High School Art – Introductory Elective & Advanced

by | Oct 1, 2021

The secondary-level art electives have already experienced change this year. The middle school elective is now that – an elective and not mandatory on an every-other-year basis. In addition to the high school introductory course, Art Concepts (also called Introduction to Visual Arts), I teach an Advanced Art elective for students who meet prerequisites and are of junior or senior standing.

At the elementary level, I teach the Elements of Art but try to expand the students’ experience of using different materials (mediums) and with a goal to make art FUN. Then they reach high school and I suddenly become Liam Neeson telling them I have a particular skill set that makes me a nightmare for people like them. Mostly kidding!  I tell students early on in the course that art is a lot like playing a sport – that no one expects to be good at it without practice and consistent work. My goal is to push their skill development so that at the end of a semester (or year) they can see personal progress in their abilities. One of the very first classes they are tasked with drawing a spoon in a glass of water. I use this as an uninstructed baseline drawing. At the end of the semester, they draw it again. The image shared here (uninstructed drawing on the left, end of the semester drawing on the right) is from last year when the students came every day! I was so proud of each of their personal progress!

These last several weeks I have focused on teaching the basics of composition, line, value, and preliminary sketch work. The high school students then chose to do a graphite drawing from a still-life or a continuous line wire drawing for their first project. They are currently working on leaf positive-negative space zentangle drawings using ink.

At the advanced level, students followed the review of these concepts, color theory, and a figure proportion study. I have structured the course to resemble an AP format so students are developing a body of work (5-7 related artworks) based on a theme (called an “inquiry” in the art world). In addition, they are given tasks called “Breadths” which are stand-alone artworks or sketchbook studies.

One of my favorite parts of my job is grading the high school students’ sketchbooks. It allows me the chance to see and respond to their work on a 1:1 level. I always feel encouraged after taking the stack home to grade. With many things, but certainly this, the progress is so gradual we are tempted to think it isn’t happening. The sketchbook becomes a timeline that documents the planting of a figurative seed, the faithful watering of it, and God’s ability to make it grow!