Body of Work: The Ultimate Guide

By Bea Tekiko in Study
10th of November 2017
body of work

The body of work for Year 12 Visual Arts. Finally. Creative freedom you’ve never experienced before. Freedom to explore new themes and worlds. Freedom to be yourself.

But wait… Where do you even begin? How do you consistently work on one artwork and not get sick of it? Which is the most suitable medium to use? What will you talk about? Welcome to the ‘Body of Work: The Ultimate Guide’. Gain insights and tips from a former Visual Arts student and rise your way to the top by making the best major work ever!

Preliminary Visual Arts

Remember what you did in Year 11? Notice any consistencies? Did you happen to submit a painting for every assessment? Were you always integrating your cultural background into your work? What about finishing your work the day the assessment is due? Did you avoid taking your teacher’s feedback into consideration?

Year 12 Visual Arts is the year to show off your artistic talents to the HSC markers. Don’t let your bad Year 11 habits bite you. It is your body of work, after all. Treat it like your pet. Be kind to it.
Listen to your art teacher/s

When your art teacher suggests you to do something, do it. I know it must be hard to incorporate your teacher’s suggestion into your work (especially if it’s terrible and you hate it). But at the end of the day, they’ve had more experience with body of works in the past. They know that there’s always room for improvement and they believe you have potential to keep on pushing art boundaries and especially yourself. You will not waste any time taking their suggestions into account if you learn to stop complaining about it. Their ideas might be strange and pathetic… Ridiculous almost.

Your work might be a 76/50 in your eyes, but it might be a 27/50 in someone else’s. Your art teacher is there to guide you into a Band 6. They’re not going to be soft to you during your BOW journey and will give you harsh criticisms. This may be disheartening at first, but just remember ~9,000 students do Visual Arts in the state. Your work needs to stand out. Make sure you wow those VA HSC markers who are probably sick and tired of seeing the same concept over and over again. Listen to your art teacher if you want to get that Band 6. They know what they’re doing. Don’t push them away.


What are you mostly passionate about? Social issues? Your emotions? History? Whatever it is, ask yourself this. What am I trying to depict here? Do I want to raise awareness? Do I want to express my HSC journey? Once you have thought of a concept, don’t just stop there. Keep on building on it. You gotta delve into a lot of layers and depict this in your work.

Let’s take this concept for example. This is what my friend did for her BOW: ‘music has the power to set a mood’.

My friend could’ve stopped there, but there’s more!

> it has power to set a mood
> power beyond human comprehension
> music is spiritual
> music can be found in the layers of heaven, purgatory and hell

For my friend, music was her passion. She always knew music has this power to overwhelm people and set a mood. But how exactly? By placing music on a pedestal and thought that it was spiritual- almost holy like. She referenced Dante’s poem in her work and amalgamated these two themes.

By adding more layers of meaning through your work, you can easily get a Band 6. A concept is one thing, but to add more concepts and references beyond your initial idea is extraordinarily impressive. This is your opportunity to push boundaries and make the HSC markers question themselves, society and the world. For the sake of your HSC mark, don’t stick to one layer of your concept. Once you have that one layer presented in your work, that will make the markers go ‘so now what?’. You want to make sure everytime your audience walks past your work, there is a new layer to be discovered. That’s how Band 6 students get their marks.

I went to a local Year 12 art exhibition once and saw at least five artworks that were about the student’s emotions during their HSC year. I walked past their work once and thought to myself “Is that all?”. It was fine that these artworks had a common concept. However, the fact that they just stuck to that one layer of their emotions and interpreted it literally (by using the colour blue to represent their sadness and the colour red to illustrate their anger) just made me wonder:

If they took time to venture onto new pathways and suggestions, such as their family history, mentions of a research paper of a student’s brain or simply just some scientific equations of chemicals that cause sadness and anger, would have pushed their works into another layer that referenced their family, public knowledge and science.

Don’t be a student who just sticks to one layer in their concept. I don’t think the HSC markers wants to see another work about your emotions on their own. They’re probably sick of it.

“Good art makes you question things. Good art makes you see things you’ve never seen before”, as one of my art teachers once said. Use this as inspiration for the development of your concept beyond the tip of its iceberg and explore further down to possible, plentiful and meaningful layers.

