The Artist’s Archive: Making a Portfolio Work at the de Young Summer Camp

“Making art is a building process. You have to set a foundation and then everything else grows steadily from that grounded place.”—Summer Camp Master Artist


As guest blogger Ashley Harris reports, during week five of the de Young Summer Art Camp, the walls of the tower could barely contain the artwork created by campers. The week’s themes explored multimedia drawing methods with Drawn to Drawing for Apprentices, Muses, and Artisans, while the Masters (the eldest group of campers) engaged in The Artist’s Archive: Making a Portfolio of Work. Campers created sketches, renderings, and studies of all sizes, drawing inspiration from the artworks they found in the museum’s galleries.


The Apprentices (ages 5–6) began their week learning the basic foundation of lines and shapes. Templates were arranged and outlined allowing artists to form an overlapped composition of basic shapes. The Apprentices then used black markers to re-trace their lines and Caran d’ache water-soluble wax crayons to add color and texture to their compositions.


Throughout the week, the Apprentices also found inspiration in artwork on view in the de Young. Before creating drawings of lions, owls, and elephants, the Apprentices studied Edward Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom (ca. 1846).


This youngest group also experimented with different mark-making techniques, using their fingers to draw lines of tempera paint, and to create shields inspired by those found in the New Guinea galleries. A final layer of oil pastel and sheer watercolor resist highlighted all of the tempera squiggles and designs.


The Artisans and Muses created art in the studio and outside in the surrounding Golden Gate Park. Artists prepped still life drawings by making a study using basic shape cutouts and chalk pastel to create dimension with shading, blending, and cross-hatching drawing techniques.

Circile drawing

After visiting and sketching the trompe l’oeil paintings in the American art galleries, young artists drew tabletop still-lifes in the studio, focusing on form and shadow with newsprint and vine charcoal. Finally, colored renderings of their compositions were made using watercolor paint and pastel overlay.

Still lifes

When they spent an entire day drawing outside, both Muses and Artisans found venturing out to the park enlightening and inspirational. A trip to the San Francisco Botanical Garden allowed the artists to sketch from the many organic forms inhabiting the garden. The Muses and Artisans then immortalized these forms using watercolor on cream-toned paper to create beautiful flower studies.


The Master artists (ages 12–14), developed a portfolio of work designed to exemplify their skills, ideas, vision, and experiences during art camp. This, the oldest group, experimented with drawing materials, painting processes, and printmaking to build a series of works that linked their own artistic ideas. During their art making, the Masters were encouraged to reflect on and critique their own art, which allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of their work and sensibilities.


One especially fascinating project combined drawing and text to build a self-portrait. The Masters used patterns, descriptive words, and various drawing materials to fill their own cut-out paper silhouette. The resulting drawings convey a true sense of introspection, personal reflection, and technical skill.

Text portrait

The momentum and extensive explorations apparent in the Masters’ portfolios would be an enchanting, motivating sight to any artist!