Buck Gold Unit 1 Part A

My main art form: Photography


I started taking photos at home with a digital camera. When I came to Treasure House, I took Media Studies GCSE and I also started a weekly photography class with Melanie who is a teacher here and a professional photographer and artist. I learnt how to use an SLR camera, use studio lights, take portraits, use my observational skills and use Photoshop to edit my photos in different ways. Photos are cool! Here are some of the photos I took before starting my Gold Arts Award…

The picture of the bee on the flower was shared on the Treasure House School website on the front page! Some of my other photos are featured on the school website too. As you can see, I was more of a portrait photographer before starting this project. I also made some self-portraits using pencils, pastels, paints and mixed media:

My new art form: Still Life

The new skill I want to learn is still life. I like arranging things and categorising. I like to put different things together and I like being able to control everything in the picture. I decided to learn about still life painting and drawing and then use what I learned in my photography.

Irving Penn: Still Lifes | AnOther
Irving Penn is a still life photographer but he also worked in portraits and other genres so he would be a good person for me to research for this project.

My Strengths

  • Using the studio
  • Emotion in my art
  • Using the SLR camera
  • Making bright and colourful images
  • Portrait photography.

My Weaknesses

  • Control in my art work
  • Planning a project from the beginning
  • Organisation
  • Narrowing down ideas
  • Painting and drawing

Learning from a practitioner

Details of the practitioner I worked with: Melanie Jones

Melanie is a photographer and a painter. Her paintings are mostly in India Ink and Watercolour. I worked with her on my photography but I also worked with her on experimentation and still life in painting. We used acrylics, watercolour, pastels and poster paints. Melanie taught me how to use different mediums and encouraged me to experiment.

Melanie’s website and some still life
Melanie’s illustration of her cat Persephone in India Ink

Details of the project completed with the practitioner: Mouldy Fruit Still Life

Reference Images: Melanie uses reference photos for her still life work. I used these reference images to get ideas for colours and subject matter in my still life painting. I particularly like the image of the strawberries because it is funky and I like the bright colours.

I helped Kristin to find some reference images for her project. The images that she liked best were ones that had interesting and colour contrasts and natural patterns. We talked about how Kristin could use blobs of acrylic paint to add texture to her work but also how she could use watercolour to get bright and clear colours.

Feedback from Melanie

Colour Theory: Colour works differently in paint than in photography. For example, in photography primary colours are red, blue, and green, mixed together they make white. Blue plus green is cyan, red plus blue is magenta, red plus green is yellow. I learnt about how colour works in paint by finding out about things like tints, shades, and hues.

Kristin, your work on colour theory is very detailed and demonstrates a good understanding of how colour works, how you can mix lots of different shades and hues and how these colours complement each other. This will be valuable in your painting and in your photography. Your work on the suggested meanings of different colours is also excellent and something that will help you achieve your goal of conveying emotion in still life.

Feedback from Melanie

Playing with acrylic: Before I started my still life work with Melanie, I played around with acrylic paint. This helped me get a feel for the medium and gave me a chance to have fun with colour.

I love this! It feels really free and when you were working on it, you seemed to have a great time which is really what art is all about! I also like the partial symmetry of the piece which catches the viewer off guard. All in all a fun piece that helped you to get in touch with your inner child.

Feedback from Melanie

Hand prints: For the leadership project I am working with other students to make a magazine and the student designing the cover wanted every student to make a hand print. I made handprints using poster paints. I wanted to capture the freedom I had in the abstract work but start to apply some limitations.

I love these handprints. When I gave you the materials, I thought you intended to make something quite chaotic like yesterday. But these definitely show control and the use of glitter is a nice addition. I’d like to see you bring some of this controlled chaos into your still life painting.

Feedback from Melanie

Painting Mould: Melanie encouraged me to experiment with different paints to find out what would work for my final painting. I used pastels and watercolour to create this mould effect. Also, when the paper was wet, I roughed it up to create texture:

Me painting on a Wednesday morning


This is what I might call a “happy accident”, roughing up the paper felt like play when you did it, by the result is effective in creating something that looks mouldy. You can use this in your still life painting which I hope we can start next lesson.

