Silhouettes and Landscapes: IGCSE Art Coursework (A*)

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This article features Enrico Giori’s CIE IGCSE Art Coursework project (Component 4) completed in 2014 while studying at St. Louis High School, Milan, Italy. Enrico was awarded 97% (A*) overall for IGCSE Art (see also Enrico’s IGCSE Art exam). Enrico’s project is a very interesting example: although it draws upon first-hand observation, it does not have have a large emphasis upon realism. Enrico demonstrates a stunning understanding of composition, coupled with mature, in-depth investigation of a wide range of mediums and processes, such as linoleum prints, plastic-plate etchings, sewing, digital manipulation and mixed media collage.

Two of Enrico’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!

IGCSE coursework printmaking
Enrico’s complete IGCSE Art Coursework project: the top row is the 4 x A2 preparatory sheets (8 sides); the bottom row is the final outcome – a sequence of mixed media prints.

I have always been fascinated by surrealist artists such as Magritte and I decided, as I started my IGCSE Art qualification in Year 10 to explore the concepts that lie behind surreal images. I started looking at the use of color and objects in art and I decided to focus on still life at first, not the human figure, which I saw as too complex to draw or paint. I then understood, by looking at some pieces by Magritte, such as Golconda or The Son of Man that the human figure was the starting point and the most important features of the surreal current. I therefore decided to analyze the human figure, reducing it to silhouettes, such as the one filled with a moonlit landscape in ‘The Happy Donor’, which I looked at with passion and admiration for a whole month. I discovered, almost by mistake, the wonderful world of printmaking and have experimented with linoleum prints and plastic-plate etchings. I decided to make a series of etchings for my IGCSE final outcome piece, and I am very proud of the result I have achieved. I experimented with a varied range of techniques: acrylic, pencil, charcoal and chalk, colored pencils, watercolors and watercolor pencils, oil paint, lino printing, etching, collage, pen and ink (one of my personal favorites), sewing and digital image manipulation (I have experimented overlapping images with Photoshop and photocopiers, achieving interesting results). I am also passionate about photography, and I have also tried to show that through my project.

The descriptions of my work below are derived from the annotations that are glued on the pages themselves, listing materials, processes, strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement.

Coursework preparation page 1 (front): A trip to the Courtyard

This page has crossed many stages of development, and the original drawing which I based my page on was done in a courtyard that we went to once with our Art teacher to draw from direct observation. For this page I combined various techniques and materials: acrylic, 2B, 4B and 6B pencil, water soluble graphite, watercolor pencils, watercolor, pen and ink and coffee. This page started from the drawing on the left, which I drew from direct observation on my sketchbook. I then decided to place it on my page and extend it with another drawing from direct observation. The left part of the page is mainly done with pencil, watercolor and acrylic for the wall decoration on the bottom. I believe the watercolor is perfect for the wall because it creates an interesting texture that almost looks like a brittle and old wall. The acrylic decoration is interesting because it stands out on the page and makes it more expressive and eye-catching. The right side of the page is personally my favorite, because I worked a lot on it and I find the final outcome pleasing and quite well done.

I decided to combine a few techniques to make the outcome more attractive and realistic, because different techniques are better for different purposes. For example, I found the pen and ink useful to give a sense of the three dimensions through cross-hatching because I find it an interesting and unusual way to give dimension to the page. I then filled in the drawing with watercolor and I used some white acrylic to paint the highlights of the step near the girl. I kept the girl in 4B pencil and I highlighted the areas of shadow using cross-hatching with pen and ink, so that it looked like a silhouette. I then painted the rightmost wall using coffee and a stiff brush so that the wall looked old and wet by water. The right part does not continue the scene on the left and this choice is intentional, because I wanted to overlap images and create a study of the same place seen by two different perspectives.

One of the strengths I can see in this piece is the evident use of cross-hatching, which I feel is easier with pen and ink than with a handwriting pen. One of the elements that was hard to draw and paint was the girl on the steps, because I wanted to keep her minimal (so she didn’t affect the scene of the door) and because I didn’t know how to make her look three dimensional. To improve this page I would make the details more accurate and I would focus more on the shadows and highlights.

IGCSE Art Coursework CIE - A* examples
Coursework preparation page 1 (back): Repeated Silhouettes

I started developing this page by looking at people and especially their shadows and silhouettes from different perspectives. I decided to combine photos and drawings on this page to give a more interesting effect to the whole composition. For this page I have used: graphite pencils (2B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8B, 9B), watercolor graphite, putty rubber, watercolors, calligraphy pen, white chalk, charcoal, photography film, acetate, tracing paper, newspaper, acrylic paints, glue stick and PVA glue to combine all the elements on the page.

