CIE IGCSE Art and Design – Top in Spain

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This IGCSE Art and Design Coursework project was completed by Olivia Williamson while studying at The Academy International School, Mallorca. Olivia specialised in Painting and Related Media and was awarded 99%; the highest result in Spain (October 2014).

The starting point for my coursework was ‘A secret place’ and I had a whole summer to agonize over what I was going to do. It’s so easy to procrastinate and not move forward with one’s work – especially when one is creating artwork that has to meet certain criteria, as it is going to be judged by an examiner at the end of the course. IGCSE Art can seem like a massive shape looming over your shoulders, but you just have get to work and try not to get too caught up in what you think the examiner will want. It’s a lot of work, which is why it’s a really good idea to start the project as soon as possible.

I have always had a slight obsession with wings; I love birds and used to have a re-occurring dream about flying away from my grandparents’ house – flying over the countryside and towns. I didn’t want to grow up; everything moves so fast, too fast to catch all the little details, which is why childhood, time and freedom were key themes in my work.

My portfolio explores the different corners of our imagination and how it has no boundaries during our childhood. Time also plays a key part in many of my pieces, including the idea that although it flies by so quickly, there are still many time-stopping moments.

I had so many ideas that I went through a process of elimination – brainstorming, taking pictures, sketching out various possibilities and creating a Pinterest board as a visual mind map of content that I found inspiring (see more mind map ideas here) – before I got to a stage where I had an idea that I was happy to work with.

IGCSE Art Coursework prep sheet
Olivia’s first A2 preparatory sheet introduces her subject matter: the human figure and swirling curving organic forms, such as leaves, flowers and butterflies.

This sheet includes a composition I did over the summer before Year 10, showing where the butterfly came from on the third preparatory page. I have also included a collage of a section of John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which he painted at dusk for a short period of time each day, when the light was just right. I took many pictures for my Coursework, which was also partly about a ‘time stopping’ moment, and the closest you can get to capturing that second is through a photograph.

Development of composition: IGCSE Art and Design
Olivia’s second preparatory sheet develops towards a resolved composition.

I started working on this piece in colour but decided I wasn’t pushing myself enough, failing to capture the movement and energy I had envisaged – so I finally decided to start again and work on a bigger scale.

In this preparatory sheet, a child dances, time losing all meaning as she spins – the birds joining in with song, the doves representing complete freedom from the rules, in a moment of peace. This piece was heavily inspired and influenced by one of my favourite artworks by Ciaee Ching.

Birds, IGCSE Art and Design
Olivia’s third sheet of preparatory work includes digital manipulation, cropping and repeating details, such as the butterfly lattice on the bottom left.

This preparatory sheet contains a colour study of a digital artwork by Leszek Andrzej Kostuj, titled “Guardians of the Magic Sky II” (centre bottom). I painted this using gouache. Working with biro, drawing the crows (shown in the enlarged detail above) was so much fun. It gives a completely different feel and finish to pencil and I found it lot faster to work with.

Mixed media collage: Top of Spain, IGCSE Art
Olivia’s fourth preparatory sheet contains beautiful mixed media water works, created from tissue paper, ink, magazine cuttings and beads, depicting humming birds and flowers. The image above includes several enlarged details, so that the intricacy of the mixed media layers and translucent colour washes are apparent.

The innocence of a child I feel is inextricably linked with unconditional freedom, which is where birds come in – a creature that has, for generations, attracted the fascination and awe of mankind and been a symbol of how easily we lose ourselves in thought. I also tried to capture how magical it is when one notices nature coming to life in fantastic ways.

In the fractured hummingbird shown above, I tried to capture the movement of the beating wing. I really enjoyed working more loosely on this page and playing around with the materials I had at hand. It was inspired by Anja Vesterlund Kleener, whose work I love.

Coursework project - Top in Spain, IGCSE Art and Design
This shows the fifth sheet of preparatory work and accompanying final piece. Another student kindly posed for this work, which allowed Olivia to take her own photographs and work from first-hand observation.

For me a secret place is somewhere where you can go to escape – and the only place other people can’t get to is inside your mind. I imagined a girl living in a warzone, blocking out the world around her and creating an alternative place where she could be safe and in control. The birds carry with them a ribbon with little light bulbs hanging of them, which shine through the darkness.

I am a really slow worker and I felt I really had to rush the final piece to get it done. I just had to go for it and didn’t have time to mull things over and think about them. There is so much I don’t like about it – it’s overcrowded and overcomplicated. It doesn’t have any of the right energy that I had imagined. However, on the upside I learnt so much from this piece and all the ‘mistakes’ that I felt I had made.

I am so lucky to have had such an amazing art teacher, Helen Palmer, who let me work things out for myself, but provided really good advice when it came down to my many questions and doubts. I really enjoyed the Art course, and learnt a lot from it.


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