San Francisco High School of the Arts
Visual Arts

Visual Arts

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

Visual Arts
Visual Arts

Visual Arts

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

Visual Arts
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The goal of the Visual Arts Program is to provide students with professional-level training. Our program is unique in that it focuses on 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.

Visit our full Visual Arts Gallery to view artwork of our students, teachers, and guest artists.

Fundamentals of Visual Arts

The fundamental courses for visual arts include chiaroscuro (grisaille), painting (oil painting/acrylic), and sketch (pen art/mixed media). Students also participate in plein air drawing for painting from life once a week.

Each semester, or as often as once a month, our Master Class series brings in different master artists who showcase and conduct demonstrations for our students.

Throughout the course of their studies, students are introduced to the works and techniques of Leondardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Sargent, Zorn, Sorolla, Rembrandt, Bouguereau, Richard Schmid, as well as living masters including Jeremy Lipking, Odd Nerdrum, Steven Assael and the current Atelier movements of works from the artists at institutions like Grand Central Atelier, Florence Academy of Art, and Art Renewal Center.

Students use a limited palette to later progress to a full palette in oil painting techniques including, but not limited to, Alla Prima (Wet on Wet), Open/Closed Grisaille, and Indirect Painting.

HSArts students choose from a variety of art electives, which include Chinese Painting, Handcraft, Calligraphy, Architecture, Animation, Clay, Costume Design, Graphic Design, Film-making, and Video Editing. Students spend the majority of their time, at least 60%, building a solid art foundation through our fundamental training coursework offerings.

Chiaroscuro

  • Single basic geometrical form (cube, cylinder, sphere, etc.) study in chiaroscuro, basic idea of composition, soft edge, hard edge
  • Basic observational skills (angle & ratio, shape recognition, value transition)

Painting

  • Color wheels
    • Understanding primary colors (red, yellow, blue)
    • Three secondary colors (colors created when primary colors are mixed: green, orange, purple)
    • Six tertiary colors (colors made from primary and secondary colors, such as blue-green or red-violet)
    • Hue Saturation Brightness (HSB)

Sketch

  • Composition training (shapes, value group, rhythm, balance, etc.)
  • One point perspective & two points perspective in environmental sketching
  • Inking
  • Line quality training
 

(Dylan Z., Grade 6)

(Francis K., Grade 6)


(Owen L., Grade 8)

 


(Pepper J., Grade 6)

Chiaroscuro

  • Multiple basic geometrical forms study in chiaroscuro 
  • Understand overlapping
  • Explore more complicated composition

Painting

  • Tint (add white)
  • Shade (add black)
  • Tone (add gray)
  • Warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows) 
  • Cool colors (blues, greens, purples)
  • Color schemes
  • Students receive practical training in real life color sketch

Sketch

  • Landscape sketching practice
  • Design elements (dots, lines, shape, form, font, etc.)
 


(Pepper J., Grade 6) 

 

(Owen L., Grade 8)

Chiaroscuro

  • Single/multiple still life study in chiaroscuro
  • Analysis of complicated forms into basic geometrical forms

Painting

  • Single/multiple still life study in grisaille and color
  • Focus on value and structure with oil paint media
  • Demonstrate understanding of color theory in current artwork

Sketch

  • Three rules of composition (focal point, structure, and balance)
  • Introduction to sketching human anatomy (basic simple form)
 
 

(William H., Grade 7)

 

(Owen L., Grade 7)

 

(Kit K., Grade 8)

 

 

(Francis K., Grade 6)

Drawing Foundations

  • The Bargue Plate master copies to reinforce basic observational skills 
  • Line and angle control
  • Shape recognition
  • Introduction of value transitions
  • Utilization of different pencil properties
  • Advancement into more complex shape recognitions
  • Further training on value, line, edge, and proportions control

Drawing

  • Intro to Graphite Masterstudies
  • Introduction to Drawing the still life from life utilizing graphite techniques
 

(Bargue Plate Copy, Essence D.)

 

(Bargue Plate Copy, Alisa R.)

(Bargue Plate Copy, Hudson C.)

(Bargue Plate Copy, Carmen C.)

Drawing

  • Intro to Charcoal Masterstudies
  • Plaster cast block-in (Tippy Casts)
  • Plaster cast drawing from life w/graphite or charcoal 
  • Advanced Bargue Copies

Painting

  • Introduction to Grisaille Oil Painting
  • Masterstudy of Old and Living Masters

Sketch

  • Pose with lesser reference build up
  • Addition of extreme perspective in figure drawing
  • Rhythm in human body structure
  • Understanding human anatomy
  • Understand head structure & head anatomy (bone & muscle)
 

(Charcoal, Matthew W.)

 

(Charcoal, Dylan S.)

 

(Oil Grisaille, Sean Y.)

Drawing

  • Charcoal drawing from life (Cast Sculptures, Still Lifes, Portraits, Figures)

Painting

  • Plein air painting
  • Full Palette Oil Painting Masterstudies 
  • Oil Painting from life

Sketch

  • Character design
  • Concept art 
  • Illustration
 

(Painting from Life, Hudson C.)

(Oil Masterstudy, Anika O.)

 

Original art creation

Students achieve greater creative freedom in utilizing all foundational techniques to create their portfolio, a solid body of work consisting of both drawing and painting.

(Xin L., Grade 11)

(Anika O., Grade 12)

(Xin L., Grade 12)

(Xin L., Grade 12)

Gallery of Featured Student Artwork

Visit our full Visual Arts Gallery for more artwork by our students, teachers, and featured guest artists.

Visual Arts Courses

  • 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.

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