LOOK at the ART, MUSIC, or LITERATURE of a culture - There is no better way to explore the culture of an area than to experience it firsthand. Study the following and write a description/review explaining the following: why you chose the piece, a detailed description of the piece, how it represents the culture being studied, the history behind the work, and the impact of the work. This is a 2 person project.
Art – Choose at least 5 art pieces (sculptures, paintings, drawings, murals, etc) that you feel represent the culture being studied.
Music – Choose three pieces of music that you feel represent the culture being studied.
Literature - Read a novel, play, or a series of short texts from the culture being studied.
A CLOSER LOOK at the RELIGION of a culture – Study the religion of a culture and present the information in some way. Some presentation ideas include: a speech, an informative essay, a PowerPoint presentation, a textbook chapter, etc. Your research should include: a description of the religious beliefs, how the ideas are reflected in the culture being studied, the impact of the religion on the everyday life of the citizens, and a connection to the ro le religion plays to the lives or culture of Americans today. This is a 2 person project.
BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL – Study the life of a person living during the time period being studied and present the information in some way. Some presentation ideas include: a speech, an informative essay, a PowerPoint presentation, a mini-play, a textbook chapter, etc. Your research should include: why you chose to study this person, a summary of that person's life, and the impact that person had on society. This is a 2 person project.
WRITE and PERFORM a MINI-PLAY – This can be done as a live performance or videotaped. The play should be informative and entertaining. It should creatively highlight different elements of the culture being studied such as: religion, social structure, the arts, etc. This is a 2-4 person project.
WRITE a SHORT STORY – Write a story (historical fiction) based on actual events from history. The story should include at least two characters and should be based on historical events. This is a 2 person project.
MUSIC AND LYRICS – Write and perform (live, video, or audio) two original songs about the time period being studied – one representing the lower classes and one representing the upper class. The songs should reflect the culture, religion, and beliefs of the time. This is a 2 person project.
INTERVIEW FROM THE PAST – This can be done on audio or video or it can be performed live. There should be at least three characters – an Oprah Winfrey type from the past, and two intriguing people from the culture being studied (each representing different aspects of the culture). The interview should include the following: the daily life of the person, religious beliefs, hobbies, dreams, etc. This is a 2-4 person project.
WRITE A DIARY from DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES – Choose at least two different people from the culture being studied. The people should represent two vastly different aspects of the culture (e.g. someone from a lower class and someone from the upper class). Write a series of diary entries (at least 5 for each person) detailing his/her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. The diary entries should focus on events that happened in that person's life and his/her reaction to each event. This is a 2-4 person project.
BOARD GAME or VIDEO GAME – Design your own board game or video game related to the civilization being studied. The game should include creative elements related to the following: social status, religious beliefs, political leaders, economy (trading, etc), and geography. This is a 1-3 person project.
WRITE A COMIC BOOK – Write a comic book about the civilization being studied. You must explain the following topics in comic book form: important leaders, religious beliefs, social status, and the enduring contributions in technology, art, and science. This is a 2-4 person project.
DESIGN A 3-D MODEL Create a model of the civilization (or a few aspects of the civilization) being studied. You can choose which models to create, keeping in mind the models should reflect the following aspects of the culture: social status, religion, leaders, and the economy. This is a 2-4 person project.
Use the following to guide you. Choose an area of interest and take a look at the projects related to that area.
Technology/Website Design: 1, 7, 9, 11, 12
Music: 10, 15, Also 3 and 5.
Art: 1, 8, 10, 19. Also 2, 3, and 5 incorporate art
Creative Writing: 2-4, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19.
Informative Writing – 10-12, 2, 3, 8, 16. Nearly all options incorporate writing.
Reading/Literature: 10, 2, 3. All require reading. )
Acting or Public Speaking: 4-6, 13, 16
Planning Events: 5, 1
Building – 1, 5, 18, 20
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Personal study - Unit 3: Fashion illustration is not just visual, as is any other stylized illustration or art-form. When artists create or view art, they automatically give justifications about their work and also analyze other creations. When studying graphics, we as future artists have to learn how to create, understand and analyze works of art. Patrick Boyer is an Illustrator in fashion and has been in the business for several years, he enjoys creating web-design based illustrations and has won several awards for best graphic designer. I have chosen two images to analyze and differentiate them. Image (a) was designed in 2004 for web-design and illustrative magazines. This image is based on photographic images collaged together with illustrative designs that have been added later on Photoshop. . read more.
