99 Concentration Topics (AP Studio Art)

Selecting a concentration topic is of paramount importance when it comes to developing the AP Studio Art Portfolio–students must select something that offers enough engagement and interest to complete 12 works all based upon the same subjects. Here are 99 topics to get you started thinking creatively, and each of the 99 has been used to receive a passing score on the AP Exam.

For some students, deciding on a concentration can be the starting point of something spectacular–they find a topic that they are passionate about, they begin creating immediately, and they develop the concentration part of their portfolio almost effortlessly. For others, however, making a final decision brings their work to a screeching halt. They cannot find enough angles or approaches to the topic that interest them, they struggle to engage, and procrastination becomes worse than ever. For those students, this list can be used to start the preliminary process of creative thought, conceptual development, and brainstorming. A final topic doesn’t need to be a forced decision, but it never too early to begin the process of its development. This is a good place to get you started.


  1. Cliques and Social Groups
  2. Accidents or Chance Encounters
  3. People’s Interaction with Music
  4. A Family Through Any Number of Years
  5. Encountering a New Person, Place, or Experience
  6. The Clash of Two Enemies
  7. How We Avoid Encounters We Do Not Want
  8. How People Meet, Talk, and Act Online
  9. A Party (Kid’s Birthday, Retirement, Weekend House Party, etc.)
  10. When Disparate Cultures Come Into Contact
  11. Between Human and Animal

Technical Concerns

  1. Light and Shadow
  2. Reflections on a Variety of Surfaces
  3. Folds and Fabrics with Pattern
  4. Creating Depth through Use of Line
  5. Illustrating a Single Story Using a Specific Artistic Style
  6. Hands in Various Poses, Done with Various Media
  7. Landscapes (or other subjects) Painted in Varying Color Schemes
  8. Drawing with Nontraditional Materials/Drawing on Nontraditional Surfaces
  9. Positive and Negative Space
  10. Closeups that Show Texture
  11. Water and Refraction

Combinations and Juxtapositions

  1. Plants and Organic Material with Buildings
  2. Transportation Through Natural Areas
  3. Urban v. Rural Life
  4. Technology with Old/Antique/Vintage Items
  5. Size Distortions that Equalize or Enhance Everyday Objects
  6. Indigenous People in Modern Life
  7. Uniting Against and Enemy
  8. Twins and Their Lives
  9. Animals and the Food They Become
  10. Instruments and People Playing Them
  11. Disparate Objects Placed Together in Still Lifes

Society and Human Interaction

  1. Society’s Greatest Advances Come at What Cost?
  2. Costumes and Clothing from Different Parts of the World
  3. Settings and Costumes from Various Time Periods
  4. Consumers and Consuming
  5. Dichotomy Between Rich and Poor
  6. Bad Choices Teenagers Make
  7. Beauty in an Impoverished Environment
  8. Lifestyles of the Homeless
  9. Social Issues
  10. Work Based on Crime
  11. Document Your Community

Environment and Human Effects

  1. Using Nature as a Basis for Design
  2. Architecture and its Surrounding Environment
  3. Landscapes Over the Course of Multiple Years
  4. Fences and the Divisions they Create
  5. Site Specific Artworks
  6. Nature Taking Over a Decrepit City or Abandoned Buildings
  7. Impermanence/Ephemerality
  8. How Can a Solitary Figure Alter an Environment?
  9. The Destruction of Natural Disasters
  10. Flowers as a Representation of Human Emotion
  11. Development Encroaching on Habitats


  1. The Journey of an Animal (Salmon Swimming Upstream, Birds Flying South, etc.)
  2. The Slow Disintegration of an Object or Group of Objects
  3. From Young to Old
  4. Through the Seasons of the Year
  5. The Evolution of an Illness
  6. Metamorphosis
  7. Working Through Fears, Pain, or Illness
  8. Life Cycles
  9. Time Travel
  10. The Life of an Athlete, Musician on Tour, Circus Performer
  11. Documentation of a Road Trip

Feelings or Emotions

  1. Abandonment
  2. Vulnerability
  3. Anxiety
  4. Depression
  5. Phobias and Fears
  6. Obsession
  7. Humiliation
  8. Joy
  9. Repulsion
  10. Courage
  11. Empathy

