Are you scheduled to take AP Studio Art some time during your high school career? If that’s the case, I have some valuable tips to provide you young’ns as a fellow veteran of the all-too-dreadful Drawing Portfolio.
1. Start as Early as Possible!
Let me tell you this now: Creating twenty-four pieces is A LOT of work. Blast out a few pieces over the summer. Don’t end up having to rely on poorer quality works from your previous years. The other thing to know is that the more time you invest into your artwork, you are guaranteed to receive a higher grade. The Drawing Portfolio of the AP Studio Art section relies heavily on objective standards of “good art,” such as mark-making, technical skills, and incorporation of artistic concepts (lighting, perspective, proportions, color theory, etc.).
2. Don’t Restrict Your Creativity!
Half of your portfolio consists of the “Concentration” section, which includes 12 pieces that revolve around a specific focus you have chosen. You can either make your focus thematic, aesthetic, or both. For example, the top students in my AP Studio Art class chose concentrations such as “Walkways,” in which the artist portrayed paths (stairs, trails, etc), or literally just “Hands,” in which literally human hands of all ages and colors were depicted performing different activities. Other successful concepts included “The Twelve Signs of the Zodiacs Personified,” “Science Fiction Dystopia,” “The World on a Rainy Day,” and a sequence of abstract landscapes that gradually evolved from realistic to surreal.
I strongly suggest you keep it simple, but not too simple. To elaborate, you want to allow yourself wiggle room in case you decide to alter your concentration idea last minute, or if you want to incorporate a new concept into your existing set. At the same time, however, you want to keep it interesting. For example, College Board specifically recommends you avoid certain concentration topics, such as “Cats, Nature, My Boyfriend and I Laying Naked on the Couch (supposedly an actual submission),” or any other stale, repetitive concepts.
Although you may want to pursue a unique and abstract idea, College Board has shown through anecdotal correlation (one sample being myself) that they tend to prefer a Concentration portfolio that can be pieced together visually and aesthetically, rather than thematically.
3. Work Small, and Work aBsTrAcT!
For realistic pieces that require detailed use of your medium, such as colored pencils, you have the option to create extremely small pieces which can be finished quickly. You now have the option to leave your larger pieces to less polished mediums such as watercolor or pastel. Take time during summer as well to learn new mediums of art, as they will allow the Breadth section of your portfolio to truly shine.
Furthermore, I would also like to encourage you to take into the idea of “risk taking.” Especially for your Breadth section, College Board likes to see variety not only in medium, but in style as well. Go try that minimalistic abstract expressionist piece you always considered in the back of your head. Splatter paint on paper. And don’t stick to conventional media! Take a knife and make cuts into the paper! Go crazy!
4. Work Your Freaking Ass Off!
Like I said before, the more time you invest in your art, the better your end result will be. There is no way to equivocate this. It is what it is. I promise you that if you survive AP Studio Art, you will come out equipped not only with more technical skills, but also with more crucial life values as well.