Got questions about HSC Visual Arts? We’ve got the answers!

How much work is the major work?

This is a super hard question to answer, because it changes so much based on every artwork. Paintings and drawings will obviously be different to photographs, which are taken in a single click. However, after interviewing several people who did well in their major works, I’ve come to the figure of 60 hours. That includes all practice and experimentation of material practice. Obviously, there are also exceptions to this rule. I had a friend who did stippling for her major work, and she spent over 100 hours on it. So the time depends on what you want to do, but assume you will be spending about an hour ad a half a week on your major work.

Do I need to be good at drawing?

No, absolutely not! At most, you might have to do a unit in year 11 that focuses on drawing – but it’s a skill that can be easily learned and picked up by practice. Also, since it’s in year 11, you don’t need to worry about it affecting your ATAR. In year 12, you are able to choose whatever medium you like, including photography, sculpture or graphic design, so drawing is totally not necessary!


What can I make?

One of the great aspects of visual arts is the vast variety of options for your major work. Below I have listed all of the expressive forms allowed

  • Documented Forms: a documentation (usually using photographs) of a time based event, performance or site-specific installation.
  • Collection of Works: a collection which uses a mix of the categories listed.
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Photomedia: Digital photographs or photos developed using the dark room.
  • Printmaking
  • Textiles and Fibre: using fabric, thread, wool or other types of fibre to create your major work.

  • Graphic Design: Digital manipulation of images and text.
  • Designed Objects: An individual work or series of works with a focus on 3D object design. This expressive form includes wearable, jewellery, architectural design and product design.
  • Sculpture
  • Ceramics
  • Time-based forms: This expressive form includes film, video, digital animation and interactive.

How well does it scale?

Visual arts is infamous for its poor scaling. But the issue of scaling is a little more complex than good scaling vs bad scaling.

A subject that scales badly is generally due to it having a large amount of students doing the course, and an average mark which is relatively low. This is the case with visual arts, but don’t let that deter you!

Subjects like this allow students who do well to really flourish. If you’re in the top 25% of people your marks will be scaled up. But most of all, remember that scaling is not the most important thing in choosing a subject. The most important thing is that you enjoy your subjects and feel confident in them, and then you’ll do well.


To understand more about ATARs and scaling, click here.

Do I need to write essays?

Short answer – yes! Throughout the school year, your teachers will ask you to hand in and write essays in class. In the final exam, there are three short responses to unseen texts, and one long essay.

Is the theory hard?

Your ability to do well in visual arts theory is highly dependent on what you are good at. The content is not heavy, so studying is not time consuming. You will need to know 4-6 artists in detail and have a good understanding of the key course concepts. So in that sense, Visual Arts theory is quite easy.

However, essay writing skills are important for art. As a result, learning to craft a coherent, sustained argument is where Visual Arts theory may become difficult to achieve top marks.

When’s the major work due?

Your Visual Arts Major Work is always due in term 3 of the year. In 2017 it is due on the 28th of August. The society and culture, textiles and Extension 2 English major works are all due around this time, so be careful when you’re choosing your subjects!

Good Luck!

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Brooklyn Arnot is currently studying Philosophy, History and English at The University of Sydney. In her spare time she enjoys drawing mythical landscapes, flowers, trees, and artsy signs for her cafe during long train rides and basically any time there is a pen and paper around. Her incredible high school English teachers gave her a passion for literature and education, leading to her extreme enthusiasm for the HSC English syllabus and her dream to go to Scandinavia to study old viking literature.