What medium do I use?

Ask yourself these questions. What was your strongest medium in Year 11? What medium are you most passionate about? What medium would be most suitable for your concept? Do you want to convey your concept on an abstract level or a more realistic level? Remember that there are limitations for the overall size/weight/time for each medium. These restrictions can be found on the NESA website. Make sure to abide by these restrictions or else that sculpture you worked so hard for cannot be included in your final submission.

Art galleries

Art galleries are the perfect place for finding your artist/s of influence, a medium (if you haven’t already decided) and a style you might want to appropriate. There is no such thing as copyright in Visual Arts. Art is all about adopting and appropriating styles throughout time. Art is a subject where you need a reference, unlike English that doesn’t allow you to reword the question as a way of creating your essay thesis. So don’t be afraid of adopting Picasso’s cubism style or Warhol’s pop art practice.

Visit as MANY art galleries and art exhibitions (if possible) to get your artistic minds going and expose yourself to the world of art beyond HSC Visual Arts. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art and the White Rabbit Gallery are good places to start off. If possible, visit the ARTEXPRESS exhibitions. See what the top previous HSC VA students did for their Body of Work.

Artist/s of influence

As mentioned previously, art is all about referencing styles. Pick your artist/s of influence and learn their style. Learn how they sculpt their figures, learn how they painted, learn their composition. Once you have found an aspect of their practice that you like, put your own personal twist on it and let that style guide you on your completion of your work. For my BOW, my artist of influence was Imants Tillers. I appropriated how he used text in his works and added my own twist by using words from my own culture in the work.

How do I begin?

Term 1 of Year 12 is pretty much the only time you have to plan out your concept, your composition and your schedule for the rest of the year. Don’t start your BOW immediately without a plan and approval from your teacher as this can derail you. The months of October to December is so crucial to the development of your plan. You have the entire summer holidays and the rest of Year 12 to do your body of work. Don’t rush your plan. Some schools have proposal assessment tasks where your teacher looks at your concept and plan. Some schools go straight into the art making. If your school is the second example I mentioned, sit back and DO YOUR PLAN! Gather your concepts, make a timeline, look at your artist/s of influence, the medium you intend to use and get your approval from your teacher.

When you have your plan in tact, start your composition. This is such a crucial aspect to your body of work. Once you have finished your composition, there is no turning back now. Avoid making HUGE changes to your major throughout the year. This will keep discouraging you from your goal and will end up in low self esteem, which is the last thing you want during this major work.

Time management

Time management is crucial during your Body of Work. You can’t expect to do your major at the last minute and hope for a decent mark. Information on managing your time during the completion of your Body of Work can be found here.

Above > under

Unless your work has exactly 45 canvasses (which was my BOW) or 8 panels (which my friend who did her BOW about music had), it’s better to go above than under. The more things you get done for your teacher, not only does this show commitment and passion, but it gives you options on what to submit to NESA. Let’s say you have exactly 12 drawings, but two of them are terrible.

If your initial plan says 12 drawings, you ARE sticking to your 12 drawings no matter how bad your two drawings are. Your composition just wouldn’t be the same with 10 drawings. Now picture this. Your initial plan was 12 drawings but ended up making 18. You have the choice to throw away 6 drawings and pick your best ones. Sometimes works made in the second or third term of your HSC year are your best works. As time progresses, you develop your skills and get you better and better at your work. So those ugly 6 drawings you made in the first term? Scrap them because it turns out you made better ones later on in the year.


Just like your BOW, treat your VAPD like your pet. Be nice to it. Don’t neglect it. It needs feeding every now and then. Your VAPD should have your plans, your artist/s of influence, compositions, pictures of your progress and comments from your teacher. Your VAPD doesn’t get marked but those who get nominated for ARTEXPRESS will need to present their VAPD for proof that they did the work. Don’t think you’ll get nominated? VAPD still needs to be submitted. It usually gets checked by markers if they think your work is too good that a professional artist did it or your work is that bad that they need to double check. Try and add something in your VAPD once or twice a fortnight. This will definitely help with progress marks and rankings.


