2D Sustained Investigation

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Sustained Investigation (November–April)

This section of the AP Drawing portfolio offers students the opportunity to make and present works of art based on an in-depth investigation of materials, processes, and ideas of their choosing done over time.

Sustained investigation is guided by QUESTIONS. It involves practice, experimentation, and revision using materials, processes, and ideas. This section is expected to demonstrate skillful synthesis of materials, processes, and ideas. Visual and written evidence of inquiry are required.

Visual Documentation of Skill Building

Quality documentation of finished work and the process of art making will support the final portfolios. Students will learn and demonstrate the ability to do each of the following before moving on to art making in class:

1.     Taking quality photos of finished work, works in progress, sketchbook pages, and the art-making process using cell phone cameras and smartphone digital editing software.

2.     Editing images for clarity and accuracy on cell phones.

3.     Selecting the highest quality images and deleting those that aren't needed.

4.     Creating a Google Drive folder for this class.

5.     Sharing folder with instructor.

6.     Uploading images to Google folder.

7.     Renaming images

8.     Sorting images into folders online.

9.     Creating an artist Instagram.

10.     Posting to and hashtagging/tagging within a post on Instagram.


Once students have completed the skill-building mini investigation projects, they are ready to investigate an idea of their choosing. Students will be guided through a brainstorm process to generate questions/ideas for an investigation that is compelling to the student. Brainstorm will include reviewing past work, reflecting on personal history, and considering materials, process, and ideas that are of interest.

Independent Work Time

Once an investigation is chosen, students will work independently, with the understanding that the investigation can shift and change as part of the process. Progress will be checked weekly and process and finished works will be graded according to the competencies based on the investigation process.


Finished Works Guidelines

You must have 15 finished pieces of work by the end of your sustained investigation. Each piece must demonstrate synthesis of materials, processes, and ideas and drawing skill. You will be required to turn in work at dates that will be given to you within the school calendar.

Written Commentary

This commentary will serve to document your investigation in writing and will serve as an artist statement for the public as it will accompany your display of work outside the classroom.

Typed 12pt Times New Roman,

Create a heading: row 1—centered first and last name; row 2: centered title of your series in italics Skip a line

Answer the following thoughtfully and accurately, using complete sentences in left- justified paragraphs:

1.     WHAT questions are guiding your sustained investigation?

2.     WHY are you interested in investigating this idea?

3.     WHAT materials, processes, and ideas have you explored in EACH piece? HOW is each piece different from the next?

4.     WHAT drawing skills are you exploring (e.g., mark-making, line, surface, space, light and shade, and/or composition)?

5.     HOW have you experimented with materials, processes, or ideas?

6.     HOW have you practiced with materials, processes, or ideas?

7.     WHAT revisions or changes have you made as you have been working?

8.     WHAT visual sources have you used in your work? If you've used the work of others, list their information here and describe how you have changed the image to show your individual vision.

9.     WHAT insights, discoveries, or inspiration have you gained as you have been working?

10.     WHAT materials, processes, or ideas will you explore next to further your sustained investigation?

11.     WHAT do you hope the viewer will come away with after viewing this work?

GETTING STARTED: Answer the questions below (#1 - 11)  These are the same questions you will be expected to answer when you are DONE with your sustained investigation.  By answering them (to the best of your ability) now, it will help you in planning your series of 15 pieces.

The following was the old way students would investigate for their "Concentration", now known as "Sustained Investigation".  There is a lot of overlap but these questions can also help you decide how you want to proceed.  Please read and use them as guidance for deciding upon your sustained investigation.

This is a list of ideas from AP (a few years ago).  This can serve as springboard for ideas on what you might want to pursue for your sustained investigation.

As you are thinking about what you want to work on, remember that it will be 15 pieces that are related.  So it should be something that is of great interest to you.

Scroll down to begin your sustained investigation.

Read each section.

Look at all the examples.

Answer the questions as indicated.

