San Francisco High School of the Arts

Visual Arts

"Their arts classes are extraordinary and the academic program is strong as well." -- Annie H., Parent of 7th Grader


The goal of the Visual Arts Program is to provide students with professional-level training. Our program is unique in that it inculcates in students the skills essential for professional accomplishment in any visual arts-related field, including digital composition, concept art, film-making, product design, and architecture. Every HSArts graduate wishing to pursue a career in art has been accepted by one or more top-ranking fine-arts universities.

Visual Arts Curriculum

  • Drawing
  • Color Theory
  • Sketching

Students will learn fundamental concepts of drawing, including line, value, light, proportion, and composition. They will create multiple works using graphite pencils, charcoal, and pen and ink, while developing the ability to express their observations accurately in their work.

Students will study the characteristics and compositional effects of color in fine arts, as well as the principles and techniques of mixing color. They will develop a mature understanding of color theory and traditional aesthetics as well as the professional skills to apply these concepts to their work.

A fundamental of visual arts and a required component of professional curricula, sketching involves executing a simplistic freehand drawing in a short amount of time in order to capture the general likeness of still life or moving objects.

  • Ceramic Art
  • Chinese Painting
  • Painting

A visual art form of utmost significance to understanding the material culture of both ancient civilizations and the societies of today, the art of ceramics is closely tied to drawing, sculpting, and design in its history and practical nature. Learning to work with ceramic materials broadens students’ scope of artistic skill and expression.

The signature genre of traditional China, Chinese painting is one of the oldest traditions among the world’s visual art disciplines. Aided by knowledge of East Asian aesthetics and expressive styles, students will undergo practicum in the gong-bi (precise brushstroke painting) style of Chinese art.

Students will create works using watercolor, oil, and acrylic paint, applying prior knowledge of color, perspective, and composition.

  • Graphic Design
  • Media Arts

A practicum in Adobe suite software in which students create digital images and master image processing techniques essential to the design and media industries.

A practicum in video production/editing, animation, videography, and screenwriting.

  • Studio Craft
  • Stage Design

The practice of creating decorative devices via a plethora of raw materials and semi-manufactured products. Students apply concepts of color and form, their manual skills, and their creativity to construct self-designed projects.

Students will learn to design stage sets with consideration to performance context, purpose, and stage type. They will design props, scenery, and lighting; produce scaled drawings/models; and construct these pieces for annual showcases.

  • AP Art History
  • AP Art and Design

Grades Offered: 10, 11, 12

The AP Art History course welcomes students into the global art world as active participants, engaging with its forms and content as they research, discuss, read, and write about art, artists, art making, and responses to and interpretations of art. The study of art history invites students to discover the diversity in and connections among forms of artistic expression throughout history and from around the globe. 

Grades Offered: 10, 11, 12

The AP Art and Design program consists of three different courses and AP Portfolio Exams—AP 2-D Art and Design, AP 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing—corresponding to college and university foundations courses. Students may choose to submit any or all of the AP Portfolio Exams. Students create a portfolio of work to demonstrate inquiry through art and design and development of materials, processes, and ideas over the course of a year. Portfolios include works of art and design, process documentation, and written information about the work presented.


Ready to join our community?