‘Untitled’ is probably the most overrated title and lacks originality. Find a title that both summarises your work and doesn’t give too much away. It’s like a paradox almost. Avoid cheesy titles that have no relevance to your work. One word titles, rhetorical questions and titles that sound like those really long Fall Out Boy or Panic! at the Disco song titles, are most effective.

Artist’s statement

I find that the smaller the artist statement is, the bigger its impact on the audience. If you feel that you have to explain the meaning of your body of work word to word, then there must be something wrong with your work. The work has to speak for itself, not the statement. The statement is like an appetiser. It’s meant to guide you in, not become the main and steal the spotlight from your BOW.

A 100-200 word statement of your artwork is enough. Within the statement, talk about your concept, the message you want to say and your artist of influence. Talk about your work’s medium if it’s relevant to the overall meaning of your work. Though remember that your artist’s statement is only shown at your school’s exhibition. The HSC markers will not read it at all, even if you place it in your VAPD. Don’t depend on your statement to convey your message. Let the work speak for itself.

Art exhibition

Depending on your school, art exhibitions are held in the third term (same term as Trials). Some schools have it at the start of the term or a week before the final submission to NESA. Either way, it is expected that 95% of your work is done by your exhibition. You aren’t allowed to make ANY drastic changes when it gets taken down. The remaining 5% should be just you making final touches to your work between your art exhibition and the due date. The art exhibition allows your family, friends, teachers and guests to see your work. Enjoy the night! You deserve all the claps and awards for making it this far.

Final submission to NESA

This was probably the saddest thing that happened during my body of work journey … finally saying goodbye to it and letting it free. You are expected to submit your BOW and VAPD. Remove any evidence of your name, gender and your school. This allows for less biased marking. You are expected to label EVERY piece of your BOW. Doesn’t matter if you have one small USB for your film or 60 drawings, you have label every one them.

In the labels provided by NESA, you must write down your student number, school number, your expressive form (medium), the title or description and what number piece it is. If you have a specific composition for your work, take a picture of it (Preferably hanged up. Best time to do this is at your school’s art exhibition), print it and include it somewhere in your submission. Carefully wrap your work in bubble wrap or whatever wrapping is provided by your school. It is not NESA’s responsibility if your work is damaged in transportation.

ARTEXPRESS Nominations

Not all Band 6 works will get in. ARTEXPRESS has a specific criteria for nominated and selected works. They try and include at least one of each school type, gender and medium for an inclusive range and diversity of students in the exhibition. They might choose a female student from a Catholic school who did a painting or a male student from a public school who did a film. The options are endless. If you end up getting nominated, congratulations! Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get selected.. The fact that your work was nominated amongst ~9,000 Visual Art students in the state is something to be proud of.

Some final words on the body of work…

My Body of Work was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I was so determined from the very start to make an amazing BOW and through the stress, drama and hardship, I made it to the end. The painting I made is something I will forever treasure in my heart. I overcame a series of challenges such as my terrible time management, making choices for myself and also learning to listen to my teachers’ ideas. HSC Visual Arts introduced me to a lovely and supportive class, always there, willing to give you suggestions and help you during dark times.

You would expect Visual Arts to be a competitive subject. But it really isn’t. You start to form bonds with other people you wouldn’t think of interacting with. You develop your artistic skills. But most of all, you develop self confidence. That was one thing that stood out to me the most during my body of work journey.

I wish everyone good luck with their own body of work journey. I can assure you that this is the best decision of your HSC life. It might be such a drag to have to work on the same artwork in Year 12. But think of it this way. Your body of work is way of taking a break from the written and theoretical assessment tasks and exams at your school. Doing your BOW is a way to break free from your own year group and create your own individuality.

You get to grow as a person and develop artistically, physically and emotionally. You’ll learn to be in touch with your roots and emotions. You learn to be a people person and form new friendly relations. You will spend so many hours in the art room during lessons, studies and after school that once your BOW journey is finished, you actually feel this physical pain. Pain formed from sadness and grief because a huge part of your daily life is gone. But at the end of the day, you did it. You actually did it. Your hard work will be rewarded at the end. You can do it!


About the author:

Bea Tekiko is an outstanding 2017 HSC graduate. As a student, Bea has been incredibly helpful to peers on the ATAR Notes forums, and entirely dedicated to her studies. Visual Arts holds a special place in her HSC experience.