For any individual without much natural talent or any pre-developed technical skills in arts, Visual Arts may sound like an intimidating subject choice. I am one of those people who falls into the latter. Even now as I enter my second year in the IB program, I’m still faced with a sense of terror every time I come face to face with the upcoming requirements for the IAs, external assessments, and just the class in general. Nonetheless, taking up Visual Arts is a choice I never regret.
I would highly recommend taking Visual Arts to anyone who’s interested in diving deeper into the field and developing their analytical, creative, and technical skills. If you are hesitating because of your inexperience, you don’t have to! I know it sounds easier said than done, but surviving Visual Arts even without much skill going into it is not as difficult as it sounds. As someone who has been there (and is also still going through it), let me share with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.
1. Draw on your strengths.
In the early stages of your participation in the class, work with the mediums and the styles you find yourself most comfortable with! It enhances your comfortability working with those mediums, and allow you to reinforce the skills and techniques you already have. This will help you settle in the class better.
As someone whose weakest point is drawing faces, during my first few experimentations, I worked mostly with landscapes and still-life objects. Once I developed more confidence in what I could already do, I began branching out and practicing anatomy and human figures. This brings me to my next point…
2. Face your weaknesses.
This point isn’t the easiest to do. Especially when you are surrounded by fellow students who can already do so much more than your current skill set offers. However, don’t let the fear of judgment or humiliation stop you from working on improving what you need to. Keep in mind that you are attending a Visual Arts class. This means that you are there to learn and grow as an artist. Being great from the get-go is absolutely unnecessary. Over the span of your two years in the program, you will have many opportunities to become better at what you do.
Again, hearkening back to my experience with portraiture and anatomy; having to participate in live drawing sessions alongside my already immensely skilled classmates, while producing a lopsided, uneven sketch of a face, definitely would fall into some of my most embarrassing moments. However, Because I challenged myself and stepped out of my comfort zone, I have found improvements in my people-drawing skills
3. Utilise your visual arts journal!
Whether it be for random sketches, ideas, or just a creative dump. Feel free to dump all of them into your Visual Arts journal. Because you will eventually be drawing the content of your process portfolio from the journal, it will be more helpful to have documentation of your development and improvement across the program.
This falls into Criterion A: skills, techniques, and processes.
IB requirements aside, the Visual Arts journal is just a really great place for you to develop your creativity. It is also great to just become more comfortable with art-making in general.
4. Explore, analyze, and understand!
A large part of being able to improve as an artist is to consistently and critically interact with the art that surrounds you. Do not forgo understanding the formal qualities. Spend more time exploring various painters, their works, and the movements they belong to. This will help you develop your creativity, composition skills, and perhaps even your own unique art style. If you find a painting that intrigues you, try breaking it down and replicating it in your own Visual Arts Journal! Artist investigations are also a valuable component of the Process Portfolio. I encourage you to dive deep into artists that interest you the most to be able to create the best output possible.
Working on these skills will also be of great help once you start working on the Comparative Study. Which is an analytic and comparative investigation into 3 or more artworks.
5. Work with your teacher!
Your teachers are integral to your learning and improvement. So don’t shy away from approaching them for tips on improvement and even criticism for your work! Regardless of whatever stage you are at in the art-making process. If you find yourself stuck, losing confidence, or just struggling in general, it will always help to consult your teacher. They will be able to provide you with the most useful information. If you’re not that comfortable with your teacher, your classmates are also a great alternative.
My teacher has been a great source of support for me throughout my journey in Visual Arts. On top of that she’s been one of my biggest supporters so far! After I approached her with my initial hesitations, she was able to guide me throughout my first year. She has also helped me improve my skills to what it has become today.
Undoubtedly, Visual Arts will definitely be a challenging subject especially if you don’t have any experience. However it’s not something you should shy away from just because of that! There are many roads you can take to improve. Go down the one you will be most comfortable with and you’ll get better in no time.