AP Studio Explores the Meaning Behind Their Concentration Pieces

February 13, 2017


(Photo credit: Olivia Stephens/ACHONA Online) Sarah Ercia’s concentration pieces (pictured above) focus mainly on the movement and emotion involving dance and serves as a better understanding into the mind of a dancer.

With Arts Fest approaching, the AP Studio students are gearing up by preparing their concentration pieces for their art portfolio. Each girl has chosen an overall theme for their 12 concentration pieces, such as family, poetry, and mental illness. They take the time to incorporate art into their busy academic schedules, plan each work of art, and meet strict deadlines in order to submit pieces every week. The students even created twitter accounts to display their progress and creative processes for their concentration pieces. Most of the girls are now focusing on their third or fourth piece, with mediums ranging from painting, digital imaging, and even sculpture.

Grace Neal

Senior Grace Neal is focusing on the different decades in American History and how the people in her life fit into each decade. Incorporating photography into her artwork, she starts by taking photographs of her friends around Tampa and then paints them, altering the background and clothing, according to their decade. By focusing on her friends’ personalities and the specific decade, she is able to showcase and highlight the past while portraying their future endeavors. Neal was inspired by the American History course she took junior year and became interested in the trends of 1900’s decades throughout history. It gives her a chance to pursue and improve her painting technique while incorporating her love of design and studio art, a subject she hopes to pursue in college. It has been a struggle balancing and managing her outside activities and schoolwork, but Neal is happy whenever she finds time to circle back to the art she loves most.











“I may not be amazing at crunching numbers or kicking a soccer ball or singing a high note and I may not even be amazing at art, but it doesn’t really matter because there’s no formula or strength or pitch required to do your own art. It’s so entertaining and mesmerizing to see other people’s art and see how your time and dedication pays off into what you’re passionate about,” said Neal. 

Photo Credit: Grace Neal/ Achona Online
“To give it a retro feel, each piece is meant to
look similar to posters of that time period. Also, I decided to start with this idea because
it makes me happy whenever people talk about what they want to do with their lives and who they see themselves
as in ten years, I think it’s great to get to show off who
all my friends are and what they want for themselves,” said Neal

Cris Renner

Senior Cris Renner wants to showcase her mom’s family history from their journey over from Cuba, combining modern and old heirlooms using digital imaging and photography. Renner prioritizes family and included her Abuela in one of her favorite pieces.













“I really liked the end result of the portrait of my Abuela. It was a staged pose but it seems very natural and I really didn’t expect it to turn out so well,” Renner said.

Photo Credit: Cris Renner (used with permission)
Renner’s Abuela reads an article on the death of dictator Fidel Castro, a momentous and joyous occasion for the Cuban community.

Sophomore year, her passion was sparked by an Introduction to Photography class. She eventually discovered she enjoyed digital imaging and retouches many of her concentration pieces. One of Renner’s main struggles with her concentration is locating the family artifacts, some going as far back as the 1930’s, she needs that are packed away or fragile. Art serves as a secondary outlet of communication for Renner. It is a way of formulating and expressing her inner thoughts and ideas through and serves as a rewarding, personal goal.


Photo Credit: Cris Renner (used with permission)
Renner has had this cigar box in her family for years and digitally edited an old cigar label on it to branch together her family’s older and younger generation.

Gabbie Ragano

Unlike her other senior classmates, Gabbie Ragano is creating sculptures from recycled materials after being inspired by an art program’s theme that focused on ocean pollution. She gathers materials and constructs them to fit her vision, starting with five of her pieces being modeled after The Five Gyres, whirlpools in the sea that collect an increasing amount of ocean pollution every day. After developing an interest in the environment-based program all the AP Studio students had to participate in, Ragano’s idea and medium completely changed.












“Because I am using trash, I have to do most of the planning in my head because I do not want to waste the recycled materials I have and it can be very difficult to find the exact trash I need,” Ragano says.

She enjoys using trash as a medium because it forces her to think in a different way to best utilize what she is given, so, in turn, none of her pieces look exactly alike. Her purpose is to bring awareness to the issue of ocean pollution and how it affects animals in the sea.

Photo Credit: Olivia Stevens/ Achona Online
In this piece, Ragano will portray the hypocrisy of ocean tourism by surrounding the scuba diver in trash.

Liz Benjamin

Starting with the architecture she sees every day in downtown Tampa, senior Liz Benjamin is modeling each of her concentration pieces after the interests in her immediate environment. She set out with a goal to pursue a topic she was passionate about and set her eyes on the possibilities of photography. Benjamin often finds it difficult to find the right shot, but she loves the city and frequently takes pictures of downtown. Although unsure of the prospect of pursuing art in college, she is open to the idea of minoring in photography while studying at Emerson College.

Sarah Ercia

Sarah Ercia’s concentration stems from the emotions felt through dance. Ercia has been dancing her entire life, making it one of her passions in which she has the first-hand experience on how to communicate her emotions through art.  


Searching for a profound meaning for her concentration, Ercia says, “I wanted there to be a deeper meaning so I thought I would try to recreate the emotions felt while dancing. Usually, when you are given a piece to dance, it follows a storyline. I thought I would try to recreate the emoting within those storylines.”

She uses acrylic paint because of its flexibility and capability to be layered with other colors to create a vibrant, yet flowing piece of art. Ercia views art as a form of stress relief and often takes her time to create the piece how she envisions it in her head. Along with the calming effect the development of art has, Ercia appreciates the different interpretations of art from one image in someone’s head, stating that if someone asks 20 people to paint the same flower, not one flower will turn out exactly the same.

