college art portfolio

College Art Portfolio

Ever wondered where to start on putting together pieces of your college art portfolio? Can’t wait to show your work to college admission officers? But before that, let’s understand a definition of a portfolio. What is a portfolio? An art school application portfolio is a collection of your work (poetry, painting, sculpture, drawing, etc.), that helps university staff to evaluate your potential, skills, creativity, personality, and abilities. Students are required to prepare a portfolio depending on the program they apply to.

If you are in the process of creating an application portfolio and want to make the best impression on the school of your dream, we have got tips on arranging your art portfolio from well-known experienced art and design school admissions staff from around the world. Knowing how to make a portfolio for courses, associate or undergraduate degree is crucial.

There are no typical requirements and expectations for portfolio submission, they are different in every school. Those variations can confuse students who are in the process of putting together their portfolios. It’s important to check guidelines of every school you are applying to before and during the process of arranging a college art portfolio. Most universities have open days where you can get all the information about requirements you need. Before preparing your portfolio, make sure to check applications and portfolio deadlines of every university you are applying to, just to have enough time to get ready and start early, as some portfolios can take a long time to make, plus you will need time for a personal statement, supplemental essays, letters of recommendations, etc. Highlight this information and keep it in your calendar. Do not get automatically rejected only because you didn’t follow a school’s instructions. Be organized and things will go smoothly.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 tips for getting your portfolio ready.

1. A range of recent and original work should be included.

Don’t include in your portfolio works that are few years old. It wouldn’t exactly represent you as an artist. Include recent visual work, preferably created within the last year or two aiming to demonstrate your artistic skills, ideas and passion, be original and avoid copies of other works (portraits of celebrities, animations, dragons, tattoo, etc.). Admission officers have seen many portfolios and are trained to spot copies. Many art schools appreciate a certain level of observational drawing skills (ink, pencil, crayons, chalk, etc.), it’s not always required but is welcomed. It could benefit your application. It is more challenging and requires more skills. It would represent something that has been viewed in real life, not copied from a photograph or imagination. If a bit of inspiration is needed, make sure to check a range of university and college art portfolio style examples online or in libraries. Use them as a guide. Do not get upset if you feel a lack of technical skills comparing to what you might see. If you have creativity, passion for the subject, personal drive you will catch admission officers attention. Draw in your personal way, choose something that has meaning for you from direct observation or something that is relevant to your degree. Be yourself, reveal your personality. Make your portfolio memorable, clearly unique, distinguished from the crowd.

2. Make sure your work is organized, has a good quality and presented well.

Your portfolio should be treated with a high level of professionalism, as it will make an impression of you, which should be positive and memorable. Remember, first impression counts, so the admission staff will spend enough time to review your work. Presentation of your portfolio is crucial. It shows your desire to attend a university or college. It should be organized well so it is easy to navigate. Submitting online photographs of your work should be done carefully and as required by the admission departments. So re-read the guidelines for photographing art (colors, resolution, cropping, etc.). Select simple, clean, practical art portfolio case or folder that protects your work. Avoid metal or sharp material covers. The relationship between sizes, colors, and format of work should be thought-out. Avoid repetitions. Pages should not stick together, secured well, photographs have no fingerprints, focused. You might be asked to include few pages from your sketchbook to understand your brainstorming process. Other pieces of your work should be presented in good shape (no torn, folded edges, rips, wrinkles). Be sure to write your name, titles, school.

3. You might be surprised but writing principles for a college essay can be applied to your artwork.

As in thesis sentence of an essay - ask a question: What’s the message or idea does your artwork bring? What can be read by looking at your work? What is behind this picture or a sculpture?

Make sure to experiment with a variety of tools, materials, techniques. If it’s not specified otherwise, portfolios may include design, web design, video, drawings, paintings, etc. Prove the admission officers that you are growing as an artist and challenge yourself in multiple ways, have the willingness to try new things, explore, think beyond technical art, focus on areas that interest you.

Introduction and conclusion: Impress the viewers with your work, creativity, original ideas, visual curiosity, unexpected outcomes that reflect your interests and experiences.

4. Keep in mind that in order to prepare a certain amount of pieces of work you can later choose from

(approximately 10-20 is the average number of art portfolio examples required) you will need a certain amount of time. Create more work so you will have a chance to narrow them down to an amount that you need for each school you apply to. Include in your portfolio some good quality work, avoid selecting work that is weaker but you decide to include it just for quantity. Not a good idea. Consider including work-in-progress. Some art schools welcome such works that take many attempts to finish, they think of it as a piece of art that talks about the artistic process, shows the kind of artist the author is.

5. Get feedback.

Ask for a feedback from your high school art teacher. They normally would have an experience of helping students to apply to colleges or universities. If not, there are portfolio preparation classes at many art schools. You might get a good advice on techniques, composition there and be motivated by other students works. Getting an evaluation from unbiased individuals will help you to see how your work is understood by viewers. Ask your friends, relatives, and neighbors what emotions or ideas come to mind when they see your art. Do not hesitate to show your work to others. Get your visual arts portfolio reviewed by professional at free, open to the public National Portfolio Day. Better to get critique on time from a variety of trusted mentors and create a great artwork. 

There are other types of a portfolio in other disciplines, such as music or STEM. Music portfolios are works in progress and develop with your career. It could be an online clip or live audition. Also, photographs, cover letters, bio, demo, articles about your work are required. Be sure to check requirements of every school you apply to.

STEM portfolios as a record of experiences can benefit applicants. These types of a portfolio are debatable since STEM departments mostly are all about test-taking.


18 July, 2018 in Student Portal