I drew the silhouette on the bottom left of the page first from primary observation, and from there I developed all the other pieces. I have taken all the pictures on the page and have used the figure of the small girl dancing in water to create the two pencil drawings on the right. I decided to make a larger one and a smaller one to show movement and a dynamic scene compared to the profile drawing, which looks quite static. I added on the smaller girl a dress made out of newspaper and, to replicate the effect of the fabric folding around her body, I glued a newspaper by folding it in specific points and layering on top a fine wash of turquoise watercolor. I then used the pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the street in Manhattan to continuously give the idea of people’s silhouettes in different situations of the day. I then decided to overlap the little girl’s photo printed on acetate over these photos to give an effect of depth and perspective, and I also feel that it offers a creative contrast between color and black and white. I have included a montage of the same photos I created on my computer where I compared the movement of the girl’s arm together with the position of the Statue of Liberty. I then painted the background of the page in a bright tone of acrylic blue to illuminate the work and, especially because blue is the complementary color of orange, I have an orange ochre element, which is the background of the Statue of Liberty photo. To make the composition more pleasing, I also used an odd number of elements (7) on my page.

I believe the final effect of my page is very interesting because I managed to include various pieces, even if done with different techniques, that are all connected one with the other. I think a strength of my piece is the use of color and the combination of mediums on the page. I could obviously improve something, and that would be making the rightmost silhouette of the girl a bit lighter, so that it looks less dark and oppressive on the page.

Mixed media IGCSE Art
Coursework preparation page 2 (front): Gary Hume

This page has been quite complex to put together, because I had many ideas and themes I wanted to include and I had to work out which ones could be combined together effectively to create a pleasing composition. The main focus of this page is the artwork of Gary Hume, an English artist that gave me the idea that lead to the fabric and felt silhouette on the left and the acrylic painted silhouettes on the right, that I drew from some photos I took in Cinque Terre for the grey woman and in New York for the green building top.

This page shows clearly the use of many materials and techniques. These include acrylic paint, graphite pencil (2B, 4B and 6B), colored metal wire, tissue paper and PVA glue, colored felt, colored fabric, colored cotton and needles for sewing, a glass bead for the bird’s eye and montage cardboard for the lamp.

I started the page with the sewed silhouette on the right, which was inspired by two paintings of the artist Gary Hume, Begging For It (the man praying) and The Mother (the bird on top). This work took a really long time to complete because I had never sewn before. I then painted the hands on the felt with glossy black acrylic, because I thought it looked a lot like the texture of Hume’s original painting. I made the two silhouettes on the bottom with colored wire, tissue paper and PVA glue. These were quite easy to make but I found the technique very interesting. The last ‘big’ piece of work I created for this page was a pencil drawing from direct observation of the Tolomeo lamp of the famous Italian designer Artemide.

I then started to put the page together, using even some interesting pictures of silhouettes that I took the weeks before, but I didn’t like the effect, so I decided to draw two of them using Hume’s style, keeping them simple and as line drawings. I used mounting board under the lamp to make it look like it had its own real shadow, and I like the effect of this. I then colored them with acrylic.

I decided to include one of my pictures, so I cut out the small black woman and I glued her on the bottom of the page, so that it looked like she was popping out from behind the big, grey woman’s legs.

One of the main strengths I can identify in this piece is the use of different materials and the experimentation with new techniques, such as sewing and wire drawing. I think that these two techniques are really difficult to learn at first, but that when you learn how to apply them correctly, you can create some strong pieces of work. This piece of work seems to connect many of my pages, some for the bright colors, some for the silhouettes and some for the techniques. If I had the opportunity to improve something I would work on the shape of the hands on the blue silhouette and especially on the pencil drawing, so that it could look even more realistic. One of the elements I feel I have to work on is how to show light on my drawings, as sometimes the direction of the light source isn’t clear.

African Surrealism: IGCSE Art
Coursework preparation page 2 (back): African Surrealism

To develop this page I used some photos of people that I found after searching on the Internet. I chose to look closely at a woman with a container of water on her head and a ‘surreal’ silhouette of a man with a park on his head.
To work on this page I used many materials: fabric, batik wax, batik dye, Image Maker, Brusho®, acrylic, watercolor, wax crayons and photocopies.I combined many materials on this page and I explored some different techniques. For the silhouette on the top left I colored the paper with Brusho® (an intense, water-based paint powder) and then I painted the edge of the silhouette with white acrylic. After that I laid several layers of red watercolor to highlight the shape of the person. For the silhouette of the same person on the right I used a different technique. I drew the silhouette with wax crayons and then I painted the outside of it with Brusho®. At the beginning I didn’t like the effect, because I used too much color, but after I played around a bit with the leftovers of paper, I decided to use some small pieces of the paper to make the silhouette more interesting, and then filled the gap in the middle with white acrylic.

