top of page

How to Build an AP 2D Art Portfolio (Sustained Investigation Resource)

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

"What type of crop do you want to grow?"

Before the art portfolio was changed, the writing wasn't graded. The images also needed to "look" like they all belonged together--they were a concentration of images. The works needed to look like they were a wheel. For instance, a student could go out and take a whole bunch of images, pick out the best, and probably get a 4 or 5. I had a student go photograph an abandoned house, select the best viewpoints and compositions, and she received a 5.

Now, the concentration has changed to a sustained investigation. The final works need to look like a tree. The inquiry statement is the "seed" planted, and the tree growth and branches are the works that grow from the seed. The final slides need to show process, experimentation, and revision. Instead of a student photographing an abandoned house one time, they would need to explore a question of why the abandoned house? What about abandoned houses is important to you? They would possibly explore multiple abandoned houses, the same abandoned house at different times of day or season, etc. There would need to be exploration.

In addition to the tree visual, I use the garden analogy to break down a sustained investigation to my students. The old portfolio was the best peaches you could grow. The new portfolio wants to see the peach pit, the best peaches, and the peach jam. They want to see what you did to get to that perfect recipe of jam...did you have to revise the amount of sugar added? Why did you use the type of sugar you used?

If my garden analogy has lost you...

Here's the fun language off the College Board website instead:

Building the Sustained Investigation Section:

  • Select 15 images or slides that demonstrate your inquiry-based sustained investigation of materials, processes, and ideas. The artworks/slides must show practice, experimentation, and revision.

  • Images must also demonstrate skillful synthesis of materials, processes, and ideas.

  • Note that there is no preferred or unacceptable material, process, idea, style, or content.

When uploading images for submission, each image must identify the following:

  • Materials used (100 characters maximum, including spaces)

  • Processes used (100 characters maximum, including spaces)--WHAT design processes did you take to create the artwork? Ex: WHY did you use red? Did you use red to create the emotion of anger? Don't make the same mistake I did my first year, I thought processes were HOW they created the artwork...

  • Dimensions (height x width x depth, in inches). For work that is flat, enter 0 for depth. For images that document process or show detail, enter NA. For digital and virtual work, enter the size of the intended visual display.

In my APSI trainings, I've seen some really low skilled portfolios get 3's because their writing matched their slides. I have also seen some top-notch skilled portfolios get 3's because their writing did NOT match their slides.

In a nutshell, 3's are much easier to score, but 5's are more difficult to attain. To earn a 5, you MUST have top notch 2D skills that show process, experimentation, and revision in your slides along with your written evidence that EXPLAINS said process, experimentation, and revision.


Process: These are NOT progress images. Photographing a painting from start to finish is not what type of process the portfolio is looking for.

The process is anything specific that is important to how the final piece was created. Visual journal pages, behind the scenes images, research, etc.

Experimentation: Did the piece have experimentation of different mediums or times of day that the photograph had to be taken?

Revision: Did you change the final product afterwards?


Student Slide Examples: Scores of 4's and 5's

Practice, Experimentation, Revision: How did you grow your peaches? What didn't work the first round? What did you change?

Processes Example(s):


Photography Processes Examples: Processes state what design elements are present in images as well as what process was important in creating the images, including journal entries.

Processes Exhibiting Synthesis of Materials: How do the materials used relate to the inquiry?

The window being displayed on a TV, it symbolizes the false realities one creates and feels trapped.


Written Evidence Example(s): Written evidence MUST match what portfolio slides illustrate. Writing is not docked on grammar or spelling, nor is writing docked on the "depth" of the inquiry. Directly referring to specific slides is not required, but I highly recommend doing this for clarity.


I also show my students part of my own sustained investigation in my artistic practice. My style and process changes as my relationship with my daughter evolves as she grows.

Check back for more examples, elaborations, and the breakdown of the Selected Works section as well!


93 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page