• AP Studio Art: 2D Design

    Course Syllabus


    Course Description

    The AP Studio Art Portfolio course is designed for students who are seriously interested in the practical experience of art and wish to develop mastery in the concept, composition, and execution of their ideas. (C2)  AP Studio Art is not based on a written exam; instead, students submit portfolios or evaluation at the end of the school year. In building the portfolio, students experience a variety of concepts, techniques and approaches designed to help them demonstrate their abilities as well as their versatility with techniques, problem solving, and ideation. (C4) Students also develop a body of work for the Concentration section of the portfolio that investigates an idea of personal interest to them.


    Summer Assignment

    Create an altered book. Document your summer.  Do not do copy work, but work from direct observation instead. Take risks and try new ideas and media. Glue stuff into your altered book: ticket stubs, receipts, pebbles, lists, found papers, gum wrappers, etc. Create photography and glue it into your book.  Draw or paint onto collaged materials in your book.  Go wild and fill the book.



    • To encourage creative as well as systematic investigation of formal and conceptual issues in the Quality, Concentration, and Breadth sections of the portfolio.

    To emphasize making art as an on-going process that involves the student in informed and critical decision making to develop ideation. (C5)

    • To develop technical versatility and skills while using the visual elements and principles in compositional forms.

    • To encourage students to become independent thinkers who will contribute inventively and critically to their culture through the making of art. (C7)


    The AP Studio Art course addresses three major concerns that are a constant in the teaching of art: (1) a sense of quality in a student’s work; (2) the student’s concentration on a particular visual interest or problem; and (3) the student’s need for breadth of experience in formal, technical, and expressive means of the student’s art. AP work should reflect these three areas of concern: quality, concentration, and breadth. AP Studio Art: 2-D Design Portfolio requires the student to produce a minimum of 24 works of art that reflect issues related to 2-D design. (C1) These works may include traditional as well as experimental approaches to 2-D design. Drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed media, and collage are all appropriate means for expressing design principles.

    In the Concentration section, students develop a body of work that is derived from a planned investigation of an idea that is of personal interest to them. Ideas may be developed in any media or process.  Students will use informed decision-making and problem-solving skills in an ongoing process to develop and select the 12 pieces of work for their concentration. (C3) In the Breadth section, students will experience a variety of concepts and approaches to demonstrate their abilities and versatility with techniques, ideation, and problem solving. The Elements and Principles of Art are explored extensively in the Breadth section.  Five Quality pieces are selected from either section or are created independently of Concentration or Breadth.


    During the first week of school, the course is outlined to the students. The indi­vidual sections of each portfolio—Quality, Concentration and Breadth—are dis­cussed in detail. I show extensive slide examples from both the College Board and past students’ work that corre­spond to each section of the portfolio—with special emphasis on the distinctions between the Drawing Portfolio and the 2-D Design Portfolio. Additionally, the students review the images and instructions from the AP Studio Art Poster.


    As in any college-level course, it is expected that students will spend a considerable amount of time outside the classroom working on completion of assignments. Ideas for projects or solutions to problems should be worked out in a sketchbook both in class and outside of class. The sketchbook is an essential tool in recording ideas, capturing visual information, working on compositional issues, and just fooling around. Altered books are checked frequently for progress.



    AP Studio Art students are encouraged to participate in exhibitions and competitions. At the end of the school year, students will submit portfolios to the district-wide art exhibition where as a senior they will compete for scholarship awards.



    Assignments that are open-ended in nature and that explore a variety of approaches to design are made during the first semester. Assignments have end dates. Students should make every effort to complete work by the end date; however, there may be circumstances that cause an assignment to be delayed. It is important that students have a discussion with the instructor if work is going to be turned in late or they will miss a critique.

    Work is evaluated in progress and in the finished state through critiques with teacher and peers in-group and individually. (C6) The AP Studio Art rubric, which is distributed separately, provides the grading criteria.




    Course Schedule

    Classes meet every day for 50 minutes.  The course focuses on both sections of the portfolio (Breadth and Concentration) throughout the year, with the best artwork selected for use in the Quality section of the AP Studio Art portfolio.  The Breadth work is generally teacher driven.   I try to vary assignments from year to year, and encourage individual and unique responses to all work. The assignments made are based on a variety of collected prob­lems commonly encountered in college-level 2D Design courses. The students have specific in-class and out-of-class assignments; they also are expected to complete some in-class work out of class, depending on the schedule of assignments.