Apart from the influence of photographs, this image is a purely illustrative design. Boyer has used block colours for the background (that also include gradients that can be found straight from the program, Photoshop) and facial features. This is a very recent piece of art that a couple of years back could not been possible to design. Although this type of artwork is quite modern, people are know familiar to it and doesn't really affect the audience's way of viewing it. You could say that Boyer's pure illustrative skills have great similarities to Jason Brook's work and therefore can be referenced back to him, although Boyer's overall work is more detailed in both facial and bodily features. I would definitely say that this design has been very successful, the wide range of colour and detail satisfy any viewer of illustrative knowledge. The difference between image (a) and (b) . read more.
In image (a) the figures are silhouetted to enhance the background and the overall mood of the design, where as in image (b) the figure is in the main focus of the eye and thus the background is darker to enhance the figure itself. The moods of both images (a) and (b) are very different, image (a) has a very calm, cool and collective look, where as image (b) is warm, energetic and suggests the title, "Twisted. ". Image (a), even though it has been designed recently I can't help view it as and older piece, maybe because it's a sophistically calm design, all I can picture is this design appealing to an older audience around the ages of 20 - 50. Image (b) on the other hand would stand out to younger crowd of maybe 13 - 30 yr olds. I do think that both images have been successful, the colour and composition suit their category; interior design and C.D design/fashion. . read more.
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Ah, the A2 Personal study. For all our good intentions – get it done before Christmas; embed it throughout the year; condition students during the AS year (or earlier even) – it usually ends like this: Post-exam time and – despite the light at the top of the tunnel – I’m asking students to dig a bit deeper.
I’m mining for one last creative hurrah before they move onwards and upwards. Hopefully this post might help…
Emma’s Personal Study was presented as a concluding essay to her printed coursework book
What is the Personal Study?
For the official line – and if you like untangling word puzzles – see Page 29+ of the current specification. Teachers introduce this in different ways though, with some placing more emphasis on accompanying practical work than others. Personally, I’m all for art students developing their writing and research skills, so the following notes focus on this – the ‘continuous prose’, to coin a term from the forthcoming changes. For current students, let’s just call it an essay and crack on.
Your essay should:
Your writing should reflect your creative nature: Provide subtle insights into your thinking, provoke interest; tempt curiosity. Use quotes and challenging questions to engage the reader.
Here are some practical suggestions:
Give it a punchy title
A decent title will set out your focus in a concise, ambitious and punchy way. A two-part title or question might help. For example:
Pretentious? Don’t worry about it. Devise a relevant title that inspires you to then fill it’s boots. Exhibition titles are devised with similar intentions. For example, Marlene Dumas: The image as Burden. or Robert Frank: Storylines .
Tonie, who completed her A2 in Year 11, thoughtfully sets her stall out
Write an introduction that leaves the reader wanting more…
Your introduction should explain your interest in the subject and the personal connection that you have to this. Use it to narrow down your focus and make it more specific. For example: “I am choosing to focus on… (Artist / art movement) because…it astounds me how…/ I find it fascinating that…/ I’m curious to know why…/I hope to show / share / highlight / discover…”. Aim to draw the reader in with each step.
Other aspects to consider:
To help you establish the tone of your essay producing a short film or Adobe Voice explanation can help. Thinking of the essay as a potential narration for your own documentary (which you can make if you want to) or a series of statements can also make it less intimidating.
The meat in the sandwich
In this main section you might wish to:
An example of a student making her own connections between artists, and across time and place
But how do I analyse artwork?
Year 13 asking that? Really? Ah, you’re winding me up. Nice one.
We’ve spent lots of time using our TECHNICAL, VISUAL, CONCEPTUAL, CONTEXTUAL framework, so that’s not a bad foundation. Below are some ‘levels’ of analysis which might help further:
Level 1 has its place, but only as a foundation. You’ll need to dig deeper…
Still, to demonstrate yourself as an art student who can “express complex ideas with authority “, there’s a need to get beyond the TECHNICAL and VISUAL to address CONTEXT and CONCEPT.
