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Portrait of the Artist as an AP Studio Art Student – A Journal
Dianne Settino, AP Studio Art teacher, 2/18/2011

Editor's Note from Susan Richman: This is the 2nd year we have been able to offer AP Studio Art in an online format, and Dianne Settino and her husband Linus Meldrum have really put their whole heart into leading these wonderful interactive classes. To help both parents and students gain an idea of what to expect from this unique course, read this imagined AP Art Studio student diary. And consider joining in for the coming school year! For full info on all of our Advanced Placement online courses, click on the AP ONLINE CLASSES link at the top of this website. Registration for the 2011-2012 school year will open in early April.



Below is a fictional diary giving a little peek into the life of an AP Studio Art student. The course is grueling and exhilarating, all at once. The AP Studio Art course does not involve an 'exam'-- instead it requires the mammoth task of creating two portfolios of 12 works each-- a Breadth Portfolio, and a Concentration Portfolio. The total 24 works must be digitally uploaded prior to the May exam deadline.  And the 5 best works are sent for on-site grading as the Quality Portfolio. The 3 grades ( B portfolio + C portfolio + Q Portfolio)  are totaled, and averaged for the final grade on the 1-5 AP scale. When students finish an AP Studio Art course they have most definitely completed a journey, a quest, and made a physical product/record of their growth as an Artist. The great thing about  AP Studio Art is that the student has not only completed the process, they have a distinct product to show for all the hard work – a body of work that can serve as a college admissions portfolio or an art exhibition.

Our weekly cycle of assignments and work is simple. In the fall we post an assignment. The students respond by posting sketches. The sketches are critiqued. The students post their finals. We critique their finals. Each student is given personal critiques and their unique gifts and problems are addressed.

Both AP Drawing and AP 2D Design follow a typical college semester calendar. The students have a long between-semester break that is well deserved. We allow our students to schedule their work around religious Holy Days, family vacations, mission trips and of course serious illness. Seniors with required college application specific art projects are allowed to incorporate those works into our class work. We try very hard to help each young artist with their own specific needs and gifts.

We have had students as young as 15 take our AP Drawing with wonderful results! And now.... for the fictional student diary, chronicling a year of artistic growing and learning!


Breadth Portfolio assignment # 1 was posted today. I will spend an hour doing a bit of research to help me decide how to approach my composition. Then I have to work through the time-specific preparatory sketches. I'm a little nervous but the last two weeks has helped me learn to put down my ideas much faster in a visual form.


It’s midnight! I just posted my prep sketches. I can't wait until tomorrow to read my critique and move on to my final. I hope my drawings make sense to everyone. I think I remembered to consider all the important Elements of Design, like Scale, Rhythm, Contrast, etc.  And mark-making - I tried to remind myself to think about my marks. What are all those marks adding up to? I think a strong drawing….


Wow I have never thought about my drawings in the way that the critiques explain.  I just think "I like it", or "I don't like it". Now I realize there are so many things to consider when planning and making my own art. It is a little overwhelming but exciting. I am surprised at what I learned from looking at other students’ artwork.  I have good ideas for improving my composition for the Final. I'll be thinking of all the key points brought up in my critique the entire time I work. I didn’t know there are very specific ways to shoot a digital photo of my artwork for the Portfolios. Mr. Meldrum explained how. Now I can make really good digital images of my art for the AP Readers.


Yes, I got my work posted at 11pm. One hour before deadline. My arm, hand and fingers are actually sore! This took me 6 hours and I've never spent so long on one work. Next week I will be sure to spread out the work over several sessions and not leave this to the last day. I wonder if I solved my visual narrative problems in a way that will be interesting to everyone. I wonder if anyone will be able to tell my Ideation theme.


I have never had my work analyzed into parts the way today's critique did. I got a B, but I also got so much information that I think I know how to improve for next week. I was surprised that I learned as much from the other students work and their critiques as I did my own. I am so glad that first graded work is finished! The new assignment was up by suppertime and I'm going to read it twice, brainstorm, and research for an hour tonight. I’m also going to reread the information on mark-making and design.


