SSL Certificate

Visual Arts and Design

Ruth McGee, Interim Department Chair

Graduation Requirements:

Students are required to take at least one semester of Visual Arts and Design. Only courses labeled as “Advanced” and AP have pre-requisites. All other classes are open to all students and do not require any previous skill or experience.

Advanced Placement:

Advanced Placement courses in studio art, based on the recommendations of the College Board, are offered for qualified students. Submission of the 2D, Drawing, or 3D portfolio(s) to the College Board are required of those students enrolled in the AP Studio course. Prerequisite: successful completion of one Visual Art and Design Studio course, good academic standing and the permission of instructor.

Course Offerings:

The Visual Arts and Design Department seeks to evoke a joyful curiosity in the pursuit of lifelong learning through an engaging curriculum that exercises the imagination, cultivates visual and cultural literacy, and builds technical skills and confidence in a variety of manual and digital media. Students may enroll for the advanced levels of select studio courses after successfully completing the beginning courses, or with significant previous experience and the permission of the instructor. (Some advanced sections are autonomous, while others run concurrently, with beginning courses. See the schedule below.) AP Studio requires the successful completion of at least one studio course, good academic standing, and the permission of the instructor.


VA610 AP Studio ______________________
VA969 Ceramics VA964 Observational Drawing
VA963 Observational Drawing  VA966, VA966A Design Studio
VA973 Photography VA974 Photography

VA973A Advanced Photography

VA968 Ceramics
VA975, Mixed Media, Drawing & Painting  
VA977 Web Design VA972, VA972A Figure Drawing & Figure Sculpture
  VA982 Graphics: Silkscreen & Monotype
T927 Costume Design  



AP Studio Art is designed for students who are seriously interested in visual art and design practices, have demonstrated capacity for mastery in the conceptual, compositional and technical dimensions of their work, and are capable of sustained commitment and creative independence. The College Board evaluates AP Studio Art portfolios on the bases of quality, concentration and breadth. Thus, the course will focus on technique across diverse media, employ various conceptual strategies, support individual interests and strengths, and build skills in at least one area: 2D design, drawing and/or painting.The course is consistent with the goals and curricula of foundational courses in college. Students will be required to submit at least one portfolio to the College Board for evaluation. Although AP Studio Art is recommended for students with passion for visual art and design, it will also be useful for students interested in architecture and engineering. All students are required to submit at least one portfolio to the College Board. Prerequisite: the successful completion of at least one Visual Art and Design course, good academic standing and permission of instructor.  (11th, 12th grades)

VA973, VA974

This course introduces students to techniques and processes, visual culture, history and the aesthetics of photography. Students will learn to use the manual controls on the digital SLR Nikon, develop basic digital editing skills in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, and file management strategies in the context of creative photographic investigations. Participation in studio projects and critique and exposure to historic and contemporary photography will enhance students’ technical and conceptual abilities and their capacities to understand and discuss photography in aesthetic, cultural and technical dimensions. Students will be encouraged to play and experiment with processes and ideas, and will present their best work in both digital and print forms, in online venues and in exhibition. Cameras and paper are provided. (Lab fee $30) (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

(1 UNIT)   

This is an advanced course in digital photography, editing, visual culture, aesthetics, artistic exploration and creative production. Students must have mastered a basic understanding of the manual controls, processing, digital workflow and file management, as well as the basic technical and aesthetic vocabulary. Students may use any kind of camera for the course, including cell phone, point and shoot, and DSLR models. Students may use either free online editing programs such as Pixlr, editing apps such as Adobe Photoshop Express, or software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The course will be structured around students’ interests as well as contemporary problems in photography. In addition to daily shooting and processing, students will also survey various genres in photography through reading, virtual gallery tours, researching and writing. Peer review will be an integral component of the course. Prerequisite: the successful completion of Photography (Lab fee $30) (10th, 11th, 12th grades) 

VA975, VA975A

This course is a survey of both formal and conceptual dimensions, including mixed media techniques, drawing and painting. Students will explore the opportunities and constraints of a variety of materials and develop basic skills working both two- and three-dimensionally. Students will develop abilities to discuss formal and conceptual theories, gain experience interpreting imagery, and understand basic design concepts, as well as identify and explore meaningful subjects for their creative work. Students will have opportunities to work with both figurative and non-objective subjects. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA888A. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades).