Writing your thoughts
When writing personal opinions there is a danger that these can be too simplistic. Consider the progression in the points below:
Concluding your essay
This is an opportunity to:
No need to cover all of these in your limited word count. Identify the insights that resonate most; don’t let your hard work whimper out in these final stages.
Including a bibliography
This details any resources that you have used for your essay, including websites, books, articles and videos. Try to list these as you go along rather than having to back-track. Set it out like this:
For example: Cotton, Charlotte, ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’, Thames & Hudson, 2009.
Can I put a bow on it? How best to present your essay
Your personal study can be creatively elaborated on, and some schools go to town on this. Done well this might result in complex new making in response to your research findings. But there is a danger that practical responses at this point can seem ‘bolted on’, plain rushed and superficial. Before we get to any bells and whistles it’s best to complete a straightforward formal essay.
Once this is done, if time allows, it is over to you. Why not produce a short summary film, like Becky’s below?
Helpful? Have I missed a trick? Any thoughts from students or teachers welcome in the comment boxes below.
Niraj Pant May 9, 2015
Because my daughter is studying for AICE Diploma with one of her subject being Art & Design at A level, in India, and because the teacher support in the school could have been better, I am engaged in look out of other online resources. Amiria Robinson was the first, and I found your blog now!
Is it possible for a student to seek some guidance on a specific issue of Personal Study or the Coursework from you? If yes, how does one do it?
Happy to try to help if she wants to email via contact page on this site
I am currently working on my A2 personal study, i have become fascinated with soundscape/sound art, i have been looking closely at Bruce Nauman and China Blue, my online coursework is lacking as i have just started. I find essay’s easiest to write when i have a question to argue, and artists to compare and contrast. Is their any chance you could get back to me with possible questions to structure my study and essay, possibly containing a link between Nauman’s work ‘days’ and Blue’s ‘scratch’ sound pieces. Any help will be greatly appreciated!
Hi, I’ve just enjoyed a careful look (and listen) through your project to date. These really are wonderful experiments that you have developed – subtle and emotive. Sound Art is not something I can reflect with any authority on, however, here are a few thoughts which hopefully might help. Best intentions and all that!
Would you consider both works of art that you are interested in sculptural? Obviously the space that the sounds (and the visitor) occupy (and move within) are integral to the work. How important is the visual experience of these works? Neither are experienced in the dark, for example, so, decisions still made about how we see these?
Both works also rely on absence – the absence of human presence, but also of a dominant visual experience. How does the audience fill these gaps? – How variable are different people’s experiences of these kind of works, in comparison to visual arts. Reflections on how we engage?
Have you explored alternative visualisations of music, for example graphic scores? This can open up interesting avenues for alternative responses. See some examples here https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/05/06/notations-21/
I did have an AS art student who achieved full marks without completing a drawing, concentrating soley on sound and video. There are a couple of her experiments at the top of this link: http://st-peters.bournemouth.sch.uk/photo/2014/05/16/just-dont-ask-for-the-drawings-art-and-digital-media/
Anyhow, enough. Hope something helps in there! Good luck,though I doubt you need it, very impressed.
Sheelvanth April 23, 2016
Hi. in personal study if we are doing about an artist
Should need to do the reproduction of artists works or just can we use photo copies of artist’s paintings
Hi sorry, missed this comment until now. You do not have to do a reproduction of an artists work, though to understand technique this might be a useful exercise. Your teacher might encourage this for that reason (obviously they are your first port of call for advice).
lola May 22, 2016
Hi, i have chosen social documentary photography but do not know how i can respond to any of my artists as they all photographed severe cases of poverty. Will i be marked down if i do not respond?
Hi, thanks for your question and interest. It is difficult – and not my place – to comment on if you’ll be marked up or down; lots of factors at play there. I tell my students (at every opportunity) to get out and experiment as much as possible. Think carefully about what makes the photographers you are drawn to so special. Social documentary is a rich field, not limited to those living in hardship. Perhaps the challenge is not to try to replicate, but to respond to similar questions that might have provoked them: What is the world around me like? Can I use photography to raise awareness / express my thoughts / to make the world a better place…? and so on, good luck. (Apologies if the reply was too late!)