I have been exhibiting my artwork since 2012. I have received artist grants and awards and I have attended artist residencies. With this experience I have done my share in submitting my portfolio for numerous applications. See my 7 tips for your college/university art portfolio application below!
After receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from Lakehead University I also completed teacher’s college. I graduated being able to teach grades 4-12 in Ontario before taking my Master of Fine Arts at Concordia University.
During my time in teacher’s college part of my placement included teaching art to grade 12 students. In the first term I helped students with their portfolios as they were in the midst of applying for university and college arts programs. I volunteered my time to help these students during my lunch break by giving them tips and ways to improve what they had selected to be in their portfolios.
Currently I am working as an art instructor a private boarding school where I am helping international high school students with their portfolio applications in art and architecture programs.
I have outlined 7 tips on art portfolio applications below:
READ THE REQUIREMENTS -AND FOLLOW THEM
You need to know what they want and usually they tell you specifics!
Every university and college or even programs within the same school have different application requirements when it comes to their portfolios. Some schools are very specific asking for a certain number of pieces, certain media used or certain sizes of work. Some schools want original work, some/most don’t– they want photographs uploaded on programs like SlideRoom. Some schools even have specific themes like “Make a work that is finished yet unfinished.” This can make the process more difficult and leave students feeling overwhelmed and unsure -often overthinking their decisions and ideas.
Show Your Creative Process
Most schools want to see your process work – they want to see how you think about your art and why you made the choices you did. It is a good idea to explain your artistic decisions in either your descriptions of your artwork or by showing some sketches/tests and rough work as part of your portfolio.
Show Your Personality
The purpose of the portfolio is an introduction and a chance for your chosen school to get to know you and see if you would be a good fit there. You want to show your interests and possibilities you might want to continue to explore while in post-secondary education. You should include materials you like working with and show your artistic style that is unique to you! You can show your personality through the subject matter by making art on things that interest you, that you’re passionate about and make you different from other people.
You want the professors reviewing your portfolio to be impressed by your skills and see you as an artist who is versatile. Therefore, it is important to show that you can do more. For example, if you are applying to an illustration program you want to show a mixture of digital and traditional artwork. You want to show that you can work with other mediums like water colour, acrylic, pencil crayon, pencil, ink, pastel… the list goes on and on.
By showing variety you are showing that you aren’t afraid to try new things and experiment with your artwork. It shows that you are open to growing and learning which is the whole point of college and university programs.
Show Program Specific Techniques
If you are applying to specific programs like architecture or illustration you want to think about possible projects that might be studied in those programs. Once you have thought of those ideas you could try to include relevant pieces in your portfolio.
Take architecture for example:
-They create designs digitally and traditionally
-They make models
-They draw with perspective
These are just some of the qualities professors hope to see in your portfolio application.
If you are applying to a non-specific program like a Bachelor of Fine Arts for example- then again you want to show variety with materials but also what you are making include some drawing, some painting and some sculpture work in your portfolio. You need to show your range, talents and abilities. If you only submit drawings in pencil that’s all the review committee thinks you are capable of doing.
Details are Important
You need to remember that review panels are looking at portfolio after portfolio for hours on end. You need to stand out and be memorable. Make sure you consider details to set you apart.
Edit your photos, think about your layout, come up with clever titles for your work. All these details are important.
Show Your Thinking, Your Writing and Research
Usually you will be asked to submit written descriptions about your work- make sure they are detailed and informative.
List your inspiration- if you did a drawing based off a building or place -state that research. You want to show your intelligence and critical thinking abilities in these descriptions.
Make sure you edit your writing, stick to the word count and choose a consistent and legible font.
Take time to plan your written descriptions and do not leave them to the last minute!
If you need more help with your portfolio- book your calls by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck in your applications and all the best in your future!