Olivia Valdes 

Senior Olivia Valdes, alongside many people, enjoys the feelings experienced during the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas. She dedicated to dedicate her concentration pieces to the emotions felt during the holiday season and paints visuals to coincide with winter objects, including snowflakes and a holly branch. 














One of her pieces shows an aerial perspective of a girl cozying up to a cup of hot chocolate and wrapped in a blanket to embody the relaxed, joyful feeling of being content on a cold winter’s night. Valdes’s journey to AP Studio began in third grade and even wrote her college essay on how she began and decided to pursue art.

“For me, Christmas is the best time of the year so I decided to focus on something that brought me joy and fulfillment,” says Valdes

Commenting on balancing art class with her academic studies, Valdes says, “It’s stressful to get the pieces done on time because I am a perfectionist so each piece takes me a while to do. However, when I am actually working on the piece, it’s always very relaxing.”

Photo Credit: Olivia Stevens/ Achona Online
Valdes alternates between using acrylics on canvas, graphite, and drawing her pieces of artwork.

Mary Kate Magyar

Senior Mary Kate Magyar chose to focus on mental illness, specifically the effect it has on high schoolers and how those suffering function within society with their condition. Fixating on anxiety and depression, she digitally retouched photographs to portray the narrative of the journey a mentally ill person embarks on when first diagnosed and ends with them seeking guidance in a mental care facility. Magyar settled on this topic because it has become a presence in her life since many people she knows suffer from mental illness.

“I really wanted to give a voice to this struggle that many people experience, especially since mental illness often isn’t taken as seriously as physical illnesses. Many people will say it’s no big deal, it’s all in your head, and you just need to change your way of thinking, even though in reality mental illness is far from that simple and is as serious as a physical illness. So I really wanted a way to make mental illness itself more tangible, hence the black creature in my pieces,” Magyar says.

Photo Credit: Mary Kate Magyar (used with permission)
“My favorite piece that I’ve completed so far is one where my main character is hiding in a school locker room during a panic attack, partially because it’s the one that I find the most visually developed and partially for personal reasons,” said Magyar

Her concentration is a personal topic that, at times, becomes hard to face in the wake of her connection to mental illness. Beginning in middle school, Magyar started to fine-tune her technique in the last two year of high school and hopes to major in animation in the future, incorporating her personal narrative and flare into her artwork.

Bella Cartaya 

Inspired by a motley of ideas and emotions, Senior Bella Cartaya’s concentration pieces are happiness in sadness and sadness in happiness, while incorporating elements of solitude, comfort, and peaceful moments. Cartaya often finds comfort in muted and understated aspects of life. She unites the two spectrums of human emotions, underlying joy and sadness, through painting on a canvas and adding other mediums to accentuate the feeling of comfort. Cartaya places importance on AP Studio because it has become a fulfilling passion while also helping  her express herself. She works on improving her painting technique and maintaining the cohesiveness of her pieces. In the future, she is excited for her upcoming pieces and exploring new ways of expressing a sense of comfort.

Photo Credit: Olivia Stevens/ Achona Online
Cartaya said, “I’ve never been a person that’s been good with words or good at expressing myself in a way that truly is me – I feel like when I try in other ways it’s only a superficial version of me. So art is the best way for me to really show who I am and what I feel deeply about without having to choose the right words.”

Lara Lontoc 

Along with many of her classmates, Senior Lara Lontoc is pursuing digital imaging and photoshop.

Photo Credit: Lara Lontoc (used with permission)
Lontac portrays the different types of learning she utilizes to understand her schoolwork throughout the day.

In describing her concentration pieces, Lontoc said, “ I am a visual learner, so when I am given new information, I put it into my own context, my own composition, in order to figure out what it means.”

She titled her portfolio Making the Abstract Concrete to demonstrate the infographic nature of her artwork. One of the pieces she is currently working on is based off a song lyric from “Miss Missing You” by Fall Out Boy that states “sometimes the person that you take a bullet for is behind the trigger”, using photoshop and design. One of Lontoc’s favorite parts about digital art is the undo button; she can fine-tune her art and alter exactly how she wants.

Photo Credit: Lara Lontoc (used with permission)
Many of the AP Studio students ask their classmates to model for the images they will later edit or photoshop.

Lizzie Dolan

Lizzie Dolan incorporates both of her passions, poetry and digital art, into skillfully crafted concentration pieces. She became inspired by the poetry she has written in the past that has kept her grounded in times where she has been overwhelmed. The hardest aspect of Dolan’s concentration is taking an abstract thought or picture she develops in her mind and creating it into tangible art that she can photograph and edit for her portfolio. It is hard for Dolan to find time in her busy schedule to make opportunities to photograph her friends or family and then edit them according to her vision. Although entering late into the digital imaging field, she has become a quick study and utilizes techniques from yearbook to help pick up photoshop tips and tricks.

Photo Credit: Olivia Stevens/ Achona Online
Dolan explains the complicated process of editing an image on her computer to coincide with the image in her head and the overall meaning of the poetry verse.

Dolan says, “I love art because, for some reason, everyone hates being deep or find it awkward, but in art, it’s rewarded. Art is a way to communicate what is bothering you, what scares you, what completes you. It’s a therapy session, an exploration, and a challenge all in one.”

All the AP Studio students are also excited for the upcoming Arts Fest in the newly constructed arts building across the bridge. Along with seeing their classmates completed portfolios, they are enthusiastic about the reactions of their friends and family to their personalized artwork. AP Studio and the other visual art classes will showcase their art on April 27.

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