My A-Level Art Experience.

My Sixth Form experience wasn’t exactly the most social. I much preferred to spend my time doing other things, while most of my friends ran off to parties every week. My best experiences however, occurred during my art classes. Art was always something I was good at. Honestly, I was never good at music or sport, and though I was usually average in most academic subjects, art was where I thrived. So, when I went to sixth form, it wasn’t a hard decision for me to decided to continue my art studies.

GCSE art was not the best experience. My teacher was incredibly controlling and domineering, directing us to complete work that only he liked, despite our own wishes or opinions. Our work often ended up looking very similar, while the other classes were a lot more free. I made amazing friends though and I loved the social side to the artistic courses. See, in art, everyone can be a little strange. Walking into a classroom to find a couple of people hanging upside down off a table staring at a canvas, became the norm. Going into A-Level art, I had a fair idea of what the following two years would be like, with only the hope that I would be more free to do as I please.
Over the two years I had two amazing teachers and completed 4 units. It is the final 2 which I will talk about most here, as they are the most fresh in my mind. My first year was dominated with animals and very traditional work, which I loved. However, in the summer my grandparents took me to Florence, which is the epi-center of Renaissance art. And I fell in love, changing the direction of my second year. I leant more towards portraits and people, especially for my first unit (3rd in all). Before we broke up after our first year, we got set this sketchbook which we would have to complete over the summer. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the sketchbook to show you, but I will show you the work I developed from it. In our second year, we went from having base specifications which you could adapt, to having more exact and challenging specs. For my first unit, I chose to follow the spec ‘Reinventing the past’, which was heavily inspired by my trip to Florence a couple of month earlier.
My teacher was incredibly helpful. She would sit with each of us for 10-20 minutes everyweek to talk through what we wanted to do and how we could get their with successful devlopments. A-Level art, you see, is more about development and less about skill (though often those with the best skill do better than others). I started off with the traditional graphite, acrylic and watercolour; but I somehow ended up painting digitally. I don’t really know how this happened, but I loved it. 
To reinvent the past, I began painting past monarchs, focusing on the great queens of Britain. My first few paintings weren’t the best, and because of that pesky development sector, I had to use some techniques i hated, the old pages in the background – ugh! But over time I worked out a way to get out of it, and my paintings improved, as you can see.
Week 1                                          Week 3                                                Week 7

My work slowly developed to my final piece, below, which is Anne Boleyn – Natalie Dormer from the Tudors. This piece earned me 100% in my 3rd unit, a rare high mark which I was so happy about. I worked very hard on each piece, taking more time with each in an effort to improve. Each piece took me a total of between 23 hours (in week 1) to 78 hours for my final piece. I would go into class with my laptop and my Wacom Bamboo board and sit in the corner working on photoshop elements painting away. I remember trying to concentrate as my friends would take it in turns to come a stare at the progression of my work. They would hover behind me, pretending to walk past, which to be honest was rather encouraging.

The whole class was like this. Everyone was rather honest, explaining why you didn’t like something and pointing out where they had made a mistake. I often spent hours hanging upside down with my friends staring at their work trying to find the ’empty space’ they needed to fix. 

Anne Boleyn, my final piece.
Over the course of the 2 years, my art class got super close. We used to throw chocolates and sweets across the classroom to each other. Art is a very different class to others, as instead of sitting in silence going work, it much more relaxed. You could talk, listen to music and sing along with it t the top of your lungs – although I did tend to get in trouble for humming along and eventually it became a ‘guess the song’ game. Everyone pretty much liked everyone. We would meet up in spare time, especially around the deadlines, in the classrooms and spend our spare hours together. 
My second unit was much more challenging. It was the exam unit, so the spec was much harsher and my tutor wasn’t exactly helpful for this one. My tutor had been amazing for the first unit, not telling me what to do, but making suggestions on how I could develop my work on. In this unit, she stepped back and each suggestion she gave me was so ambiguous that when I attempted it, I was almost always off mark. It was after my 3rd attempt, that I gave up following my tutor and went off on my own. I knew that I wanted to continue with the digital work, and my new spec was ‘Childhood memories’. My childhood memories focused solely around books, so I decided to portray my favourite childhood books with thousands of geometric triangles.
Squirrel Nutkin              Aesops Fables                    White Fang                     Narnia (Aslan)
Again, I managed 100% in my Exam and coursework for unit 4, which I so proud of. But, honestly art was stressful. The amount of course work you get is extensive and if you don’t tackle it quickly, it really mounts up. In the second year, you’re expected to do over 40 pieces for the year, around 2-4 pieces a week, plus they expect the pieces to only get bigger and better. 

Final Pieces; Little White Horse and Inkheart
A-Level art was hard, but the friends I made and the experiences I had were amazing. There are so many more which I didn’t get to talk about here, like open evenings and our gallery show. Now I seem to have rambled on for ages, but if there are any questions which I didn’t answer or that you have, please don’t hesitate to ask. 


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