Feedback from Melanie

Creating the final Fruit Painting for this mini-project

Pastels and the reference photo

In my sketch book
My still-life painting

I like this painting Kristin, you have managed to make mouldy fruit look appealing! This is a mixture of control and experimentation and I think this is what you have really learned in this mini-project. You have paid close attention to the form and the colours in the mould, but you have also been really free in your expression. I think we can bring this knowledge of shapes, forms and negative space into your photography.


The New Work

A mind map of ideas for the new work. The ideas I came up with were

  • Still Life project about decay
  • Violin portraits – Portraits of musical instruments as if they were people
  • Still life of dead animals
  • Abstract still Life of textures

I decided to combine a still life project about decay with photos of skeletons and bones. I will use the skills I learnt when studying still life painting to ensure that I pay attention to negative space and colour and composition.

My Project:

To create a series of still life photographs that deal with decay and have morbid representations. The images can incorporate gallows humour.

My Plan:

To collect research I will:

  • Research Still Life Artist Irving Penn and other still life photographers
  • Research Still Life Painters
  • Find out about the history of Still Life as an art form.

To plan, practise, and prepare for my project I will:

  • Work with a professional artist to learn the skills I need for still life drawing and photography
  • Identify a theme for my project
  • Gather the props and equipment I will need
  • Take lots of photos to develop my skills
  • Find a suitable location for my photoshoot.

To create my project I will:

  • Set up studio lights
  • Arrange my still life scenes
  • Take the photos with an SLR camera
  • Edit the photos to perfection in photoshop

To evaluate the success of my project I will:

  • Create a survey for my classmates to fill in
  • Get feedback from the professional photographer that I worked with
  • Share my work at a private view and exhibition to get feedback from others
  • Write an evaluation saying how I used my strengths and developed my weaknesses.

How my project will use my strengths

Using the studioThe final photography project will be use the studio so I will be able to work on it independently.
Emotion in my artSome still life is just about aesthetics, but I would like to express emotion in my still life work.
Using the SLR cameraI am very confident with the camera which means this won’t be a barrier to my creativity.
Making bright and colourful imagesMy interest in colour will help the final art work to look good.
Composition with the cameraI hope that I can use my composition skills that I developed photographing people when I photograph still life.
Portrait photography and drawing.I’m not sure how helpful this will be as I work on still life but there are probably similar shapes involved.

How my project will develop my weaknesses

Control in my art workA still life can be more controlled than a person so I will be able to control the objects in the shoot. I can see this being a benefit in painting too as I will be able to focus on details.
Planning a project from the beginningResearching and planning this project will help with this skill.
OrganisationOrganising the items for a still life will help. Also sourcing the items I need will mean I have to be organised.
Narrowing down ideasThe project goal of just a few images means I’ll have to narrow down my ideas.
Painting and drawingMy still life work on paper will help me to get better here and I hope to take those skills into my main art form. Photography can be like painting with light.

Evidence of Progress

Inspiration: Irving Penn

Irving Penn Reinterpreted, by Irving Penn - The New York Times
Country of OriginUSA, New Jersey  
Died  2009
Preferred photographic genrePortraits, Fashion Photography, Still Life
Preferred camera format35mm Leica film. Convenient, quick, and easy to process
Preferred lighting  Daylight studios and some simple studio lighting
Qualifications    Worked as a freelance designer Worked on his own amateur photography at the same time. Philadelphia Museum school of industrial art
Career Path  Started out as a painter but destroyed all of his work 1941 Worked at Vogue as a fashion photographer for vogue 1943 Started taking abstract still life photos 1966 Returned to painting in the 1980s
Most recognisable imagesComical still life using food, inspired by other artists Photographed Igor Stravinsky, Picasso, and Georgia O’Keefe
Common themes /concerns  Arrangement Human consumption Juxtaposition Surrealism Materialism Money Simple representations of complex ideas ‘Abstract interplay of line of volume’ Texture and shape and aesthetics Simplicity / Minimalism / uncluttered backgrounds
Inventions or discoveriesInvented a way to use a photograph of a sketch to then develop into paintings
What I enjoyed about this photographer’s work      I like the aesthetic nature of Penn’s work. The use of colours, shapes, and textures are appealing even when the subject matter is not. Penn makes statements about decay and consumption in the modern world. I also like his portraiture and fashion work because they feel personal and simple. The viewer is not distracted and it feels like you have a relationship with the subject. The work is often irreverent and funny which appeals to my sense of humour.  
Irving Penn | Irving penn, Growth and decay, Decay art
Title:   Wormy Apples
Artist: Irving Penn
What I like about this photograph                          It is funky and the composition highlights the irregularity of the fruit. Its pretty cool that they are all different shapes. It is a scanner still

