Home | CeramicsDrawing | Photography | Foundation Art

Advanced Placement
(AP) Studio Art Program
Click here for a quick overview of portfolio requirements. 

Advanced studio arts students meet once every cycle (8 day schedule) to discuss and critique work.  The entire studio arts faculty also attends the weekly meeting.  Faculty and students alike are asked to present mini lectures on a variety of topics, such as sources of inspiration, tutorial exercises, the use of art history, etc.

Real-life example #1: Billy Stephens
Real-life example #2: Steve Corby
Real-life example #3: Drew Doggett

Please see Mr. Zimmer for a copy of the advanced placement course description booklet.  Click here for a general description (narrative format) of the studio art programClick here for technical specifications of the AP Studio Art portfolio program.

All AP portfolios are organized in the following way:

Section 1: Quality (4-6 actual pieces submitted with slides)
Section II: Concentration (20 slides dealing with a theme or central idea)
Section III: Breadth (20 slides that illustrate a range of medium and ability - see exact criteria)

Basic Structure of the Portfolios: General Portfolio or Drawing Portfolio (Select either of the two formats - ceramics, sculpture and photography students should select "General Portfolio".  Drawing and paintings students should select "Drawing Portfolio".

In Studio Art, students present selected materials from the work they have done during the AP course for evaluation at the end of the year by a group of artist and teachers. The preparation of the portfolio for the AP evaluation requires forethought - work submitted for the various sections must be appropriate. The portfolio is a vehicle through which students can demonstrate their ability to deal with the fundamental concerns of the visual arts and can thus possibly earn credit or advanced placement, or both, at the college level.

The materials that the student must present for evaluation fall into three sections. All three sections are required and carry equal weight, but students are not necessarily expected to perform at the same level in each section to receive a qualifying grade for advanced placement. The order in which the three sections are presented is in no way meant to suggest a curricular sequence; in fact, a good AP program in studio art would stress the three concerns -- quality, concentration, and breadth -- from the beginning of the course to its end. The works presented for evaluation may have been produced in art classes or on the student's own time, and may cover a period of time longer than a single school year. Students work, in either traditional or technological manipulated media, that makes use of photographs, published images, and/or other artists works or computer software must show development beyond duplication. This may be demonstrated through the manipulation of materials, formal qualities, design, and/or concept of the original work.

Section 1: Quality (4-6 works that can also appear in section II and/or III, but not both)

The term quality, though elusive, can be used to express the excellence of a work of art. Quality refers to the total work of art -- the concept, the composition and technical skills demonstrated, and the realization of the artist intentions. It can be found in very simple as well as elaborate works. Students are asked to define their idea of quality through careful selected examples of their own work -- work that succeeds in its own way. For this section of the portfolio, students are asked to select examples of their own work in which the evaluator's will recognize quality and will perceive that these works developed the students intentions, both in concept and execution.

Quality can be seen more readily in actual works then in slides. Therefore, students are asked to submit actual works in one or are more media in this section. The works may be on flat paper, cardboard, canvas board, or on stretched campuses. Computer-generated works are not excepted in this section. Selected works from Section I may appear in slide form in either Section II or Section III, but not both. Repetition among sections is not encouraged, however.

Because of limitations imposed by the shipping and handling of the portfolios, works submitted for Section I may not be larger than 18" x 24", including matting or mounting. Please note that this is an increase in the maximum size previously allowed. Students who have larger works of exceptional quality can submit them in slide form in another section of the portfolio. Works for Section 1 that are smaller than 8" x 10" should be mounted on 8" x 10" sheets. To protect the work, all work on paper should be either matted or mounted, and materials that may be smudged should be protected with fixative or, preferably, with clear acetate. (Acetate wrapped around the work provides the best protection) If the student uses an opaque overleaf instead of acetate, it should be fastened to one edge of the work only, so that it can be lifted easily. If the work is matted, a neutral color for that mat is usually advisable. Works should not be rolled, glazed, or framed.

Works submitted in Section 1 may be submitted in slide form in either Section II or Section III, but not both. Repetition among sections is not encouraged. Computer-generated works may not be submitted in Section 1. 

