AP Art of the Week

Spotlight on Artist Sebastian Plaza

Welcome to The Elective’s digital art museum, dedicated to the incredible work of AP Arts students. This week we feature a photograph made by Sebastian Plaza from John Cooper School in Montgomery, 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 a photograph made by Sebastian Plaza from John Cooper School in Montgomery, Texas.

Here’s Sebastian’s statement on the work:

“To make this image I first decided to take the image on a high ISO and high aperture to have everything in focus and to add some grain and noise to the image. This was to increase the texture and create a more mysterious mood to the image.

“I played with the hue and saturation in Photoshop to create a greenish tone in the shadows and a red color for the highlights to have a complementary color scheme for the image. Then I cleaned up distractions such as light flares and paint chips to not distract the eye from the subject of the photo which are the exits.

“This year I learned that art is not only something I do as a hobby alone, but something I can enjoy with my peers whether it be going on shoots, or critiquing each other’s art. Before, I would usually go on shooting sessions just by myself, but I discovered that going with my classmates and friends added much more excitement to the practice. It also helped me notice how others created photography which helped me evaluate my own shooting practices and adjust my workflow.

“To develop original ideas while maintaining a unique look I would usually look for similarly lit spots. The thing about photography in the wild is that you can’t control the lighting. So, to counter this I would take photos during the night in areas lit by small sources of light such as streetlights.

“This would help me get even lighting looks in my images. Then I could play around with them in post to add a twist and create an image I was pleased with.

“My teacher Mrs. Schiebel was the greatest motivation I had throughout my senior year in photography. With the heavy workload from all my AP’s and college applications, she was very understanding and helpful by giving us flexible dates for our assignments. Personally, she would send me links to articles and lend me books that helped me improve and develop my photographic style. She was very engaging as well and helped me and my classmates improve our art skills as well as make us love the art form more.

“My advice to other art and design students is to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. Try different shooting styles, color schemes, materials, etc. By doing this you will discover what you like best, and you will become a better and more experienced artist.”

Here’s Sebastian’s teacher Jennifer Schiebel on Sebastian’s work:

“Sebastian has a natural ability to envision the scene he wants to depict and then edit it in Photoshop and Lightroom Classic to create powerfully lit compositions.  His AP Design Concept emerged from a photograph he took while on his family travels.  What proved challenging for the school year was not seeing a lot of travel amid the covid-19 lockdown. Seb reflected and adapted as the year progressed through class discussions, written critiques, and his own critical thinking. All the AP students are continuously going through a cycle of research, planning, creating and experimenting, reflecting, critiquing, and revising.  I have them write out three possible plans for their sustained investigation and after presenting to their peers there is a follow-up discussion with me, and two ideas are investigated further with the creation of images.  Students start this early in the year and meet again to present the images they created; at which time more discussion and a final concept are decided.

“The students are always reflecting and improving on their individual pieces. They are asked to shoot far more than the required number so they will have options, which is something I strive for in my advanced students and usually results in a wonderful Senior Showcase for the school community to see.  Throughout the school year, my students are expected to maintain either a traditional or digital portfolio with their written thoughts on processes and imagery included, along with art criticisms that include teacher-directed photographers as well as contemporary student-driven artists.  They gain further confidence in their visual vocabulary through a web application called Padlet, where they post weekly images and give feedback to each other.  I think they appreciate that I do this with them and that they have the freedom to use cell phone photography.  This is a way for me to help promote art creation wherever they are since they have their phones with them wherever they go.”

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

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

Photo of a building at night highlight a band of red paint and a gas meter under fluorescent light

Photo of people sitting at a subway station

I made this image with the intent to show humanity. People from all races and ages interacting. I darkened edges to make the people in the centre of the image stand out more to emphasize humanity.

Photo of an empty car wash stall at night

Shifted tint more green for a surreal look, added contrast for focus, and removed imperfections.

Photo of four people and a dog walking by a closed shop at night

Lightened people to increase focus on them. Darkened edges to increase emphasis on people as well.

Black and white photo of a young woman holding an umbrella

Copied garage door pattern throughout the image to minimize crazy background and emphasize subject.

Photo of a young person sitting in shadow at a carnival booth

Mystery is felt by the viewer due to the person disappearing into darkness and the bear escaping it. I blacked out the area around the bear and person and increased saturation to create a surreal look.

Photo of a person walking by an illuminated red wall at night

Shifted hue to the red for portfolio fluency. Darkened edges to emphasize the center of the image.

Photo of two people walking by an illuminated storefront at night

Added black gradients on bottom, top, and left of image to add focus on structure and the couple.