Here is an unhappy thought: “Monet wouldn’t have done well in A.P. studio art. I’m sure of that.” The reason, continued Lauren Sleat, who teaches the course at Westminster Schools in Atlanta, is that there isn’t much breadth to his work. That is, he did the same thing again and again.
But he would have done well in terms of concentration, what the College Board describes as “the thoughtful investigation of a specific visual idea … through a number of conceptually related works.” Concentration and breadth are two of three categories in which students’ art portfolios are scored. One might expect Monet to score high in the third, quality, but the fact is, it took years for his work to be widely appreciated.
Now, Picasso is different. “Picasso would have scored very high,” Ms. Sleat said, because he could do traditional figurative work, modernist still life and abstract art in a variety of media — the whole package. Or, in College Board speak, Picasso would have earned a 5 on his portfolio.
David Dickinson, an art teacher at Deerfield Academy, a preparatory school in Massachusetts, recommends that his students send their portfolios with their college applications even when not majoring in art. “A portfolio is a hook — it grabs their attention — in the same way that lacrosse is a hook at many colleges, or crew is a hook with the Ivies,” he said. “Seeing a portfolio thrills them.”