Ask yourself these questions (use another sheet to answer completely…or answer all in your sketchbook:

1. Is there an inventive and imaginative integration of the concentration topic in all the work?

2. Have you presented an original vision with evocative nuances that express your confident personal style?

3. Are all of the pieces technically excellent, exhibiting a confident application of the creative processes you have chosen?

4. If text is incorporated, are the font choices illustrative of the message and do they enhance readability?

5. If 2D design oriented, do your compositions demonstrate risk taking and confidence in the organization of information and the communication of ideas?

6. Is the content or purpose of your images clearly communicated?

7. Have you thoroughly investigated your concentration by effectively using a wide range of materials and techniques?

8. For each image, how have you explored and incorporated all of the elements of art: line, shape, space, form, value, texture, and color?

9. For each image, how have you applied the principles of design: rhythm & movement, balance, proportion, variety, emphasis/focal point and harmony/unity?

10. What is the weakest design/drawing in your concentration and how can you strengthen it?

Section II - Concentration (now known as "Sustained Investigation")

The student samples for Drawing: Concentration were submitted in June 2007.  The selections were made on the basis of the works alone: those choosing them had no idea who the students are or what schools they attended.  The Concentrations were selected as representative of a range of excellence for this portfolio.

All of the works included here received very high scores.  The students' written comentaries accompany the samples.


Fahrudin Omerovic

Dupont Manual Magnet High School, Louisville, KY

Score: 6

Student Commentary:

What is the central idea of your concentration?

My concentration is on mechanical objects. The subject matter in my pieces ranges from cars to hack-saws, to speakers. I chose this focus because I wanted to take a brake [sic] from the everyday portraits and do something I find interesting. The development of my pieces was a long process, because I first had to find my objects and then execute them in a very creative and distinguished manner. Most of the subject matter I chose is either my belongings or objects I have seen somewhere else.

How does the work in your concentration demonstrate the exploration of your idea? You may refer to specific slides as examples.

All of my concentrations are done in pencil or acrylic paint. From the beginning of my pieces, I used pencil because I was more drawing orientated [sic], then as I got more practice with paint; my pieces progressed into realistic vivid works. In the end I am proud of my pieces and happy with the way they turned out.

Rationale for Score:

In this portfolio, the student presents a thorough investigation of the structure of mechanical objects through selective drawing. This student’s informed understanding of contrast relationships is stylistically confident and consistent. Form is rendered by the student’s close attention to structure and detail and is presented in varying perspectives. Color is used for emphasis and facilitates visual movement. The student’s highly developed drawing skills are technically consistent throughout this body of work.

* Important Note:The numbers of the slides run from top left to bottom right.

1. 6” x 8” acrylic and pencil

2. 10½” x 8” pencil

3. 18” x 24” pencil and acrylic

4. 18” x 24” pencil and acrylic [detail of 3]

5. 18” x 24” acrylic paint

6. 16” x 20” acrylic paint

7. 18” x 24” acrylic paint

8. 12” x 9” acrylic paint

9. 18” x 24” acrylic paint

10. 12” x 9” acrylic paint

11. 12” x 9” acrylic paint

12. 18” x 24” acrylic paint

Alexandra Snowden

Clarence Central High School, Clarence, NY

Score: 6

Student Commentary:

What is the central idea of your concentration?

The central idea for my concentration was to create an abstraction of the human figure through movement, color, and different light values. With these strategies I was able to form abstract shapes which detached the figure from its traditional image.

How does the work in your concentration demonstrate the exploration of your idea? You may refer to specific slides as examples.

As my concentration progressed I found to gain the movement and abstraction I was searching for in the human figure I had to have a strong concrete light source. Images 1 through 3 best show the affects of a strong light source and how movement can be captured within the highlights, midtones, and shadows. Furthermore, with this light I was able to begin the beautiful abstract tone to pieces. I noticed as the light source became more intense I was losing the midtones. I admired the images without them, and I noticed the abstract shapes that were being formed. As my concentration progressed I had to search for ways to create shapes in order to abstract the human figure. I then began to direct the figure into a more contorted form (images 5 through 12). As can be noticed, muscles within the neck and upper body became more prominent and formed obscure shapes. This took it to a more abstract level, each of my pieces progressively looking less like the human figure. I also began to incorporate abstract colors, which helped the body morph into abstraction (images 5 through 7 and 11 through 12). With my concentration I want my viewers to discern the human figure as being beautiful through its progression to an abstract shape.

