Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Create Your Visual Arts Portfolio During Summer

This article first appeared on on July 1, 2015.

My advice to performing arts students was to work on audition materials over the summer and I echo that to visual artists; summer is perfect time to get creative and work on your portfolio! A summer job, goof-off activities with friends, or the reflection of the sun off the river can all provide visual inspiration.
The admission process for visual arts majors often has added requirements. You have to submit the same application for academic admission as every other student, and then you may need to prepare a portfolio showcase your talent. You will want it to include your very best work, so you probably create a lot of pieces you (or an artistic advisor) reject before you decide what to actually include. This takes lots of time (typically more than 100 hours) so it is ideal to work on this when you don’t have added academic stress.
There’s some great news related to portfolios—you don’t have to rely on your own judgment. Admissions officers at schools that want a portfolio are willing to give you a free portfolio review. You make an appointment and bring in loads of samples of your craft (drawings, paintings, photos, sculpture). You will get advice as to which pieces to include, why those pieces are being suggested, and what you still need to create in order to be competitive for admission. Both Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art make this review available, so book one soon so you have time this summer to act on their advice. 
If you are a rising senior with a solid list of schools you are applying to, the best way to get started is to create a document where you compile the exact portfolio requirements of each school. Most likely, you will be asked to upload your portfolio to Slideroom and you will find the link to each school’s Slideroom site on the portfolio page of the school website.
If you are a rising sophomore or junior you probably don’t yet know where you plan to apply. That’s okay! You can still use summer to work on elements of your portfolio. (Advance notice: sophomores and juniors, mark your calendars for National Portfolio Day, which will take place in Portland on January 10, 2016. Representatives from regionally and NASAD-accredited art, design and film schools will be in town to connect with potential students and provide support for portfolio development.)
Below is a list of the most commonly requested components for an assortment of visual arts programs. 
Technical Theatre
  • Resume
  • Portfolio showcasing your five best production projects (could be a lighting plot with cue-to-cue; sound concept and recordings; costume designs, samples of sewn work and photos of completed ensemble; set designs with conceptual description, drawings and photos of completed construction; stage manager’s production script and cast notes)
  • 3 recommendation letters from technical theatre teachers, producers or directors

  • Cinematic Arts Personal Statement that gives the reader a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker.
  • Creative Resume highlighting 5-7 pieces of what you consider to be your best creative work. These projects should demonstrate your ability to convey a story or message through creative, artistic or technical talents. Include more recent items and projects in which you were the driving force or had a leadership role. Note that this a listing and not samples of the actual work.
  • Narrative video (2-5 minutes) in which you had a major creative role. The video can be either live-action or animation, fiction or documentary, but it should reflect your aesthetic tastes and intellectual and emotional interests 
  • 3 letters of recommendation from art, drama, film/TV, or journalism teachers or a boss or supervisor from a job, internship, or volunteer project where your duties included something of a creative nature

Visual Arts
  • Artist's Statement:explain what you make, how you make it, and why you make it
  • 10-20 visual art or design pieces, which may be executed in any medium, in black-and-white or color, and may include, but are not limited to, drawing, painting, design, printmaking, collage, photography, sculpture, jewelry, fashion, furniture or fiber art. Portfolio pieces may represent classroom assignments as well as independent projects. The portfolio should be purposeful, demonstrate originality of concept, use of appropriate materials and visual literacy. Favorable consideration is given to strong 2-D and 3-D work that shows attention to technique, drawing, scale and original design. The majority of drawings submitted in the portfolio should be from direct observation, rather than other sources (such as photographs). Still life, landscape, figure drawings, portrait, perspective, and diagrammatic drawings are all recommended. Portfolios are reviewed on the following qualitative measures: aesthetic awareness, composition, drawing, design, color perception, spatial perception, quality of presentation, technique and originality.
  • Some colleges have a school specific assignment such as submit a drawing of a bicycle
  • Artistic resume that includes art awards, classes and teachers inside and outside of school, a list of the media you work with/prefer
  • 3 recommendation letters from teachers or others who have witnessed your creative skills and potential

  • Artist's Statement: explain what you make, how you make it, and why you make it
  • 8-12 traditional visual art or design pieces from direct observation, 
  • Animation samples that include 5-10 figure drawings, one 2D traditional animation, and 2 - 5 3D computer graphic images
  • 3 recommendation letters from teachers or others who have witnessed your creative skills and potential

Product Design
  • Statement of purpose: Define your interests and experience in the field of industrial design and related areas such as engineering and architecture. What sorts of products do you want to make and why? 
  • A portfolio of 10-20 digital images of your best and most recent work (any media)
  • Submit sketches and finished drawings of three or more original product designs (furniture, lighting, medical and computer equipment, or consumer products such as coffee makers, sporting goods, communications devices or personal stereos). Emphasis should be on the function of the product, as well as the aesthetics and originality of the design. Projects should show a thorough researching and exploration of a product from beginning through intermediate sketches to a final finished rendering of the product. Inclusion of photos of 3D models is optional. Of primary importance are exploratory sketches that show a variety of solutions and ideas for each product presented. 
  • Resume
  • 1-3 recommendation letters

Fashion Design
  • Resume
  • One-page statement of interest in the fashion program and the fashion industry
  • 1-3 letters of reference from teachers, instructors, coaches or employers
  • Art and design work to include each of the following:
         - 1 – 2 sketchbooks of current work (date your work)
         - 2 examples of art or design work with a brief, written analysis of why you included these particular pieces
  • 6-10 self-sewn garments made from commercial patterns, draping or applicant's own drafts that demonstrate a range of skills. Provide at least 4 different types of garments, i.e. skirts, pants, tops, dresses, jackets in different types of fabrics. Garments should include each of the following garment components: darts, two different types of zippers, two different types of pockets, set-in sleeves, collars, cuffs, buttons and buttonholes. At least one garment must be lined. Photographs not accepted.
  • A journal of fashion industry-related reading and information about design/manufacturing companies

  • Personal statement that describes your professional aspirations and why you are interested in Architecture. This could include what sparked your interest in the discipline, what experiences you have already had in relation to art, construction, design, or craft, and what in the built environment inspires 
  • Portfolio of 10-20 digital files that demonstrate your graphic abilities. Please include graphic and/or written materials, such as freehand drawings, basic design work, planning, painting, construction, furniture making, clothing design, ceramics, photography, origami or anything else exhibiting creative thought and execution. If you have some experience with paper modelling or wood modelling, include one or two works. While work with architectural content is not required, students who choose to submit architectural images in their portfolio should submit work that reflects design, not drafting skills.
  • 3 recommendations, at least 2 of which are from academic sources. 

Remember, these are not the exact requirements for any specific visual arts program. You must check the exact requirements at each of the schools to which you are applying.

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