The big piece of fabric on the left is a combination of a photocopy and a batik piece, on which I used Image Maker for the first time. I applied the photocopy of the silhouette on the fabric with Image Maker and then did a mirror image with batik wax. I didn’t like this because the effect was messy and not what I imagined before doing my batik. I then used the photocopy that I colored by accident with fabric ink to cover the mistake and I find the effect interesting and creative. Meanwhile, the batik on the right is done with the standard batik technique and then I colored the fabric with batik dye.

I think the effect the page is interesting, because the four sections are clearly separated, but they seem to blend together because of the strong and vivid colors.
 I think the page is made up by a ‘series of mistakes’ and that I have used the work in a creative and innovative way because I blended pieces that I thought would have never looked good together. I believe that the use of color is one of my strengths in this piece because I managed to use many tints and still have a pleasant composition.
I found it hard to blend the fabric and the paper because they were materials that couldn’t be united together, so I decided to make the background grey and make the pieces look like they were part of a puzzle or sequence. If I could improve this piece of work I would try to create some more interesting effects with the batik on the big piece of fabric, so that the colors would look more precise and intentional.

lino prints IGCSE Art
Coursework preparation page 3 (front): Metamorphosis of Landscapes and People (lino prints)

This page is a composition of lino prints that I made looking at people and how they may be compared with landscapes. To create this page I used the traditional tools that are used for lino printing (linoleum board, lino cutter, cutting block, opaque lino printing ink, ink rollers). I used paper and fabric as printing supports and I completed my page with a layer of pale grey acrylic.

The page started with the lino prints I designed. I used silhouettes of different people and experimented with them, blending them together to create an interesting and investigative effect. I decided to use various colours such as red, green, yellow, blue and black, because I felt that mixing more colors on the same print gave an idea of three-dimensions and perspective. After I created the lino prints, I worked on one of them with pieces of collage paper, to see how this would affect the print. I found the outcome interesting, so I decided to include this in my page.

The composition of the page was hard to design, because I wanted to get a new and creative effect, not a dull puzzle of images, that seems quite traditional and antique. I therefore played around with the images for a while and decided to place them so that they could tell a story to the observer, and especially so that they could give an idea of development and experimentation.

I liked creating the silhouettes with the lino printing technique and I didn’t find this task difficult, especially because it allows you to complete last minute edits on your work. In the end I decided to include one of the printing blocks I used during the first part of the page creation, but to make it look more interesting I painted the leftover lino silhouette in black acrylic and then I decorated the surroundings with some light touches of white acrylic.

One of the strengths I can identify in this piece is the interesting mix of different materials, such as different papers, fabric and linoleum. I feel that this gives a unique effect to the page because it shows that the same image can be replicated successfully onto other materials. One of the areas of improvement I would consider is the composition of the page, as I would care more the layout of the prints, so that they could look even better and acquire more importance on the page. One of the strengths I can see in this piece is the interesting mix of different materials, such as different papers, fabric and linoleum.

Human figure IGCSE Art
Coursework preparation page 3 (back): People in lines and contours

The development of this page started looking at people’s contours and how human figures can be simplified to an ordered set of lines showing dimensions but also tone, texture and features. To develop the composition on the page I used many materials: cotton, Image Maker, tracing paper, photocopies, acetate, magazine pages, sewing cotton and a needle, acrylic paint, fine brushes, a black calligraphy pen, 6B and 2B pencils for the contours on tracing paper and felt tip pens.

I first created the geisha face that I have transferred onto fabric from a color photocopy with Image Maker. I decided to show how the figure could be simplified to basic lines that showed the contours of the face, as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth do in their drawings, so I drew these using graphite pencils onto tracing paper, that I then glued on the fabric and Image Maker. I then developed the same idea of contours on an Arab woman wearing a burqa. I first did the rightmost drawing with calligraphy pen on tracing paper and I then photocopied it and colored it using red felt tip pens, as in the original image I found the garment was of a bright scarlet red. For the last of the three women wearing the burqa I decided to sew some of the contours using primary colored threads. I then developed the three faces of a model from a magazine to complete my page. I sewed some of the contours of the face on one as I did for the Arab woman and then I created a negative image of the sewing on the one at the top by coloring with felt tip pens the spaces created by the threads I sewed.