Are you interested in learning to design attractive websites with original graphics, animations, great layouts, and orchestrated interactivity? Web Design is a project-based course that offers students the opportunity to conceive, develop, design, and create websites for themselves, or for real or fictional clients. Students will learn to organize content, address hierarchies of information, design effective layouts and interactivity, and develop and create vector and photographic imagery and animations. Students will explore the expressive power of typography/fonts and exercise the role of color in design. The course will survey the process of visual “branding” used by private companies and nonprofits  alike. Design processes, including research, client briefs, prototyping and iteration will be integral to the course. Students will use applications in the Adobe Suite including Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Photoshop, and AfterEffects to create their sites. While no previous experience is required, students with prior experience will have the opportunity for more advanced work. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)


This course is for students interested in the art, history and practice of costume design. Line, form, color, scale, texture, pattern, period costumes, functionality of stage, and the effects of stage lighting on fabric will be explored. Students will learn basic hand and machine sewing stitches and techniques, which can be applied to their daily lives. Students will research, design and build a costume for a character of her or his choice. No prior experience with fashion design, sewing or figure drawing is necessary – just a love of fashion and clothes from different periods and cultures with a passion to create art worn on stage. This course can be taken for either Performing Arts or for Visual Arts and Design credit. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA963, VA964

This course provides an introduction to the techniques and practice of observational drawing, along with an overview of the basic principles of two-dimensional design. Emphasis will be placed on the effective translation of three-dimensional forms onto two-dimensional picture planes and the intentional use of pictorial space. Contour line, figure-ground relationships, composition and perspective are among the concepts that will be addressed in daily drawing practices. Students will develop the basic perceptual skills necessary for observational drawing. Critical communication skills will be cultivated in the contexts of informal and formal critique. Students will refine their skills in handling the elements of composition and their abilities to perceive and discuss visual art with precision and clarity. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA966, VA966A

Are you interested in designing posters, album and book covers, textiles, jewelry, small, interactive sculptures, motion graphics (animation) or other artifacts, using both new technologies and traditional media? Are you interested in developing an independent project or collaborating in product design? Design Studio is a project-based course that offers students the opportunity to engage 2D, 3D, and time-based design principles, research and address user needs, and pose and solve design problems across media. Students will be introduced to a variety of technical skills, according to student interests, including (but not limited to) various software for graphic design, animation, film editing, and 3D applications and techniques. Specific topics such as typography, form, pattern, the opportunities and constraints of structures and materials, and aesthetics will be addressed in the context of student driven, team projects. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA818A. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)


This course explores the art and craft of ceramics, through vessel and sculptural forms, and traditional and contemporary approaches. Students will learn a variety of hand-building techniques, including pinch, slab and coil, and will also have the opportunity to develop basic skills on the potter’s wheel. A cross-cultural survey of both historical and contemporary ceramics will offer both inspiration and context for studio assignments. Students will develop an understanding of form, scale, texture, balance, color and design, as they relate to the ceramic arts. Glazing and various decorative techniques will be taught and explored in relationship to form and function. Class discussions and critiques will be integral aspects of the course. Students who have successfully completed Ceramics may enroll in Advanced Ceramics (see 968A). (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA972, VA972A 
This is an observational drawing and sculpture class with  focus on the human figure. Students will draw and sculpt from the live model in a variety of approaches and media. Gestural, tonal and contour drawing will familiarize students with the figure, scale, proportion. Clay modeling will engage students in three-dimensional studies, extending their understanding of proportion into volume and space and engaging additional physical modalities. Students will gain skill in representing the human form, with attention to proportion, volume, gesture and composition. A cross-cultural survey of figurative works will expose students to diverse representational strategies from realism, through stylization, to abstraction. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA831A. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades)

Courses Not Offered in 2017-2018

VA601A, VA602A, VA603A

This course is designed for advanced students in any visual arts medium (painting, ceramics, photography, film, drawing) who are preparing a portfolio for college or summer programs. A written student proposal and department permission are required. (11th, 12th grades)


This course offers students an opportunity to develop and realize independently driven projects in the areas of photography, graphic design and applied design (including 3D design and modeling). The course is only open to seniors who have demonstrated relevant skills, self-direction, commitment and motivation. The course meets during block 9, and one additional block (by individual arrangement) per week. Work and work in progress, feedback and peer review will also be shared online, through a variety of venues and strategies. Limited to three students. Prerequisites: permission of instructor. (12th grade)

VA814, VA814A

This forward-looking course uses design as a bridge to art and science through the use of creative problem-solving. Students work collaboratively in design teams on all projects to integrate the arts with other disciplines to identify needs, solve for the problem and evaluate their results. A wide variety of media, materials, skill sets and research is applied to finding solutions to real-world problems. Process portfolios will be developed and maintained by all students for each of the projects with reflection, assessment and evaluation being central to the daily work in the class. Students may elect to participate in an in-depth review of their process and products via a voluntary exit interview after the end of the  trimester. All students will be required to write and speak critically about their personal work, as well as to interpret and evaluate the creative products of others publicly through in-class critiques, assessments and presentations. Parental collaboration is integral to the evaluative process in this course and serves a key role in student learning and assessment. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA814A. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA824, VA824A

