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IB Art Syllabus-Seniors
IB Art Syllabus

IB Art Senior Syllabus

Cajon High School-Mrs. Rebecca Blätter

IB Art is a two-year higher-level course designed to be as rigorous as a college class. Students are expected to be intrinsically motivated and highly productive. The instructor will guide you and advise you, but will not tell you what to do or give ‘assignments’-so, it is up to you, the student, to design your course of study and to produce works of art rooted in your own research. Seniors have approximately 7 months to complete their portfolio and to prepare for the exam. During this time, it is expected that students will do all of their own research and work.

Art is a discipline, and as such requires diligence, sweat and planning. Successful art does NOT happen through a la de da, go with the flow, whatever feels good attitude. Professional artists don’t work that way and neither do successful IB Art candidates. The candidates with the best exam scores have a few points in common.

Successful students:

Take the course very seriously.

Apply themselves with the same effort that they apply to their other classes.

Have a clear goal and plan, don’t make excuses and don’t waste time on fruitless activities.

Take this class seriously. Students in other countries or in other schools in the United States will be taking their art very seriously, not relying on last minute ideas or attempts at art-making to get them by. If you want a 6 or a 7, or at least a passing 4, then you must not waste any time. Your vocabulary and concepts must be solid, your skills well-honed and your understanding of the nature of art well-developed- and all by the end of February. If all you want to do is make pretty pictures, then change now to an art class (may I suggest Art 2 ?).

Apply yourself with the same dedication as to any other class. Contrary to popular belief, art requires self-discipline and is the most difficult subject you’ll have. You will not succeed if you only work occasionally or casually- you’ll be expected to work hard and to think. Science, math and history are important subjects, all adding to the well-rounded education. But, art is the one that not only predates them all, but is the one that draws on all of the other disciplines to make sense of the world. It expresses the big ideas, if approached correctly, and advances culture like no other subject.

Have a clear goal. Know what you are trying to say in your work, begin with a statement or argument rooted in a culture that you understand or are willing to investigate thoroughly. Without a foundation in something solid, a student is doomed to produce superficial work. Be prepared and willing to investigate and learn new concepts or techniques on your own. Be willing to contact outside resources for additional help. Look for artists, organizations or workshops that will benefit you on this journey. Don’t rely solely on the instructor or the internet for your information. Allow your concentration to grow and expand naturally through your investigation and practice.

Do not flip-flop on your concentration. Finesse your understanding of the topic under consideration, allow for a natural evolution in your thinking and understanding of a topic, but don’t abandon one concentration for another just because it’s “too hard”. Anything you choose to investigate, if approached correctly, is going to be hard. If it isn’t difficult, then my assumption is­: you’ve chosen the superficial, lazy path, and that’s how you’ll be evaluated.

You are expected to be technically proficient in at least one medium. You must show a willingness to try new materials, some on an experimental level. IB does like to see students working with both two-dimensional and three-dimensional media.

Be edgy, provocative, or non-traditional. Be willing to work outside of your comfort zone and to look at materials and ideas in unique ways. For example, if you focus on drawing to express your idea, feel free to experiment with the concept of drawing beyond pencil on paper. What defines drawing, and why? OR, experiment with a traditional art form using a completely different medium. Study Cahuilla baskets, but make basket-like forms from recycled gum wrappers or the twine from bales of hay or from paper you’ve dyed yourself. IB is looking for students to break through conceptual barriers; combine media in a new way, approach theoretical problems in an unconventional manner. Use unusual, atypical or non-traditional materials and be willing to tackle difficult, or even taboo, subjects.

Higher level (240 hours)

Option A (HLA)

Studio work (70%)

Investigation workbooks (30%)

This option works well for those students want a higher level in the humanities to balance out other academic choices, who have an intense interest in the arts and who are highly motivated individuals.

Option B (HLB)

Investigation workbooks (70%)

Studio work (30%)

This option is for the highly motivated student who has an historical and contextual interest in the arts. As the focus will be on research, students will be required to use a variety of sources to include museum and library research independent of any class trips.

Standard level (150 hours)

Option A (SLA)

Studio work (70%)

Investigation workbooks (30%)

This option works well for the student who already has other higher level academic demands, yet who wants their well-rounded education to include an experience in the arts.

Option B (SLB)

Investigation workbooks (70%)

Studio work (30%)

This option is for students whose primary interest is historical and cultural, but who have made higher level choices in other academic areas.

Studio work involves practical exploration and artistic production. Your art work will be collected into a portfolio. Research involves independent contextual, visual and critical investigation/reflection, both visual and written. This will be represented by your Investigation Work Book (IWB).

