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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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