Glass and Shadows, Baron Adolf de Meyer | Mia
Title:   Glass and Shadows
Artist: Baron Adolf De Meyer
What I like about this particular photograph                          I like that it is not actually a photo of anything, it is just shadows.
Legs, Paris (Getty Museum)
Title:   André Kertész 
Artist: Legs
What I like about this particular photograph                          It is surreal and comical
Frederick Sommer | The Anatomy of a Chicken (1939) | Artsy
Title:   The Anatomy of a Chicken
Artist: Frederick Sommer
What I like about this photograph                          It is an interesting way to look at a chicken.

Research – Still Life Painting

Shock horror: why art's so obsessed with the grotesque | Jake and Dinos  Chapman | The Guardian
Title:   The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych
Artist:Hieronymus Bosch 
What I like about this painting                          It’s cool.
Still Life with Gladioli Paul Klee Paintings, Prints & Posters
Title:   Still Life with Gladioli
Artist: Paul Klee
What I like about this painting                          I like the colours.


Once I had decided on my project I told all the teachers to be on the look out for things I could use, things that were decayed. My teacher Melanie found Freddie in her husband’s bedside table. She was looking forsomething and found a little heart shaped box. Thinking he had got her a present, she opened it and found…..a mouse skeleton he’d ben saving. this appealed to my morbid humour and both the box and the skeleton made great subjects for my still life.

I used a single light set up on black craft paper. The single light made long shadows on the bones themselves highlighting the shapes and the black paper sucked up the light emphasising the objects.

The Original images:

The Final Freddie

I edited the photos in Photoshop to remove backgrounds and selected the one that was most impactful to be part of my final exhibition.

Kristin, this image is very striking, I like the way you have arranged Freddie in the heart shaped box as instead of just having a picture of a mouse skeleton, you suggest a narrative with the chocolate box. The contrast between these two objects means that you aren’t just taking photos of objects but, you are positioning them in a way that creates meaning. Your use of the equipment is competent, however Freddie is slightly out of focus which is a shame. The auto focus has picked up on the tin, rather than the mouse, so this is something to be aware of next time.

Feedback from Melanie

The Flower and the Horn

The horn in these photos was found by one of my teachers while mudlarking in the Thames. I have combined it with a bright orange flower. The studio set up was very similar but I used manual focus. I also out the flower and horn with an old TV I found at school that doesn’t work any more, which kind of ties in with the theme of dead things but I didn’t like how the TV looked in the final images. Instead of craft paper, I used a black table that I wiped with a wet cloth so that the I would get a reflection. This was inspired by one of Melanie’s photos:

Photo by Melanie Jones

Again, I edited the final image in Photoshop.

The Final Flower Horn

Again, this is a very striking image and I really like the reflection of the orange flower and the way that the horn looks like the stem of the flower. Again, the focus is ever so slightly soft, but it is an improvement on last time.

Feedback from Melanie

My thoughts – Look at the final image and Melanie’s comments, what do you think about this image now and what did you learn from it?

The Final Shoot – Rose Bones

My final shoot combined two items brought by different teachers. Melanie had made Oxtail soup and she brought the Oxtail bones to school for me to photograph. My head teacher, Naomi, had a bunch of valentines roses on her desk that had started to decay. I combined the valentines flowers with the ox bones in my final still life photoshoot. I used a one light set up again for the shadows, but this time I used a reflector on the other side to bring out the softness of the flowers. I used the reflective surface just like I did with the flower horn.

Here is my evaluation of the shoot:

Here is the text in case it is hard to read:

After I had taken all the photos in the shoot, I selected my favourites and evaluated which ones of them would be good to use in the project.