Syllabus details

The Diploma Programme in the visual arts allows for a flexibility of content and activities appropriate to both students’ interests and experience as well as that of the instructor.

Both student and teacher must bear in mind the visual arts assessment criteria and the specific requirements for the assessment tasks when choosing an area of focus and investigative study.

Preference is shown to those students who:

  • Use their own cultural background, personal issues and abilities in unique and atypical ways
  • Push boundaries and are forward-thinking, who explore the avant garde
  • Who investigate and explore indigenous or marginalized art and cultures
  • Who explore and practice under-represented (less popular) art forms

NOTE: IB does not show preference to safe explorations of Western-European art forms, for example “landscape painting” or “portraiture”.  Likewise, the reproduction of kitsch or trite art forms within an ordinary, expected context is discouraged. This is not an opportunity to learn how to do landscape painting simply to make pretty paintings, or draw manga because you like anime or have a superficial understanding of the Japanese culture.

 Also, know that when I speak of taboo subjects, I don’t mean that you can rely on ‘shock’ value. For example, just using phallic symbols for the sake of shock without any conceptual substance (meaning) is as bad as making a traditionally ‘pretty’ picture.

Because the factors that contribute to this program vary considerably, precise syllabus content is not possible; you will NOT be provided with a list of projects and deadlines. This flexibility is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the visual arts course. Students in this course will not be producing works of art or research in a lock-step manner. Conversely, students will be expected to produce a proposal for an individual plan that plots their own course of study. This will include the premise on which their investigation will be based, as well as the type of work they plan to produce. They will also need to include a timeline that considers the size, their materials choice and the complexity of the works in production. There will be times that you are expected to present your work for group critique and evaluation (grades are unavoidable) and your IWB will be turned in on a monthly basis.

Students must keep in mind that an integrated relationship between studio work and investigation work is essential throughout the course.

Option A (HL and SL) 70% Studio-30% Investigation

Option A is designed for students who wish to concentrate on studio practice in visual arts. Students will produce investigation workbooks to support, inform, develop and refine studio work through sustained contextual, visual and critical investigation.

At both HL and SL, the investigation workbooks are integral to studio practice and should reflect the student’s critical visual and written investigation.

Option B (HL and SL) 70% Investigation-30% studio

Option B is designed for students who wish to concentrate on contextual, visual and critical investigation in visual arts. In their investigation workbooks students will explore fully an integrated range of ideas within a contextual, visual and critical framework and produce studio work based on their visual and written investigation.

At both HL and SL, students should demonstrate connections between academic investigation and studio work.

Course structure

The course of study will enable students in studio work and investigation workbooks to develop their knowledge about visual arts, allowing for individual exploration.

Students should develop different approaches to the practices of visual arts. They should develop their own perspectives and approaches: students’ interests and aesthetic preferences will play a prominent role in determining individual courses of study. Contextual and critical study of past, present-day and emerging practice must be integrated into studio work.

Learning outcomes

Throughout the course, students will be expected to:

  • develop the skills and techniques of investigation—both visual and written
  • relate art to its cultural and historical contexts
  • explore art concepts
  • explore art elements
  • develop and use the processes of art criticism and analysis to refine, rework, and advance their work
  • develop confidence and expertise in the use of various media (materials)
  • extend their knowledge of design
  • share their work with an audience through displays and exhibitions or presentations
  • broaden individual investigation to inform practical work
  • connect ideas and practice—their own as well as the work and ideas of other artists.

In visual arts, media (plural of medium) can be described as the selected material and the processes used, including the relationship between these.


Both HL and SL students will be in the same class. All students will be expected to put in time outside of class on their work. This time spent on art or research outside of class will be critical for those students working at the higher level. Students must keep the school schedule in mind when planning in-class tasks and need to consider set-up time and clean-up time when planning a work schedule.

Allocating a sufficient proportion of time (240 hours at HL; 150 hours at SL) to each component is crucial to the success of the course of study at each level. For each option, the following breakdown in teaching hours is recommended.





Studio work

144 hours

90 hours

96 hours

60 hours

Investigation workbooks

96 hours

60 hours

144 hours

90 hours

Studio work

Students will be introduced to art concepts and techniques through lectures and demonstrations in the studio. To support students’ abilities to express themselves in visual arts, at both HL and SL, there will be opportunities for a structured approach to:

  • the exploration of media, including the use of material and equipment
  • the exploration and development of artistic qualities in visual arts
  • the study of relationships between form, meaning and content in visual arts
  • the study of a variety of social and cultural functions of visual arts
  • the appreciation and evaluation of their own work and that of others.

