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Inquiry-Based Learning

     Inquiry-based learning in art begins with a student's interest or preference for subject matter and/or medium.  This is how we tap into the intrapersonal, intrinsic motivation to grow and develop.  AP Art and Design portfolio classes prepare students for submitting 15 digital images and 5 actual pieces to the College Board of Regents.  The images and pieces are submitted in May each year.  Students who score 3/5 are proficient and receive college credit which can be used to opt out of introductory art classes or as electives.  But more importantly, they learn how to engage their strengths to achieve personal goals.

The AP student brought in previous work to discuss direction for a portfolio. This was chosen as one of her favorites. The cheetah is approaching crouched, but not aggressive. This viewpoint creates interesting shapes surrounding the animal's gaze. She liked the subject matter and composition so began her portfolio with this piece. The acrylic painting is approx. 12x18 inches.

The giraffe was an interesting choice, since though wild, is not a predator. Again the viewer is brought close to the animal and we notice the patterning on its body. Depth is created in the shallow space by emphsizing lighter values on the face. She used the eraser technique to bring face closer to us, projecting out of the picture plane and into our space. It's as though the animal moved so close that you could touch it.

The second piece she chose a coiled snake, again with shapes sharing edges with adjacent shapes. The student wanted to explore oil painting working on a 9x12 inch canvas board. The image is also similar to the first because though wild it appears more at rest than ready to strike. The student realized her interest in exotic natural forms was exploring our fear of nature.

Compared with previous experimentation with technique, this closeup of the giraffe is an identifiable style for the student. She has invented technique that communicates the boldness of these animals and their closeness to us as natural beings. Here the student begins working on larger format masonite board. The piece is 2x4 feet.

After oil painting, the student decided to try drawing materials and chose soft charcoal on 18x24 inch paper. She also began to crop references in order to fill the composition with her interest in shapes. She chose an elephant which is wild but also an animal in captivity in the zoo. The student was becoming aware that she was a naturalist interested in discovering our relationship with nature. The viewer is brought close to the large mammal again facing our inherent fear of natural forms.

The gorilla piece communicates the resignation of a wild animal in captivity. The animal is not threatened by us, nor agressive towards us. Yet herein lies the paradox... there is a wild part of our own human nature disguised by war and social injustice. We are not so different from these beautiful, wild creatures. The student is trying to understand the dichotomy between empathy and fear of our own natural instincts.

The student did several portraits of elephants working out her technique of filling the picture plane with shapes but also added value because the charcoal could blend easily with adjacent shapes.

A closeup of the gorilla brings us into piercing eyes questioning our intentions. The conflicting emotions of empathy and fear is evidence of an existential paradox. Human beings are both predator and prey. We are both wild and domesticated, free and captive. This piece is also a larger drawing on a 4x4 feet masonite board.

Then, the student kept the charcoal medium but looked for references of domesticated animals and our connection with them. This piece is a German shephard pet that engenders care and empathy from us. She is also refining her use of charcoal, creating more detailed areas of texture and value within the natural shapes. The composition moves off only three edges of the picture plane which brings more depth as a background plane.

Here, the student brings a national symbol of the eagle, also an endangered species. The viewer is face to face with an identity that represents unity in diversity. Ominous and direct, the national symbol evokes strength and courage. This piece is on 2x4 feet masonite board.

This closeup of a cat continues the question of why we love animals but fear those we cannot domesticate. It also is a return to the cheetah in the cat family. The composition is a detailed texture study adding line to shape and value.

The majestic image of the North American elk, in its natural habitat is oblivious to our presence. We are permitted to exist alongside the great creature, a symbol of the wild coexisting with humanity. No longer endangered, the elk is now protected from predatory hunting. This is the largest piece of the portfolio as a 4x6 feet drawing on masonite board.

In this drawing, we see a refinement of drawing skill where the elements of art are integrated. The soft charcoal with charcoal pencil produces a wolf that softens our fear of the animal. Closely linked to the dog, wolves engender empathy as endangered species. The student also discovered eraser pencils for pulling light lines out of dark areas to add textural detail.

This closeup depicts the skill of the student with the medium to create subtle value and texture. There is a harmony between the intent of the artist and her technique with the medium. She also brings the viewer close enough to feel the fur of the elk emphasizing a familial bond between us and our natural environment.