AP 2-D Design Portfolio

add 006If you haven’t done so already, please visit the main Courses page here for an overview of all courses and our recommendations for the order of progression through our program.  And visit the AP Studio Art page here for a complete description of the overall AP course.


Assignment Development- Breadth and Quality-First Semester

For students at this level of artistic development, a formulaic solution for the completion of the AP Studio Art Portfolio is discouraged. Therefore, assignments vary from year to year and are based in addressing design issues: elements and principles of design, image development and compositional rules. These assignments are also designed to encourage individual and unique solutions from students as they are encouraged to explore the realm of possibilities within a given set of design parameters/limitations. With this in mind, students are very aware that in any assignment, no door is truly closed, and that diverse and unexpected solutions are prized. Through in class dialogue, mentoring sessions and class critiques, teachers demonstrate this approach, while nurturing and developing these skills.

Each assignment is structured to allow students to review and apply a specific aspect of design theory, demonstrate their mastery using specific elements and principles, and utilize a specific image development strategy. Many of these strategies are based on information found in Design Synectics: Stimulating Creativity in Design by Nicholas Rouke (Worchester, MA: Davis, 1988). A variety of other resources are used for assignment development. These are listed at the end of the syllabus.

Some design strategies to be used include:

  • Subtraction- to simplify and omit certain parts or elements.
  • Repetition- repeat a shape, color, form idea, image or concept.
  • Combination- brings images and concepts together that might not otherwise be connected.
  • Addition- expand, develop, change an image.
  • Distortion- compress, twist, push-pull an image.
  • Elaboration- embellish, adorn, add detail, pattern.
  • Transfer- put the image in a new environment or situation.
  • Magnification- choose an area of focus and enlarge it.
  • Metamorphosis- show images in progressive stages of growth or transformation.
  • Viewpoint- depict an image from an unlikely or unusual point of view such as extreme foreshortening from below.
  • Fragmentation- separate and take apart your subject/image.
  • Prevarication-lie with your image, create a falseness that becomes real.
  • Animation- serialize images to create stages of action or a story line.
  • Parody- mimic, caricature, tease or make fun of the subject/image.
  • Juxtaposition- combine unlikely images, overlap or superimpose parts to create a new synthesis.

Some assignments to be used with specific strategies listed above in conjunction with elements/principles parameters and compositional rules include:

  • Distorted interiors or portraits
  • Chinese paper cut inspired self-portraits
  • Photo-realistic portraits
  • Expressionistic controlled watercolor portraits
  • Hybridized creatures
  • Three panel pen and ink illustrated song
  • Surrealistic collage
  • Surrealistic collage transferred to pen and ink/painting
  • Acrylic painting with specific color schemes
  • Charcoal social commentary images
  • Conte crayon figure drawing
  • Still life with a message
  • Compositions and imagery in extreme foreshortening
  • Self-portrait collographs
  • Monotypes and monoprints with limited palette and design matrix
  • Figure studies capturing gesture and action line

Assignment Development-Concentration-Second Semester

While students are encouraged from the start to consider concentration possibilities, it is not until the second semester that students delve completely into this aspect of portfolio development. The concept of working in a series is a familiar one for most students due to assignments given in earlier, lower-level studio courses. Consequently, students draw upon past serial work, and the experiences from the first semester to formulate their concentrations. The semester opens with a discussion of concentration topics and a review of initial ideas. Throughout the second semester, students participate in ongoing development of their concentrations with an emphasis on process and materials. They participate in daily interactions with the instructor and other classmates, as well as weekly individual discussions/conferences and group critiques.

Some concentration ideas for the 2-D Design Portfolio include:

  • A series of interiors with dramatic architectural aspects
  • A series of abstract paintings focusing on formal issues of depth and color theory
  • A series of graphite drawings inspired by movement
  • A series of drawings/paintings illustrating a story, song or poem
  • A series based on a specific subject matter
  • A series of images demonstrating a moral issue/statement
  • A series of images responding to a current social issue
  • A series of images demonstrating a visual correspondence to a specific “reader”
  • A series of images exploring growth and maturity

Sample Assignment

Oil Bar Assignment


  • Blending—refers to the mixing of two or more colors to create form.
  • Expressionistic Blending—characterized by the visible “trail” of marks left on the paper. The viewer can see evidence of where the artist has been. True expressionism makes use of bold marks and bold variation of line and shape that are aggressive, yet not overdone.
  • Overdrawing—characterized by the use of impasto linear elements that overlay a blended area. The use of this type of line helps to give the impression of depth.
  • Color Scheme—limit yourself, create a palette that suits your composition. If you use every color, you run the risk of creating a work that does not feel pulled together. See color scheme handout.
  • Light Source—one light source, preferably high and slightly to the front and side gives the best illumination and is highly suggested. See handout.
  • Composition—optimal placement of elements within your format makes or breaks your work. Formal qualities are the foundation for inviting and compelling works.
  • Other considerations include balance, unity, rhythm, emphasis and scale or proportion. We will talk about these in our critique
  • Artist Inspiration: August Sander.   We will go to the computer lab to view his work.

“Working in early- and mid-twentieth-century Germany, August Sander photographed anonymous people, then divided the images into archetypal groups such as The Farmer and The Woman to create a “total picture” of society in a typological way. A monumental work that set new conceptual and aesthetic standards, People of the Twentieth Century remains highly significant today for its unique place in the history of photography and its continuing influence on contemporary artists. Organized by the August Sander Archive, this exhibition presents some two hundred of Sander’s powerful portraits.

August Sander (1876–1964) is widely hailed as an avatar of modern photography. His influence can be seen in the work of subsequent generations of international photographers, including that of Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, and Bernd and Hilla Becher. Sander’s exhaustive People of the 20th Century project set conceptual and aesthetic standards that were unprecedented in the history of photography; the achievement is still considered unparalleled today.

You will use the effects of the terminology above to create your oil bar composition. Before you begin, create a series of thumbnail sketches (3 or 4 in a 3×3 format) using some of the compositional ideas you may have viewed in the examples in the computer lab. While you can get compositional ideas from these works, you cannot copy them. Use what you saw yesterday to give your work a small tweaking here, a new twist there. After you have chosen the best thumbnail, you will transfer it to a large sheet of paper with pencil—very lightly. It is suggested that your final plan allow for you to make stylistic changes, or what we can also call –room for errors—do not get too bogged down with anatomically correct human forms or other true representational subjects—stylize (this means they are identifiable, but you have made them your own!) Simplification of forms will be very helpful. Do not forget your background. Hopefully Sander’s photos gave you some ideas for placing figures in an environment.

For more information on the 2-D Design Portfolio requirements and to see examples visit the College Board 2-D Design Portfolio page here.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s