I have done the last face by cutting curved shapes into the photocopy and then layering below it an image cut from a magazine of a field with defined lines in it. The contours of the landscape remind me of the creases of clothing that I have been looking at with the photo that portrays the woman in a burqa.

The last piece I included is a photocopy printed onto acetate of the rear of the sewed model’s face, taken against a light source and then processed on the computer to increase contrast and saturation. I finalized my page by painting a pale turquoise background and by adding thin white lines around the work to emphasize the idea of movement and to make the faces more interesting.

I think the effect of the page is curious because all the work seems to blend well together and creates a composition that is pleasing to the eye of who looks at my work, as the composition seems to guide the eye throughout the whole page in a certain direction. A strength of this page is the use of color and texture that create a unique collage of patterns and all the effort and creativity I have put into it, as it took me a lot of time to develop all the pieces on the page. If I could improve my work further, I would make the contours on the geisha even more precise and I would try top find a way to make them stand out more, so that it would acquire more importance on the page.

etchings IGCSE Art coursework
Coursework preparation page 4 (front): Etchings Woman (this page has a fold-out panel as shown)

I started developing this page by looking at a photo of a model with a butterfly on her mouth and some lithographs by Barnett Newman, especially Untitled (The Cry), that I decided to actually include on my page to show my starting point and the influences I have had to make this project come to life. I saw some lithographs by Barnett Newman at the Pollock and the Irascibles Exhibition in Milan and they interested me particularly. To complete this page I used a plastic sheet, an etching tool, screen printing ink, an etching press, heavyweight rough paper, and prints of the original photo, photocopier, and glue sticks and hot glue. I first looked at Barnett Newman’s lithographs and they interested me and their texture and they arose an eternal doubt in me: “Which line came first, and which followed second?” I etched upon a sheet of plastic with an etching tool the photo of the model and I afterwards printed some images under the etching press on heavyweight paper using screen printing ink. At the beginning I was not pleased with the effect, because I expected the lines of the face to be more defined, whereas on the majority of the prints they were quite abstract. The prints done with screen printing ink are the first total black and white on the top right of the page and the bottom left face.

I decided to overlap some etchings onto some photocopies of the original image using a photocopier. I have been very pleased with this effect, as it shows through some transparencies the original idea behind all of my work. I also included on the page some pieces torn out from a photo of the lithograph Untitled (The Cry) by Barnett Newman, in order to show where I got my inspiration. I finally decided to mount the original etching plate on the page overlapping it with a print to show where all of this started from, and also to introduce again this theme of transparencies that I have developed in this and other pages.

One strength I can see in this page is the interesting use of color, especially in the opposition between black and white and color and also the constant use of overlapping that aims to show a page composed by many layers, connecting myself to the work process applied by Newman. If I could improve this page I would try and use more types of surfaces to print on and also different colors of ink, in order to achieve a furthermore interesting effect.

The fold-out section of the page contains details of three collages that I created in A2 size with torn pieces of the etchings I made and famous paintings by Georges Seurat and Sigmar Polke. I selected details of the collages for this section and have explored them in a tactile way, focusing on textures, shapes and colors. I used details from the collages mentioned, fabric, image maker, photocopies, needle and colored thread, copper embossing foil, a biro pen, zippers, fibre mesh, watercolors, acrylics, hot glue, PVA glue and a glue stick. On the outside I included details in the tones of blue and yellow-green. I embossed a detail of the collages using embossing foil (as I also did inside the sheet) and I have included three image-maker details, which I inserted both in black and white color. Near the image maker on the bottom left, there is a detail of the original collage cut up and sewed back together with colored thread.

The other side of the fold-out section follows a more complex development. I inserted fibre mesh, embossings and painted fabric to add a sense of texture to the page. On some parts I used 3D acrylic to create three-dimensional lines and dots. I also included two zippers that I believe represent well the idea of ‘tearing things apart and putting them back together’ that I have embraced in the whole page.

I believe a strength of this section is the creative use of mixed media and the experimentation that I have carried out, which shows also the same idea in different perspectives. If I could improve this page even further I would consider inserting a wider variety of details and textures.

Grayson Perry analysis - artist study
Coursework preparation page 4 (back): Etchings and Grayson Perry

I started the development of this page by looking at a photo I took of a statue in Rome. A bird casually sat on its head, allowing me to capture the moment and to use this as a source of inspiration and a link with the page I made using Gary Hume’s work Beggin For It and The Bird. To develop this page I used a plastic sheet, an etching tool, screen printing ink, an etching press, heavyweight rough paper, textured materials, watercolors, a print of the original photo, glue sticks and hot glue. I also used fabric as a printing surface and acrylic and the back of a brush for the dots I have included to complete the page where it looked too “empty”.

