A Level Art Sketchbook Tour & Tips

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Just shy of two years ago now, I decided on taking A Level Art. I was umming and aahing about it for ages - I had committed to the idea of doing three subjects; History, French and English Lit, but I kept telling myself I would regret it if I didn't take Art. So here I am, two years later, having just finished my coursework in my fourth A Level, Fine Art.

Why did I take it? Art has always been a hobby for me, and it was one I wanted to get better at. I honestly think I wouldn't have found time to continue with it if I didn't have to do it as an A Level, and therefore taking it has allowed me to spend time at it while improving. And I have improved a lot, let me tell you!

Today I thought I would share some of my pages in my art sketchbook with you will also compiling tips for the subject, some of which I reckon could be applied to art as a hobby too. I will be circling back round this post in a couple of days when I find out how I've done in my coursework too to let you know how well I did in it - that is if I did well, haha!

Choose a subject that you know you'll enjoy
As much as it's great to take risks in art, something to play a little safe with is your subject choice. Don't choose something you will end up bored of after a matter of weeks because it will become so much harder for you. In year 12 I did fruit for a whole eighteen weeks and the work felt like such a chore, thank goodness the work from last year didn't go towards our final grade because I really didn't have my heart in it! But this year I chose portraiture, and my Wednesday afternoons I have a double art lesson in don't feel like a chore at all, but something I really look forward to.

Don't judge a piece until it's finished
Okay seriously, the amount of times I have panicked about a piece not going the way I intended, to end up being fairly happy with it by the time it is finished is endless. Sometimes it is a battle that I feel like I am never going to win, until suddenly it actually looks decent. This is good! This is supposed to happen! Would you judge an essay that you've only written a paragraph in? Give it time and everything will work out. Saying that...

Don't expect every piece of work to be your best
It's okay if every piece of work isn't of the highest grade possible, or as good as you want it to be. Some pieces, such as a different scale, different medium or different image just won't work for you, and that's actually sometimes a good thing because while developing your ideas you can say why it wasn't for you.

Give media outside of your comfort zone a chance
One medium I know is not for me is printing, it never has been and never will be the medium I ever develop, or spend more than a couple of weeks ago. But this year I tried it out a bit more and actually created some printing pieces I totally didn't hate. Oil painting was a medium this year I had never used before, was totally terrified to and then fell in love with it. I could have decided it was a bit too difficult and given up, but I persevered and I am so glad I did.

Explore different scales and textures
Working on an A3 canvas was a huge breakthrough for me - I had never really used canvas before but, especially when using oil paint, it made such a difference and made my application a lot easier. I also experimented with smaller scale, creating an A4 portrait (on the right page above) which surprisingly I found it a lot harder to get detail. I even did an A1 ink piece at the start of the project which was a lot, let me tell you! Eventually I worked out A3 was best for me but it totally will differ for anyone. Don't feel confined to your sketchbook size - I photocopied my larger work (such as the left page above, an A3 board photocopied) to showcase it in my sketchbook too.
Get inspired by artists
Pinterest is full of amazing ideas to get inspired by, and artist research is super important to show where your ideas came from. This is especially useful if you're using a medium unfamiliar to you, such as when I started oil painting and found some artists that approached it very similar to I did. 

I took art at a level because I genuinely have a love for the subject. For the first time in a long time, this June it will finally become simply a hobby again rather than a school subject, which I am kind of looking forward to because I won't have to paint from my own photos anymore! (Roll on the drawings of Harry Styles again).

Yes, the subject is time-consuming, but it doesn't feel like a drag when you really enjoy it, and would probably only recommend you take it if you know you won't treat the work as a chore. However, due to the amount of revision I have for my other subjects, I don't think the amount of time I spend doing art is any more than them right now! Compared to GCSE, I actually think art at A Level is a lot less time consuming, because although you have a lot more to complete (4 sketchbook pages a week rather than a month), you also have a lot more class time. Personally I am really glad that I took it, as the access I have had to different sorts of media - ink, oil paint, etc has made my skills improve so much.

I would love to hear any of your own tips in the comments!

EG x


  1. You're so talented! Art is a huge part of my life, but I still haven't had the courage to share my work on my blog! x

    Shannon | https://shannonmichelle1.blogspot.com

  2. I took art at gcse and then photography at A-Level and now am doing a photography degree, so sketchbook work is something I've been doing for so long haha! Getting inspired by artists is the biggest thing for me, makes it a lot easier to keep experimenting!

    Lucy | Forever September

  3. Oh my days, these pictures are so cool!