By Lizbeth Solorzano and Apsara Senaratne
The scratching of pencils upon paper are heard as drawing teacher Harvey Cusworth animatedly guides his students through a series of figure drawings. He has been teaching generations of Advanced Placement (AP) art students for 17 years, but he has never faltered in his enthusiasm for the subject.
“We get to investigate more serious concerns in visual art like more complex, deeper methods of personal expression. I teach my students a number of basic drawing skills that are required for observational drawing, as well how to design and compose studio artworks,” Cusworth said.
Students who take AP Drawing walk away from the course with a variety of new skills and a new understanding of the discipline, as well as a portfolio of around 15 pieces to present to CollegeBoard and art colleges in the future.
The course allows students to decide what they want to create and investigate, inspiring more self-motivation in their own process for expressive artwork. Cusworth teaches proportionality, light and shadow, value, and linear perspective in terms of portraiture, landscape, and other drawings; these techniques and types are practiced to perfect the approximately 10-20 art pieces that students would go on to present to prestigious colleges such as the Rhode Island School of Design or the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“If you want to go to an art school, universities want to see if students are serious and want to see what they’ve done. Students take art college classes first so that they can feel comfortable when creating later works,” Cusworth said.
In previous years, the AP Drawing rubric required 29 items from students including both process pieces (sketches and experimental works) and final products. Now, however, it only requires 15 pieces, including art processes. Though the requirements have been adjusted to be less demanding, the class can seem intimidating for some.
“At first I thought it was going to be hard, so I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. You need three hours of additional practice a day, and it you fall behind you might not catch up. But my teacher knows what he’s doing,” senior Tristan Suri said.
Art students cannot provide final products without experimenting with a variety of styles and techniques; Cusworth works with them to thoroughly sketch out compositions and apply fundamentals learned in the class to create more complete pieces. In AP Drawing, students learn both conventional and experimental techniques in contour and wash, light and shadow, observational drawing, collage, and even studio artwork with newsprint, and use a variety of mediums, including pencils, charcoal, paint, and markers.
Because students are in an AP art class, they tend to be more interested in the subject matter and art practice and thus have better attitudes and more motivation to learn.
“This class will definitely prepare me for future work in the art field because it’s this type of professional final artwork that will go into my portfolio, and the best part of this class is that we learn to create different types of drawings. They are more professional than anything I’ve ever done in the past,” Suri said.