Applying to an Arts Program Soon? Here’s What to Include in Your College Portfolio

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What to Include in Your Art College Portfolio

An art college portfolio is a collection of the artist’s best visual works that he or she has produced. It must tell a story through the art pieces, which also reflect the artist’s current skills and creative imagination. It should entice the viewer with a glimpse into who they are.

Students applying to college arts programs are required to produce a portfolio of work that proves that they are a good choice for the program they are applying to. The reviewing professors assess if the applicant has the skills and imagination that program requires of it’s students and make the supposition that the student upon graduating will uphold the school’s reputation with honor.

The biggest obstacle applicants must overcome with their art college portfolio

The problem with an art college portfolio of applicants is the difficulty for professors to understand it as a whole. Students may have created artworks that look great individually, but makes little sense when compiled. If you intend to apply to a college arts program and are currently building a portfolio, you need to develop a flow or natural progression that lead from one to another and tell a story about yourself with your artworks.

Most importantly, you must visually state that you are a worthy candidate and a superior choice to your peers. You are stating a thesis that asserts that you ought to be accepted to the program. So in effect, a portfolio is like an essay in visual form, in which you state a thesis and then proceed to prove your point.

When selecting and compiling the pieces for your art college portfolio, create flow and prove the point that you are an appropriate choice for the program if you think of it as an essay. Like any good essay you set up a series of proofs that illustrate your thesis to be true.

Here’s a short video from PortPrep owner Karen Kesteloot about creating flow to the pieces of your art college portfolio.

Since your thesis in essence asserts that you have the creative genius and range of skills necessary to be a worthy candidate then it follows that you need to demonstrate creativity and skill through the choices of artworks. Just like in a well written essay you need to start with your strongest proof, followed by a second strong proof. The middle portion of any essay presents supporting documentation and then the essay is ended with a third strong proof to drive the point of the thesis home.

Outlined below are some considerations of what kinds of visual proofs to include in your art college portfolio so that you can make it the strongest it can be and get you accepted into the program of your choice.

Thesis: I am a superior candidate, worthy of acceptance into your great program and I will uphold the reputation of your school. I have the skills, the creative imagination and the personality that is not only motivated and passionate but organized and hard working.

First Proof : Major Impact Artwork

Clean Shaven by Brock Davis

Clean Shaven by Brock Davis. Click here to view source page.

The first piece featured in your art college portfolio must be your WOW piece, which is the finest artwork you have made that. Your WOW piece must present form and style in the best of your abilities. The substance of your work must be communicated clearly for people to understand.

NOTE: The secret to a “WOW” piece is to think that you are a great artist. You simply won’t be able to create compelling artworks if you don’t think they’re great enough to get you into college. Here’s another video from Karen Kesteloot about things that make you great as an aspiring art student.

Second Proof:  Strong Artwork

The second piece to be featured is your “keep looking” piece. This is a step below your WOW piece, but must still exhibit excellent style and form regardless. This piece should encourage people to browse through your portfolio until the very end. Consider your WOW and “keep looking” pieces as your 1-2 punch to turn critics into believers.

Middle Section: Supporting Documentation

The third to second last pieces to be included in your art college portfolio are like the supporting documentation section of an essay. They should show a range of skills and ideas that convey that you are a well-rounded artist. Be strategic about what you include; consider what that particular program would be looking for in successful candidates’ work. Provide people a window into what your potential could be in this career.

Here are some of the types of images to include in the middle section:

Drawings and freehand works are still recommended to be included in your portfolio. Although many college programs have a strong emphasis on computer-aided art and design, the art college portfolio reviewers nonetheless value the students’ ability to produce traditional art. Therefore, put in a couple drawings such as perspective and still life, for example, to strengthen your case to be accepted in the program. You could show cartoon, animation or graphics (but still drawing) to show more original ideas.

Your portfolio must show your ability to adapt to different styles. Include as many diverse yet strong works in photography, sculpture, 3D arts or crafts, computer art, landscaping, or anything else that can be considered art.

The brain storming or story board on how you came up with your work can help solidify your art college portfolio. These are important in revealing your thought process as an artist and to showing your variety of skills, but spread these out at strategic places. Do not place them immediately after your first two works to avoid driving these attentions away from your best works.

Just like a good essay, you need to end your portfolio on a strong note. Therefore, end your art college portfolio with another WOW piece. It needs to be as memorable as the first one featured. Assuming they really looked through the whole thing, they are left with a good impression.

Last thing to consider

Some of the art schools encourage you to showcase something unique and special about you that can’t be included on your portfolio. For example, the University of Waterloo, one of the most sought after schools for architecture, like their applicants to walk in and play a song if they claim to be musicians. This allows them to know more about their applicants not only as artists, but also as people.

The advice above should allow your art college portfolio to maintain a certain cohesion to make your works less mysterious and reveal their true nature, just like what a great essay does to an obscure idea.

Last thing, you should always think of what professors are looking for in an art college portfolio. While students have little to no idea on the kind of art college portfolio that universities accept, they need to always put their shoes into the professors’ and see if their portfolio will be good enough for acceptance. Below is another video from Karen that puts this into perspective.

If you wish to learn more on how to make an art portfolio for college, let Karen Kesteloot from help you with any questions you have or difficulties you are encountering with your respective portfolio. Her expertise in arts training has served her well through her 15 years of teaching experience in the applied arts field.

Let Karen lend her hand to your portfolio at no extra costs – sign up for her FREE portfolio assessment by clicking here!

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