For Bonnie Dong, of Hurstville, the decision to study visual arts for the HSC was a way to explore her creative side.
Now the former St George Girls High School student's major HSC artwork has been selected for ARTEXPRESS 2020.
ARTEXPRESS is now in its 36th year and showcases the outstanding artworks created by NSW students for the HSC Visual Arts examination.
Exhibitions are held at six locations, including the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, and Hazelhurst Arts Centre, Gymea, where Ms Dong's work is on display alongside more than 50 others.
Ms Dong said she hadn't done any formal art lessons since year 7 until choosing to study visual arts in year 11.
"I really like painting my nails and drawing small things," she said.
"I wanted to explore that so I chose art to explore my creativity."
When it came time to choose her major artwork for the HSC, a sketch she did of her mother sleeping on a plane caught the eye of her art teacher, who encouraged her to explore the concept.
She decided to make travel the basis of her artwork and set about photographing people on the train each day. She also used Google images to find photos of a pilot in the cockpit of a plane and a rail guard.
She completed sketches of each before painting in acrylic.
The result is Departure, a series of 10 artworks representing the "psychological journey individuals embark on as they seek to face uncertainties with composure".
Bonnie says the first painting she completed - of her sleeping mother - took the longest because she had never painted with acrylic before.
"It took the whole term to do the first one as it was my first time painting with acrylic, so I needed to work on my technique and style," she said, adding the others took about 30 hours each to complete.
Ms Dong said while her parents were not particularly supportive of her decision to do visual arts for the HSC and thought her time spent on her major work could be better spent studying for other subjects, they were very proud that her work had been included in the exhibition.
She will begin a computer science/media arts double degree at University of NSW this month, but plans to continue to dabble in art as a hobby, especially intricate nail art.
Unlike Ms Dong, Kyra Gilfillan, of Woronora, has been painting since she could hold a brush.
"My mum is an artist so she has been teaching me since I was a young girl," said Ms Gilfillan.
A former competitive swimmer, Ms Gilfillan, 19, has always been fascinated by the way the body becomes immersed in water and how the light causes it to fragment.
"Underwater it's really calm and quiet, there are soft lines, and outside the water as you burst through it is loud [and] there are straight lines. It is like two different worlds," she said.
Still, the former Woolooware High School student said her HSC major artwork did not get off to a good start.
"My idea at first was to do something about crashing waves and the ocean, and body parts sticking out of the water, which was very dark," she said.
She completed a painting before she realised she did not like the direction it was going in and decided to scrap it and start again.
"One day, I went down to the beach with my mum and she took photos of me splashing in the water as waves crashed over me," she said.
"I really liked the way the water fragmented."
She whittled down the resulting "thousands of photos" to four and set to work painting a series of artworks, Immersion and Fragmentation.
She said all have different meanings. The first is as much about her fascination with water as it is about her move to Australia from South Africa when she was in year 10, and "swimming into a new life".
The second sees her swimming up to the surface in order to breathe after a period of difficulty, while the third shows her trying to keep her head above water during the HSC.
The fourth depicts her sliding through the water to the finish line, again a reference to the HSC.
Having received a mark of 100 per cent from her school for her major work, and an overall band 6 for visual arts in the HSC, Ms Gilfillan hopes to continue painting and hopefully sell some of her artworks as she embarks on a Bachelor of Communication and Media/Bachelor of Arts at Wollongong University this year.
Other exhibitors from schools in St George and Sutherland Shire are:
- Taya Lea Corrigan, Kirrawee High School, Them, the 'Others', drawing - black pen on cartridge paper;
- Amy Crowe, St Patrick's College Sutherland, Remembering, drawing - pencil on paper;
- Claudia Kennedy, Woolooware High School, A Tribute, drawing - charcoal; Hannah
- Kate Millar, Sylvania High School, Every Nation, Tribe, People and Language, painting - oil on board;
- Amelia Morrow, De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla, Family Portraits, painting - oil on canvas, acrylic paints;
- Lilly New, Shire Christian School, Progress Over Perfection, drawing - graphite pencil on paper;
- Kaitlyn Russell, Inaburra School, Himalayan Elements, collection of works - pencil, acrylic on canvas, pen;
- Patricia Alicia Stenos Turner, Kirrawee High School, Perception, painting - oil on canvas.
ARTEXPRESS 2020 is at Hazelhurst Arts Centre from February 14 to April 13. The centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Entry is free.