Rationale for Score:

An evocative theme, inspired by observation and photo references, is presented in these figure drawings. Additionally, a sense of real and uncluttered space is rendered through expressive mark-making, value and color contrast, and sophisticated lighting. This student uses chiaroscuro and tenebrism that go beyond mere special effects. Of further note is the student’s informed use of point of view in a variety of perspectives—birds-eye, eye level, and worms-eye—and use of the full pictorial space. The quality of craftsmanship is excellent.

* Important Note:The numbers of the slides run from top left to bottom right.

1. 8” x 11” graphite

2. 10” x 14” oil paint

3. 17” x 21” deductive charcoal

4. 9” x 11” graphite

5. 12” x 16” chalk pastel

6. 14” x 15½” chalk pastel

7. 8” x 10” colored pencil

8. 8” x 12” deductive charcoal

9. 7” x 11” deductive charcoal

10. 7” x 11” deductive charcoal [detail of 9]

11. 16” x 13” chalk pastel

12. 16” x 13” chalk pastel [detail of 11]

Sucha Chantaprasopsuk

Reavis High School, Burbank, IL

Score: 6

Student Commentary:

What is the central idea of your concentration?

The central idea for my concentration is to do intricate studies of fruits and vegetables.

How does the work in your concentration demonstrate the exploration of your idea? You may refer to specific images as examples.

My concentration was inspired by the many colors, shapes and unique textures I saw in the produce section of the grocery store. My goal was to create drawings that emphasized color and detailed texture in a photo realistic style. I purposely cropped the images so that the viewer felt as if they were viewing the detail of the produce through a magnifying glass. As my concentration progressed, I developed a heightened awareness of value and contrast. Beginning with image 5, I utilized deep shadows and extreme highlights to emphasize the form of the produce. I also became more and more detailed with the drawings, paying attention to fine line work such as in images 10 and 11. By the end of the concentration, I feel that my drawings had become confident, bold expressions of the fruits and vegetables that inspired me.

Rationale for Score:

          •An unmistakable, consistent and engaging theme is supported by informed decision making.

          •The work is technically excellent, as evidenced in the application of drawing concepts and techniques such as light, shade, composition and mark-making.

          •The detailed rendering of form provides an expression of nuanced subtlety through a sophisticated exploration of depth.

          •The work goes far beyond copied or standard images and creates a prominent student voice.

  1. 15 x 20 tempera

  2. 8 x 11 colored pencil

  3. 9 x 10 colored pencil

  4. 6 x 8 colored pencil

  5. 9 x 11 colored pencil

  6. 11 x 14 colored pencil

  7. 11 x 8 colored pencil

  8. 11 x 9 colored pencil

  9. 9 x 11 colored pencil

10. 8 x 11 colored pencil

11. 11 x 9 colored pencil

12. 7 x 5 colored pencil

The following are not AP "sustained investigations" but they are great examples of professional artists who are focusing their images around a theme.  Each artist's website is listed after their work.

Wylie Beckert's ongoing series of illustrated playing cards, Wicked Kingdom.  

Visit www.wickedkingdomdeck.com for more information.

Annie Stegg Gerard collection of paintings which illustrate the narrative surrounding women in different classical mythologies.


Justin Gerard's series of selected scenes and characters inspired by JRR Tolkien's wonderful story.


Therese Larsson's concepts for a project that never made it.  All work is copyrighted.  Click here to see her amazing work: http://www.sillybeastillustration.com/portfolio/item/bear-concepts/

These are also Thereses' work but not what would be included in the FINAL concentration...these are the concept pieces that she developed to reach the final art work and it's tremendously helpful to see where she began and where she took it!