AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Janet Lee

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features an illustration made by Janet Lee from William P. Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas.

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. Each week we highlight a work or series created in one of the AP Arts concentrationsAP 2-D Art and Design, 3-D Art and Design, and AP Drawing (the AP Program also offers Art History and Music Theory)—as well as a statement from the artist (and, occasionally, their teacher).

From the first cave paintings to contemporary breakthroughs in virtually reality, art, in all its forms, has been a crucial way for people to process, make sense of, comment on, and grapple with the world around them. After more than a year of life in a pandemic, AP Art students have risen to the challenge of processing and making sense of the challenges—and opportunities—that have come from this perilous time. The work they submitted in their final portfolios is explicitly of the moment. It’s often challenging and provocative, but always insightful, inspiring, and expansive.

This week we feature an illustration made by Janet Lee from William P. Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas.

Illustration of a grotesque house with a human form emerging into a grotesque and abstract scene

Here’s Janet’s statement on the work:

“This piece is titled ‘American Dream,’ which obviously refers to the quaint suburban house with its white picket fence and greener than grass lawn.

“In relation to my sustained investigation, this one sits somewhere in the middle—I’m transitioning from the indoors to outside of the house. To me, the house is a particularly distasteful thought pattern. It’s cancerous and endless and makes everything look annoyingly ugly. I think it’s important for the contorted baby (me) to step out of that and see things with clearer eyes.”

Here’s Janet’s teacher Kelly Chen on Janet’s work:

“At the beginning of the school year, I have students start with a pre-planning process by researching different artists, creating a mindmap, experimenting with materials, and gathering source images for their portfolios. I encourage students to choose a concept related to their personal background, life experience, or something they are truly passionate about in order to help them stay motivated. It is a journey of self-discovery as well as creating artworks that are personal and meaningful to them. While the students are taking ownership of their own learnings, we as teachers should be facilitators to guide them throughout the whole journey.

“In Janet’s portfolio, her inquiry was about investigating the relationship between her surroundings and mental health. She wanted to capture the internal psychological struggles and fears by incorporating surrealistic compositions in illustrated style.

“Each of her artwork shows a narrative story of self-image in various creatures situated in different settings and environments. Some images suggest a lack of security while some suggest the feeling of lost self-control; the series of artworks represent how she was trapped inside her mind but eventually broke the pattern of the negative thoughts and found peace with herself.

“I encourage my students to take risks, stay out of their comfort zones, embrace changes and experiment with different processes and materials. Janet was able to find her ideal medium by experimenting with colored pencils on top of gouache paints. The materials were used effectively and purposefully selected in order to create the illustrated style she wanted for her sustained investigation. Janet’s enthusiasm for art, remarkable skill levels, being a creative thinker, risk-taker, and problem solver can be seen evidently from the works she created in her portfolio.”

And here are a few other works from Janet’s portfolio:

Illustrated of an old bearded man in overalls

Capturing the theme of everyday life in the south through a man in an interior setting. Used soft shading in the background to emphasize the vivid details in the foreground.

Illustration of a table covered in dishes of food

Food is a universal language that can bring generations of family together. Enhanced colors and layered dots to create values, forms, and contrast in an impressionist manner.

Abstract black and white illustration of a turtle

Beauty in nature is apparent even when captured in black and white with texture and contrast. Used subtractive process and mark making techniques to show textures, form, and contrast.

Illustration of a nature scene with a green snake-like creature surrounding a body of water

Layered Prismacolor and gouache.

Illustration of a grotesque birthday part with a green creature in a crown looking at a cupcake with a candle burning on top of it

Painted with gouache and layered Prismacolor over it to add finer details and textures.

Student and teacher statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.