AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Janin Liu

The Elective’s digital art museum this week features a painting made by Janin Liu from Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois.

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 a painting made by Janin Liu from Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois.

Painting of two young girls playing in a playground tube

Here’s Janin’s statement on the work:

“How can I portray childhood innocence through ordinary moments of play?

“To answer this question, I created this piece called ‘Alexis and Caitlyn,’ named after the children in the painting. Working as a children’s summer camp counselor over my summer break, I was captivated by the wonder in each camper’s eyes. Their endless energy, thirst for excitement, and colorful imagination inspired me to create a collection that would capture the childhood innocence that we as adults have long lost. Despite the world circumstances of the past few years, children remain optimistic. Because of the profound nature of childhood, I am proud to be able to capture a portion of its magic in my artworks.

“I began my artmaking process by taking my own photographic reference of my subjects. Then on a stretched canvas, I gridded and sketched outlines using a pencil. I then began the painting process by painting a light wash. Then I proceeded to paint from the background to the foreground, leaving details and highlights last. I chose to paint with oil paint and turpentine because of how forgiving and smooth the medium is, allowing me to create a photorealistic painting.

“Creating art this year has challenged not only my artistic abilities but also my endurance and perseverance for creating Art. Because of the first semester of e-learning and overall low attendance in my classes, my motivation to create quality work is put to the test. With the help of my art teacher and some classmates, making art became easier and more enjoyable. To me, art class was a highlight of my school days, and being able to put on an in-person art show was the peak of my high school years.”

Painting of two young girls playing on a playground's monkey bars

Took my own reference photos over summer camp. Gridded using pencil, prepped with wash, oil painted

Here’s Janin’s teacher Stephanie Fuja on Janin’s work:

“Janin Liu was one in a million when it comes to talent, intelligence, creativity, and work ethic. Over my 14 years teaching high school art and over a decade of teaching AP Art, Janin is by far one of my most talented of all time! Teaching Janin taught me more about allowing students to take more of the lead in the classroom and giving students a bit more choice. Seeing Janin advocate for herself, work through ideas herself, and manage her workload herself, allowed me to truly be the class’s guide and direction versus a micromanager who had to stay on each and every student at all times- it was beyond refreshing! For my AP Art class, I scaffold writing components into every single sustained investigation work each student turns in. They are required to submit a short artist statement per individual sustained investigation as well as five variations and drafts of their final artist statement. Supporting their ideas, skills, and inquiry during the AP Art and Design course was something I felt honored to do every single day.

“I have weekly meetings with my students one on one, I pair them up with their peers and I put them in brainstorming groups- this is weekly and helps to keep the inquiry, skill, and development process moving more consistently.

“I required experimentation and photographic documentation each day we met for class and at home. They had to submit photos of their ‘progress’ every time they worked on their pieces; before they worked on them, during and after, each day. Formative assessments not only occurred during the preliminary brainstorming process by implementing multi-page sustained investigation Idea development packets I made for each student and for each SI piece. In addition, formative assessments occurred every day in the classroom by open communication with each student, weekly and daily meetings with students, mid-critiques, partner critiques, and evaluation forms completed weekly both for the written statements as well as the progress within their sustained investigation works and their final SI works. Summative assessments my students completed, occurred after every sustained investigation was due; we had a full class critique of each sustained investigation that took one or two full class blocks. In addition, at the end of the school year, end of April/Beginning of May, our AP Art class holds a large full week AP Art show that we put on display for the entire school Monday-Friday. We have an opening artist reception that takes place the first night the show is open; usually on that Monday.

“Fortunately, our school’s schedule runs on a block schedule where every class meets every other day on a rotating schedule for 90-minutes at a time. This allows for more discussion, inquiry, and brainstorming time to create high-quality sustained investigation pieces. Our principal was such a breath of fresh air in how she opened her mind to allowing art to have equal importance, equal opportunities, equal support both financially as well as visibility in the school, and materials needed for the success of the course. She came to visit our art classes when she had the time, she attended our Art show every year and communicated with the students about their ideas and creations, which made them consistently feel important and valued as artists and students. One of my pieces of advice for other AP Art and Design teachers to have a successful year leading the course would be to stay on your students with their deadlines, due dates, and submissions- keep constant check-ins and assign points for every check-in, assignment, etc and stick to them and be consistent across the board throughout the year. The students may feel frustrated that you are so ‘on them,’ but in the end, it will allow for more success and pride at completion for them!”

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

Painting of a young boy playing on a playground swing

Took my own reference photos over summer camp. Gridded using pencil, prepped with wash, oil painted

Painting of a young girl smiling in front of playground equipment

Took my own reference photos over summer camp. Gridded using pencil, prepped with wash, oil painted

Painting of two young boys playing on a playground's monkey bars

Took my own reference photos over summer camp. Gridded using pencil, prepped with wash, oil painted

Painting of a young girl braiding another young girl's hair

Child braiding hair represents caringness for others children possess.

Painting of two young girls looking through a green fence

Lost innocence trapped behind a permeable wall, depicted by young children with wonder-fi lled eyes.

Painting of a young boy looking to the sky

Highlights childhood wonder, looking up at a floating balloon in the sky.

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