Presenting a portfolio of your work is a requirement for admission to any art school; students who have taken advanced art classes at RCDS and who have excellent art work of which they are proud, are also encouraged to put together a portfolio, which may be less comprehensive than the art school portfolio but which should, generally, follow the same guidelines.
The expectations for every school may differ, but the standard art school portfolio will include:
* High quality means :
The content of your portfolio:
- High quality* 35mm color slides of two and/or three-dimensional artwork. Ektachrome film has the best color balance and accuracy. Some art schools will accept digital submissions, saved in jpeg format, with the widest dimension not to exceed 1800 pixels or approximately 360 ppi at 5 inches wide, sent on cds in place of slides.
- Legible labeling of each slide containing your full name, the title of the artwork, the medium, date, and dimensions, with a red dot at the lower left corner of the slide. There are computer programs that will help you do this very neatly and easily onto the right size sticky labels.
- A separate typed list of the above information with each slide numbered to correspond to this list. Most arts schools have a specific form for this information. Many liberal arts colleges today have an optional Arts Form, found on the Common Application, which will specify the way you should prepare and list your arts supplement.
- A clear plastic slide sheet to hold the slides. A few schools will ask you to send slides in a Kodak slide carousel, making your life more difficult and theirs easier.
- A self-addressed stamped envelope (if you want to see your slides again).
- A cover letter identifying the contents of your mailing (i.e., please find enclosed ten slides in support of my application….)
- Your work has been taken good care of (as few footprints, smudges, folds, rips, etc. as possible, unless they’re part of the art).
- The background to your work is completely unobtrusive. Slides can be masked, but it’s a fair amount of work, and schools often require that there be no slide tape on the mounts. It’s generally encouraged to show the actual borders of your piece within the slide.
- The artwork is lit evenly, or in the case of sculpture, is lit in a way that shows its dimensionality. It often makes sense to send slides of more than one view of a particular sculpture.
- The slide is in perfect focus
- The edges of rectangular work are parallel with the frame of the slide.
- Take several original slides of each piece rather than having them copied. It’s far cheaper and the quality is higher.
A particular art school will occasionally specify the kind of work they’d like to see. Find out from the admissions packet (or from an admissions officer) if they’d like to see a variety of media or a lot of the particular media you specialize in. Generally (for art schools) drawings are essential, especially drawings done from observation. Many art schools also like to see drawings which show a degree of “problem solving” which often means an imaginative twist or particular point-of-view on a particular subject. Art schools like to see that you have an imagination, can think visually, and can observe (in the opposite order).
The home test:
Many art schools (RISD, Cooper Union) require a home test, usually three drawings following particular guidelines and subject matter. Take these tests very seriously, because they will. Follow the guidelines (if they say 14” x 17” in graphite pencil they really mean it). Give the drawings a lot of thought, then a lot of time.
How many slides?
Most art schools require 20 slides; most liberal art schools don’t want to see more than 10 (or fewer than 5).
What to say:
Most art schools don’t need to hear what you say about your work, and most liberal arts schools and universities don’t mind a descriptive paragraph about your work and what it means to you to accompany your portfolio. If your art is central to you, consider writing about your work (or some aspect of the meaning of art to you) in your college essay. Sadly, for many liberal arts schools you must prove
that you take your art seriously, have worked hard at it, and can talk about it. If you show up at a school interview, be ready to say a bit about each piece—how you were inspired to make it, what thought and effort it involved, what you discovered by it…etc.
When to bring actual work:
Bring actual original work whenever possible to a scheduled interview at an art school or liberal arts school. Bringing your well-used sketchbook
is an excellent idea: art schools like to see that you draw on your own, not just for assigned projects in class.
Things that may separate you from all the other applicants:
- Thought and originality in your work: see and think for yourself; avoid clichéd and prescriptive artwork.
- The scale and ambition of your work: work in different media but be sure always to include drawings as well.
- The ability to speak articulately and confidently, but thoughtfully and objectively, about your work.
- Boldness, risk-taking in your work
- Figure drawing, from observation