This blog outlines the common errors that many art students often make. Hope this helps to avoid making the same errors over and over again.
- Thinking Art will be an entertaining, ‘filler’ subject
Many students think that art is a fun subject which you hurl a bit of paint around and scribble with brightly coloured crayons. Students who enter under this misconception suffer a very quick wake-up call. Art can indeed be fun, but it is also an unimaginable amount of work. It requires constant and ongoing effort. Many students spend more time on their Art homework than they do on all of their other subjects put together. Art should be taken for one reason only: because playing with line and tone and shape and form and texture and colour fills you with joy. If you don’t love making art, your subject selection will torment you. Art will become your demon: the subject you resent with a passion, instead of enjoy.
2. Taking too long to begin
Some students are struck with a fear that they don’t have an original starting point. They spend weeks fretting over their topic selection and worrying whether it is good enough. Here’s the truth: it’s not the idea that matters – it’s what you do with it. Even the worst beginnings can become amazing if they are developed in the right way, with reference to the right artist models. Delaying your project in the hope of stumbling upon a ‘perfect’ topic rarely works: instead it results in panicked, last-minute submissions that are a pale shadow of what they could have been, had the full allotment of time been used. Great portfolios need time. Do yourself a favour and begin.
3. Producing weak or uninspiring compositions
Compositional errors can be broken into the followings:
- Cheesy: Surprisingly, there are still students who attempt to create artworks containing hearts; glitter; prancing horses; leaping dolphins or bunches of roses. Overly ‘pretty’, cliche and/or unimaginative subjects are rarely successful.
- Boring: Those who select appropriate but common subject-matter (i.e. portraits) but make no effort to compose these in an innovative way, do themselves no favours. Even highly technical skilled students sometimes submit projects that make an examiner want to yawn. A less able student, on the other hand, with exciting ideas and clever compositions, can make an examiner sit up and take notice.
- Simple: Another common compositional error – usually evident in weaker students – is to avoid complex / challenging arrangements and/or choose a scene that is completely ‘flat’ or formless (i.e. an enlarged detail of a brick wall or a cloudy sky). This is unlikely to give you sufficient opportunity to render complex three-dimensional form and runs the risk of limiting or stifling your project.
- Unbalanced: Every image, page and preparatory component of your high school Art project should be arranged in a well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing way. This can be a challenge for some, but certain principles and directing conscious attention to composition will make the artwork more balanced and pleasing to the eye.
4. Flaunting poor skills
Struggling with a practical aspect of Art is not a mistake. No one is perfect. Everyone is in the process of improving their skills. However, flaunting your weaknesses to the examiner is. Remove weak pieces and ensure that you present your skills in the best artwork. If you are messy and struggle to control paint, choose a style that allows you to apply gestural, expressive brush strokes, so it appears that your lack of control is intentional. Showcase your strengths and use these as a destructive mechanism, while confronting your weaknesses head-on.
5. Failing to show development
Many university art portfolios ask students to develop ideas from initial concept/s to final pieces. Difficulties with development usually present themselves in two forms: submitting a body of unrelated work or submitting work that doesn’t develop at all.
6. Continually restarting work
Those who take art are often the perfectionist type, wanting every aspect of their portfolio to be perfect. This ambition is great – in fact, most teachers wish this was a more widely-held attitude – however the mechanisms for achieving this are often flawed. Continually restarting pieces of work is not a good idea. It is rare that a drawing, painting or mixed-media piece cannot be worked upon and improved. In almost all cases, initial ‘bad’ layers give an artwork substance, resulting in a richer final piece. Those who habitually restart work have less time to complete the second piece and often end up with a portfolio of half-complete pieces, none of which truly represent their skill in their artworks.
7. Drawing from second-hand sources
Drawing or painting from images taken by others is one of the riskiest strategies a high school art student can use. It sets off alarm bells for the examiner, as it can indicate a lack of personal connection to a topic, a lack of originality, plagiarism issues and result in surface-deep work. Using images sourced from magazines, books and the internet screams of one thing: a student who cannot get off their backside long enough to find something of their own to draw. There are certain art projects in which drawing from second-hand resources is acceptable. In general, however, this is something that should be approached with extreme care.
8. Spending too long on annotation
For some students, writing comes naturally – they enjoy pouring words onto a page. Others use annotation as a form of procrastination, to avoid working on the visual material. There is nothing wrong with annotation. It is an excellent way for refining ideas, evaluating work and communicating concepts and ideas. But students should remember this: it is usually possible to score perfect marks with little or zero annotation. It is never possible to score perfect marks with annotation only. Spend more time and effort on your drawings and paintings. Use annotation as and when is necessary and put your fullest energy into creating artwork. Put the art first and the annotation second.
9. Presenting work poorly
Presentation is very important. Art and Design is a visual subject. Those who assess it are highly sensitive to visual cues. The way artwork is mounted, arranged and put together speaks volumes to the examiner about your attitude as a candidate: your enthusiasm, your commitment and work ethic. Scrunched, dog-eared, smudged works can communicate the idea that you are an insane, artistic genius, but they are more likely to communicate the idea that you are a disorganised student who couldn’t care less about refining their artwork. When someone has a few minutes to assess or moderate your entire year’s work, first impressions count.
The ultimate downfall of an art student is procrastination. This is the number one barrier to success. Leaving things until the last minute can work in some subjects, such if you have an excellent memory, excellent grasp of the subject and have a refined cramming technique – but it almost never works when creating art. Each artworks needs a long time to develop.