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Honors and AP Courses » AP Studio Art

AP Studio Art

An 11th or 12th Grade Elective Course: AP Studio Art

Teacher: Mr. Bernbaum; E-mail: [email protected]


Course Description

During the first weeks of the school year, the course is outlined to the students.  They are shown examples of AP portfolios from past students and examples from the College Board for ideas and inspiration.  We also review the images and instructions found on the AP Studio Art Poster.  I start with a portfolio review of each student’s previous work from art coursework taken before the AP experience to familiarize myself with each studentsstrengths and areas that need improvement or further creative development.  This also gives me an opportunity to discuss each student’s personal goals with them. 

 Students begin the course during the first semester developing their breadth section which is an opportunity to explore, and experiment with a variety of media and concepts to demonstrate their ideas and abilities. In the breadth section students explore a variety of concepts and approaches to drawing in order to demonstrate their abilities and versatility with problem-solving, ideation, and technique.  The breadth portion of the portfolio is predominantly driven by the teacher through guided projects that present visual problems for students to solve.  Generally, the solutions are many and varied and are designed for a multiplicity of technical and  creative responses.  After a class-wide presentation of a drawing  problem and  demonstrations of technique, students choose which conceptual and technical direction  they desire to work in.  Students are encouraged and guided towards individuality and conceptual diversity in their work.  The main goal is to develop mastery in concept, composition, and an advanced execution of the design elements and principles in their work. Emphasis is placed on line quality, light and shadow, rendering form, surface manipulation and  creating the illusion of depth.  All of these experiences naturally are also used to develop an approach to their concentration.

 In the second semester, students develop and choose an idea for their Concentration section.  In the Concentration section, students are expected to develop a body of cohesive work that is an investigation of a theme, concept, or idea.  It should be well planned and investigate an idea that is personally interesting to them and utilizes media that they are technically proficient in.

 From these total works, we discuss and select five Quality examples of excellence to be mounted.  Students are trained to understand that making art is an ongoing process that uses informed critical decision making as these selections are made for their portfolio submission and are sent as examples of design mastery.

Content of the Class

 The course includes the following four components: 

1. Study of contemporary artists and trends.  In addition to class work, students are required to visit art galleries and local art museums.

The course is enriched with a variety of supplementary materials such as textbooks, art books, technical manuals, art periodicals, slides and access to the World Wide Web, for research.  Students are encouraged to visit local galleries and museums to broaden their perspective and to personally experience the art world beyond the classroom.  We make at least 2 trips to The “3rd Thursday” art walks in nearby Riverside, CA to visit commercial galleries, university galleries, and art museums. 

2. A sketchbook to be composed of visual ideas, notes, plans, technical practice, ideation exercises, and journal assignments.  It is meant to be an ongoing repository of a student’s informal art practice and reflective writing.

Sketchbook assignments are generally due every other week.  These assignments are done as homework and are designed to develop an “artist’s habit of mind” with regard to recording ideas and drawing.  The assignments focus on developing art thinking strategies, ideation, art/design synectics, and technical skill development.  When sketchbooks are due, Students actively share their ideas with each other.  The sketchbook is also used as a writing journal for reflection both creative and personal.  The journal aspect is interactive in nature, in that there is a running dialogue between student and teacher responding to each other in an insightful and meaningful way. 

3. Development of the student’s submitted portfolio for AP Drawing which is comprised of the following parts:

Quality (section I)
Five mounted actual works. These are the best examples of the student’s work selected for both technical and conceptual mastery of drawing  issues.  The size cannot be any larger than 18” x 24”.

 Concentration (section II)

This should include 12 images (of which, two may be details) exploring a single visual/conceptual concern in depth.  It is similar to a visual research paper and is an integral component of the course.  When a concentration topic is selected, the student should spend considerable time developing the focus and direction of  it.  It should show investigation, growth, and discovery derived from the creation of a compelling, coherent student defined visual/conceptual idea. While the topic/concept for the concentration should be defined early in the school year, it is generally completed during the second semester. These works should use the drawn mark in an informed and/or experimental way and show the development of a visual language appropriate for your subject.


 Examples of Concentrations:


  • Design and execution of a children’s book or graphic novel.
  • An exploration of the micro-landscape of insects
  • Gesture and motion in dance
  • Cloudscapes
  • Superimposition
  • Machinery abstractions


 Breadth (section III)


  • This is a set of twelve works that demonstrate mastery of a variety of media, techniques, and subject matter, with the goal of demonstrating your understanding of the elements of design (line, shape, color, value, form, space, and texture) and organized using the principles of design ( contrast, unity, proportion/scale, variety,   balance, emphasis, and rhythm). With an emphasis on the drawn mark.   This should include 12 images of 12 different works (no detail views).
  • Media could include but is not limited to drawing, painting, printmaking,  illustration, mixed media and electronic/digital drawing processes.
  • Some Breadth Project ideas that we have explored recently have been:
  • Ordinary to Extraordinary – Viewing abstract objects through transformation.
  • From Natural Form to Abstracted Shapes
  • Trompe L’oeil value study
  • Pop inspired still life – analogous color, tints, and shades
  • Tools and machines
  • Surrealism and the visual paradox
  • “Wouldn’t it be a strange world if . . .”
  • Meltdown - An artwork that explores the melting of an object or idea.
  •  “How do I feel?” – a textured self-portrait (collagraph)
  • From the pages of the World Wide News – illustrations of unbelievable  and ridiculous headlines
  • Develop a personalized graffiti style


 Because a portfolio submission of 24 images is needed, each student will need to complete 12 images each semester or roughly 1 work every 2 weeks.  Students should work steadily and have the sufficient number of works by the end of  the 3rd week of April. Their grade for the course will be based upon that work.  Submission of a portfolio in May is mandatory to receive AP credit

 Assessment and Grading:

 Student work is, in general, unique to the individual artist and is usually quite experimental. This makes grading a challenging task.  With this in mind, we use several strategies to assess the quality of a student’s work and their portfolio.  Primarily, we use the AP scoring rubric as a guide for individual and group evaluation.  Students are encouraged to examine their work and discuss how to successfully improve their work and move it from one level to another.  There are also carefully defined course standards of quality by which student’s work is measured.  These standards are assessed using a quality rubric that addresses a variety of components of the student’s work.  Student self-assessment also plays a role in the grading of their work. Therefore, a percentage of the grade on each piece is student generated.  The components of the quality rubric are: 

  •  Craftsmanship – Use and application of materials and technical mastery
  • Creativity- Originality, Inventiveness, and risk taking
  • Composition – Organization and understanding of the elements and principles of design
  • Style – Development of a personal voice.
  • Problem Solving – Evidence of ideation, and a clear visual intent.

 With regard to the amount of production, students are generally expected to produce 1 piece of AP quality work every two weeks.  I also stress that this is a student’s personal portfolio and that it is a living breathing collection of their creative ideas, and that outside work and that from other courses can also be included as long as it meets the quality requirements of AP.