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how do you use the Visual Arts Journal?

Your workbook should be a comprehensive document that illustrates your artistic development and research. The purpose of the workbook is to encourage and record personally driven research and discovery that function interactively with independent art work.

The current IB curriculum requests a digital submission with screens – which can be confusing on how to approach the Visual Arts Journal.  In my IB class, I suggest that at the very least, students use the Visual Art Journal as a sketchbook to collect brainstorming, idea development and compositional studies.  Documentation of Process, Art analysis and reflections can be added more easily (and with more space and depth) digitally. 

There is no right or wrong way to create these pages.  And they do not have to follow the specific categories – they can be a mesh of everything and anything.  The key is that they show your ideas and process visually.  Also, if you are going for a high score – then  you should take the time and energy to create visually stunning and technically impressive pages.  (Not all have to be amazing, of course – that is difficult – but at least enough to fill the IB requirements)

As we work, I have my students consider creating these KEY pages (either in their VAJ or digitally):

Click here to see some examples of how these pages might look in your Visual Arts Journal

**Students should strive create a minimum of 3 pages per week with a least 5 per project. ***It is desirable to make every page count!  Use the pages to show not only your ideas but your technical art skills. **Try not to include too many copy and posted images as they can be easily added later digitally.  If you do use them, cite ALL sources properly, including EVERY image

To get started creating your VAJ pages, you will need a sketchbook. My students love to use a little larger sizes (A3) of sketchbook. At least A4. We also love hard covers with a spiral bound. And with watercolour paper. But you choose whatever works for you. At the end of the day, you will have to photograph to include it in your screens, so size really doesn’t matter.

As you create your pages, try to include on each page:

Remember, everything should be connected! Research, planning, studio work, media investigations, reflections are all part of a connected journey.


  Check out this great slide show explaining what your IWB should/could look like ……..    


RESEARCH A NEW ARTIST Pick a work of art that speaks to your heart, that you will use to influence your own studio work. Closely observe and analyze the artwork. Use the DAIJ technique to critique what you see (Describe, Analyze, Interpret, Judge). Re-create the image.  Sketch out different views of the artwork (close ups/fragments).  Use the artist’s ideas and style and create other images. As you go, comment on all your work/observations/thoughts as you work. Some leading questions:

RESEARCH NEW MEDIA OR EXPERIMENT WITH TECHNIQUES What do you want to learn how to do?  You may watch Youtube videos and follow along, or experiment on your own.  As you experiment note your observations/thoughts along your sketches. For example:

DRAW FROM OBSERVATION The most important way to improve in drawing and painting is to draw what you see.  IB loves figure studies.  You can find lots of timed life drawing videos on youtube to use for your studies.  As always, as you go, note your observations/thoughts along your sketches.



HAVE FUN! PLAY WITH YOUR ART. Doodle. Daydream! Write down questions or ideas you have. Make idea clouds. Share the beautiful or messy processes in your head that lead you to create!


Elements of Art (EOA) & Principles of Design (POD) These should be part of every Art Journal entry you create – they are the foundation of the “underpinnings of artistic expression.” Understanding and using these in both your planning and your writing are ESSENTIAL to writing about art, and making successful studio work.  

Elements – line, shape, form, texture, value, color, space.

Principles – contrast, emphasis, unity, pattern, movement/rhythm, balance  

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