10 Art Portfolio Misconceptions that Will Change Your Worldview

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When making college submissions, art students tend to overlook some quite important parts of any killer art portfolio. They rely too much on traditional and unsubstantiated beliefs and myths of making an attractive portfolio. What they don’t understand is that by subscribing to these misconceptions, they fall into the trap of failure. Here are ten such age-old misconceptions and how you can avoid falling victim to them while changing your world view of arts and design.

  1.    That one should only focus on the main subject

Any expert art designer will inform you that quality art has two main components; the main subject and a complementing background. Too often great creativity in design from talented art students goes unnoticed because they are painted on poor, unattractive, dull backgrounds, or no background at all; just blank white space. Place your subject in a context or into a colour or tone to help guide the eye and create a mood suitable to the concept of your art piece.

  1.    That you can present work drawn from second-hand sources

It might be tempting to paint that beautiful sunset photo you took a few days ago. But don’t present it as a sample portfolio item. Examiners are after creativity and drawing inspirations from life and your ideas. When you simply copy from photographs you are not flexing your creative muscle. Make sure you either use your own reference photos that you take with a particular painting in mind as opposed to just copying your photo. You can look to other reference sources to help you create something out of your imagination but make sure you are consulting several images that follow your original idea.When you copy photos by other photographers you are not making the composition choices so it doesn’t involve your own mind enough. The other problem is that copied photographs reveal a lack of originality in your portfolio and might even break copyright if you don’t make enough changes to the composition and intent of the photograph. Copying photographs, especially well known ones is a surefire way to get rejected rather than accepted. Avoid drawing portraits of famous people instead choose people you know.

  1.    Every art has to score highly on annotation

On the contrary, a creative art requires no explanation regarding lengthy annotations. Refrain from using writing to cover up for poor quality artwork. Instead, spend more time on creating outstanding paintings and designs. A strong creative work should be able to stand on it’s own without an explanation. Understanding how hierachy of line, edge, colour and contrast can help you ensure that you can get your message across without the need of an explanation.

  1.    That presentation if not essential as long as you are creative

This brings up the question of which is more important; creativity in design or presentation skills? The bottom line is you need to have both. Poor presentation detracts from your creativity. Prepare a professional and neat portfolio but consider ways that you can put it together with a little ingenuity or graphic flair. Ensure that your work is creative, well executed and presented well.

  1.    That perfect work can only be achieved on a new slate

While this is encouraged, it is time-consuming and a hindrance to development. Art students are advised to practice improving their paintings by enriching the artwork substance that then results in a content rich final piece. This saves time and allows you to paint more equally creative pieces that solidify your portfolio. Often times a painting or design that seems weak just needs a few adjustments to work really well. Getting advice from an objective source can help you identify which pieces have the potential to be saved and which are best to abandon and remove from your portfolio.

  1.    That the subject art has to be at the center of the page

Most art students don’t know where to place their main subject in a painting and, therefore, end up putting them at the dead center of the canvas. This results in a boring and predictable composition that affects creativity adversely.  Try more dynamic compositions to greater impact and learn about how to create a center of interest that isn’t necessarily dead center of the page. Look at great paintings and designs to see how others have handled this problem or seek some portfolio advice from expert artisans that might show you how to tweak your compositions to seem more creative.

  1.    You can present unfinished pieces

Some art students can’t even tell if their work is finished or not. Does the charcoal or paint need to fill the canvas to the edge? Is there raw canvas showing in your finished artwork?  If so was this a deliberate decision that is part of the artwork or just a sloppy job?  Many students are unsure when an artwork is at it ultimate place to stop work and call it a complete and successful piece. In fact most students stop too soon and seem unaware of how to access the artwork’s readiness for their art portfolio. If you are uncertain and worried about your art works and designs you would be wise to ask for some advice from a more experienced artist or mentor in your field of study.

  1.    It is all about figurative creativity

As much as creativity is encouraged, most examiners will be looking for communicative ideas. Let you artwork reveal your personality, interests or communicate about something that is important to you and humanity. Show that you are a person of substance and awareness.

  1.    You have to maintain uniformity

There is nothing uniform about creativity. You have to demonstrate different and varied artistic strengths. For instance, depict different ideas in diverse styles and mediums. This is what most examiners look for in a portfolio submission to undergraduate programs. They are looking for a willingness to explore at this early stage of your creative development. Show them that you have both the skill set and the mind set to be open to the education that lies ahead of you. Once you apply to a Masters degree program then you are well advised to show a cohesive body of work but not before.


Bottom line

Aspire to be unique and stand above the crowd by coming up with your artistic style that is unique to you. Shy away from uniformity and the boring center alignment and explore different styles and ideas while communicating them in both traditional and unique media.

  1.   You can’t present photographs of your finished work

Most art schools have a standard size of required portfolio submissions. Check the size requirements on the program’s website carefully and ensure you follow what they ask for. Some schools ask for originals along with an interview, while others want small portfolio books of copies and still others require you to load digital images of your work onto a site called Slideroom. Make sure you reproduce large artworks with quality photography and have all your pieces either scanned or photographed properly. For more advice on how to photograph your work consult our past blog posts. http://portprep.com/blog/2014/08/photography-advice-mega-list/



Does it feel overwhelming and perplexing?

If you feel uncertain about how to follow any of the advice above don’t worry! You are not alone! You can reach out for assistance from your art and design teachers, friends and professional artists. Or you could ask us at PortPrep for your Free Portfolio Assessment. We have a long list of private tutorial videos that teach all of the skills mentioned in the above article and we give private on-line lessons to students who just need a second opinion on the readiness of their artworks. We love helping students reach their creative goals! We would love to help you!

Just email us at info@portprep.com or send your images to us at portprep1@gmail.com

All your images are kept private and secure to protect your copyright and privacy. Feel free to call or text PortPrep’s head portfolio coach Karen Kesteloot for advice and support in this important creative goal at 519-803-2539


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