For example: in a chair, we have specific expectations as to size, shape and durability-it takes an expected FORM, is made from specific types of materials (MEDIA) for a practical or environmental reasons, has changed in style according to CULTURAL changes, and our appreciation of its form grows out of our own cultural or aesthetic development. This leads to a deeper appreciation of the meaning of ‘chair’, which must imply some level of functionality, or implied functionality. Meaning and content will also reference, spoken or unspoken, the nature of human physical structure. A chair is formed in a manner that speaks directly to our form; that we have two arms/legs, walk upright, bend at the knees, etc. A seemingly simple, pedestrian construction now takes on new meaning as our awareness of it expands.

The development of studio techniques is essential to help students explore the potential for expression so that they can understand the relationship between theory and practice.

Students are expected to be engaged in a wide-ranging independent investigation, which could be of a more experimental nature but also one that is concerned with form, meaning and content. Students are encouraged to explore art, craft and design traditions from past, present and emerging cultural backgrounds, within local, national and international contexts.

At the end of the course, option A students should have produced studio work that communicates their understanding of conceptual content, their technical skill and their sense of critical awareness. They should also have developed an understanding of the artistic process from the generation of initial ideas through the various stages that lead to the completion of a final studio work.

At the end of the course, option B students should have a selection of studio work that has evolved from their in-depth contextual, visual and critical investigation. The studio work should be finished.

All work produced by option A and option B students needs to reflect personal involvement and be linked to the investigation contained in their workbooks.

Do note that the majority of works attempted or finished by the students must be under the direct supervision of the instructor. Students who do not accomplish their work in class will be penalized for lack of effort or engagement and any work produced without sufficient evidence of authorship will be suspect. The teacher needs to see the student produce enough work in the classroom to be confident that the body of work produced is the student’s sole effort.

Choice of media

Artistic understanding and expression may be achieved through various media from painting to puppetry, calligraphy to computer graphics, and sculpture to conceptual art. Students may demonstrate technical competence in various ways, provided their course of study includes an introduction to art elements, concepts and techniques. All work, both visual and written, should be documented in the investigation workbooks.

Students are encouraged to explore media so that they might discover their individual strengths. Students should be aware that the studio work assessment criteria rewards the pursuit of ideas in a variety of media (students should not be discouraged from combining several media), the development of original approaches, the discovery of creative solutions and the acquisition of technical skills. However, at the end of the course, evidence of a developing maturity (technical skills and aesthetic understanding) with limited media is preferable to work that shows a superficial acquaintance with a large number of different skills and techniques.

As with all choices of media, visual arts students who wish to work in alternative or emerging media must remember that this is a visual arts course and their work will be assessed against criteria specific to visual arts. So, while students are encouraged to push boundaries, remember that you must remain within the context of the visual arts. Straying too far into another discipline will compromise your evaluation. For example, if you choose to explore or use performance art to express an idea, then you must be able to document your work within an artistic context that is distinguishable from a purely theatrical performance.

Students must regularly:

  • Refer to the visual arts assessment criteria
  • Document, both visually and in writing, the work in their investigation workbooks

Collaborative work

The final assessment is an individual one and if students wish to work collaboratively on a project, tthey must ensure that the project is fully documented in each student’s investigation workbooks. Students who work collaboratively on a visual arts project must document their individual input and show evidence of their individual achievement. It is also essential for teachers and students to refer to the visual arts assessment criteria. No student may have full credit for a collaborative work.

Investigation workbooks

The purpose of the investigation workbooks is to encourage personal investigation into visual arts, which must be closely related to the studio work undertaken. The relative importance of the investigation workbooks depends on whether the student has chosen option A or option B.

The investigation workbooks should incorporate contextual, visual and critical investigation. They should function as working documents and support the student’s independent, informed investigation and studio practice. Investigation workbooks provide an opportunity for reflection and discovery and they play a key role in allowing ideas to take shape and grow. They should contain visual and written material that addresses contextual, visual and critical aspects of the investigation. They should also reflect the student’s interests and include wide-ranging first-hand investigations into issues and ideas related to visual arts. There should be a balance in the investigation between analytical and open-ended discussion, illustrating the student’s creative thinking.

It is important to refer to the definition of “investigate” as used in the IB guide. Within IB, the term “investigate” is defined as a demonstrable ability to “observe, study, or make a detailed and systematic examination, in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.”