IMG 8366/7The radiator needs to be edited out The left bone is too bright The symmetry and reflections are effective
IMG 8638The exposition and composition are effective. Maybe include in the portfolio
IMG 8639The reflections are good and this would be easy to edit.
IMG 8640Too bright, composition is messy
IMG 8641 / 2Needs a lighting edit but is good otherwise. Maybe include one of these in the portfolio
IMG 8643The composition is interesting Does it fit my brief?
IMG 8646Too bright but composition is good Maybe include in the portfolio
IMG 8647Composition not as interesting as the last image
IMG 8649Depth of field is interesting but focal point isn’t perfect Needs to be straightened Lines in the background needs smoothing Maybe include in the portfolio
IMG 8650Not quite as good as 8649
IMG 8651The focal point is better than 8649 but the composition isn’t as interesting
IMG 8654Composition not very interesting
IMG 8655Needs a curve adjustment but otherwise good Maybe include in portfolio
IMG 8656Not quite as good as 8655
IMG 8657Just needs slight straightening but otherwise good. Maybe include in portfolio
IMG 8694 / 5The reflections are good but the rest of the image is a bit boring. Perhaps the reflections could be photoshopped into another image for this project or another one.
IMG 8703A little bit dark and the background lines make it seem wonky. This is more symbolic than the other pictures though because the flowers and bones together have more meaning.
IMG 8701A little disorganised but if it was cropped to just focus on the rose, this could be an image to include in the portfolio
IMG 8700This is good and has lots of symbolic meaning. It looks like it has been shot from above so it could be like someone “looking down” on the bones and flowers.
IMG 8699Composition is good, the photo has lots of symbolic meaning and definitely fits my brief. Definitely include in portfolio. Darken leaf, bone and daisy stalk. Do a bit of spot healing.

Once I had identified the images I wanted to include in my portfolio, I edited them in Photoshop. I used spor healing and dodging and burning to make sure the composition was balanced.

The Final Rose Bone Image:

This final photo is excellent, Kristin, and shows what you have learnt during the course. The light on the large rose is amazing and the darkening of the flower is brilliant. This is reminiscent of a wedding bouquet but the bones and dead flowers tell a very different story. You have also cleared up problems with focus. Great work.

Feedback from Melanie

Click here to see my online exhibition!

Sharing the Work

I shared my final work in three different ways:

·  My work was shared in a “Meet The Artist” Page of the School Art Magazine that we made for our leadership project

·  At the launch party of the art magazine, we also had an art exhibition where everyone’s work was displayed.

Overcoming Challenges

Covid and school closures – This meant that I wasn’t able to work on my project as much as I wanted to. I actually didn’t finish it at all in the year I was supposed to and then in the final year Art wasn’t on my timetable so I had to finish everything independently in my own time.

Indecisiveness and focus – I have autism and it can make me frozen with indecision and make it hard for me to focus. Sometimes this meant that projects took a lot longer. I worked with Melanie to come up with strategies like organising tasks into small chunks and trying out different things to see what I liked best.

Equipment – The school didn’t always have the resources I needed and I had to work around this. But I think limitations in art can make you be more creative.


If you look at my exhibition page you can see feedback from my teachers. I was very happy with the feedback especially as this was a very long project.

My Evaluation of this project

  • I set out to learn about still life and incorporate this into my art work and photography. I learnt from Melanie who is a still life photographer, from my research, and from experimentation. From the still life painting project I learnt about light and shade and about the importance of shapes form and flow in still life. I also learnt about the importance of experimentation.
  • I was surprised and pleased to receive such positive comments on my work. A lot of the time I was just playing around and having fun so it is interesting that people saw a serious message in my images
  • I can always find things I would like to improve and I worked on editing the final images for a very long time. I am happy with them but when I look at them, I can still see things that I want to change.
  • I hope to do more photography and painting in the furture. My A-Level subjects are very academic and I am looking at academic options for university but I think it is important to have a creative outlet.

How I improved on my weaknesses

Control in my art work – Still life photography is very controlled, you can change every aspect of the lighting and positioning of the subject. This gave me lots of decisions to make but meant that the final images were very precise.
Planning a project from the beginning – This was a long term project that I stuck with for two years. It was my idea from start to finish. I have not worked on a project this long before and I am not always good at finishing things.
Organisation – A Photoshop workflow has to be very organised. I am not great at organisation, but this forced me to be serious about it.
Narrowing down ideas – I like the process of looking at all of the images from a shoot and choosing the best ones or the ones with most potential..
Painting and drawing – I haven’t been able to paint or draw for a long time so it was great fun to do the mini-still life project and get messy again.

Unit 1 – Part B

My Portfolio Homepage