Visual Arts Courses

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts program at Portsmouth Abbey School is a motivating and competitive program that fosters creative ideas, allows students to communicate visually, and develop an appreciation for all forms of art.

Under the guidance of resident artist teachers, Portsmouth Abbey encourages students while building confidence and visual literacy through their own artwork.The oversized windows of our McGuire Fine Arts Center provide an abundance of natural light to our spacious open studios for painting, drawing and ceramics, while inspiring our students with panoramic views of our coastal campus. With additional studios for darkroom photography and digital media, our visual arts program serves as a catalyst for students to take risks, make connections with other academic courses and to cultivate new interests.  Our state-of-the-art digital lab, with 12 iMac computers equipped with Adobe Creative Suite, offers students the opportunity to hone graphics and digital photography skills and to become proficient at portfolio presentation.  Throughout the visual art curriculum, we ask students to think about how they are communicating their ideas, open pathways for cross-disciplinary collaborations and aesthetically analyze the works of their peers and other artists. Our curriculum can be tailored to a specific interest, from Fundamentals of Art to AP Art History. At Portsmouth Abbey, the visual arts program bridges the connections between our rigorous academic curriculum and personal expression.

Fundamentals of Art

The Fundamentals of Art course is a spark for students to visually appreciate the creative environment at Portsmouth Abbey School. This year long course is an introduction to the essential foundation skills for all art media. Students will have the opportunity to experience a variety of different visual arts media as they learn to think aesthetically, observe critically, and develop creative problem solving skills. This course will emphasize perspective, composition, and color theory through the exploration of different artists and art movements in history. At the end of the year, each student will have experienced each visual art discipline we have to offer, while obtaining a collection of work to build their confidence and enroll in other art courses.

2-D Art

Students will be exposed to the ideas of making non-representational and representational works of art that stimulate their ideas and visual expression. With a basis of skills and understandings from the Fundamentals of Art course, students in this year-long course will solve advanced artistic problems while working in more challenging two-dimensional media. Using a variety of materials such as graphite, charcoal, Photoshop, acrylic paint and watercolor, students will have the opportunity to explore in-depth creative subjects in still life compositions, graphic design, architectural renderings and printmaking. To conclude the year in 2-D Art, each student works on a six-week independent project that speaks to his or her own artistic voice and challenges them to begin thinking conceptually. This final project is the start of building an art portfolio to represent his or her artistic skills for further discovery in Advanced Art.


Have you ever ‘thrown’ a pot or ‘pulled’ a handle? Students who have completed the Fundamentals of Art prerequisite course may explore all of this and more in our year-long ceramics course. The techniques of hand-built and wheel-thrown functional forms and non-utilitarian sculptural forms will be taught along with glaze application, kiln firing procedures, and clay conservation and reconstitution. Upon completion, students will have a knowledge base of the ceramic processes and a collection of work for developing a ceramic portfolio.


If you have ever wondered about the magic of darkroom photography, this year long course will help you discover the creative science of black and white film and digital color photography with Adobe Photoshop. This course combines aesthetic appreciation with technical expertise to guide the student in producing a portfolio of fine quality prints. During the first half of the year, students will learn to develop both black and white film and produce prints in our spacious, well-equipped darkroom. In the last half of the year, we will concentrate on digital photography with Photoshop editing. Each student must have completed a full year of Fundamentals of Art in order to enroll in this course, as well as provide their own 35mm SLR film and digital cameras. At the completion of the year, each student will have a portfolio of prints to be used as a supplement in their college application or the beginning of an advanced art portfolio.

Advanced Art

Students who have completed at least two years or the equivalent of two art courses in the art curriculum have the ability to enroll in Advanced Art. Each student enrolled in this course will have the opportunity to choose a studio space in the lofted area of the art building. Experiencing what it means to be a true artist in a studio, each student will be working on a series of works that will be used to develop a final high school art portfolio. This portfolio can be used as a supplement for college applications or as their final portfolio to apply for Art College. Throughout this course, students will be able to choose from a variety of media including drawing, painting, ceramics, digital design, architecture, fashion design and photography, to name a few. The advanced art course is designed to challenge students to develop a cohesive body of work with regular feedback and critique. Some students may also choose to work towards AP studio art credits with the development of an AP Art Portfolio. With a variety of chances to exhibit work and explore local museums, this course will help develop an appreciation for art and a personal voice through several creative processes.

AP Art History

From the immense pyramids to the mundane soup can, the entire course of human history can be traced through the study of art. In the Art History AP class students travel through time with art as their compass. As the students understand the context surrounding a work of art, they are asked to form an opinion on its value both aesthetically and historically.  We also tackle the larger issues still controversial in the art world: should the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece? Should Van Meegeren have been punished or praised for his forgeries? Is a Jeff Koons artwork really worth millions of dollars? After taking the Art History AP course students will see that art isn't just confined to museums and textbooks, but it rather surrounds us in our everyday lives.