YEAH! I got all 12 works of my BREADTH Portfolio finished. Now I get to begin my month-long break. It'll give me time to study for some finals and then have great faith and family time (for my family that is Christmas). We start back Jan 10. There are some students who celebrate different Holy days throughout the year and they get to schedule their time to accommodate that too. Mom was glad we could schedule in our usual February trip to Arizona to see grandpa. I’ll be sure to stay on schedule and then make up the missed work in April. We have the entire month of April to finish work, redo any weak drawings, and mount our 5 Quality pieces – the drawings that are actually sent to the College Board for on-site review.


I sketched a bit over the break. It was fun to doodle and draw whatever came to my mind. What surprised me was how much better my usual subject matter looks with my new skills. My drawings are actually composed now! Now, I am ready to go full steam on my CONCENTRATION Portfolio. Last semester I submitted my Statement of Intent. I posted a refined version along with the first assignment I WROTE myself, for my portfolio. That felt really weird. I have never written an assignment like this. I will check back today to see if I have to reword, rewrite, or ???? It feels wonderful too to plan out my ideas and assignments the way an artist does in their studio.


After supper I found the posted response. The statement of intent is OK'd. My assignment has to be made clearer with a specific strategy. I'm redoing it and posting before I go to bed. Sometimes it’s hard to get the picture in my mind to make sense in words. I think I’m improving though. By April this will be much easier, I hope!


This has been a busy week. The studio art process is the same as in the fall but now it originates in my mind. WOW! I am excited to be in control of this process from the beginning, but it is a little scary! I'm posting right now and I am more anxious than ever to see what everyone thinks. In the spring semester we are required to write one dozen art critiques ourselves! What will my classmates say!?  I'm getting very good at figuring how to use all the criticism to improve my work. BRING it on!! I’m nervous about critiquing other students. But I decided not to worry because I want us all to do very well this semester. I will try my best to find things in my fellow artists’ works that can be improved. I want us all to make a good drawing, a fantastic drawing. I’ll use constructive criticism. I’m not worried; all of us are polite!


YES, I am finishing the last CONCENTRATION work this week. Then I will have this entire month to finish a few WIP's (works in progress) and redo one piece I really don't like from my BREADTH Portfolio. I know I can do much better and ace it now. I like that I can always rework or redo a work for a new grade. Hey some famous artists spend years and years getting it right.

My mom and I will also be preparing 5 Quality pieces (my strongest works) to be mailed to the AP readers for an in person review and grade. Mr. Meldrum's instructions are easy to follow. But I do have one question and I'm asking that on our board right now.

I can hardly believe that I came this far in my art. 24 pieces, TWENTY FOUR works of art!!! All of my friends and family say it is amazing that I could find time for this art thing!! I learned a lot about planning, how to use my time, solving problems, expressing ideas and being brave with sharing my art gifts. I must say I was very scared some weeks when the ideas just wouldn't seem to come!! I have a lot more confidence now that hard work really does pay off. If you keep thinking and drawing, the ideas get better and better. Making art is hard work!!!!!!! But I am so proud to have finished this huge endeavor! It was tough and I didn’t give up, and my work got better throughout the year. I look back at some of my old work and I know how to improve it in a new work. I love that!


Wow I feel great. Today’s “exam” deadline was met! My digital images are uploaded to the College Board website. Now I have to wait and wait. But I feel good. I’m sending out invites to my local AP friends, when all the exams are over, we’re having a make your own Sundae party. I’m going to hang up my best work from the year. My mom says I should plan a show somewhere. Maybe the library?


I got my grade, it's a 4! I'm so glad now that I took the time to review all my work and redo my weakest. I will be using my best work to apply for a summer scholarship art program, some local art competitions, and of course, art college portfolio reviews in two years. I’m trying to decide if I want to commit to AP 2D Design next year. I have no idea what that would be like. Hmmm.


