Laurel School believes the fine arts enrich daily life at many levels. The arts are basic to a well-rounded education. Through varied experiences, visual, aural and tactile senses are developed and the student learns to communicate through non-linguistic expression. Creative ideas are transformed into various art forms through the development of specific skills. Viewed as a link to the past, the arts help students look at civilization, culture and experience as contributing to the making of modern society. Performance, creativity, analysis, research and criticism are all vital components of the fine arts program.
Students choose to take visual arts classes for a variety of reasons including the desire to attend an art school, to pursue a career in a STEAM-related field such as engineering or architecture or because they find that the visual arts provide a satisfying balance to their academic course load. Critical thinking, observational awareness and the act of creating are key to student development and carry over into all areas of study.
2D and 3D Art classes are offered each semester and have a four-semester rotation. The emphasis of each class varies between fall and spring semesters and from one year to the next. Thus, it is possible for a student to take four semesters of these courses and work with differing mediums and emphasis each semester. Semester-long classes serve as the foundation for more advanced classes such as Portfolio Prep, Advanced Photography and AP 2D Design. Students who are committed to their work in the visual arts often create portfolios to submit with their college applications. They have opportunities to show their work in the gallery spaces on Laurel’s main Upper School hallway and in exhibitions such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, Laurel’s annual Beam show for Juniors and Seniors, and other local, regional and national venues. Interested advanced photo students may apply for a Katie Mills grant. Each year one student is awarded funding to advance her study of photography and to exhibit her work at Laurel.
2D Art Courses
Laurel’s 2D Art offerings include studio art, digital art and photography courses. Students in studio art have the opportunity to experience a variety of two-dimensional media in courses that are developed to advance artistic skills and to increase visual awareness. Instructed in the elements of successful design, students are given classroom assignments that encourage individual direction and creative expression. Incorporated into the fabric of each course is an emphasis on drawing, both observational and experimental. Line, value, form, color, shape, positive/negative space and balance are explored as elements of composition. Studio art materials and techniques vary and may include charcoal, conté crayon, pencil, pastel, gouache, acrylic painting, printmaking, mixed media and collage. Photography courses use some of these same techniques, but a photo student’s tools are a conventional (film) and/or a digital camera. Many art classes, in particular Art on the Computer, make use of digital tools and media. Through classroom discussions and presentations, students acquire an awareness of both current and historic artistic trends as well as increase their critical thinking skills and their observational acuity. Students may be expected to work outside of class to develop ideas through research or sketching.
2D Art: Mixed Media and Observational/Experimental Drawing (first semester, .5 credit)
In this course, students investigate the elements and principles of design by using mixed media and collage to create new imagery. Often students create unique compositions by combining and altering images from books and magazines and adding their own hand. Students also have the opportunity to explore a variety of drawing techniques and to use new materials that allow them to more skillfully complete their assignments. They learn to create and value a well-crafted image. Class discussion and group observation is crucial throughout the creative process, and students learn to develop a personal style and direction.
2D Art: Introduction to Prints & Multiples Observational: Experimental Drawing (second semester, .5 credit)
The art of printmaking encompasses several different techniques that allow for the creation of multiple images. In this course, students gain an understanding of printmaking through an overview of its history and the explanation of its various forms. The class focuses on offering students techniques and instruction to translate and transform individual drawings into multiples or small editions. Students draw using various techniques and with a number of different materials in order to develop ideas for imagery. Elements of composition, observation of value and attention to craftsmanship are fundamentals that are addressed throughout this course.
This course is designed for students who have a serious interest and background in 2D or 3D media, including photo and digital art, and who wish to either develop a portfolio for college or art school admission or who plan to take AP 2D Design in their Senior year. Portfolio Prep meets in a serious and inspiring studio environment, where group discussions and observations are prevalent. Students create works specific to their chosen medium and think carefully about how their pieces might communicate when grouped together in a portfolio. This class may be taken multiple times in order for students to have time to explore various interests within the structure of the class. Students, including those who have taken visual art electives, should discuss their intention to register for Portfolio Prep with a member of the art department who is familiar with their work prior to submitting their course registration form.
Prerequisite: recommendation of the department
AP 2D Design (students select the 2D Design emphasis or Photography emphasis)
AP 2D Design demands self-motivation and a commitment to the pursuit of personal artistic expression. This course presumes that students have a solid background in composition, which incorporates understanding and application of line, color, value, texture, pattern, shape, light, form and volume, and positive/negative space. The development of ideas from concept through process to aesthetic resolution is pursued at the level of a first year college course. This Advanced Placement curriculum requires a volume of work that demands students spend some of their free periods in the studio. By the end of the course, students have produced work that fits two criteria: an in-depth artistic concentration and the demonstration of expertise with a breadth of media. After they have amassed this body of work, students are expected to submit a portfolio to the College Board for evaluation. Students who wish to prepare an AP 2D Design portfolio with an emphasis in photography will work in a somewhat different way but with the same end result.