People’s Unique Qualities

  1. What Will People Do to Be Different?
  2. What Lengths Will People Go To in Order to Be Extraordinary?
  3. Idiosyncrasies of Peers as Captured in Portraits
  4. Fashion Choices and Accessories
  5. Tattoos
  6. Portraits Focused on Hair
  7. Showing the Work that Goes Into Developing Talent
  8. Goals and Future Plans
  9. Habits
  10. Unusual Life Experiences
  11. Images of Beauty Throughout the World

Single Object or Single Events that Represent Something More

  1. Masks
  2. Shoes
  3. Childhood Toys
  4. Biographies Through Personal Effects
  5. Quinceanera
  6. Sporting Events
  7. Souvenirs from a Family Vacation
  8. The Best Meal You’ve Ever Eaten
  9. First Paycheck
  10. An Important Sporting Event
  11. A Move Across the Country

The Underwater Photos

Screenshot 2015-10-08 10.38.50

You may have seen the teasers for this, but about two weeks ago, we did an underwater photo shoot. I may be doing an article for The Art of Ed in the future detailing the entire process, so I will just do a quick overview here before showing all the glorious pictures.

My students, my student teacher, and I were all sitting around brainstorming one day about different things we could do for portraits and figure drawing. The idea of underwater photos came up, and we knew immediately we had to pursue the idea.

First, I had to convince my Activities Director that we needed to a) buy an underwater camera, and b) take over the pool for an afternoon. He’s told me a few times that he’s not an art guy, so I prefaced it with this statement: “I know you aren’t an art guy, so you won’t understand how great this idea is, but here’s what we need to do . . .” Luckily, he’s one of those great administrators that supports teachers and what they want to do, so we got the go-ahead. We had a little bit of leftover grant money in the art club budget, so I just had to find an inexpensive camera that would do the trick. I got the purchase order, hit up the camera store, and we were good to go.

It was an art club activity, so it was a small crew–about 15 kids there, 9 of which were brave enough to jump into the pool. Almost everyone did it fully clothed, and even better, some with costumes. We started with some jumps off the board, getting photos of people just as they entered the water and then as they swam toward the camera:

The better shots, though, came from our setup, planning, and props; Kids brought clothes they wanted to wear and objects to enhance the shots. We moved to the shallow end, and that’s where we got a lot of the best work. A tea party, some graffiti, a toaster, some blankets and stuffed animals, and a few other choice items as well.

One thing I really wanted to work was a cookies and milk shot. We painted the inside of a clear plastic cup with white acrylic to look like milk, and we spent a good part of the morning making cookies waterproof:

Screenshot 2015-10-08 10.36.19

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We tried to move quickly, but even cookies with 4 layers of gloss medium have a short shelf life once they’re submerged :) You can kind of see the cup and hints of a few cookies in Kelsey’s picture, but it really did not turn out how she wanted at all.


But Mary’s idea of brushing her hair underwater worked even better than expected:

Mary's Hair

Alex wanted to dress like Caesar and look as though he had been assassinated and was floating in the water. That turned out about as well as could be expected–he looks incredibly dead.

I told him that when he creates his drawing, he needs to call it “The Tides of March”. And if you don’t think that’s one of the best puns ever made, well . . . I’m just not sure we can be friends anymore.

Lastly, I thought some professional looking shots for me were in order:

Now, it’s just a matter of seeing what needs to be turned into some paintings and drawings and see what we can get from there. I’m excited about the possibilities and the challenges that come with drawing these figures, because it should be a great project.

I’ll leave you with a couple from my colleague Lindsey and I. Here’s a little Kung Fu and an (incredibly quickly Photoshopped) American Gothic parody. Thanks for checking things out!



Artwork of the Week, 9/28


Marissa Arvesen, Coil Pot

18″ Tall, Stoneware with Lowfire Glaze

Marissa took a not always exciting building method and did something really cool with it. There is a lot of movement and flow where you generally see static forms, and a great color scheme that really accentuates the movement. This is way more interesting than your basic coil pot.