I’ve decided to take another AP Studio Art course – AP Studio Art 2D Design.  This will be a change…using many of the skills and processes of the Drawing course, we’ll be making some really interesting images – images that are useful in a particular way – designs like we see on things around us, like posters and products.  This should be different…  


Guess what I'm designing this week-- a book cover. 2D Design can involve so many things. Who knew. Some of us are into digital things, some applied art (like designing a line of textiles that are incredible!) and one student is doing both portfolios with photography.  After all the work of last year I wasn't sure if I wanted to do this intense art experience all over again...but I just love art. Gotta go research type design. The letters on my book cover are a very important part!!! I never even thought about that before. Now I have my favorite type face and I’m creating my own “letter ‘A” for the next assignment. The weirdest things  can be so much fun sometimes! 

For full info about AP Art Studio courses and all of our many AP online classes, see www.aphomeschoolers.com  We hope we have a course that will be a good fit for your homeschooled teens.

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Comment by Judy Kusuma, 2/22/2011:

I cannot say enough in praise of the AP Studio Art classes offered by Mrs. Settino and Mr. Meldrum. Both classes have been a huge blessing to my daughter. They have helped her develop not only as an artist but as a student in general, as a young person growing into adulthood, and the class work even challenged/stregthened her in her faith because of some of the topics/issues addressed in some of her work. 

Mrs. Settino and Mr. Meldrum are the most enthusiastic,  supportive, and encouraging  art mentors you could ask for. They place full confidence in their students, give them all the tools and support they need to succeed, and then challenge and expect the best from them.  

The following are some specific benefits/lessons I think my daughter has gleaned from her experiences thus far:

-lots and lots of studies ( small practice drawings) and research  make for a much more successful finished piece

-because making quality art requires quality time, students learn time management skills, organizing and sticking to a schedule, developing strategies, maintaining a master calendar. Sticky note reminders galore.

- the constructive critiques ( both peer and instructor) were invaluable. Students learn to both give and receive constructive criticism.

-producing their Statement of intent really helps students to know and understand in a deeper way what they're doing and why they're doing it that way. It nudges them onto higher levels of competency than they ever dreamed possible for themselves.


Response to this comment by Susan Richman, 2/23/2011:
Thank you, Judy, for your very helpful thoughts here-- and know that I've personally *loved* seeing your daughter's work grow and develop over her year in AP Art Studio Drawing last year, in my role of supervising all of our AP Online classes. Your daughter's work has been *inspirational* to so many, and I'm so grateful she's had such a positive experience in these online classes. Who would have thought that such powerful art endeavors could be developed in an online format! With gratitude, Susan Richman, AP Coordinator for PA Homeschoolers AP Online classes, and Editor PA Homeschoolers

Comment by Kathy Rossell, 2/27/2011:

I would like to echo what Judy Kusuma has said in praise of this course and, in particular, the tremendous amount of time and effort that Dianne Settino and Linus Meldrum invest in their students.  I am constantly amazed at the instructors' dedication to pushing their students toward greater skill and creativity, and the amount of energy they devout to this course.  There is such care and individualized attention given to eact student's work -- a time-consuming endeavor to say in the least.  And, week-in and week-out, the instructors have provided detailed, specific, and very constructive feedback for every student.  Moreover, they have been quick -- and extremely thorough -- in replying to any questions we have had about the assignments, submitting materials to the College Board, and even regarding colleges and career choices.