    Possible Breadth Assignments


    Create a design with a repeated figure that places emphasis on symmetrical, asymmetrical or radial balance using a sharpie marker.

    Create a portrait, self-portrait, landscape, or still-life in the style of another artist in which formal aspects of design are emphasized—i.e. Monet/Impressionism, Matisse/Fauvism, Picasso/Cubism, Warhol/Pop, Dali/Surrealism, Van Gogh/Postimpressionism, etc. You may have to do a bit of research to understand the stylistic tendencies of these artists/movements.

    Create a self-portrait, or several different ones, that expresses a specific mood/emotion–e.g., anger/rage, melancholy/loneliness, happiness/joy, etc. Manipulate light and color to enhance the psychological atmosphere. Also, consider the development of the environment/setting.

    Create some exploration with mixed media. Do a piece (portrait, self-portrait, landscape, or still-life) in which you use at least three different media—i.e., a wet medium, a dry medium and some collage element.

    Create a portrait, self-portrait, still life, or landscape using either a complementary, analogous, or split-complementary color scheme (you may use black and white as well as shades and tints of the chosen hues).

    Create a drawing of a futuristic cityscape—e.g., Fort Worth in the year 2050 (keep in mind rules of one-, two-, and three-point perspective.

    Create a composition with cakes, candies and gumball machines.  Look at the work of Wayne Thiebaud.

    Create a graphite drawing of a still-life arrangement that consists of reflective objects—your goal is to convey a convincing representation with a full range of values. To add interest to the composition, you might also want to render yourself being reflected in the objects.

    Create a drawing of an unusual interior—for instance, looking inside a closet, cabinet, refrigerator, inside your car... use your imagination!

    Create a painting/drawing/mixed media combo of a toy.  Look at Chris Cosnowski, local artist John Hartley, Cesar Santander and Andy Warhol.

    Create a color rendering of a still-life arrangement consisting of your family member’s shoes—try to convey some “sense” of each of your individual family member’s distinct personalities in your piece.


    Create a composition that shows progressive magnification of a subject. Select either an organic or inorganic object to draw. Divide a large piece of drawing paper into nine equal sections. Starting in the top-left box, draw a representational, overall view of the object as accurately as you can. In the next box to the right, imagine that you have a camera with a zoom lens and draw a close-up portion of the object in accurate detail. In the remaining sections, continue zooming in on the object and enlarging finer details. The last frame should be an enlarged detail created with the aid of a magnifying glass or microscope.

    Recreate an Old Masterpiece Painting. Select a painting, sculpture, or well-known image from art history for interpretation. Redo the work . . . update it, or change colors, media, characters, etc.

    Create an Architectural Myth with Photomontage: Collect photographs/photocopies of city skylines, landscapes, and seascapes. Also collect photos/copies of household and technical objects—e.g., eggbeater, toothbrush, toaster, electric fan, automobile grill, etc. Carefully implant the photo of the technical gadget within the photo of the environment to create a surreal cityscape or landscape. (You might want to look at the work of the artist Max Ernst who took printed images and recombined them to create hybrid forms).

    Create cut-paper self-portraits, interiors, landscapes.

    Create distorted interiors.

    Create gridded and distorted self-portraits.

    Create Pop-inspired pieces working with personal symbols or words (Robert Indiana, Ed Ruscha).

    Create a piece that combines photocopied body parts (face, hands, feet) with anatomical drawings.

    Create an acrylic painting using analogous or complementary color scheme.

    Create a funky portrait of classmate in environment using thick bold outlines/contours, and areas of flat color (David Bates).


    Create paintings or color drawings investigating imitation of metal or glass objects.


    Create a tromp l’oeil painting by direct observation of objects placed in a box or glued on a board.


    Create pinhole photography utilizing Principles of Design. Create your own camera and develop paper in darkroom.


    Create photograms.


    Create an Andy Warhol/Robert Rauschenberg Pop Art piece by way of photo transfer.  Colorize it with prismacolor, acrylic paint, pastel or watercolor.


    Create a social commentary piece involving experimentation with acetone transfers and gloss medium transfers to be further developed with text and imagery—literal, metaphorical, or symbolic. Look at Robert Rauschenberg.

    Create text and image piece in which student is asked to physically write (soft graphite pencil) across a surface that has been coated with undiluted gesso an excerpt from an account of a most memorable moment—good, bad, horrific, terrifying. The direction and spacing of the text are up to the student. Within a rectangular (inset) area, the student is instructed to gesso out all text and then superimpose imagery within the space that is invoked by the story—literal, symbolic, or metaphorical.

