Group 6 Subjects

Visual Arts HL: Experience of an IB Graduate

Before continuing, make sure to read this post on Subject Overview: Visual Arts HL!

In this article, I retell my experience with VA HL and help students gauge if the subject would be a good fit for them.

My experience with Visual Arts HL:

1. I enjoyed developing the skills needed to analyze art:

It was exciting to see how an artist’s choices culminate in a single piece! I feel like my appreciation for the process behind artwork has grown tremendously. I learnt the importance of analysis and its subsequent role on creating art.

2. There is a large emphasis on depth of thought and experimentation:

You must put a lot of energy into developing your ideas and consider many questions such as “What can I do to make this less cliche?”, “How will an audience member view this piece?”, and “Would this artwork convey my message more effectively if I used a different medium?”. This aspect often led me to overthink my choices, but it also allowed me to inject my pieces with more personal and artistic meaning.

3. There is a lot of writing involved:

About half of your time in the course will be spent on your CS and PP, where you must apply critical thinking skills. This at times became tedious for me, and more importantly, took a lot of time that I would’ve spent on making art itself. In hindsight, being less fastidious over details that would NOT have made a difference would have made me a lot more efficient.

4. It was energizing to be in an environment full of people with such diverse ideas:

I loved watching my friends try out different techniques and improve their skills. The IB Visual Arts classroom provided me with a break and breathing space from my other traditional-setting classes. 

5. Because we had to juggle all our IB subjects, I could not dedicate as much time as I wanted to to IB VA:

This was a little frustrating as I constantly felt that “I could do more”. Nonetheless, it taught me to become more purposeful when allocating time to art as well as my other tasks, something I had trouble doing during my IGCSE.

6. It is a rewarding class overall:

While I do have some regrets regarding how I approached the course, I am very happy I took this subject. It challenged me to become a more scholarly artist and fostered in me a deeper appreciation for the connections between artist, history, and culture. I left the course with some of my favorite pieces that I’ve ever made.

This course might be a great choice if you:

  1. 1. (An obvious one) Love making art! The IB is very time consuming, so you may not have much time to create pieces in your own time. So why not do it in the classroom?
  2. 2. Enjoy learning new media and experimenting with different techniques. IB VA is a perfect opportunity to develop your work.
  3. 3. Are excited by concepts in art and often get curious about an artwork’s meaning beyond its surface.
  4. 4. Are fascinated by art history. The CS and PP are fantastic avenues to dive into historical and contemporary periods. You can then apply any insights gained to your own art.

This course might not be a great choice if you:

  1. 1. Do not enjoy pursuing art in an academic setting. At the end of the day, IB VA is an academic class that comes with restrictions and requirements and involves scholarly thinking. Many of my friends and seniors who preferred only creating art did not like the course because of how much academic work was involved. Some who enjoyed creating illustrations felt they were nudged towards a “fine art” direction.
  2. 2. Only want to take the class to develop a portfolio. You will likely find it more beneficial to take portfolio classes or develop your work in your spare time as the course involves elements you might not need. This is especially true for architecture.
  3. 3. Don’t really have an interest in studying artistic concepts or conceptualizing layers of meaning for your work. While this can be rewarding for some, its “seriousness” could take the enjoyment away from those who prefer creating art as a leisurely hobby.

Overall, the IB Visual Arts course is demanding, but you will undoubtedly get so much out of it! It is both personally and artistically rewarding. Enjoy the challenge, don’t be afraid to experiment with new skills, and make every moment a learning opportunity—oh, and don’t forget to take pictures of your progress, you’ll need them for the PP (and your personal photo album)!


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