Section I (Quality) - General Portfolio: For this section students are asked to submit four works (actual pieces sent with slides and statement). They may be separate, distinct works, or they may be directly related to one or more of the other works submitted in this section. The works may include drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, diagrams, plans, animation cels, collages, montages, and so forth. Three-dimensional works may not be submitted.


Section I (Quality) - Drawing Portfolio: For this section students are asked to submit six works (actual pieces sent with slides and statement). They may be separate, distinct works or they may be directly related to one or more of the other works submitted in this section. The works may be one or more media. Works of photography and computer works may not be submitted.

Section II: Concentration

Students should be encouraged to explore a personal, central interest as intensely as possible. The Development Committee in AP Studio Art has therefore decided that one-third of the evaluation will be concerned with the students in-depth presentation of an aspect of his or her work, called a "concentration."   A concentration is a body of related works, called a "concentration."  A concentration is a body of related works based on an individual's interest in a particular idea expressed visually.  It focuses on a process of investigation, growth, and discovery.  It is not a selection of a variety of works produced as solutions to class projects, or a collection of works with differing intents. Students are free to work with any idea in any medium. However, the concentration should grow out of a plan of action or investigation.

In this section, the student is asked to show, in depth, a personal commitment to a specific visual idea or to a particular mode of working. Students are to present an aspect of their work or particular project in which they have invested considerable time, effort, and thought.  In this section, the evaluators are interested not only in the work presented, but also in visual evidence that the student has thought out and pursued a particular project or way of working; the work should show the evolution of an idea or a process of investigation.

Most concentrations involve a group of works (20 slides). Whether a concentration includes a relatively small number of works or a greater number, the works should be unified by an underlying idea that has a visual coherence. The concentration could consist of the group of independent works that share a single theme; for example, an in-depth study of a particular visual problem or a variety of ways of handling what the student thinks is an interesting subject. If a student uses a subject matter as the basis of a concentration, the work should show the development of a visual language appropriate for that subject. Some concentrations involve sequential works; for example, series of studies that lead to, and are followed by, more finished works. Student should avoid submitting group projects, collaborations, and or projects that merely require an extended period of time to complete.

The list of possible concentration topics is infinite. Below are examples of concentrations that have been submitted in the past. They are intended only to provide a sense of range and should not be considered necessarily "better" ideas.

Examples of projects:

  • An exploration of pattern and design found in nature and/or culture.
  • A series of expressive landscapes based upon personal experience
    of the particular place.
  • Abstract paintings developed from cells and other microscopic images.
  • A series of original photographs in which formal and expressive
    qualities have been enhanced through use of other media.
  • A series of clay or wood relief sculptures that began with
     representational interpretations and involve into abstraction.
  • A figurative sculpture project combining animal and human subjects
    - drawings, studies, and completed works.
  • A ceramic project in which wheel thrown and hand built vessels demonstrate
    both technical proficiency and inventive thinking.
  • Assemblages that juxtapose the brutal and elegant qualities of metal.

The choices of technique, medium, style, form, subject, and content are made by the student, in consultation with the teacher. A written commentary explaining the development of the concentration should accompany the work in this section. In May, students receive all the portfolio materials. These include the section II envelope, with spaces for the commentary. Responses should be concise and extra sheets should not be attached. Commentaries that exceed the allotted space will not be read. The responses are not graded separately, but they may help in the evaluation process. Thus, they should be legible and well written. Students should be encouraged to formulate their responses to the first statement below early in the year, as they define the direction their concentration will take.

Students Are Asked to Respond to the Following (1-2 written statement):

1.  Briefly defined the nature of your concentration project.
2.  Briefly described the development of your concentration and sources of your ideas. You may refer to specific slides as examples.

All concentrations (except videotapes) must be submitted in slide form. Computer-manipulated work must also be submitted in slide form. An explanation of what computer program was used and what the student actually did should be included where indicated on the section II envelope. Computer-manipulated work should demonstrate the same standards of visual thinking and artistic integrity that apply to work in nontechnological media. In preparing the Section II slides, the student should give some thought to the sequence of the slides in the slide sheet. There is no required order; rather, the slides should be organized to best show the development of the concentration.

