AP Drawing Portfolio

pictures 022If 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 on utilizing the elements and principles of design, image development, and a variety of mark marking processes. These assignments are also designed to encourage individual and unique solutions from students as they are encouraged to explore the realm of possibilities within the assignment’s 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.   Students are expected to use a variety of media, concepts, and approaches to investigate solutions and to develop their own visual voice. 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 technical skill (with a variety of media), demonstrate their mastery using specific elements and principles of design, and address a specific visual problem based in mark making. A variety of resources are used for assignment development. These are listed at the end of the syllabus.

Some assignment parameters to be used include:

  • Contour and cross-contour lines
  • Seeing skills-measuring, spotting angles, sighting, viewfinder usage
  • Hatched shading
  • Use of accented line
  • Aerial perspective
  • Blended brushstrokes
  • Color and marks to express mood
  • Color shapes that define space and form
  • Dynamic brushstrokes
  • Forms defined by planar analysis
  • Light and shadow
  • Line and color
  • Positive/negative space
  • Space as shape and volume
  • Two-point perspective
  • Value and marks describe space
  • Value describes light source
  • Value describes weight

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

  • Distorted interiors or portraits
  • Contrasting textures
  • Photo-realistic portraits
  • Expressionistic controlled watercolor portraits
  • Line quality that creates a mood
  • High contrast imagery
  • Detailed close-ups of still life objects
  • Surrealistic collage transferred to pen and ink drawing
  • Reflections and drawing glass subjects
  • Extreme foreshortening in figures
  • Conte crayon figure drawing
  • Still life with natural forms and texture
  • Compositions and imagery in extreme foreshortening
  • Self-portrait collagraphs
  • Monotypes and monoprints with limited palette and design matrix
  • Figure studies capturing gesture and action line
  • Form, fabric and value
  • Blurred boundaries

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 Drawing Portfolio include:

  • A series of interiors with dramatic architectural aspects
  • A series of abstractions 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 organic 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
  • A series of self-portraits
  • A series of figure drawings

Media Categories to be used in visual problems:

  • Pencil-2H-8B
  • Graphite stick
  • Acrylic paint
  • Chalk pastel
  • Conte crayon
  • Colored pencil
  • Color sticks
  • Sauce
  • Vine, compressed and pencil charcoal
  • Ink and pen/brush
  • Markers
  • Oil bars
  • Oil pastel
  • Watercolor crayon/pencil

Sample Assignment

Large Graphite Drawing-Group of Figures-Interior Setting

Terminology and Concepts (Grading Criteria)

  • Literal Qualities in Expressive Drawings: This concept is utilized to communicate feelings about a subject by the way the subject was drawn. Variation in expression makes use of line quality, distortion, exaggeration, body attitude, and gesture of the figure.  Gestures can express fear, anger, joy etc. Please note that an emotive work of art does not have to express a serious idea to be important. A drawing can have a strong visual significance and still be humorous and playful.
  • Value Gradations: The use of changes in value will be a key factor in the success of your work. We are void of color here—contrast, texture, modeling of form is vital. Consider shading techniques, shadows and cast shadows.
  • Quality of Line:  Weight–thickness or thinness, suggesting spread or bulk.  Tone value–range of tone from light to dark.  Constitution or build–dullness and indistinctness, or sharpness/clarity
  • Use of Perspective as a way to Structure Figure and Ground:  Your grouping of figures is to be placed in an interior setting. In this sense, you will be a composer of space.       In your work you will create an illusion of vastness within the physical limits of your paper to push the viewer to experience a heightened perception of space. Remember the six key ways to create a sense of depth while utilizing perspective.
  • Sense of subject: The visual information presented in your composition should really portray a sense of subject in an environment. Think of your composition as a visual story. You should give thought to all the visual elements of your work.
  • Supreme blend of literal, formal and expressionistic qualities—enough said!

In this assignment you will utilize the concepts and terminology listed above. Along with your inspirations, ideas and thoughts you will create a composition that includes a minimum of three figures in an interior setting. Approaches to expressing emotions and ideas are highly individual, and I anticipate a wide range of solutions. Before you begin, create a series of five to eight thumbnail sketches using the concepts and terminology listed above. Please note that you will use all of the concepts/terminology in your work, though at varying degrees. Therefore, you must be able to explain how and to what degree the concepts and terms apply to your composition.

For more information on the Drawing Portfolio requirements and to see examples visit the College Board Drawing Portfolio page here.


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