Do you need a portfolio to get into art school
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The difference in expectations can leave students uncertain about how to proceed.
Do you need a portfolio to get into art school
All work — even observational drawings — should show that you understand how to compose an image well, arranging visual elements such as line, shape, tone, texture, colour, form and colour in an pleasing way. Compositions should be well-balanced and varied. Some art schools, particularly in the United States — require that every piece in your application be a finished, realised work.
Others in the UK love to see process, development or sketchbook work. If an art or design school specifically states that this material is permitted, this is an excellent opportunity to flaunt your skills, commitment and depth of knowledge. The research and processes undertaken to develop your work are often as important as the final work itself and allow the selection panel to understand your work in context and see how it has been initiated and developed.
Process and development work helps colleges and universities to understand how you think the ideas and meanings behind pieces and see that you are able to take an idea from concept and develop it through to a final resolution.
It provides evidence that you are able to analyse, experiment, explore and trial different outcomes and make critical judgments. It is important to remember that artistic skill must be accompanied by creativity, original ideas and some form of visual curiosity. Technical skill is useless if you are unable to think of how to put an idea in a unique, interesting way.
Someone who is able to generate original and captivating ideas that rip into your heart and soul is far more appealing than someone who produces dull, predictable, yet technically excellent artwork.
To achieve this within your portfolio, it may help to:. Universities want people who will represent their school well, who will do great things that reflect positively upon their place of study.
They want passionate, keen students who will cope with the workload and who intend to actually go on and make use of their degree. This means that you must convey a sense of passion, commitment and enthusiasm within the portfolio.
To do this, you can:. Portfolio guidelines for different areas of art and design are often similar, but it can be wise to modify your portfolio so that it is appropriate for the degree you are applying for. Rather than creating a completely different set of images for each specialisation or major, however, a submission can be tweaked slightly, so that it showcases relevant strengths and an interest in the area you are applying for.
Example, submitting observational drawings of city scenes or building interiors for an architecture application.
As an example, digital based degrees may like to see evidence of technological awareness and capability and the ability to work with a range of digital platforms, alongside traditional non-digital techniques. This might include time-based interactive work film, animation, video, website design. Once you have planned what you will include in your portfolio, you should prepare a period of time to produce this. If you have not taken high school Art classes, preparing a portfolio will take a lot of work — about 6 months to complete a portfolio from scratch.
Remember it is ideal to create more work than is needed, so that you can carefully edit and remove the weaker pieces. Once you have completed a significant body of work, seek feedback and modify, improve the pieces.
Build in reflective time — time to set it aside and come back to it with fresh eyes. Presentation of your portfolio is very important. The organisation and arrangement of your portfolio has a direct impact upon the way the work is perceived. A good layout helps to communicate an eye for composition, a professional approach, shows your commitment and desire to attend the program. It leaves a positive, memorable impression.
Poorly cared for work that is thrown together in a sloppy, thoughtless layout, or is overly decorative and laboured in presentation, significantly distracts the eye from the quality of the artwork. Admissions staff may spend less than five minutes looking at your portfolio, so first impressions are very important. A3, A2 or A1 is usually fine.
Start and end with a great piece of work, so that you create a great initial and final impression. Space other great work evenly throughout your portfolio avoiding a clump of weaker work. Think about grouping similar work together, by medium, subject or style — perhaps as a series of projects — or chronologically. Aim to make it appear coherent, rather than a whole lot of scattered, disconnected pieces.
If you are asked to submit a specific number of images, ensure that each of these is a different piece of work. Where a certain number of sheets are asked for, it may be possible to mount smaller works onto a single sheet.
If you want to submit different angles of one piece of work, it is usually best to digitally submit these on one sheet, or as one image. Read the guidelines of the particular university or college you wish to apply to carefully to find out what is expected.
Interactive Arts-based High School. Our talented staff provides each student with a rigorous standards, high academic. They want to see that you can translate 3D concepts into a 2D space while keeping the correct proportions and perspective. Include personal work. Complete your portfolio with work that speaks to your personal experiences or draws from your background.
Consider including experimental work or pieces that showcase your personal interest in a particular subject or medium. Explore ideas and originality. There are thousands of aspiring artists applying to art school each year, so make sure your best work includes out-of-the-box thinking.
Keep a sketchbook. Some art schools will require that you submit your sketchbook along with your portfolio to give further insight. Photograph your work in its best light. Use outdoor or natural light to photograph your portfolio pieces.
Digitize all artwork. Work should be saved with sufficient pixels so the reviewer can enlarge without pixilation. Always archive a high-resolution image for your records, and create an image inventory of your work that includes title if any , medium, date, and size.
Be very selective. A portfolio submitted for admission will usually consist of digital images of your best and most recent work. Exhibiting the strengths and capabilities of particular styles of art also means experimenting with the different media that are available.
For example, instead of drawing with pencil, try doing that same study with crayons, pastels, charcoal, chalk, or ink. In many cases, this documentation will be the only account of your work that an admissions department is exposed to. The same thing goes for books or zines—rather than stressing about taking up your whole portfolio with a series of images, why not make a second iMovie that goes through the extent of what you did?
Professional art photography is extremely expensive. Luckily, you can take more than adequate photos of your work with a little planning and minor equipment.
Photographing pure white in an artwork that also contains darker colors can be tricky. The key is using at least watt lights, placed at even intervals surrounding the surface that you want to render. You may be able to use equipment that is already at your school if you are currently in high school or college. If you are not a student, you may want to rent or borrow photographic equipment for the day.
Depending on what kind of work you make, scanning images may be more appropriate than photographing. For non-students, local print shops will have low-cost scanners available. If your portfolio contains analog photography , be sure that the prints or scans you include are high quality. When getting prints or scans done at a lab, ensure that the photos are the best representation of your work. National Portfolio Day was created to make it easier for prospective art students to get portfolio feedback.
A university fair-style event, National Portfolio Day offers the chance for you to have your portfolio critiqued by virtually every undergraduate art and design program in the United States and Canada before you apply. However, be prepared for honest and even jarring critiques of your work too. Meeting these criteria for a successful application portfolio will greatly increase your chances of getting accepted to the art or design school of your choosing.
You may feel like you are making art to meet admissions requirements for a professor or critics during this long process.
Remember what drew you to art school, and think of how art school will continue to enrich that relationship. But ultimately, I tried to forget about all of that and make art that excited me. In , art school applications are at an all-time high. With online applications and global interconnectivity, it might seem like studying art is simpler than ever before. However, more opportunities means more competition.
Nonetheless, having a good sense of why art matters to you really comes across in your portfolio. As you can probably see from this list, getting into art school takes time, dedication, and patience. In particular, creating an art portfolio that is well thought out and intentionally put together is one of the biggest factors influencing your acceptance into your school of choice.
As mentioned, we recommend taking your time, being intentional with what you include in your portfolio, and being clear about the guidelines from the schools you are applying to. While we understand that applying to art school can be overwhelming, we hope this guide gives you the confidence you need to put together an impactful portfolio that gets you started on your path to pursuing your passion.
Looking for more advice on curating your work? Read our ultimate guide to curating a photography portfolio.