The maximum number of slides allowed is 20. There is no minimum number required, because the range of possible concentrations is so wide. The number of slides the students submits should be dictated by the nature of the project. Both the choice and number of works should be made to present the concentration as clearly as possible. If a student has works that are not as well resolved as others but that help show the evolution of thinking and of the work, the student should consider including them. On the other hand, students should not include extra, weaker works or irrelevant works for the sole purpose of submitting a greater number of works.

General Portfolio:

The only works that may be submitted for this section in their original form are videotapes. Sculpture, painting, prints, photography, illustrated books and journals, and works in other medium must be submitted in slide form.

Videotapes should not be used as a means of showing works of art, such as drawings, paintings, or sculpture, that can be photographed in slide form. Videotapes will be evaluated on the basis of the visual, rather than narrative, qualities that may not exceed five minutes. Films may not be submitted for the General Portfolio.

Drawing Portfolio:

All works, including illustrated books and journals, must be submitted in slide form.

Films and videotapes may be submitted for the Drawing Portfolio.

Section III: Breadth

Broad explorations are as important as concentration. Students should be encouraged to work in a rich variety of means and materials in order to extend their repertoire of visual experiences. Therefore, part of student's work in Studio Art should show evidence of both intellectual and perceptual range. During the course the student should be introduced to a variety of problems in drawing (in the case of the Drawing Portfolio), or in color, design, sculpture, and drawing (in the case of the General Portfolio). When appropriate, such investigations should encouraged the use of approaches and media that are new to the student.

General Portfolio:

In this section, which consists of three categories described below, students are asked to show a range of understanding in specific areas.  Slides are required for all of section III.  Beginning in 1996, works of photography and computer-generated works may be submitted in Color/Design category. Although a single work may be eligible for more than one category in section III, it may not be submitted in more than one category.

The slides for section III must be arranged in the slide sheet as follows:

  • Color/design -- eight slides (see description below)
  • Sculpture -- four slides (see description below)
  • Drawing -- eight slides (see description below)

Each slide should be labeled on the slide mount with the dimensions of the work and the category in which it belongs. The titles of the categories may be abbreviated as follows: C/D for Color/Design, S for Sculpture/Three-Dimensional Design, and Dr for Drawing.

Color/Design -- eight slides

This category requires slides of eight works in which color and design principles are the primary focus. These works as a group should demonstrate principles of visual organization, including color organization (see examples below). Students need not present an equal number of color and design works, but they should submit their strongest work. These works may be either two- or three-dimensional. The student is encouraged to indicate on the slide the principal or problem it represents.


  • Color theory, such as that embodied in Fauvism, Abstract Expressionism, and other more recent movements.
  • Color organization using primary, secondary, tertiary, analogous, or other color subsets.
  • Color used to create or intensify expression.
  • Positive/negative or figure/ground relationships.
  • Development of a modular design or repeated pattern.
  • Topography organization, layout, or logo.
  • Graphic designs for posters, book jackets, etc.
  • Industrial or product design

Sculpture/Three-Dimensional Design

For this category, students are asked to submit four slides. The slides much show at least two three-dimensional works. However, they may also be used to show a total of three or four three-dimensional works if the student chooses. In such cases, it is permissible to submit slides that show only one view of one or more of the works. Only one work should be shown on each slide. Additional three-dimensional works may be submitted in that Color/Design category.

Work submitted in the Sculpture/Three-Dimensional Design category may include studies of relationships among three-dimensional forms, figurative or nonfigurative sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, fiber, or industrial design models.


  • Formal work that in bodies line, plane, mass, or volume.
  • Work that demonstrate modular development.
  • Work that focuses on transitions, such as organic to mechanical.
  • Work that uses texture or form for expressive reasons.
  • Assemblage or constructive work that demonstrates transformation of material or identity.
  • Work that uses light or shadow to determine form, with particular attention to surface and interior space.