Making connections

Students are encouraged to make creative connections in the work they do through open-ended exploration and experimentation. For example, students might initially begin their investigation by working through an idea, theme or issue, then making comparisons, cross-referencing, and thinking laterally. This can give the work a sense of unity and continuity. One idea, theme or issue may be the connecting thread throughout the course or may naturally promote the investigation of another or others.

Students should be taught to develop strategies and skills that enable them to make informed decisions about the direction of their investigation, taking advantage of the resources that are available in their locality. They should also be encouraged to present arguments and points of view.

Content guidelines

The content of the investigation workbooks can vary considerably, but must show evidence of investigation into artistic qualities and cultural contexts from different cultures and times. (A culture can be described as learned and shared beliefs, values, interests, attitudes, products or patterns of behavior. Culture is dynamic and organic and operates on many levels—international, national, regional, local and social interest groups.) A developing use of the specialist vocabulary of visual arts is expected.

  • Workbooks are working journals that should reflect personal approaches, styles and interests. They are not simply scrapbooks, sketchbooks or diaries but may be a combination of all three. They may contain weak initial ideas and false starts, but these should not be seen as mistakes and can be used as a means of identifying a student’s progress over the course.
  • While the teacher is expected to guide and support the students, workbooks should reflect students’ personal interests. Students should be encouraged to investigate “around” ideas, themes and issues, make links and connections, speculate, hypothesize and draw conclusions that may support or challenge artistic conventions. The work should be presented in a way that is appropriate to visual arts, rather than as isolated ideas or formal essays.
  • Information may be recorded in a variety of ways. This is a good opportunity for visual experimentation, and may be both critical and creative. Written work must be legible and all sources, both written and visual, must always be acknowledged properly (cited).
  • Meetings with local artists, and visits to museums, galleries and libraries, provide first-hand opportunities for investigation. Students’ personal responses to these visits should be documented in the workbooks and may well influence some of the studio work they produce.
  • Class notes and handouts should only be included in the workbooks if appropriate. Visual material should be relevant to the investigation and not simply used to fill space. Photographs, copies and magazine cut-outs are acceptable if they are relevant to the investigation, are accompanied by an explanation or critical comment and are acknowledged properly. Copying from Internet sites, books and other secondary sources without personal and critical reflection should be avoided.
  • Teacher feedback in the workbooks should include pertinent comments, questions, pointers to resources and constructive criticism. (As students often value their workbooks as a personal record of their artistic development, it may be appropriate for teacher observations to be presented in such a way that they can be removed after the examination session is closed.)


  • The recommended format for the investigation workbooks is bound with unlined pages, not loose-leaf.
  • Entries must be dated, numbered and kept in chronological order. Pages must be numbered for cross-referencing ideas, themes or issues that run through the investigation workbooks. You’ll need to write your candidate session number on the top right-hand corner of each page, so leave space for it.
  • Students should be advised that legibility is extremely important. Blue-black or black ink is recommended for writing. ALSO-don’t write to the edge, leave ½ inch margin, at least.
  • Although black and white copies (letter-size) of the representative pages selected for assessment purposes are acceptable, students should consider, where possible, using colour copies for pages that clearly refer to colour and/or media experiments relating to the use of colour.
  • Keep in mind that your IWB is NOT a sketchbook, but a research journal for written and pictorial exploration. It must be clearly legible and representative of your processes. Document everything.

Lab fee: The lab fee is $12 per semester or $20 for the year (paid by the 5th week of school). This will help to offset some of the cost of some materials. Standard materials as well as a few supplies above and beyond the norm are available to students. Use these materials wisely. A sheet of paper can cost from $2 to $10 each. A tube or jar of paint averages about $25 to $80. Brushes average $10 to $20 each for student grade. The teacher can buy hardbound sketchbooks (160 pages) for $9 each (bulk) whereas at Michaels they’ll cost you approximately $15.

An example of some supplies typically available for the lab fees includes: good quality color pencils, pastels, watercolors, acrylic paints, watercolor paper, drawing papers, clays and glazes.

If you don’t wish to pay the lab fee, you’re free to buy some of the supplies on your own or use the basic supplies (student grade paper, pencils, student grade paints, etc.) Even with the lab fees, some materials are too expensive for us to afford, like canvases. Cheaper alternatives will be offered in many of these cases. or

Plans must be submitted prior to the dispensing of expensive materials, ie: 100% rag drawing or watercolor paper.

Office hours: My conference is during period 3. Phone is 909-881-8120 extension 5673.

Lab time: Other than class time, students are welcome to come in to ask questions, get supplies or to work. If you ever find yourself with extra time (you’re ahead in another class or have been excused by your teacher) you may come into any class period to work. It might be a little crowded, but you’re welcome to come on in and work.

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