In writing this piece, I was able to reflect on my high school years and to consider my thoughts on art. It was interesting because as I wrote about my experience, I found my views shifting and it was as if everything became clear to me. That being said, I am definitely my own biggest critic, but I think I care about the opinions of viewers more than I allow myself to believe. Hopefully there is not a dichotomy in this inquiry, seeing as my epiphany occurred when I was writing.
I think I can say that the audience for this inquiry is primarily myself, along with those taking AP Art classes. I benefit from this piece because it is a run-through of my art career. Others can hopefully benefit from my inquiry because it forces them to consider their motives for creating art. I hope this will challenge artists to evaluate their experience and ask themselves “Am I happy because I created meaningful pieces or because I received a certain score on my works? Or am I happy because of a combination of both?”
My main challenge with this piece was finding a balance between my desire for formalness and the inquiry’s need for first person. As I started writing, it became easier for me to use “I.” I feel that overall, I am happy with my final product.
Art is a strange endeavor. While it is a creative outlet for individuals of all ages and skill levels, there will always be another – perhaps unsolicited – party involved in the creation process. Regardless of whether or not your pieces will be displayed in a fancy museum, you can expect to hear the opinions of others on your works. This is why one of the most difficult aspects of being an artist is finding a harmonious balance between pleasing yourself and pleasing your audience.
To me, the concept of AP classes for art is just as puzzling. Even though you may be a beautiful graphic designer or photographer, your pieces are still being critiqued and scored. So in addition to the inherent pressure to be inspired by your chosen theme, the final result must also influence the judges. There is this ever-present motivation to score well on the final exams because your scores can possibly earn you higher marks in high school and give you college credits.
During my final year of high school, I took AP Studio Art, a class reserved only for seniors who had completed Art I, II, and III. After three years of sketching, painting, and designing, my artistic abilities were going to be put to the test. Over the course of the next year, I would need to create twelve pieces related to my chosen concentration. I had to also select, and possibly create, another twelve pieces to put into my portfolio. While these would certainly be difficult tasks, the remaining two requirements for the course were the most nerve-wracking. At the end of the school year, the AP Studio Art students would display pieces in the school gallery. And as if this prospect were not intimidating enough, we would also send our pieces to be viewed and scored by AP judges. I can work on a painting for months, and still not feel as though it is finished or worthy of being seen by others. The idea of showing my pieces to family members is already an alarming thought, so to even consider displaying my art in a gallery and then eventually sending it to be scored by AP judges? Yikes. The purpose of art is to capture the things that cannot be expressed through words, to convey a message through shapes, textures, hues, and tones. To me, art is relatively subjective and should primarily resonate with the artist. The idea of creating pieces that will speak to both me and to an audience seemed difficult. Did I really want my four years of hard work to come down to a score given by a stranger?
Over the next few months, I was able to put aside my thoughts of the gallery show and of the AP scores and create pieces for my concentration. I would spend every morning, free period, and available afternoon in the art studio, working on pieces that made me proud. As weeks and months went by, the day of the art show opening came and went. It turned out I was not intimidated by the idea of having my peers, family members, and friends view my work; I was simply scared of showing my pieces to random people who did not know me. When showing my art to family and friends, I am able to articulate my vision face-to-face and provide anecdotes and brief explanations for the choices I made. When submitting an AP portfolio, descriptions are limited to a certain number of characters, making it nearly impossible to elaborate. While my peers are also liable to judge my art, the potential scrutiny does not seem offensive because it is verbal and is being said directly to my face. With AP Studio Art, faceless judges would look at the result of over four years of my hard work and give me a score, which would later be posted online. Essentially, one simple number had the potential to determine or question the validity of my artwork.
As the portfolio submission deadline approached, I realized it was more important to please myself than to try to accommodate the tastes of people I did not know. I create art because the process of having my ideas and emotions mix together to create a cohesive piece is one of the most satisfying feelings. While it is interesting to gain different opinions on my creations, I should not invest too much energy into satisfying spectators. With that being said, I did end up receiving good scores on my pieces, making me question whether or not my reflections on the class are biased. I wonder how I would feel if the judges had not reacted positively to my works. I was ultimately able to find a happy medium between completing the class’s requirements and producing meaningful works of art.