I started etching the figure of the statue in in the plastic sheet, and, as I printed it for the first time, I was very pleased with the result because the lines were very defined and made a clear picture. As I felt more confident, I decided to print on many surfaces, such as fabric, felt, wallpaper, fibre mesh and sugar paper, but in the end I decided that the results on fabric were the best and that these were the strongest ones to include. Another experiment I did was to print using textured surfaces, and these allowed me to obtain the print on the right of the black and white photo on the bottom left. I then colored the etchings with watercolors both on fabric and paper.

I looked at two artists to complete this project, and I have included photos of their work on the page to show a direct comparison (Perry is on the bottom-right corner, while Lichtenstein is torn on the top-left corner of the sheet): Grayson Perry and Roy Lichtenstein. I have grasped the traits of the person, the lines and the shapes from Perry (in fact I also shaped a print like a vase, as the artist is an excellent ceramist), and I kept Lichtenstein’s flat and vibrant colors, the brushstrokes and the iconic dots, that I recreated using acrylic and the back of a brush.

I am extremely pleased with this page, especially because of the references I made to the artists and for the use of overlapping and color, which are surely the fulcrum of the work. I found it challenging though to compose the page, as I had many elements to choose from and I wanted to arrange them harmonically on the space available. If I could improve this page furthermore, I would include more care in the watercolor layers and I would also try to blend more the artist work into mine.

IGCSE Final Outcome Etchings

As Sigmar Polke said:

There has to be an element of risk-taking for me in my work.

For my IGCSE final outcome I decided to produce a series of etchings to emphasize and highlight once again two main aspects that I have considered throughout my Coursework portfolio: repetition (as my intention was always to produce pieces that were either related or worked into in different ways) and experimentation (as I tried to combine many techniques and I followed a ‘trial and error’ process to complete my etchings).

Surreal dream IGCSE Art
Surreal Dream: Tribute to René Magritte. Silkscreen printing ink etching on paper, fabrics, magazine cutouts, wax crayons, photocopies

I decided to arrange my etchings in pairs. The first, Surreal Dream, aims to show a distorted and surreal reality where people and landscapes blend together and compare their shapes, colours and lines, creating the interesting effect of movement and depth.

mixed media IGCSE art CIE
Dotted Reclining Woman: Tribute to Henry Moore. Silkscreen printing ink etching on paper and fabric, acrylic, watercolors, photocopies

The second pair, Dotted Reclining Woman, has a more mathematical and rational approach, where shapes and outlines become the decorative elements of the pieces. The comparison of an etching done on fabric and one done on paper is also, in my opinion, a notable feature of the composition.

Printmaking IGCSE Art
Polke Dots in Wonderland: Tribute to Sigmar Polke. Silkscreen printing ink etching on paper, acrylic, watercolors, stamp, wax crayons

Third in sequence, Polke Dots in Wonderland, aims to establish a rather direct connection with Sigmar Polke’s 1971 piece named Alice in Wonderland, where white dots and a rather unusual background become the contrasting elements of the finely drawn white images that appear and disappear on their own.

abstract IGCSE Art
Brushstrokes: Tribute to Roy Lichtenstein. Silkscreen printing ink etching on paper and fabric, acrylic, watercolors, melted wax crayons, stamp

The fourth composition, Brushstrokes, has a quite experimental approach that tries to apply color in a new and creative way, either by filling in with watercolors some lines created with excess ink on the etching plate or melting wax crayons directly on the work. Also, the line suddenly striking through the first print creates a very strong and powerful visual effect.

faces IGCSE Art coursework
The Faces of Color. Silkscreen printing ink etching on paper and fabric, acrylic, watercolors, wax crayons, multiple exposure photo, photocopies, water soluble pencils

The Faces of Color is what can be considered the peak of the project, as the etchings acquire more importance as the amount of work done upon them increases. The multiple exposure of the sculptures on the first etching, created by myself, enriches the composition and continues the blue was done above on the fabric. The bottom etching instead has fabrics photocopied onto it, creating an appealing effect of transparencies.

Printmaking: final piece IGCSE Art
Layered Figures. Digital manipulation of photos and scans of etchings: photo montages printed on paper and heavyweight card

Last in the final outcome, Layered Figures is a diptych of digitally created images that contains the etching of the second composition overlapping photos taken by me, which creates a high level of contrast between the colorful backgrounds and the dark figures added on the work.

Did you enjoy viewing this Enrico’s Coursework project? You may also wish to view Enrico’s A* IGCSE Art Examination.


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