Portfolio Prep Step 3

Congratulations, you’ve got your list of schools together, know all the requirements for each school and have been to at least one Portfolio Day!  Well, that’s the ideal.  At least you know what to shoot for while you work on your portfolio;)

Let’s talk about your portfolio:

What does the work say about what interests YOU?

For instance, are your still life studies dynamic? Are they composed of elements that YOU find interesting? Are you thinking about why and where you are placing elements?  Maybe you use humor in the work? Maybe the work is deadly serious. Is it your intention to concentrate on values and representing three-dimensional form? Do you find the contours more interesting?  Are you depicting your family’s dinner table? Is it a view after the meal?  Are the shapes abstracted?  Do you choose to portray ordinary objects rendered in outrageous color? Is your pet sitting in the middle of the table? Maybe it’s your uncle? 🙂

In other words, are you thinking?  Are you feeling? Are you observing?


*Copy -someone else’s style because you think it looks cool, because they got a 5 on the AP portfolio, or because you don’t think you have one.  Let inspiration guide you and experiment with an element of something that you’ve seen, but make it yours.

*Worry -about competition.  No one can see through YOUR eyes. No one else has access to YOUR hands.  No one else thinks through YOUR brain. This fact guarantees that your portfolio will be unique. It should be.

*Assume-that you have to know it all already.  Remember, this work allows you to get into school. You’ve got years of work ahead to learn and refine (it simply never ends;)

*Forget about the essays and the specific mandatory pieces for the various schools to which you are applying.  They count. Some of the mandatory pieces may help to challenge and stretch you, so don’t save them for last.

*Jump at advice and take it as the only truth. Even this post. Change and consideration are is the words of the day.  But..clearly, you have to start somewhere.  This post hopes to get you moving in your own direction.


Include varied media/mediums. Even if you are burning to study photography, most schools insist on a foundation*, freshman year. That means you’ll get your fingers covered in charcoal, paint, and glue while taking classes in figure drawing, 3-D work, and heaven knows what else. …(it’s a good thing). Schools want to understand that you can make it through.

Think contrasts;show off your technical skill  but also show off your daring-maybe all in the same piece, or in different pieces  Show work that is personal but also show work that is steeped in tradition.  I know this all sounds off the wall, but the constant is YOU. It’s you work,  your ideas, your take.

Get Feedback?  Yes, indeed, do ask your teachers and friends, people whose aesthetic you respect, for opinions on what to keep in and what to weed out.  Ask them why they think a piece should stay or go.   But, ultimately, YOU must weigh all of the opinions and present what you think is your best work.

Ask yourself questions-constantly, about your artistic choices. Writing and talking about what you do will eventually (even in your interview), be a part of your work. You probably think in a visual way first, but you will be called upon to use words, even a concise few to talk/write about your art.  Words also help you to push yourself and explain to yourself some of the artistic choices you are making in your work.

Believe in you. No matter where you are in your journey as an artist, understand that the only person you need to please with the work is ultimately YOU. Be brutally honest with yourself. Be patient with yourself. We can talk about admissions committees, art directors, and critics another time;)



Portfolio Prep Step 1

Ok, so you’ve decided on art school.  How to prepare…

*sketch-anything and everything, Try to keep a sketchbook.

*experiment -with lots of different materials, techniques, mixed media, photography, video, 2-D, 3-D, digital art, printmaking, collage…….

*look around-The internet is a fabulous place to use an hour of your time to see new art from all over the world and find tutorials on basic technique-go to galleries, museums, look at street art, public art, graphic art, illustration, painting, performance art, fashion, design, sculpture, video, installations, go to book stores and browse through the art books and art magazines, go to the library and check out the books with images of great art.

*plan to do your best in school-Art schools look at grades. If you have some trouble with academics, get some help***. If you haven’t cared up till now,  and haven’t put in much effort, start trying,   If you do well in school, keep it up.  If you have already graduated but still have some trouble with basic academic skills, work on those reading, writing and math skills. You will need them in art school and in life.

*collaborate with other artists-Propose an art project in your school or community, volunteer to teach art, Make work with a friend or two and help each other.

*if possible, find a mentor-Take art classes, talk with artists, find an art teacher or artist willing to help you work on your weaknesses and encourage you to move forward.

*think-Visual art today is not just about technique. Think about concepts, remain curious, ask questions, keep an open mind.

*feel-Try to tease apart what you or others might be feeling. Pay attention to how your feel. Use that energy to propel your art.

***Tons of artists learn differently.  Many have struggled with learning disabilities. If you feel like that might be you, reach out for help. What may be a hindrance in academia, may be a gift in your creative life. Don’t give up!