Visual Arts

Through the visual arts—from animation to ceramics to painting—you’ll learn to express yourself creatively in form and space. 

Classes are taught by professional artists who have earned fine art degrees in sculpture, painting, printmaking, ceramics, fibers, digital art, and photography. These amazing teachers offer inspiration and serve as role models.

In our visual arts courses, you’ll have the opportunity to

  • Construct three-dimensional forms from a variety of materials, including clay, paper, and wood.
  • Work with water-soluble media such as acrylics, gouache, ink, pencils, and watercolors.
  • Take hands-on studio and production classes in animation, film and video.

Visual Arts Course Catalog

Middle School

Grade 6

Introduction to Visual Art

This is a class designed for all sixth-graders to learn the foundations of the Visual Arts program at The Northwest School. A variety of projects introduce students to the elements of art (line, color, texture, shape, form). This course pushes students to explore and develop ideas, and express themselves through drawing, painting, sculpture, collaging, photography, digital drawing and more. Sixth-graders complete daily drawing assignments in sketchbooks, learn new vocabulary and examine contemporary and historically relevant artists. The course culminates with a large group project. 

Grades 7 & 8

Book Art: Zines

Do you like to write stories with a pen and pencil, make drawings on paper, or print your own original publications to share with your friends? If so, the zines class is perfect for you! Zines are independent, small-scale publications that use simple and affordable publishing techniques to share art, stories, comics, and ideas. In this class, we will create and share zines. Materials will include pens, pencils, paper, collage materials, scanners, copy machines, and simple bookbinding techniques. In each unit, we will study examples of zines in a range of techniques, genres, and visual storytelling styles. As students create their own zines, they will build new skills in drawing, collage, graphic design, and bookmaking. This class is particularly relevant to students who are looking for a creative and powerful way to tell stories and share social justice messages. No experience necessary.


This exciting and challenging hands-on ceramics course introduces students to the basics of ceramics and pottery. No experience is required, and students may take ceramics more than once in middle school. With each class, students embark on new, creative, diverse projects encouraging them to control the direction of their work. Students learn to employ the elements and principles of art and design as they create and explore the vast world of art. The course experiments with both ceramic sculpture and functional pottery (like cups, vases and bowls). The class offers more than 40 mesmerizing colors to glaze students’ masterpieces. Occasionally, students can integrate new materials into their artwork, including a bit of metal, wire and melted glass. Clay used in class easily washes off and doesn’t stain clothes. Students can keep whatever art they create or give it as gifts. Let’s get started and make our ceramic dreams come true!

Digital Animation

In this class, students will learn to appreciate and create short digital animations with sound. Animation and motion design projects in this class will incorporate a range of experimental digital image-making skills including digital drawing, digital collage, working with layers, and using animation timelines. The primary software we will use is Procreate® on an iPad Pro. There will be options to work with Adobe® Photoshop® or Adobe® Animate®. We will explore animation for character animation, motion graphics, and fine art animation. There is no experience necessary, but students who enjoy digital art, stop motion animation, or digital comics will love this class!


Would you like to capture exciting moments of people, landscapes, and objects through the lens of a camera? In this course, students will dive into photography fundamentals, exploring the essential skills to craft stunning images. During the beginning of the trimester, students will familiarize themselves with the basics of photography, delving into the elements and principles of composition. Through hands-on projects, they will curate individual portfolios featuring portraits, landscapes, interiors, and abstract compositions. In the second half of the trimester, students will master the art of printing their photographs for exhibition and delve into the traditional techniques of darkroom photography.

Stop Motion Animation

In this class, students will create two-dimensional and three-dimensional “desktop” stop motion animation artworks using a range of media and materials. As students create their own animations, they will gain skills in cinematography, puppet design, collage, drawing, storyboarding, and audio design. We will study historical and contemporary animation examples. Students will learn to use OSnap Pro®, Garage Band®, and Adobe® Rush® on iPad Pros. They will create individual and collaborative projects. No experience necessary! This class builds creativity and critical thinking skills while establishing lifelong confidence to experiment with all forms of animation.

Textiles Studio Art

In this textile-centered class, students will dive into fabric dyeing, embroidery, and screen-printing techniques. Projects will include, dying a scarf using shibori, designing and screen-printing t-shirts, and even modifying garments. There will be lots of experimenting and learning about color mixing and textile techniques! Be ready to use your hands and create some beautiful textile art.

Upper School

Ceramics & Sculpture


Through both hand-building (hands-on sculpting) and wheel-throwing (using the mesmerizing potter’s wheel), this class offers students a year-long opportunity to learn many new and powerful ceramic art-making techniques. We explore the vast palette of glazes, including experimenting with the unique process of fusing colored glass into and onto our artwork. Using a combination of traditional and innovative techniques, we explore functional and abstract forms and focus on figurative sculpting, including realistic sculpting of a human head, animals, and masterpieces that defy description. Meanwhile, we continuously hone our pottery skills by producing actual cups, bowls, plates, vases, and more! We’ll make pottery that is useful, beautiful, unique, and satisfying!

