How to Choose a College: Clara Lieu’s Sage Advice to Art College Applicants

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Your journey towards a successful career starts with how to choose a college. Proper study habits, work etiquette, along with other disciplines are instilled in us as early as preschool. Your education level advances through the years and reaches the collegiate level wherein we receive a more career-oriented development.

At this stage enters, you begin to ask these regarding how to choose a college:

  • Where should I study?
  • What should I study?
  • How do I get in to those schools?
Clara Lieu, Visual Artist and Professor at Rhode Island School of Design

Clara Lieu. Click here to view image source.

For these questions, Karen Kesteloot, “Admission Insider” and founder of Portprep, finds the answers during her interview with Rhode Island School of Design professor Clara Lieu.

Clara Lieu is also a writer and a visual artist with works exploring the themes of isolation and mental illness with an interdisciplinary approach which includes drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. She completed a BFA in Illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in Sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

She blogs for the Huffington Post, where she writes an advice column for visual artists called “Ask the Art Professor”. She authored the book “Learn, Create, and Teach: A Guide to Building a Creative Life” in 2013.

The video below shares Clara Lieu’s thoughts in finding the right course and university for you.

Key takeaways on how to choose a college

Focus on your PASSION rather than expected income

It is common for college applicants to look for careers that pay a lot. Clara explains why this shouldn’t be the case and points out the importance of your passion in the subject that you will choose.

Passion will not only make your efforts feel somewhat lighter but sustainable as well. You cannot exert your best and keep your efforts at the highest possible level always if you do not enjoy what you do. Passion creates that burning desire for you to excel without fail in the craft that you choose, regardless of the obstacles you face in the course.

You must, therefore, never use the expected income impression for a job as basis for the college course you will apply for. Clara explains how success – wealth, to be more specific – comes only after hard work and is not dependent on certain jobs alone. You can succeed if you love what you do and properly apply your knowledge for it.

Listen to your HEART, seek the true color and shape of your SOUL

T2i - Red Heart

T2i – Red Heart (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

What’s in your heart and soul determines who you are and what career you shall take. Pursue what you are passionate about.

Your parents and peers may have career preferences and recommendations for you, but it is still up to you on how to choose a college and which career to take. It is better to chase early the career of your choice rather than initially start a different course and eventually realize that you are miles away from things that you love to do. Being in a wrong field of education/work will not only diminish your drive and efficiency at your practice, it may also connote years of delay, wasted time even, towards your true calling.


In preparing your art portfolio for your college application, draw from life and not from a photograph. Drawing from direct observation forces you to engage directly with a subject, while drawing from a photograph does not. Drawing from life is an experience – you can smell, hear, feel, and see your subject. You can view your subject from another side; you can look on top of it and see a whole new perspective.

In drawing from a photograph, you will miss out many aspects and possibilities. A lot of drawing is about learning how to see. More than half part of the drawing is really learning to investigate the subject in a very deep way. The only way to be part of this process is to observe in real life.

Working from life is harder and more challenging because it lets you process things differently. Drawing from a photograph is much easier but a Bad Shortcut – it will not be good for an artist and develop lots of bad habits in your drawing that will be difficult to undo later. If you want to get ahead of the game, draw from life.

In assessing portfolios, a trained eye distinguishes artworks drawn from real life from those drawn from a photograph. It is important for the assessor to see your vision and how you connect with the subject. Let your art portfolio showcase your skills and diversity, technique and concept. Express your personality and present original ideas and approach to your subject. Your interpretation to the subject will communicate what you are made of and what is unique about you. Your opinion and feelings towards the subject reflects in your work.

Read on “How to Start Drawing Landscape Designs in 4 Simple Steps” to relate drawing with life.

Explore and be OPEN-MINDED

English: An open mind? Close-up of the metalli...

English: An open mind? Close-up of the metallic sculpture, outside Calne’s new library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once you have figured out how to choose a college, show them that you have the drive and self-initiative in accomplishing artistic feats. In this regard, be ready to try different things – learn and exercise different techniques and try to work using different approaches and discover your strengths and weaknesses. By doing these things, you will surely improve your skills and better prepare you for the challenges ahead.

Do you want to kickoff the path towards a successful career, especially with how to choose a college? Check out Karen’s Coaching Services to get the right package for your portfolio development. Click here or on the banner below for more information.

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2 thoughts on “How to Choose a College: Clara Lieu’s Sage Advice to Art College Applicants

  1. Pingback: Portprep | Pearltrees

  2. Pingback: How to get into art school | Clara Lieu

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