This course is an introduction to the technical, formal and conceptual dimensions of painting. Students will work in a variety of media, including gouache, watercolor and oil paint on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, wood and paper. Techniques of mural painting may also be introduced. The goals of the course include developing confidence in working with paint and ideas in representational and non-representational compositions, and sensitivity and skill in perceiving and handling color. Students will also develop their abilities to discuss the formal and conceptual aspects of painting, and gain experience in interpreting imagery and identifying meaningful subjects for their creative work. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA827, VA827A

This is a design course using architectural drawing as the primary creative vehicle for responding to the subject. Students are introduced to the skills and practice of orthographic drawing along with the use of computer-assisted design to produce design solutions in plan, elevation and cross section. Emphasis in the project work is on the residential structure and its contemporary design in America. Reflection, assessment and evaluation are central to the daily work in the class and are extended beyond the course for students who elect to participate in an in-depth review of their process and products via a voluntary exit interview after trimester’s end. All students will be required to write and speak critically about their personal work as well as to interpret and evaluate the creative products of others publicly through in-class critiques and presentations. Parental collaboration is integral to the evaluative process in this course and serves a key role in student learning and assessment. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)



This project-based course will engage a variety of digital media including photography, video and animation. The course will begin with a survey of creative time-based interpretations and applications of photography in animation and documentary film, including photographic storytelling, cut out animation, rotoscoping, and kinestatic storytelling. Students will use digital SLR and video cameras, perform basic photo editing in Photoshop and Lightroom, create photographic animation in Toon Boom, edit in iMovie and Final Cut, and assemble soundscores in Garageband. Students will work individually or collaboratively on projects in a variety of genres including documentary, humor and experimental film. The project-based approach includes student involvement in identifying the ideas, concepts and content of the films. Technical skills will be taught and learned on an as-needed basis for realizing creative visions. Visual sequencing and time-based design principles will provide the foundation for the course. No previous experience in photography is required. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA846, VA846A

Animation is a project-based course that will engage a variety of physical and digital media in the production of short animated films. Students will have the opportunity to explore claymation, digital animation, stop-motion, kinestasis (Ken Burns effect), motion graphics (with text), and many traditional and experimental techniques. Students will have the opportunity to work with software tools such as Toon Boom Studio 7, iStopMotion, Adobe Premiere, Photoshop and Garageband. In addition to an introduction to all of these tools, students will also have the opportunity to develop skills on an as-needed basis. Time-based design elements, production planning, storyboarding, designing, digital drawing, shooting, editing and sound scoring are all integral components of the course. The project-based approach involves student involvement in identifying the ideas, concepts, and content of the films. No previous experience is necessary. Students must complete the regular course before enrolling in the advanced section. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA854, VA854A

This course introduces students to digital video production processes and techniques for creating narrative films. Students will learn about varieties of narrative structure, character development, production planning, storyboarding, directing, shooting and editing, through both studio projects and critical analysis of important films. Collaborative teams will conceive and realize all aspects of two or more short films during the trimester. Students will present their concepts, plans, storyboards, characters and scripts for feedback and review, and will present the finished films for class critique. This course focuses on narrative filmmaking, which involves dramatic structure, character development, scriptwriting and acting. A full range of equipment is available to students. A lab fee is charged in this course. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA854A. (10th, 11th 12th grades)

VA865, 865A

This course introduces students to the basic elements and principles of two-dimensional design, typography, relationships between image and text, and conceptual strategies as they apply to graphic design. A cross-cultural survey of advertising, posters, book, album and CD covers, package design and signage will provide cultural context, aesthetic reference and inspiration for the class. Students will work with both Photoshop and traditional media on a series of creative design projects, including graphic service projects for the community (i.e., event posters). File handling strategies for print and web, brainstorming, problem solving, collaboration and client relations will also be integral aspects of the class. The class will also host professionals in the graphic design field. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)


This course explores creative processing of photographic imagery through studio projects and a survey of contemporary digital art. Students will use both created and found imagery. They will use digital still and video cameras to create original material, and a variety of photographic and film archives for copyright free material. Students will develop skills in recognizing and handling the elements and principles of design, exploring conceptual strategies, and creating and manipulating expressive digital imagery. The course will focus on invented, imagined and manipulated images involving creative processing of photographic imagery. Various forms of digital production will be engaged, including print, projection, and web. (Although students will use digital cameras, this course emphasizes invented and manipulated imagery, in contrast to Photography, which emphasizes camera techniques, photographic aesthetics, and the conventions of realism.) (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA876, VA876A

This course will explore three-dimensional representations of the human form in clay. Students will work both from the live model and from their imaginations in a variety of representational styles, from realism to abstraction. The course will be organized around a set of formal themes, illustrated by figurative sculptures from diverse cultures and eras. Students will work in various types of clay and tools, in a variety of scales. They will gain skill in representing the human form, with attention to proportion, volume, movement, and composition. Basic ceramic skills will be introduced and reviewed. No experience required. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA877, VA877A