Sculpture and Materials Exploration

Students in this course focus on constructing three-dimensional art forms from such materials as plaster, wire, wood, and paper. Students experiment with these materials and how to use them to “think in the round” and create sculptures. For inspiration, students look at images of sculptures from different artists, cultures, and time periods. Students also examine design and engineering strategies for building and combining materials from nature. The students in this class learn how to carve, solder, fuse glass, and more.

Digital Art

Animation and VIdeo

In this course, students learn to create experimental moving image artworks using a range of hands-on traditional media and new technologies. Students develop essential media production skills by creating short animations using drawing, stop motion, and digital techniques. Students study cinematography, sound design, and video editing while filming conversation scenes and documentary interviews. Individual and group projects encourage creativity and critical thinking skills and establish confidence for future experimentation with all forms of animation and video production. This class is suitable for beginners as well as experienced animators and media artists. This class takes place in the NWS Sprinkler Mac Lab, and students will have the opportunity to utilize many programs in the Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop, Premiere Rush, Premiere Pro, and After Effects. On the iPad Pros, students will have the opportunity to use Adobe Creative Cloud Apps as well as Procreate, Osnap Pro (Stop Motion), Garage Band, and more.

Graphic Design

This course explores the basic principles of graphic design through a series of studio projects and critiques, supplemented by short readings, class discussions, and lectures. Students will develop the skills, knowledge, and techniques to effectively utilize Adobe® Creative Cloud® applications including Photoshop®, Illustrator®, and InDesign. Students will understand and apply the elements and principles of art and design in both hands-on and digital formats. We will investigate the use of communicative tools such as composition, color, hierarchy, scale, rhythm, and visual metaphor. Topics covered include: the stages of design process, typography, identity design, publications design, advertising design, and information design.


Students In this course explore a variety of photographic processes and concepts. Using big ideas in conjunction with the elements and principles of design, students work to master the fundamentals of good composition and quality craftsmanship relating to photography as an art form. Students’ creative exploration is founded on technical skills such as operating a manual SLR camera, film development, and important darkroom procedures. Students study the work of master photographers and other artists as sources of cultural and historical understanding and inspiration. Creative activities develop critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. Students learn to welcome constructive criticism, to work hard, and seek new experiences. $150 lab fee.

Yearbook and Publication Design

This full-year course offers students an introduction to the basic elements of visual communication and the print world using the Adobe® Creative Cloud® applications of Photoshop® and InDesign®as well as Canva® as they work on the yearbook team. Students will learn the fundamentals of photography as they document notable events from the school year. Students will develop their communication skills via reporting, writing, class discussions, presentations, and publications. Students will create the yearbook and a variety of narrative projects that show how photography and the written word combine to inform society. The course will culminate in the publication of the annual school yearbook documenting the school’s community, memories, and events from the year. While the yearbook will be a major focus of the class, students will also be able to follow their creativity and interests in creating a zine-type publication of their own.

Drawing, Painting & Printmaking


So, you think you can’t draw? This is the perfect class for you. Students of all skill levels find this class to be helpful and inspiring. In this class, students do projects based on the basic building blocks of drawing: line quality, value, negative space, and proportion. Later projects include linear perspective, shading, portraits, collaborations, mixed-media drawings, or independent projects. Students will work on exercises in their sketchbooks and learn to draw from photo references and their imagination.

Watercolor and Related Media

This class is suited for beginners as well as more experienced artists. It focuses exclusively on water-soluble media, including watercolor, gouache (opaque watercolor), Sumi color, India ink, and aquarelle pencils and markers. Students create both non-representational and carefully observed “realistic” works. Students are given technical as well as conceptual prompts, and they write short artist statements for each project. Students gain experience with various critique formats, including self-assessments, written reviews, small group discussions, and roundtable sharing. They collaborate on group work, explore issues such as environmentalism, social activism, personal narrative, and formal abstraction, and learn about historical and contemporary artists who use water-based media to investigate similar issues.

Intermediate & Advanced Visual Art

Advanced Art

This course is an opportunity for dedicated visual art students who have taken at least one US visual arts class and want to develop a personally meaningful body of work that will be shown in a final exhibition with an accompanying publication. Students will construct a work plan in tandem with the instructor that allows for exploration of their own interests and materials. Students will develop project proposals and participate in regular group feedback sessions. Students may choose to build a portfolio, explore large work or installation, or work with one theme all year. Students will deepen their skill sets and their artistic voice. A focus will be matching concepts to materials. Students will have an expansive sketchbook practice, researching work by professional artists for inspiration. Students will have individual studio workspaces in the Summit Building that allow for concentrated studio practice. These spaces will be converted into show spaces at the end of the year to share the work with the whole community in the final exhibition. We will work on Artist Statements and applications for ongoing arts opportunities outside of school. Note: Portfolio submission is required for selective admission, and applicant interviews will take place during the school’s audition period. Seniors Only.

Intermediate Studio Art

Intermediate Studio Art offers portfolio development skills including building a strong body of work, photographic documentation, drafting artist statements, and researching artistic influences. Students can engage with a range of studio-based projects including drawing, painting, screen-printing, watercolor, and working with experimental materials. While this course emphasizes studio art production, students are encouraged to incorporate media art skills from animation, graphic design, and photography. Each student develops a unique visual vocabulary through a sketchbook practice that addresses various conceptual themes including storytelling, mark-making, personal identity, and mapping. This class ends with students presenting their work in a final exhibition.