Prerequisite: Advanced Photography for the Photography emphasis; recommendation of the department
Art & Design on the Computer (second semester, .5 credit)
Students in this class will use computers as a creative tool, working with professional software on iMacs. Students learn how to use the Adobe Creative Suite (which includes PhotoShop, InDesign and Illustrator) to complete a number of creative and practical assignments designed both for personal benefit and for use in the school community. Students work with hardware including flatbed scanners, negative/slide scanners, printers and digital cameras. Along with photographic manipulation and compositing techniques, students learn basic layout and design skills and concepts which, among other things, enable them to become involved in student publications such as Laurel Leaves, Gallimaufry and The Voice if they so desire. Along with the Adobe software, students are given the opportunity to work with 3D software to design and produce objects using one of school’s 3D CUBE printers.
Beginning Photography (full year)
In this course students are introduced to both traditional and digital black and white photographic processes and techniques. Each student needs access to a working 35mm single lens reflex camera: a number are available from the school for loan. While the school supplies most of the materials for the class, students do have to purchase some materials, a cost that usually runs around $35.00 for the year. Students learn to process film, to print black and white photographs and to present their work in a finished manner. They also learn basic digital imaging techniques, working with PhotoShop and Lightroom. Through discussion, critique, slide presentations, viewing original works and reading assignments, students are exposed to the medium of photography as an art form and are encouraged to express themselves and their ideas through this medium. Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.
Advanced Photography (full year)
Advanced Photography is open to any student who has successfully completed Laurel’s Beginning Photography class. This class builds upon the work done in that course and goes on to explore advanced techniques. Students will work in both black and white and in color. Students with work with alternative cameras, lighting techniques, bookmaking and a variety of alternative techniques and materials. All students, whether they choose to work with traditional cameras and film or with digital cameras, gain facility with the digital imaging software programs Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Lightroom and have opportunities to exhibit their work in the Annual Beam Art Exhibition and in other venues outside of school. As is the case with Beginning Photography, students need access to either a traditional film SLR camera or a digital SLR camera; the school has some for loan.
Prerequisite: Beginning Photography and recommendation of the department
3D Art Courses
Students investigate a variety of approaches to create both functional and nonfunctional sculptural objects, including installation art and other experimental concepts. They learn and practice technical skills while exploring the limits of their media and are encouraged to keep a sketchbook to work through their ideas. Students are urged to take artistic risks and are assessed on the design, craftsmanship and concept of their work. They are exposed to the works and thoughts of artists, both contemporary and historic, through videos, books and web links both in class and through Haiku. Classroom discussions ask girls to consider how memory, history or personal environment affect the work an artist produces. They collaborate further during critiques of projects, as they discuss their own work and that of their classmates with an eye towards constructive criticism and insight.
3D Art: The Clay Surface (first semester, .5 credit)
Working both on the potter’s wheel and with hand-building, students focus on creating pieces with both visual and tactile surface decoration, using both underglazes and glazes to enhance the surfaces of their work. Students look at and sketch textures and patterns found on historical and contemporary ceramics to develop a working repertoire of techniques and watch videos about throwing technique and about artists whose work focuses on surface treatment. Using hand-building techniques, they create tiles and vessels, learning to revise and rebuild as necessary. They gain focus and learn about the physics of centrifugal force as they center and throw on the wheel. In critiques, students discuss both failures and successes with working in clay. Students are assessed on design, craftsmanship and continued progress at the wheel.
3D Art: Exploration of Form (second semester, .5 credit)
Students explore sculpture with traditional materials such as paper, wire, plaster, cardboard, wood and clay. Their experience of a variety of media allows them to discover how materials affect the thought process, design, engineering and conceptualization of a piece. The work of contemporary sculptors and architects informs class discussion as students grapple with scale, balance, symmetry, asymmetry, and positive and negative space. Sketchbooks provide the opportunity to record ideas as well as serving as a natural tool to work out design and composition in sketches of potential pieces. Students learn to constantly rotate their pieces as they work to gain an understanding that sculpture needs to be compelling from every viewpoint; taking risks and revising are also constant practices. Critiques assess the successful aspects of the pieces including overall composition, concept, craftsmanship and intent.
Fabrics and Fibers (offered each semester, .5 credit)
Students in this class have the opportunity to create art by investigating a variety of textile art techniques. Among the creative methods they may employ are embroidery; quilting; fiber sculpture and installation; knitting and crocheting and clothing reconstruction and reuse. Students learn the basics of hand sewing, as well as the rudimentary use of the sewing machine as a tool in the creative process. Both traditional and contemporary applications are discussed, and historical art references are often used as visual influences in assignments.
Metals (offered each semester, .5 credit)
Working with copper, brass and nickel silver, students learn basic cold-working metals techniques including, wire-working, cold-forging, surface embellishment, stamping, sawing, filing, drilling, riveting and hammering. They put those skills to work as they use a variety of hand tools and explore the components of good craftsmanship. They also learn about the basic physical properties of non-ferrous metals. Students start by investigating and sketching images of historical and contemporary art jewelry and viewing and discussing videos about contemporary metalsmiths. Projects are technique-based, culminating in a final piece that asks each student to choose a technique(s) to create an object or series of objects. Critiques allow students the opportunity for self-assessment and practice in giving constructive feedback to peers on the design, concept, craftsmanship and intent.