This is an observational drawing class with a focus on the human figure. Students will draw from the live model in a variety of approaches and media. Gesture, tonal, and contour drawing will all be explored. Students will gain skill in representing the human form, with attention to proportion, volume, and foreshortening. While most of our time will be spent on drawing exercises, we will also have both informal and formal critiques as well as a survey of figurative representation in the history of art, and in contemporary art. No previous drawing experience is required. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)


Students will explore the expressive and theoretical dimensions of color through drawing. A variety of approaches will be engaged, including observational, expressive, imaginative, abstract and non-representational drawing. Students will work in several different media, including ink, charcoal, pastel and various types of pencil, in a variety of scales, from miniature to mural-sized drawings. The course will concentrate on both technical and conceptual exercises designed to cultivate the skills and confidence to work with line, form, composition, color and ideas through drawing. We will study color theory and practice through surveys of color in both art history and contemporary art. Informal and formal critique will also be integral aspects of the course. No previous drawing experience is required. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)

VA886, VA886A

Graphic novels combine storytelling, illustration, opinion and theory. The Graphic Novel class gives students the opportunity to put their ideas on paper as they create a world populated with their characters, words and ideas. This studio course is an introduction to the art of narrative illustration through sequential drawings. Character and plot development, point of view, drawing styles and media will be addressed. Students will have the opportunity to create characters, comic sequences and graphic short stories. A survey of graphic novels, compositional and sequential strategies, and visual approaches will offer points of reference and departure throughout the course. Students with previous experience or coursework may register for VA886A. (10th, 11th, 12th grades)


 This course is designed for both beginning and advanced students interested in using photography as a point of reference and departure in the creation of inventive digital and physical forms of art. Since the emphasis will be on ideas, imagination and experimentation, students will be able to use any sort of camera device, including point and shoot, iPad, cell phone and DSLR. Students will be encouraged to engage their imaginations and to explore topics of personal interest. Archival photos licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons will also provide digital material for studio work. Students will gain a solid understanding of the magic of Photoshop and have the opportunity to experiment with digital collage, creative and inventive processing, to explore physical and digital venues for sharing work, and to work with various presentational strategies (both online and physical.) Students with previous experience in photography will have the opportunity to integrate and extend their previous experience with the DSLR, while beginners will have the opportunity to learn the basics of photography and Photoshop in the context of creative challenges. (Lab fee $30) (10th, 11th, 12th grades)


Advanced Ceramics will expand upon and extend the skills gained in Ceramics.  Students will work with and develop more complex handbuilding techniques and will explore conceptual and representational approaches on vessel, sculptural, and relief forms. Demonstrations, videos and exposure to works from a variety of cultures and artists will continue to offer context and inspiration for assignments and independent work. Students will continue to develop greater self-confidence through perseverance, consistency, experience and practice, and will be encouraged to develop a personal style. Special emphasis will be placed on form, design and decoration, and an understanding of applicable terms and techniques. Individual assessments along with group and teacher critiques are an integral part of the curriculum. The prerequisite for Advanced Ceramics is the successful completion of Ceramics (10th, 11th, 12th grades).  *This Advanced Ceramics class is focused on advanced handbuilding. It is no longer pottery wheel.



This course provides students with an introduction to three-dimensional design and opportunities to work in a variety of media on figurative, abstract, architectural and non-objective forms of sculpture. Students will develop a working understanding of design concepts such as balance, rhythm, scale, proportion, positive and negative space, and texture through exposure to contemporary and historical forms of sculpture and hands-on studio projects. The expressive qualities of material and form, as well as the significance of scale and context will be explored through studio projects and discussions. Hands-on experience with the physical opportunities and constraints of materials and structures will inform students’ design processes. Use of recycled materials and environmental concerns will be considered. Studio work, slide shows, discussion and critique are all integral to the course. (9th 10th, 11th, 12 grades)

OS101, 102, 103

 Foundation Arts is an interdisciplinary foundational course in visual arts, music and theater. The course introduces students to an integrated model of learning in which the arts provide a vehicle for connecting creative, academic and life experiences. A significant cultural or social theme provides the basis for a trimester-long creative investigation.  Students develop foundational skills and knowledge in each of the arts disciplines, as well as skills in creative problem-solving, collaborative decision-making, thinking across disciplines and critical reflection. Students are encouraged to cultivate their imagination through a variety of individual and group activities and assignments. The course is designed to help deepen students’ engagement, understanding and enjoyment of the arts, as well as expand their emotional, intellectual and technical preparation for creating meaningful works of art. (9th grade)

Penn Charter

A Friends School for Girls and Boys, Pre-K to 12

3000 West School House Lane Philadelphia, PA 19144 215.844.3460
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