Concentration/ Sustained Investigation Portfolio

Page Bullock. 2016-17.Mixed Media on Wallpaper.


Ms. Maddy

Sprague High School

Spend a good amount of time developing your Concentration theme. You will be working on it for most of second semester.  The sooner you start thinking about it the better!



1.      It is not enough to focus on a subject (trees) or a medium (charcoal). If trees, why trees? Is it about growth?  Negative space in nature?  Protective canopies? Strength and endurance? Branch and leaf structures? The “design” of a forest in compositional relationships?  Look at Mondrian, Van Ruisdael, Courbet, Van Gogh and Fairfield Porter.

2.      Your exploration should go deeper than merely taking a subject and executing it in a variety of media or styles. Example: Apples rendered in watercolor, stipple, crosshatch, cubism, fauvism and surrealism.

3.      Ideally you should develop a visual language that fits your idea, a style and medium and format appropriate to the theme you are investigating.

4.      A concentration can be a series of works that are very consistent in theme and approach OR it may evolve and develop as the visual idea is explored, ending in a different place than where it began.  In either case it is best to start out with a clear plan of attack; if the idea changes, the change will usually be the natural result of discoveries made in the process of exploration.

5.      Do not choose to work in a medium in which you have absolutely no experience. This is not the time to try something completely new. The point of the concentration is to work in depth. This can usually be best achieved in a medium in which you are already familiar.  You are developing concept, not technique.

6.      Research artists who have worked in styles similar to your own direction or with similar subject matter. Do not rely totally on yourself for inspiration. Look at historical masters, contemporary artists, the world around you and your peers to cross-pollinate your own ideas.

7.      If you choose to work in an area rich in cliché or teenage stereotypes your work must be very original. It is strongly recommended that you avoid topics such as blood dripping, skulls, large eyes, hearts, fairies, vampires, emotion through eyes, your girlfriend/boyfriend, sunsets, rainbows & clouds, or sad clowns.

8.      ALL images must adhere to copyright laws. By using original imagery or drawing from life you will avoid any issues.

9.      Themes such as “my feelings and emotions”, “nature” or “flowers” are much too broad for a concentration. Even the more common concentration themes such as portraits or still life need a specific focus. Still-life images that tell a story or emphasize a certain interest in composition or design will be more successful. If the concentration is “portraits”, you should consider things like format, intent, point of view, lighting, style and expressiveness.

10.  Visit the College Board Website. READ the Concentration Statements and then look at the artwork. Really LOOK at how the artwork is connected and the artist developed the idea.

Portfolio Killers: topics and imagery to avoid

Teenage stereotypes and Cliches-

  1. Eyes, eyes crying, one large eye in the center of the paper... I cannot stress this enough
  2. Anime/ cartoon style drawing 
  3. Skulls
  4. Dripping blood
  5. Corner suns/ bubble clouds/ typical landscapes (palm trees, sunsets, mountains...)
  6.  Hearts, broken hearts, hearts with flames and barbed wire


Once you have chosen your Concentration topic, it is time to start planning and working. THINGS TO CONSIDER:

1.      You will need to create 12 cohesive pieces.

2.      A theme does not mean that they all look the same.

3.      Show a full range of contrast.

4.      Point of View – An interesting point of view can have a powerful impact

5.      Have unique compositions:

a.       Asymmetry is better than Symmetry

b.      Create movement that leads to your area of emphasis/interest

c.       The eye likes thirds

d.      Diagonals are more exciting than horizontal or vertical lines

e.       Avoid a central composition – A bull’s eye does not move the viewer’s eye

f.       Consider both positive and negative space as well as background

6.      Work with references:

a.      Best – Observation from life

b.      2nd Best – Combine 3 photographs to create a unique composition OR use an image from a shot that you set up.

c.       3rd Best – Enlarge a small section from a photograph

d.      NEVER – Copy an existing photograph that you did not take.

7.      The work should be no larger than 18”x 24”. If it is larger than those dimensions, it may not be sent in as a Quality work.



a.       10 activities that interest you

b.      10 objects that interest you

c.       5 artists that you like – what do you like about their work that you would like to bring to your own work

d.      Your favorite 5 artworks (identify with artist)

e.       Elements of Art that interest you

f.       10 images that interest you – there doesn’t need to be a reason they interest you

Subpages (1): Concentration Ideas