Last Updated on April 2, 2023
This exemplary Painting and Related Media project was completed by Jiwon Im, while studying A Level Art and Design (Cambridge/CIE) at Macleans College, Auckland, New Zealand. Jiwon was awarded Top in the World for her 99% AS Art and Design submission and 96% for A Level overall (2012). She also gained NCEA Level 3 Painting Scholarship for a separate project completed using the same theme.
Two of Jiwon’s sketchbook pages are included in our new book: Outstanding High School Sketchbooks. This book has high-resolution images so that fine details and annotation are clear, making it an excellent resource for students and schools. Learn more!
Jiwon’s project is an excellent example of how personal ideas can be developed and extended with the use of appropriate artist models. Using acrylic and other creative mixed mediums, such as collaged patterned paper (created in Photoshop), lined paper covered with acrylic or watercolour wash, masking tape cut-outs that are pasted on, and gel medium to create texture, Jiwon works with the sophistication and confidence of a mature artist.
We were lucky enough to interview Jiwon about her A Level Art project. Her responses are below.
Your project begins with drawings of an intriguing interior space and still life items arranged on shelves. Please talk to us about the ideas behind your work and why you chose this subject matter.
Jiwon: I started by going to The Apothecary (an antique cafe in Howick, Auckland) and taking my own photos. I chose this subject matter because I was more confident drawing and painting still life objects and I found them more interesting than landscape or portraiture. I also dealt with still life objects in AS level so it helped me to develop some of the ideas I discovered in AS level and explore them in more depth. I studied both Painting and Graphic Design in high school and so I was very interested in exploring the boundaries between design and painting. Do these fields even exist as entities? It is this interconnection of approaches that informs my own work.
I looked at many other ideas throughout the year. These include: order, categorising (shelves and objects aligned in rows); containment (within spaces – jars, cans, bottles); labelling (bottle label text, stamp design); and history/past (antique objects) as a decoration in present world. Another major theme within my work was old vs. new. I incorporated old objects into my work that were influenced by modern design. This idea developed towards the end of my preparatory work, where I started to combine parts of objects together to make new objects.
I started the project by exploring the interior space of the cafe, then focusing on particular objects that were interesting. As I progressed through the boards, I ended up with a set of objects from the whole space. This was the result of my development of ideas and also ideas from artist models.
Aside from your superb technical skill, your work stands out for the intelligent way that you have used artist models to inform and influence the creation of original compositions. This is something which many students struggle with. Please talk to us about the artists you studied and how these influenced and shaped your work.
Jiwon: I was encouraged by my teacher to look for artist models and refer to their ideas or techniques to develop my own work. This really helped me. Most ideas came after artist model research using books, with some from the internet. The first artist models that I used were David Salle and Seraphine Pick. Their work helped me to break away from just painting things as they appear and encouraged me to start rearranging spaces and make them my own. Their work showed me ideas like preparing a background first and painting objects over it so that objects float in space. David Salle divides his work in sections and uses inserts as well as various other techniques like outlining, use of patterns and text.
Other artists I studied included Lars Henkel (repetition, changing parts of objects – e.g. scale, some outline, some silhouette, some monochrome, some full colour), Susanne Kerr (use of patterns) and Emmanuel Polanco. Emmanuel Polanco’s work is design-based and his influence is visible from the start of the second A1 sheet of preparatory work. This graphic design approach, combined with my antique subject matter, shows the coexistence of old and new; and painting and design. The works show various ways of sectioning, silhouettes and using mixed media.
From the end of the second prep sheet, I introduced new ideas influenced by the artist Camille Rose Garcia. I learnt to apply layers of colour to create depth in my background. The dripping shapes came from the same artist. This helped me to explore the idea of Alchemy and Art (the bottles reminded me of magic and chemicals).
Banksy’s black and white painting technique was used to reinforce the idea of coexistence old and new; painting and design. The dripping idea was developed in the fourth preparatory sheet using the influence of the artist Fuco Ueda who uses ‘stained’ texture. I used watercolour for this technique.
Artist models were crucial for the development of my work throughout the year.
What did you find most challenging about the A Level Art course?
Jiwon: I had difficulty in exploring different perspectives and views of the objects because the photos I took at the start were limited (I was not able to move objects from the shelves and rearrange them) and this made my work seem repetitive. But my teacher went to The Apothecary antique cafe and they kindly allowed us to borrow some of the chosen objects (bottles, scale, stamps) so I had additional photos of these objects in interesting perspectives. This really helped in developing my work, especially in the fourth sheet of preparatory work.
Having to think about both CIE A level and Scholarship (see below) was also challenging sometimes because the due dates weren’t far apart. But the up-to-date journal work and documenting of artist models throughout the year really helped to get the 8 Scholarship pages done.
For those who are not aware, NCEA Scholarship is a separate examination taken by the very top candidates in New Zealand. It has different requirements and deadlines than CIE A Level Art and Design and entering both qualifications has several challenges, particularly for Painting students. Talk to me about the challenges you faced when submitting work for both qualifications and how you overcame these.
Jiwon: I think Scholarship is something most students in New Zealand aim for in their last year of high school. I was worried about the outcome because I knew the NCEA working process is different from CIE, but my teacher helped us from the start of the year to plan ahead so that we could finish both CIE and Scholarship work. We used our AS work for Scholarship entry and at first this worried me, because I would be competing with NCEA Level 3 students. Students who did Scholarship at our school were encouraged to choose a similar subject matter or ideas as their AS work so that we could easily replace or add some paintings as colour copies. Many students (including me) chose to use their AS Controlled Test for Scholarship, but as we only produce 2 preparatory boards and one A2 final painting, we needed to add more work to make 3 full boards required for NCEA. For the 8 pages of journal work that are needed for Scholarship, I had to scan pages from my CIE journal and rearrange them into the 8 pages. They included: brainstorm of ideas and final proposal, artist models and experimentation, composition plans (layout of paintings) and accompanying notes. I included many of my CIE A level paintings in the sketchbook that I was not able to include in the 3 Scholarship boards. The teachers really helped us a lot throughout the year. It wouldn’t have been possible without them!
What advice do you have for other high school Art students who wish to gain excellent grades?
Jiwon: Always start with research and refer to the artist models if you struggle with developing ideas. Most of the time books have much more information and variety of artists than the internet. Just flip through them and note down any artists you like and refer back to them. I would also advise other art students to keep their journals up-to-date with their new ideas or artist models they find, as well as plans and trials/experimentation. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher for advice and help!
This is the second superb high school Art project we have featured from the Art Department of Macleans College. If you would like to view more outstanding student artwork, please view our Featured Art Projects!
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Amiria has been an Art & Design teacher and a Curriculum Co-ordinator for seven years, responsible for the course design and assessment of student work in two high-achieving Auckland schools. She has a Bachelor of Architectural Studies, Bachelor of Architecture (First Class Honours) and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Amiria is a CIE Accredited Art & Design Coursework Assessor.