Self Image: GCSE Art and Design

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This article features an A* AQA GCSE Art and Design exam project by Charlotte Cook. The project was based upon the theme ‘Self Image’ and was completed at South Hunsley School, England, United Kingdom. Charlotte writes about her project below.

One of Charlotte’s sketchbook pages is 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!

I began investigating the artists Dan Hillier, Francis Bacon and Korehiko Hino. I used their work to help me reflect upon myself and to understand the techniques of expressing inner image. I found earlier on that I wanted to closely explore anxiety and also the feeling/fear of things not being quite right.

Later, I looked at isolation and questioned if it is self-imposed, fear of the unknown, masking with veils and cleansing with gas-masks. I looked generally at interactions with myself and others and the consequences of keeping things concealed.

Korehiko Hino oil painting
A close up transcription of an oil painting by Korehiko Hino.

When I stumbled across Korehiko Hino’s oil paintings I was struck by the disproportionate figures created. They did seem human, however something in their faces wasn’t right. Their eyes were too big, too far apart and almost void of expression or mentality. I really liked this, as it gave a barrier between us and the infantile figures. The transcription I made above was a digital painting made on Photoshop. This really helped me focus on colour and form.

Following this, I analysed the work of Dan Hillier. The transcription I made on the lower right (below) was done with a quill and ink. I rather enjoyed Hillier’s unworldly creatures with elements of Victorian England. It also reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft’s writing. I found the ink really fun and the oddness of the almost familiar figures interesting.

GCSE Art sketchbook investigation
Analysis of work by Dan Hillier (above) and a sketchbook page exploring isolation and loneliness.

On the left (above) is a partly finished design that shows a woman being left to drown in a lake by another figure who walks off into the mountains. I like this, as she cannot see who has left her but the other figure is ignorant too. On the right is a singular figure who wears a hairy cloak and bleeds from the mouth. The acrylic I used in the background is creeping up behind her, while she is unaware.

Revealing secrets - GCSE Art
A composition study exploring the idea of revealing secrets.

The idea above emerged from allowing yourself to let things go and to reveal yourself and secrets to others, for me this was 24 different things. Firstly I roughly designed a layout of a girl laid in flowers with tendrils growing from her brain (23 to be exact) out to the skies. I then composed a photo to form imagery, which was closer to what I was looking for, and added disconnecting hands, one to her heart and the other hidden from sight. This hidden hand was to show that there are still things left to disclose, one thing left. All the daisies have 24 written inside of them.

exploring form GCSE Art
Investigating the idea of obscured faces and nonhuman form.

I was looking at veils of nuns from Russia, England and Spain; I also looked at hijabs, burqas and wedding veils. This is similar to the idea of a box around the face, that I explored earlier, except more is revealed, yet obscured. I used this isolation to create a creature conjoined with nonhuman characteristics, tied in with horror-filled imagery. I just like how it is easy to keep up a pretence, when you remove what people can see of you, nevertheless you cannot decide how they will see you…

Development of ideas in GCSE Art
These ideas explore the slicing up of facial features, and removing yourself from the equation.
gas marks used in GCSE Art
Using Photoshop I recreated my face with as if the gas mask was bone structure. Like a disguise, it forms a barrier.
Photography of subject matter
This is the series I took with my two models, using them to explore interactions between each other and closing each other off.

The clothing I used in the photo shoot above was fitting to the aesthetic I wanted: naïve and juvenile. I also wanted two different sizes of models; one petite, so the other would tower over. In the second to bottom image (above), the figure on the right looks away wearing a mask to cleanse out and keep in ‘polluting’ ideas. Yet the other covers her face, both in isolation.

Final piece - "Self Image", GCSE Art
Here is my final composition and experimentation with materials. My final piece looks at the conundrum of protection versus isolation, which I had faced.

With this project I learnt a lot – from mistakes with my development process and realising how placing more structure and allowing more time is the way to make conclusions stronger and easier to find.

I wish I had looked back at my work more to find a stronger conclusion and to really see what I was trying to get at.

Charlotte is one of 100 students whose work is featured in our upcoming publication about high school sketchbooks. You may also be interested in viewing Charlotte’s 100% A Level Art Moving Image project!


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