This category asks students to submit slides of eight drawings. They should include works in which both line and tone are used. Drawings in this section should include a variety of approaches to creating spatial illusion; i.e. deep or shallow space using figures or objects in interior or exterior settings, drawn from direct observation and/or invention. The eight drawings as a group should demonstrate a range of expression as well as an exploratory use of materials. The suggestions for section III of the drawing portfolio may be helpful (listed below).

Drawing Portfolio:

In this section students are asked to present evidence of their ability to work on a wide variety of drawing problems. The solutions to these problems should demonstrate that they are able to pursue advanced drawing concepts as a result of exposure to, and experience with, a broad range of drawing alternatives. Computer-generated works may not be submitted in this section.

A minimum of 14 slides is required, but students may submit a maximum of 20 slides. The six extra slides may be used to show details of work or additional works. Students should explore as many different categories and modes of drawing as possible. Students are encouraged to observe three-dimensional subjects and/or work with invented subjects for the purpose of developing skill in translating perceptions to a two-dimensional surface.

An enormous range of possibilities exists for this section. Following is a list of possible approaches. It is not intended to exclude other ways of drawing.


  • The use of various spatial systems, such as linear perspective, the illusion of three-dimensional forms, aerial views, and other ways of creating and organizing space.
  • The use of various subjects, such as the human figure, landscape, still life objects, etc.
  • The use of various kinds of contents, such as that derived from observation; an expressionistic viewpoint; imagery or psychological imagery; social commentary, political statements; and other personal interest.
  • The use of pencil, brush, crayon, pastel, charcoal, pen and ink, paint, markers.
  • Monotype and other print making processes, markers, collage, montage, and other media and techniques.

Overview of the AP Studio Art Portfolio:

4 original works shipped with slides

20 slides that illustrate a central theme, plus a 1-2 page paper, describing a central theme or "concentration" (section II)

20 slides that illustrate: color/design theory (8 slides), sculpture (4 slides), drawing (8 slides)

Return to AP Studio Art Description

Technical Specifications: General Portfolio and Drawing Portfolio

The following technical specifications are to be observed in preparing evaluation materials for submission to the examiners:

1. Students' names, or any other information that identifies them or their schools, should not appear on any of the materials; such information may remain, however, if it's deletion would damage the work on which it appears. The Advanced Placement Coordinator at each school will receive instructions on how students should labeled their works and will give these instructions to the students.

2. Careful attention should be paid to the limitations on the size and the number of materials submitted for each section of the evaluation.

3. Student should not exceed the maximum number of works, or submit oversize works, or send original work force sections that require slides. Extra works, oversize works, and originals sent in place of slides will not be evaluated.

4. Student should follow their Coordinator's instructions for labeling and packaging their materials. They must submit their prepared materials to the Coordinator, and materials must be submitted on time.

5. The slide packaging provided with the portfolios will accommodate only 20 slides for each section and only slides mounted in cardboard or plastic.

6. Videotapes should be submitted in their containers. Videotapes may not be submitted in Section I or Section II.

7. Student should be advised that, when photographing flat works off art, they should place the work against a neutral or non-distracting background and avoid covering the artwork with a surface such as glass or acetate that will produce a glare. Advise students to photograph works as early in the year as possible to allow time to re-photograph, if necessary.

8. If a student wishes to show texture clearly in an artwork in Section II, he or she should submit a detail slide of the work along with a slide showing the entire work.

9. The dimensions of the works photograph should appear on the cardboard mount of all slides submitted for Sections II and III. The medium of the work or its title may be added if the student wishes.

10. Three-dimensional or fragile works should not be included in Section I.

11. Students should be advised to retain duplicates of slides and papers submitted. All works and slides will be returned to the student in late summer. Each student is responsible for giving ETS the correct address for this purpose. Any portfolios returned to ETS as undeliverable will be kept for six months and then destroyed. No responsibility can be assumed for their loss or damage.

12. Each student should have a copy of the Studio Art Poster that contains essential information from the Course Description. Schools that indicate they will present candidates for Studio Art evaluation will be sent a poster for each student. Additional copies may be obtained by filling out the AP Publications Order Form.

Click here for direct access to the College Board criteria

Real-life example #: Billy Stephens
Real-life example #2: Steve Corby
Real-life example #3: Drew Dogget