I think it’s hilarious when I hear students say they are taking AP Art because they think it will be an easy AP. As I smile and nod I think to myself, “Soon enough you will realize this is going to be one of the hardest classes you will ever take”…
The thing about AP Art is there is no such thing as cramming for your exam. You could potentially not keep up with your work, not study as much as necessary, and pull an all night study session the night before an AP history, science, or math exam. However, I do not believe it is physically possible to churn out 24 works of art, photograph them, upload them, label them, quickly write up your two artist statements, and submit without a great deal of planning. What students don’t realize is 24 works of art in a single year is more art than these kids will create in any college level art class.
Despite this every year I have students who attempt the cram. One year I had a student complete 6 paintings in one day… on the day it was due… completed an hour before the submission deadline. The level of stress I felt for me and for her as we rushed to tape up wet watercolors to quickly snap a photo, down, to the next one, and on to photo editing, uploading, and labeling was beyond me.
Problem number one with completing this huge task is the number 24 somehow doesn’t seem daunting to students in August when school starts up, after all they have all the way until May to get it done. Piece of cake… I try to explain, I encourage, threaten, hand out zeros, have one on one talks, and still it doesn’t seem to sink in until the week before due-date-day. At the beginning of the year I stand in front of the class and map out our year together, “You must turn in a finished project every week in a half starting now and continuing until May in order to meet the 24 piece requirement”. As the weeks come and go artwork is submitted, half finished pieces here, almost completed there, and the stress builds as I count down to the final day.
I stress for my kids all year long. All year I wait for them to process the amount of work ahead of them, and all year I feel the pressure for them. By the time the deadline rolled around my first year teaching AP, I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack in the middle of class. Too much artwork still needed to be photographed, too much still needed to be completed, Miss 6-paintings-in-one-day was still sitting in the corner frantically churning out piece after piece…
Perhaps I can only blame myself for the level of stress AP Art put on me. After all it is my responsibility to hold my students to deadlines, push them to do their best, ensure they are producing AP quality work, and help them maintain their drive to create art from day one to due-date-day. Two years I taught AP, and while the second year was infinitely better than the first, I still felt helpless as my students became burnt out, lost their inspiration, and their desire to even turn in a portfolio.
Their loss of faith was contagious and spread quickly in the class, my amazing artists were dropping of like flies and eventually I felt it creep into me too. I felt like giving up, letting them give up, but I pushed it aside and continued forward. By the time I hit the submit button on each of my students’ portfolios I felt a wave of relief wash over me, it was all over, we are finally finished. But in this process I always have to wonder how many of them hit the quitting point and didn’t turn back. I have a few students I wonder about, will they ever find their passion for it again? Did AP Art ruin their drive for art?
I continued on to teach AP Art one more year, but when I began my new job I dropped it all together and began teaching sculpture courses instead. I have to admit I am relieved I don’t have that additional stress in the spring and seeing them go through the wave of emotions and doubt in their ability that comes with an outsider evaluating your creation.
After my first year teaching AP I did feel a little cynical as I collected my AP Art memorabilia to create a visual page dedication. As I was shuffling through I discovered a six word memoir from one of my AP babies, it simply said “best class you will ever take”… Perhaps it was all worth it after all.
- Visual Journal
- Rubber cement
- AP submission forms
- Collected items (post its, writing prompts)
- Brown paper
- Colored pencils
- India ink
To create this page I opted to make a visual journal collage to represent my year of AP. I had a small pile of scrap paper, notes, and signs from the class I could incorporate. I decided as a base the actual AP submission forms would work well since they were large, didn’t have a lot of detail, and represented one of the most stressful days of the year.
After using rubber cement to glue my submission forms down I began placing and gluing down my AP scraps to the top. After gluing these items down I decided I needed a focal point. I immediately thought of the brown AP portfolios used to submit the 5 physical works of art for the quality section. Since I felt like my life was being consumed by this class I decided to make mini portfolio to represent each of my 9 students and have them piled on top of poor, stressed me.
To create the portfolios I cut out brown rectangles from construction paper. To make some of them look like they were in perspective I opted to cut the top and bottom of the portfolio at an angle. I then glued a small white rectangle on top and added details with colored pencil. I glued them down in a pile on my page, colored in the space in the middle, and added eyes using colored pencil.
To create a sense of ground I used a paint brush, India ink, and loosely painted a scribble pattern along the bottom third of the page. To finish off the page I glued down the six word memoir in the bottom right corner of the page.
Create a visual journal page to represent a stressful time in your life.