Avoiding clichés in your art portfolio

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Producing completely original work can be a challenging task for art students, especially if your portfolio focuses on a popular theme or subject matter. Admission committees, art instructors, and clients have likely seen numerous art portfolios containing similarly themed work. So how does one create innovative and individual work while avoiding clichés? Consider the following tips during your portfolio preparation.

1. Research

Take some time researching your selected subject or theme to identify what common artistic responses have already been produced. By doing so, you will avoid duplicating another’s work and help to ensure your portfolio offers something new and exciting. In addition to demonstrating your technical artistic skills, the portfolio should prove you can produce innovative and original ideas.
portfolio preparation


2. Plan a variety of ideas and imagery


It is often beneficial to spend some time creating a mood board during the initial stages of portfolio preparation. Not only will the process allow you to flesh out and research your ideas, having something to refer to will keep your portfolio focused and meaningful.



3. Do not rely on a single source for your information


Most of us rely on search engines like google as our primary source of information. Take advantage of creative websites such as Artserved, Talenthouse, Carbonmade, Flickr, and Behance – these sites are constantly updated and full of inspirational content.



4. Keep an open mind


Although having a portfolio with a central idea or focus is in your interest, forcing your work in a single direction can be limiting. Most art schools encourage students to be open minded and explore new ideas. Breaking away from the subjects and themes we are comfortable with (or even the way we think about a particular subjects and themes) fosters more innovative ideas. With this in mind, try thinking of your portfolio as loosely focused, with lots of room for experimentation and creative exploration.



5. Develop ideas using unexpected procedures and mediums


Similar to #4, using different mediums encourages one to think outside the box. A photography student, for instance, can make images without using a camera through traditional methods such as photograms. Perhaps you include textiles in your portfolio, or use found objects to create a piece.



6. Diversify your portfolio


Art instructors advise students to include a range of styles in their portfolios. Do not let your portfolio consist of only, say, realistic charcoal portraits. If you have multiple pieces depicting the same subject or theme consider changing up the style, perspective, and medium. Not only will this make your portfolio more interesting, it will showcase a wide range of artistic skills.


There are two main ways to avoid clichés: taking up an unexplored subject and/or executing an original approach. If you can figure out a way to make art using a true and tried subject, then you can consider yourself successful in avoiding clichés.



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