AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Yiru Zhou

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features an illustration made by Yiru Zhou from Chatham High School​ in Chatham, New Jersey.

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 Yiru Zhou from Chatham High School​ in Chatham, New Jersey.

Illustration of people walking across a street, distracted by their phones, seen from above

Here’s Yiru’s statement on the work:

“My sustained investigation topic was ‘barriers.’ With this one-word theme, I was able to allow myself creativity to loosely interpret how ‘barriers’ could be portrayed through my artwork. Near the beginning of my sustained investigation, I wanted to experiment with how I could stretch the possibilities of the mediums I chose: watercolor and acrylic. As inspiration, I researched nontraditional watercolor techniques and then experimented with them. Some of my favorites were using salt in wet watercolors to create a marbled texture and using crayons as a wax resist. I ended up using both techniques in later artworks, and I found that this experiment inspired me to add texture to my pieces. The use of texture helped me throughout my sustained investigation to differentiate between the two divided sides of the barriers.

“One piece that was inspired by my experiment with watercolor techniques was called ‘Phones: Connectors or Barriers?,’ which focuses on the duality of technology and cell phones in our everyday lives. While they do connect people from miles away, they can also be isolating as people start to form fewer in-person connections. In this piece, I depicted a busy street of people, yet an isolating and lonely sense is conveyed through the singular focus on the phones, which is highlighted through the bird’s eye view. In the background of this piece, I added salt into wet watercolor, adding a subtle rough and ragged texture to the piece and also resembled the asphalt road.

“During my journey of completing my sustained investigation, I am very grateful for the guidance I received from my art teacher in school, as well as my private art teachers. They guided me by asking questions and giving constructive criticism throughout my drafting process, allowing me to be able to convey my ideas in the clearest ways possible. The fresh eyes of others can catch parts of your artwork that lacks clarity or needs more editing.”

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

Illustration of a young woman in a blue dress crouching as she draws next to a notebook page of ideas that led to the illustration

Brainstorming/sketching process of multiple ways to show self-imposed barriers.

Illustration of a rainy night scene, red paper lanterns above illuminating a person walking with an umbrella down the street

The warm indoors shelters people from the harsh outdoors. Light represents love.

Illustration of a mother watching kids climb into and play in a tree house, against a setting sun

Highlights the age barrier between kids and adults by contrasting dull/bright colors.

Illustration of a young woman behind an aquarium glass reaching out to three large fish

A natural barrier of air vs water prevents these two worlds from interacting in the same space.

Technological barriers during pandemic induced boredom for students and made a barrier to learning.

Technological barriers during pandemic induced boredom for students and made a barrier to learning.

Student statements are lightly edited for length and clarity.