Preparing your art portfolio for college admission

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Monday, July 25th, 2016

Is your portfolio ready for admission to an art college ?

The art portfolio is the most significant indicator of serious artistic commitment, ability and potential to succeed in applying for a college education in the visual arts. You may have done some research on the importance of portfolios, so you know it’s essential to provide an evaluation of technical skills and competency, demonstrating your ability to succeed in a highly competitive application process.

So… “How do I put an art portfolio together?”

Although your portfolio plays a determining role in the admissions process, it doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Typically, your portfolio should consist of 10-15 original artworks as well as three drawings from direct observation that display a range of media and subject matter. Here are six tips to get you started.

  1. Pennsylvania College of Art & Design requires 10-15 pieces of artwork that demonstrate variety and skill including a minimum of three drawings from observation. But remember—you can’t sacrifice quality for quantity.  In other words, don’t include 15 original artworks for the sake of having the maximum suggested number, when you only feel completely confident towards 10 of your pieces. You want to be sure you are showing your best artwork. Make each piece count.
  2. Be sure you include pieces that indicate your understanding of color. Yes, even if your passion lies in black and white, a good portfolio must have color because it shows your ability to apply basic color theory.
  3. Include work that conveys experience with a variety of tools, media, styles, and approaches. This exhibits that you are comprised of more than one skill set and can demonstrate versatility, taking the initiative to learn and hone skills in contrasting media.
  4. Don’t compromise the integrity of your portfolio by doing too much with too little. If the medium you’re most comfortable with is photography, make sure you include enough examples to demonstrate your expertise. We want to see areas of strength along with a willingness to try new things. The trick is striking a balance between strong work and showing that you’re ready to have your horizons expanded, take on new challenges, and most importantly, learn.
  5. Don’t show old, outdated work!  Even if your favorite piece was done in middle school, it doesn’t belong in your college portfolio. Current work that demonstrates the skills you’ve developed through the years is your best bet.
  6. Your sketchbook is an excellent addition to your portfolio because it gives an honest and in depth look at you, the artist as a person with progressive talent. Your sketchbook shows your thought processes, how you developed ideas, and how your work has matured. In other words, it shows how you solve visual problems and offers an insight into your mind for the viewer. Though you might consider your sketchbook to be one of your most personal and private possessions, it can do wonders for your portfolio so don’t leave it out!

Learn more at a PCA&D Portfolio Workshop

PCA&D understands the immensity and importance of the admissions portfolio, so we regualarly host hosting can’t-miss workshops on Portfolio preparation. Learn more on the Pre-College tab on the Continuing Education page.

And while you are there, if you’d like instruction to take your work to its next level, register for a studio class designed for high school artists. These classes are great to supplement your high school art classes, meet others who are passionate about art and get a feel for classes in an art college!