Light & Shade by Rosie

By The Arty Teacher - June 10, 2024

Below is an example art A-level project produced for the externally set assignment, answering the question ‘Light and Shade’. This was from the fine art paper. A-Level is an independent course of study taken by students who are approximately 17/18 years of age in the UK.

Students only have about 8 – 10 weeks to complete the sketchbook work and plan for a 15hr exam where they have to conclude their work. Their preparatory work and work produced in the 15hrs has to fulfil the assessment objectives.

Rosie created a quick title using an appropriate font.

She started by producing a mind map exploring the theme of ‘Light and Shade’ and then also researched ‘Chiaroscuro’ which comes from the Italian words “chiaro” (light) and “scuro” (dark). It is a technique that uses strong contrasts between light and dark to create the illusion of depth and three-dimensionality on a flat surface.

example art A level project

She researched the photographer Edward Weston and took photographs of fruit and vegetables, and a female friend. These photographs made strong connections to Edward Weston.

example art A level project

Rosie researched what fruit symbolised in art in different cultures: life, the transient nature of existence, morality, and death. She specifically researched pomegranates, which symbolised death, blood and evil and fertility/life in different cultures and periods of time.

She drew a pineapple using a white pencil on black paper.

example art A level project

Below, she used white and black charcoal pencils and compressed charcoal on back paper.

She began to interpret light and shade as life and death. She experimented with a range of different media. Below left, is a black monoprint with white acrylic highlights, and right, a coloured pencil drawing and a ballpoint pen drawing on grey paper with white pen highlights and indian ink background.

example art A level project

I thought it was worth showing a close-up of the coloured pencil drawing from above. White pen has been used to add highlights.

She developed the idea of a pomegranate as a symbol of morality by showing it being crushed in a hand. Fake blood was added for dramatic effect.

example art A level project

She documented a trip to Tate Britain and Tate Modern where she noticed artworks that had dramatic light and shade.

She experimented further with different media.

example art A level project

She developed the idea of life and death and ‘temporary life’ further by purchasing a heart from a butcher to photograph. She used a contact sheet (left) to show that she had photographed extensively but that she could also ‘dimiss and select’ from her photography, both by how she crossed out and circled photos on the contact sheet but also how she enlarged specific photos on the right-had page.

example art A level project

She took close-ups of the heart and it reminded her of Georgia O’Keeffe who she had studied at school when she was younger.

example art A level project
example art A level project

At home, to make connections to Georgia O’Keeffe, Rosie began working on the A3 (29.7 cm x 42 cm) oil painting below. This was the first time she had worked with oil paints and, although she was pleased with the end result, she didn’t enjoy it. She found that she worked far too slowly.

example art A level project

She continued to practise her coloured pencils skills below.

example art A level project

All of Rosies class took part in an ‘Art Core Skills Lesson‘ where they only had one lesson to manipulate their chosen image in as many ways as possible. Images were chosen in advance of the lesson and printed. A range of media had been laid out. They were challenged to fill a double page spread in one lesson. Learn more about art core skills lessons here.

Core skills art lesson

She then applied the processes she had learned in the core skills lesson to a drawing of the heart. The pages above and below are a personal response to her theme rather than one influenced by an artists.

Rosie wanted to develop her photography further, and wanted to try cyanotypes. First, she decided to research a cyanotype artist and discovered Alix Marie. Alix Marie used images of skeletons and internal organs such as intestines to make cyanotypes on cloth.

Rosie created the negatives on the right-hand page below in Photoshop.

Rosie created a cyanotype on cloth using one of her heart in hand photographs. She also merged a found intestine image with her own pomegranate images in Photoshop and created the cyanotype below right.

She stretched the cloth cyanotype below on a frame.

The cyanotype below combines a found skeleton image with her one of her heart photographs.


The cyanotype below combines a found skeleton with a found intestine image.

Next, Rosie created a cyanotype of one of her heart images with a diagonal section blacked out so that when exposed, there would be a gap in the image which she could work within. You can see how this connects with her collage work above. She experimented with exposure times.

example art A level project

She experimented with having a dark background and a light background. The final image, below right, felt like a significant step towards bringing her ideas together. It combined the spontaneity of cyanotypes, which she enjoyed, and the detailed coloured pencil drawing, which would get her high marks for recording.

example art A level project

She documented the steps and exposure times below, annotating her thoughts.

example art A level project

Rosie’s first idea for a final piece was to combine the images of a heart and a pomegranate to represent life and death. Two of the compositions below show a pomegranate, a heart and a pomegranate merged together using Photoshop and then a heart, alluding to the passing of time.

example art A level project

Below, on the right-hand page you can see the acetates that Rosie used for the cyanotype. The heart and pomegranates were replaced with an area of black so that the paper would remain white when exposed. These could then be drawn or added to with collage.

She started experimenting with exposure times. The pieces of paper below are A1 cut down into strips. Approximately 84cm x 45cm – so fairly large.

She was worried that she wouldn’t have enough time in her exam to draw the coloured areas in coloured pencil, so she moved on from this idea and applied collage instead.

example art A level project

She decided to experiment with fragmented hearts in photoshop, adding each piece to a separate layer so they could be moved. She experimented with different fonts, reflecting back on her own annotation for inspiration.

example art A level project

Rosie wanted to create the cyanotypes before the exam and do the drawing in the exam. The school contacted the exam board to check that this was ok. Rosie was given the go-ahead as long as A) the sketchbook showed what was done before the 15hrs and what was completed on the 15hrs. B) We made it clear to the moderator what had been done before the 15hrs and what was completed in the 15hrs.

Below is the A2 acetate used to create the cyanotypes for the final piece. This was purchased online and time had to be allowed for this to be returned to school before the exam.

She exposed and developed many cyanotypes for the final piece, experimenting with the exposure time. These were annotated to show this experimentation.

Below is Rosies final outcome. Working faster in the exam than anticipated, Rosie become aware that she was going to finish the first artwork long before the exam time was finished. She had to think quickly about how she would utilize her time effectively. She had lots of cyanotypes and chose to create a diptych where the second artwork was filled with pomegranates rather than sections of heart.

example art A level project

Thank you to Rosie for allowing me to publish her work. There are more example projects by Arty Students here.

If you are an art teacher and have enjoyed this example art A level project, why not register to receive my weekly newsletter? You’ll be able to download 3 of my free art lessons each month too.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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