I would affirm that this course involves a great deal of time and effort -- though, it is well worth it.  This course is not for the half-hearted and it is not about "drawing pretty pictures," as the instructors are  always challenging the students to incorporate layers of meaning into what they create.  Doing this necessarily takes time.  Sometimes, the ideation and preparatory work for the portfolio pieces can take hours...and, oftentime, it is not something that can be done in a hurried manner.  As the narrative above makes clear, students must be prepared to invest 10-15 hours (at least) each week into this course.  For my 11th grade son -- who has a full courseload and is heavily involved in sports -- this has often meant staying up late at night to complete assignments....working through the weekends....and having very little "free" time.  Hence, for students (and parents) considering this course, I would recommend programming into your overall school schedule a substantial amount of flexibility.  There are simply some assignments that will take more time -- ideas will have to be reworked, sketches that do not turn out as planned, final pieces that may be more ambitious than originally anticipated and require twice the amount of time than was expected. So, developing an academic schedule that can "flex" and accommodate variations in workloads is extremely helpful. 

All of that said -- this is a fantastic course that I cannot recommend more highly if a student is seriously considering any sort of an art-related field!

Comment by Melissa Manning, 2/28/2011:

My son's AP Studio Art Drawing class with Mr. Meldrum and Mrs. Settino has far exceeded all my expectations for a high school art class, let alone an online art class.  My son came to this class with some good technical talent, an interest in pursuing more serious art studies, and the knowledge that he had a lot to learn about making art.  Through the well constructed and rigorous assignments and the thoughtful and insightful critiques of his teachers, my son has grown as an artist and a person beyond what I would have imagined possible in such a short time.

Before my son enrolled in the class we counted the cost and took seriously the amount of time it would take him each week to complete his assignments and I'm glad we did as it has taken him the full 15 hours each week.  I can suggest that if a student diligently follows the schedule guidlines laid out by the teachers, he/she will not have a problem with falling behind.  My son is considering studying art in college so this class has been a great opportunity for him to see what the life of an art major may be like, what kind of workload he can expect; it has given him the opportunity to "try on" being a serious art student to see how it fits, which has been just what he need.

I affirm all the other possitve comments made by Ms. Kusuma and Ms. Rossell.  The instruction has been excellent and the teachers were quickly shown to be caring and dedicated mentors. I have recommended this course to others.

Comment by Liana Caggeso, 3/2/2011:

This class has truly met all of my expectations and beyond. It has helped me get to a point in my art that I didn’t think I could. Imagining where I would be now if I had not taken this course is quite a scary thought. That may sound a bit extreme, but it’s completely true. I have always had a passion for drawing and painting, but this class has given me the knowledge, the skill, and the confidence to take it to a whole new level.

     Ms. Settino and Mr. Meldrum are great teachers. They are friendly and helpful, often getting me to see a side of things I had not before considered. They are always there to answer any question you might have and are quite flexible with the schedule (though not to the point of accepting laziness).

     Everything moves very fast in this class. I just had to plunge right in and I wasn’t given the chance to stop and doubt my abilities, which I believe has helped me greatly in overcoming many insecurities. Although I have experienced some stress and burn out at times, boredom or repetition is never an issue. I have not felt stagnant.

     This class is a whirlwind of learning and experience and inspiration. I didn’t even realize how much I was learning until later on when I looked back and saw just how much I have grown. There is no longer a great mystery about making art. I have gained a much greater understanding of my own work and that of others. I have absolutely no regrets in taking this course. I definitely want to take the 2D Design next year.

     Granted though, there is a lot of work involved. I have had to sacrifice much of my free time and a bit of sleep, but it is completely worth it. On the weekends we spend our time gathering information (this could be in the form reference photos that we take or even just reading up on the subject or medium) about our sketches. We then work on them and upload them on Sunday. They are critiqued the next day. After that we begin working on our final which is submitted on Thursday. I think in general I probably put in around 20 hours a week, however I work slowly and you could probably get by just fine spending a little less time than that.

If you are considering taking this course then I definitely say do it! If you have a passion for art then you won’t regret it. All the advice that I can give is to resist the urge to procrastinate (this is not one of my strengths, I’m afraid), have a well lit workspace, stock up that ipod with tons of music, and don’t forget that you’re doing something you love.

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