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How to use Primary and Secondary Sources

Updated: May 1, 2021

In this video you will learn how to use primary and secondary sources.

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In the previous video, I have explained to you what are primary and secondary sources and how important it is that you make use of both in your coursework. In this video, however, I want us to look at some smart ways for you to work from both primary and secondary sources effectively and show these clearly in your sketchbooks.

Let’s say you want to paint the reflection of the light on the water surface. You might do direct observational studies from a pond in a park, or the sea if you have access to such locations, or you might also take your own photos of running water from the sink, or even get a waterproof camera and take photos in a swimming pool, or in a bath – all these are primary sources. On the other hand, you might also search online for professional photographs taken by others or find work by artists who have painted reflection on the water and copy or recreate them, - in this case you have used secondary sources. Of course in your sketchbook, you always need to annotate and present the original source whenever you are copying something.

Another example of using both primary and secondary sources is this. You might want to create a background for your painting using decorative patterns from a designers' work, -which is a secondary source-, and you might also paint a self-portrait on it (either from your own photos or looking at your reflection directly on a mirror, thus also making use of primary source as well in the same artwork.

The benefit of using primary sources is that you are working directly from 3D objects and you can observe them from all angles. Printed images flatten out the objects and you lose the details, the volume as well as the lighting effect. From observation, you are also able to see the details more clearly and create a study that is closer to reality. Also if you are taking photos of your own, you can decide what angle to take the photo, how close up or far away you are from the subject.

If you rely too much on secondary sources you might get limited, since you are not able to capture an object from different angles or make creative decisions about the composition. That being said if something is not accessible to you, then a secondary source is the option to go with.

My suggestion is to be aware when it is good to use one or the other, and definitely try to combine both primary and secondary sources together in your studies.

I hope you found this helpful… Is there anything specific you want to ask me? Tell me about your questions or concerns, in the comments below. Also don’t forget to grab the guides at the link below and book for your first free trial for online tutoring.

· Click here to book your first FREE trial for 30 mins online tutoring with me.

· Download the guide ‘Quick Tips for GCSE in Art Students’, from the link below to help you prepare for your art studies.

· Do you want to excel in your GCSE in Art and create outstanding sketchbooks? Go ahead and check out my online course ‘GCSE in Art & Design made simple: The Complete Beginners’ Guide’ at

#GCSEart #GCSEartsketchbook

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