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Boxed In - Part II of the IGCSE Art Collection.

Welcome to the second part of my IGCSE Art Collection. If you have not seen the first part of this collection, you can click here to read more.

For this component of the examination, we were given five options and could choose either one to work on. Four A2-sized boards were to be produced in four months, with an eight-hour examination held in late April to work on the final outcome. I chose the theme "Boxed In".

Allow me to now walk you through my artworks.



The phrase “boxed in” figuratively connotes a person being prevented from doing what he/she wants to do. Over the course of the next four boards, I attempted to communicate the emotions one feels when being boxed in - those include fear, anger, frustration, despair. From what would be called the mild sentiment gradually developing into violent, vehement mentality, all the wild and unexpected would freeze in the frame of the final outcome's denouement.

1. hoax

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic/ water-based oil paint/ graphite/ marker.

On the right side of the board, I painted the portrait using water-based oil paints. The choice of medium aimed to express the emotions one felt in the context of being boxed in - those included fear and frustration. In order to do so, I employed theatrical lighting in my reference photoshoot which gave a sharp contrast between the light and shadow on my face, creating a dramatic visual effect. I tried to paint the portrait in a realistic way so that viewers could feel any emotions in their primal and organic forms without being distracted by a new artistic style, thereby making the art universal. At this stage, the medium water-based oil paints worked well to present this effect. Nonetheless, I wanted to further explore new ways to convey the message in my later boards.

portrait reference.

You may notice the abundant use of collage art in this board. The collage created a simple but powerful sight because the pieces’ uniform shapes and solid colours were distinct against the white background, but not too outstanding that would shift the viewers’ attention to the collage instead of the overall aura. The portrait and collage were created in complementary to suggest that the person was indeed boxed in; between the viewers’ sights and her face there was a physical layer of bars.

The left side of the board was centred on the abstracted box and developed from there onward. I portrayed the box in an abstracted way to suggest that a person did not need to be in a physical box to feel boxed in, but rather it was a mental state that was difficult to conquer. I used collage to reinforce the impenetrability of the box: a piece of black cardboard was placed over everything else, creating an inharmonious visual because of its grave and absorbing colour. The only other place where I employed the same technique was the bars on the right side, again to show the box’s solidity.

2. exile

16.5 x 23.4 inches, graphite/ marker.

In Board 2, I experimented with Copic markers to draw figures. Initially, I was hesitant to use Copic markers for this board because they were difficult to achieve a desired effect in terms of producing realistic colours and details. As I started using them, I began to like the way they were able to create blocks of colours. To create a light and dark tones, I applied different number of layers; to create temperature contrast, I mixed the colours carefully to achieve a colder or warmer shade.

The figure on the left is half embracing herself and trying to hide her head behind her knees. The other figure is huddling, withdrawing from the sight. On top of these two figures, a pencil sketch of a portrait depicts a desperate motion with the girl’s hands clutching her hair as if she is pulling it off in no time. These three drawings demonstrate the the physical and gestural representation of boxed in, as well as the cold feeling of exile. Quite ironic, isn't it? When you are chained to a box and are going nowhere, yet your soul feels in exile from your body.

3. happiness

16.5 x 23.4 inches, charcoal/ marker.

For this board, I experimented with a new idea inspired by the artist Julia Moniewski. I was intrigued by the absolute simplicity and the exquisite visual in Moniewski’s paintings created by colour blocks, and I thought that these blocks resembled boxes that echoed the theme. I wanted to include the boxes not just as an outside force restraining the character but also within the character, by veiling her appearance with boxes.

initial attempt for artist inspiration

My first attempt to imitate Moniewski’s style was done in acrylic paint. As you can see, I did not include any details or realistic portrayal but instead applied colour boxes over the entire painting. I was not satisfied with the result - first, the colours were too vibrant, and the contrast was not very effective; second, the attempt to draw out layers and texture was unsuccessful. The overall message this painting conveyed was chaotic, therefore I decided to discard it and begin a new attempt with markers from the previous board.

In the portraits, I left out a few spaces unfilled with solid boxes and drew those parts in pencil to create a more realistic effect, because I wanted to balance the abstract and the concrete. Charcoal was applied for the contour of the boxes. However, I was not satisfied with the result that came out. The reason for that was because my drawing lacked the texture and the layers conveyed through Moniewski’s works. Compared to the acrylics in her paintings, the Copic markers I used were relatively more translucent and light, creating a rather flat and weak visual. Hence, the restrained and imprisoned themes of boxed in were not expressed effectively. In my next and final board, I hoped to continue experimenting with ways to convey the theme.

In the background, I once more used collage of black cardboard to represent the boxes. I liked the contrast created between the uniformity and mechanical properties of these collages and the organic nature of the rounded boxes on the character’s face, as they were two different ways to present the state of boxed in.

4. evermore

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic/ graphite/ marker.

In this final board, I continued to explore ways to present the theme of “Boxed In”. Even though I was not entirely satisfied with the result from the previous board, I wanted to keep the artist inspiration of ‘boxes within boxes’ and continued innovating on top of that.

Raffaele Monti, The Veiled Lady (1860)

In the golden portrait on the left, I continued working on the artist Moniewski’s inspiration from the previous board. When taking the reference photoshoot, I covered myself partially with a thin veil. This idea was inspired by the sculpture The Veiled Lady (1860) by Raffaele Monti, where a woman’s upper body is wrapped by a veil. I was fascinated by the sentiments the sculpture conveyed - muted despairs, forlorn cries, and most importantly, the state of boxed in. I painted the veil in acrylic and my body parts in graphite. This intended arrangement aimed to depict an unbalance visual - the veil in thick acrylic triumphantly outweighed and defeated the body in frail graphite, just like how one would be incapable of breaking free from the boxes that restrained him/her fully.

Gustav Klimt, The Woman in Gold

The visual elements in the portrait was largely inspired by Gustav Klimt’s The Women In Gold. I always thought that the woman in Klimt’s painting looked confined and chained - her lavish golden dress looked like an imprisonment to me rather than a desirous luxury.

The two sketches on the right side of the board attempted the layout for the final outcome - two faces instead of one, both boxed in the veil. This layout, in my opinion, could communicate a more suffocated feeling than the initial one. I painted the tears trickling down the faces in gold to create a dramatic visual, as well as to mirror the gold colour of the outside box.

the final outcome

16.5 x 23.4 inches, acrylic/ ballpoint pen.

Voila! I completed this final piece in the eight hour exam in two sittings. I am quite satisfied with the way everything came together.

digital draft for the final outcome, done on Procreate

So, this is the end of my IGCSE Art journey! I will continue working on some new art and will keep you updated on that.

the end.


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