Introduction to Art A/AS Level

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Introduction to Art A/AS Level

Most Art A-Levels are usually made up of three components:

Introduction to Art A/AS Level

The three components are seen as interactive and contribute to an integrated Art and Design examination.

1. Coursework

You will be required to mount an exhibition of a number of pieces of work presented as assignments. That is - with research and preparatory studies in either two or three dimensions or a combination of both.

2. Personal study

Usually a written essay, which can be up to 4,500 words on a topic of your own choice from:

1. Fine art

2. Architecture

3. Design

These will have a high content of illustrative work.

3. Externally assessed assignment

A final assignment chosen by you after consultation with your teacher. This is carried out under controlled conditions of supervised time, which will be fifteen hours in total.

If an assignment were displayed on a wall, it would normally consist of several studies in a variety of media. The work will vary in size and scale and will be accompanied by work done in sketchbooks. One or more of the pieces will be the end product- that is, the final outcome of the research you have done over a given period of time. All of the other work will be supporting material that explains how the end product has been achieved, a bit like showing your workings-out on a maths problem.

If you wish to concentrate in depth on one specific area of study throughout the length of your course, you can do so. In this case, you must show evidence of supportive explanatory work in a variety of materials and media reflecting the length of time you have spent on the subject.

The supporting material is as important as the end product because it shows the examiner the depth and breadth of the research that has taken place.

An assignment can be described as a journey with a given or fixed starting point but with variable destinations. The information that you pick up on the way and how you process it will be critical to the final outcome. Some people travel a very narrow route failing to see the possibilities of their findings.

Their end product or outcome tends to be predictable and their supporting material lacking in imagination. Others explore all avenues, they are excited by the ordinary, their end products are usually great distances from their starting points, and their supporting material is dramatic and extensive.


A good start will open up opportunities and avenues for exploration, but a poor start will impose limits. Usually the hardest work is getting going and taking that first step. The broader the base you start with the more choices you open up for yourself. You can see that no matter how skilled an artist might be, it is going to be much harder moving forward in an inventive way if you limit yourself.


Everyone's journey is unique.

There are no right or wrong outcomes.

What you learn on the way and how you handle it is critical.

You will be expected to:

Use and respond to the work of other artists and cultures.

Think up your own ideas.

Estimate the value and quality of your work set against the work of others.

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Present your thoughts in a visual way.

Develop more complex work from simple starting points.

Organise your work in an intelligible way so that it is consistent and easy to follow no matter how complex the idea.

Recognise and deal with design problems.

Examine in detail preliminary plans and sketches in preparation for further work.

Use materials skilfully.

Explore materials extensively in order to understand what can or cannot be achieved.

Understand the formal elements:

Line Texture Rhythm Symmetry
Volume Shape Harmony Decoration
Colour Form Composition Tone
Pattern Space Balance Structure

Respond in your own way to a theme or a subject.

Work from direct observation either as a preparation for further work or just for its own sake.

Organise and present your own research from firsthand and secondary sources - for example, books, videos and computers.

If you are thinking about taking Art at AS/A-Level, then you already have a sound foundation to build on. To some extent, the above objectives will already be part of your good working practice, so you will carry much of this forward. The transition from GCSE to AS/A-Level should not be difficult. The differences you experience will probably be in the area of expectations.

Some of the following may apply:

1. The boundaries of topics and assignments set out by your tutors are likely to be less rigid.

This will give you room to express your own thinking, but that brings with it greater responsibility to produce work using your own initiative.

2. More time for each assignment.

Wonderful to be able to explore in more depth certain aspects of interest to you. Managing time is something we all need to learn - it has great positives if you are well organised, but it is easily frittered away if you are not!

Generally, you are expected to work in your own time to develop your work individually and build upon starting points.

3. Quality and Quantity.

As you grow in experience, the quality of your work will grow with you. Your exploration and depth of study will be very different from anyone else's. Large volumes of work, which don't show this growing experience, will be of little value. You will be judged on the quality of your learning, not the quantity of paper and materials you have used.

4. Primary source material.

The appreciation of all art forms and cultures will already be part of your good working practice, but at AS/A-Level, there is a requirement to look at artists' work and architectural design first hand. This primary source investigation should be reflected in your assignments and critical to any written personal research.

Art local to you is as valid as the more famous international statements.

Sound advice

Pace your workload. Apart from the final examination, all that you produce during the course will be marked as the best you can achieve at that time. Art researched well and explored thoroughly takes time. There is no revision. In other words, no going back.

Be brave. The more you are prepared to let go of old habits and ways of working and take on board new techniques and ideas, the more you will learn and be rewarded for as you progress.

Look outside. Not just your normal working place. Go to sites in search of the unusual. Get in touch with local colleges to gain access to better library resources and see their end-of-year shows. Explore local museums and galleries. Be adventurous - go to large cities to see major exhibitions, differences in architecture and public sculptures.

Enjoy the work that you do. Do not be frightened to let others into share and advise you as you go along. You will make mistakes - that is part of learning. Take advice and criticism positively.

Producing artistic compositions requires a great deal of conceptual thinking - never underestimate the value of the intellectual processes involved.

"Imagination is the highest kite you can fly."

Introduction to Art A/AS Level