Underwater Photo Shoot

We did an underwater photo shoot yesterday. We took 1,592 pictures (yes, you read that right), so my students and I are still deciding on the best shots. When it gets narrowed down, I’ll post them all here.

Until then, though, you just get this teaser . . .

Mary's Hair

Okay, I lied . . . you get a second teaser . . . but that’s all.


My Date with Sandy Skoglund

2015-09-17 18.55.29

As part of the Nebraska Art Teachers Association fall conference this year, I got the opportunity to be part of a workshop with Sandy Skoglund–absolutely one of my favorite contemporary artists (she also attended the University of Iowa like I did, so bonus points there). About 30 teachers were invited to work on an installation involving pink paint and thousands of sticky notes, and under Skoglund’s direction, we created the piece in about two hours.

We began with the wall, putting layer after layer after layer of sticky notes until we had about 10 feet of Pepto-Bismol pink going up the gallery wall.


University students had prepped the floor and furniture by painting those surfaces pink. The art teachers added yellow sticky notes to contrast the pink, covering the floor and the furniture. From there, we photographed the piece on its own, then with all of our art teachers that worked on the piece:

That photograph meant the end of Skoglund’s work, but we were allowed to jump into the piece ourselves. My friend Crystal and I decided to go all out and cover ourselves with sticky notes as well. You know, to really be a part of the piece :)

The best part of the workshop, though, was being able to talk to Skoglund in an intimate setting (a small gallery with an audience of 30). She talked a lot about her process, her works, and everything that goes into her photographs and installations. I was fascinated to hear about how some of her pieces take over a year, and others are done in literally one day. I also was able to have a one-on-one conversation with her for a while, and a long talk with her and my student teacher. That’s always a fun time when you get an opportunity to talk with one of your artist heroes.

Artwork of the Week, 9/21

2015-09-23 08.53.26

Alexius Streck, Whales and Flowers

10 x 13″, Mixed Media Painting

My student teacher, Linn Norton, came to me with a great idea for a mixed media painting lesson with drywall plaster, imprinted and raised textures, gloss, and layers of acrylic. They are all turning out incredibly well, but Alexius was finished first, so she gets the Artwork of the Week honor :) Look for a post in the next couple of weeks that documents our whole process with these paintings!

Artwork of the Week, 9/14


Taylor Billington, Brenna

8 x 20″, Ballpoint Pen on Paper

This was another one of our one-day projects, a profile portrait in pen, which may look familiar. Taylor put a lot more than just that one period into it, but her work at home really paid off. The depth of layering with pen is incredible, the details are great and the highlights and shadows she accomplished are really impressive. This is a good one.

Artwork of the Week, 9/7

Jake Table Print Final

Jake Gasparovich, The Bridge

16 x 20″, Monoprint

We do a really fun single day project involving monoprinting. Kids tape off a square directly on the table, spread ink all over that square, then draw their image into the ink using paintbrushes, pencils, palette knives, and whatever else seems like it might work. Tape is then pulled up to give a clean edge all the way around the image, and we print. Jake was able to accomplish a little more realistic look than we usually get, and he was surprised with how well it turned out.

Artwork of the Week, 8/31

2015-09-24 15.11.01

Celia Abolafia, Uncomfortable

18 x 18″, Oil Pastel

This piece came from our Drawing II class in our first project of the year. The theme was “Uncomfortable”, and though it started as a group project, Celia broke off on her own to create this one. We did a photo shoot with people stuffing Doritos in their mouth and chewing loudly (which makes an inordinate amount of people uncomfortable). After picking the best photo and cropping it to find the composition she wanted, she attacked the paper with oil pastel and finished this in just a couple of days. It will need to be cleaned up a little bit if it’s going to go to any art shows, but for now, it’s a great start to the year.

Artwork of the Week, 8/24

2015-09-24 15.10.19

Mary Johnson, Self-Portrait

24 x 36″, Acrylic

Mary started this work during summer school, worked on it all summer, and brought it in finished during the first week of school. It’s made up of thousands and thousands of stamps of the eraser on a #2 pencil. Mix acrylic, stamp, stamp, more stamps, repeat approximately 10,000 times. It is hanging in the main window as you come into the art room, so that face is the first thing my students see every single day :)