    Create compositions that involve the use of inset imagery (image within image such as details/close up views).

    Create a drawing composition that alternates from a simple contour drawing into a fully rendered drawing at student-designated focal points.

    Create a three-part piece inspired by work of Jim Dine: In the first piece the students are asked to render an ordinary object or tool, bigger than actual size, making it the dominant aspect of the composition. The students are also directed to blur the distinction between positive shape and negative space. In the second piece, on a larger surface, the students are to create three distinct images of the object, while making the whole piece work. In the third piece, the students have to include an actual object, though it does not have to be the object they have been working with. It can be a different object that is related to it—literally, metaphorically, or symbolically.

     Create a composition in which the students use various neutral tones of torn papers (with a variety of textures) collaged on a surface to define areas of a still life. The piece is further refined as the student superimposes a linear drawing upon the collage with black, sepia or white conté.



    The students are encouraged from the beginning of the class to formulate ideas for their Concentrations and, where allowable, to start working on those ideas. The concept of working in a series is explained by looking at various artists.

    Possible Concentration Topics:

    A series of works done with encaustic, printmaking, and a variety of other media, concerned with different approaches to the picture plane as discussed in the text Drawing: A Contemporary Approach (Claudia Betti and Teel Sale 2004, Wadsworth).

    A series of works done in graphite, colored pencil, and Adobe PhotoShop illustrating aspects of the subject “Roller Coaster.” The investigation increasingly moved away from illustrative renderings to bold, graphic symbols.

    A series of works done in 2D and low relief. Look at Jim Dine. The student investigates a tool (hammer) in a body of work done in a variety of media, with a variety of techniques as well as processes. Investigation combined interest in imagery developed from direct observation as well as engaged in issues of formal design.

    A series of works from a student’s visual journal. Sophisticated in terms of development, the book included text, personal photographs, collage items—ticket stubs, product labels, fortunes (fortune cookies), netting, bubble wrap. Student enhanced the compositions with intimate illustrations, many figurative and/or based on human anatomy.

    A series of black-and-white photos that showed strong evidence of investigation into a number of design elements and principles. Examples included works showing repeating shapes/patterns, geometric division of space, and balance.

    A series of photos related by subject—such as portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, architectural details, a family history.

    A series of mixed media pieces based on childhood memories using collaged and layered imagery that incorporated text.

    Photographic documentary of a subject.

    A series of work based on the life of the graffiti artist.

    A digital self-portrait series that incorporate digital photos with text.




    Critiques are an integral part of all classes. All students are brought together for critiques at regular intervals—generally when they have major assignments due. Each student must show his her work and briefly discuss his or her intent. The class is then expected to provide positive feedback and offer suggestions for improvement. All students participate. The vocabulary of art is introduced through the foundation classes and is reinforced through the verbal and written critique. We have class critiques on the days work is due. These generally take the entire class to complete, sometimes more than one class period.  For grading purposes, I use the AP Scoring Guidelines for Studio Art. It is important for AP students to be familiar with the rubric that will be used to score the work in their portfolios. Additionally, there is ongo­ing dialogue with students on an individual basis during class time. The students also dialogue daily with each other about their work.



    In the AP 2-D class some work is done with the use of transferred images. In these instances, the students know that the work must be significantly altered and incorporated into a larger idea of their own.  Sometimes, there are subjects that the student could only reference through a photograph (such as certain animals). In these instances the students are instructed that the image must become part of their larger individual expression.


    Keeping Track

    Students may choose to include work in their portfolios from previous studio or design classes. Consequently, each individual student will have a very individual portfolio. In order to keep up with individual progress, a file folder is established for each student that is kept in the filing cabinet in the room. The folder contains an inventory sheet that lists all completed work by category, including the size of the piece and the medium, a statement about their Concentration idea, and slide sheets that are updated as each piece is photographed. These folders are necessary so that I can keep an overview of each student’s progress in mind.




    Lauer/Pentak. Design Basics, Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.


    Claudia Betti and Teel Sale. Drawing: A Contemporary Approach, Wadsworth, 2004.


    Barbara London, Ken Kobré, Betsy Brill, John Upton. Photography, 7th edition. Prentice Hall, 2001

    Michelle Bates. Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity, Focal Press, 2007.


    Eric Renner. Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique, Focal Press, 1994.


    PBS series: Art21, Art in the Twenty-first Century.