Visual Arts Journal Ideas

Over the years I have collected examples of some phenomenal pages of Visual Arts Journals.  Since the new curriculum in 2016, it is not terribly necessary to fill your pages with written words.  I advise my students to use their Visual Art Journals more as a sketchbook to record their visual process.  Then they can insert photos of their pages and use type to explain their thoughts/add further comments and notes.  (Also…..IB Examiners will not be happy trying to read student’s writing – and sketchbook pages only offer limited size and space for words)

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, of course, that is difficult – but at least enough to fill the IB requirements)

Initial Ideas and Intentions

Gathering Ideas / Brainstorming

This page is highly useful – as it shows that the student (studying pumpkins) has literally gone to observe pumpkins in REAL LIFE, taken photos and then sketched what they had observed. 

These pages are where you begin documenting your ideas. You may be given a strong prompt by your teacher or you will have chosen something yourself that you want to explore. It could be a concept, an idea, an object – and you begin to take photos/gather images/words and sketch initial ideas.  Mind maps and contact pages of photos are good ideas for this stage.  You can add words initially – but you can also add further words/explanations in the digital screen.

Some ideas to get you started:

  • mind map an idea or theme
  • create lists of your initial idea/theme/prompt
  • search through newspapers/magazines of images and/or articles that interest you
  • do a photo walk – take photos of all you observe and discuss your impressions
  • choose different artworks you are interested in looking at
  • document art gallery visits

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Initial Observations/Technical/Media Experiment

This a great example of a student’s exploration of high tea.  The different media and close of up tea cup detail shows strong observations and epic technical skill.

This is where you show your strong technical skills.  Focus on objects that you choose to represent your ideas and/or objects that you are going to use to symbolize your concepts – or just objects that are interesting to you.  Experiment with many different media and techniques.  Play with shadow, highlights, ink, colour, etc. etc. etc.

Some ideas you can do to show off your technical skills:

  • you can take photos of various views of an object and then sketch out various details
  • use various materials (pencil, charcoal, ink, watercolour, paint)
  • go through distortion techniques and play around with how different objects can be distorted
  • metamorphosis one object into another
  • these can be observations of different places/things/people
  • these can be different views of the same thing using different media

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Artist Explorations

This is a good example of beginning artist study.  You can see the artist’s original picture (well labeled) with a section re-created beside it.  This page will work well in a screen as analysis can be typed beside.

Artist Analysis/Critical Study and Recreations

Initially Artist Analysis was required (in the past curriculum) so many students continue to make pages with alot of written work about the artist.  However, in the new curriculum, much biographical information isn’t really isn’t terribly important.  It’s good to know the years the artist worked, country of origin and culture of the artist as well as artists’ that the artist would be influenced by.  But more importantly is your analysis of the artwork.  So, instead of making pages showing all of the artist’s work.  Choose one or two works, analyse using Feldman’s analysis and then re-create the work (or parts of the work) observing the choices the artist made (what materials were used, how the artist blended and/or what choices were  needed to create certain effects, how difficult it is for you to recreate and/or how you think the artist did it and how you chose to do is instead)

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Combining Artist Ideas/Styles with your own

This is an oil paint re-creation of Anita Magasay-Ho’s artwork ‘Ginger Tea’ (above) but with juxtaposition of Starbucks.

These pages are often overlooked and so very important.  This is where you show how you have taken ideas/skills/techniques from the artists and combine them with your own ideas, creating NEW IDEAS.

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Idea Development

I like this student’s take on experimenting with crinkling up her self photos and practicing with various angles and different colour schemes.

Idea/Concept Development

Again, a highly overlooked category.  IB Art works should not be just one idea and go.  You need to take your time, go through the process of development.

This is where you take your original ideas/images and begin to experiment with different mediums, distortions and/or combining of ideas.  You can bring in other ideas.  Explore….what if I did this?  Or moved this?  Or made this smaller/bigger/a different color….etc…

Try to use a variety of mediums.  Of course quality is important – but MORESO is the amount of work and the creativity of your ideas.

*NOT ALL SKETCHES NEED TO BE FINISHED – its more important that your ideas shine through.

Add small notes of intention around your sketch – discuss what parts you like, what you would like to add, refine, redo, etc.

*A few years ago – when we used to focus on sketchbooks more with IB – I created a few example pages for my students – you don’t have to add all the notes – unless you want to…..then do..   Basically it was just my thoughts of what I was thinking for each idea.  (The notes will be helpful though when you start making screens).  I used my niece Mabel as my guinea pig. This is a purely 2D artwork – I was thinking in terms of a painting. And since I did this one Sunday afternoon – I am expecting your pages to be soo much better (and at least finished)  – but I hope it gives you some ideas.

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Composition Development

This is a good example of composition ideas. It shows how the student has considered various compositions.  This could be stronger if the student used more composition rules (listed beside) – but will still be a strong screen if the student explains her thoughts in text.

This is where you put all your ideas together and come up with possible compositions.  It’s always good to have a least 3 different ideas for compositions.

When designing compositions – keep in mind different composition strategies to make your composition interesting

  • Rule of Thirds
  • Rule of Odds
  • Formal Balance
  • Distortion Techniques  – change the size of things, distort the shape… etc..
  • Consider POD – change the emphasis, balance, etc.

When you choose your strongest composition, experiment with different color schemes and distortion/changing POD to rescale, reassemble, rethink compositions.

Using the composition ideas above, the artist chose one what they thought was the strongest composition – and then experimented with various colour schemes.

(No need to re-sketch composition ideas again and again.  An easy trick is to choose your composition and then photocopy it onto drawing paper – then experiment with colors/textures)

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NOTE: Unfortunately, most of these images come from google searches (and have been collected over time) – so I am not able to cite them.  My guess is that a majority of them come from my favourite online source for student art excellence