Preparing an Arts Portfolio

Preparing an Arts Portfolio In addition to my first post, I wanted the second one to be about how to prepare your arts portfol...

Preparing an Arts Portfolio

In addition to my first post, I wanted the second one to be about how to prepare your arts portfolio. Maybe some of you are planning to apply for anything arts related as well and need a bit of advice!

To begin with a bit of explanation, an artist's portfolio is an edited collection of their best works intended to showcase a style or method. It is used to show employers or universities/teachers the artist's versatility by showing different samples of current work. Usually, it reflects an artist's best work or a depth in one specific area of work.

Most arts universities want to see evidence of your talent before accepting you, which offers better chances for you of course, if your grades may not be the best ones. For most unis, it is much more important that the students are able to visualise their ideas and work on a project individually than having the best of all grades in maths.

All in all, there are some aspects that need to be in every portfolio, no matter for which course you apply. Therefore, your portfolio should include evidence of:

1. visualisation skills (e.g. drawing, painting, photography etc.)
2. investigative skills (art and design related research)
3. creative thinking and problem solving abilities
4. a use of range of different materials and processes (not only show 10 pieces of drawing!)
5. a general interest in art, design or related subjects

The most important thing while preparing your portfolio is that you take enought time to work on it. You should make sure that you organise everything well, so that you don't mess anything up while preparing. If you change our mind during the middle of your process, take enough time to re-organise and don't just start something totally different. Also, your portfolio should be organised chronologically and thematically, while sketchbooks link to the final outcomes.

Talking about sketchbooks, these are probably even more important than the final outcomes of your preparation because tutors want to see how you develop your ideas and how you solve problems that may appear during the process. You should be able to work reflectively and link different stages of work or different topics together to create your individual outcome that combines different aspects of your research. If you actually do research on different artists etc., you should definitely include that as well, as it helps the tutors to see how the information you got influenced your work.

For yourself, it might be easy to follow the stages of your process but for someone else it might be very difficult to find a structure. Because of that, you should try and make it as easy to follow as possible. Also, quality is always more important than quantity!
That means, don't just put together every single piece you have ever worked on and try to show as much as possible, but choose the best works you have and try and maybe link them together. Also, it doesn't help the tutors if they only see your final pieces, but it does help to even include some mistakes you've made, which could be solved in the end.

To finally give you some basic advice about the layout of your portfolio, it is important that you mount your final outcomes on plain white cartridge paper. Depending on how big your paintings are, you need a folder where everything fits into. If you have any works on canvas, you should photocopy them in good quality onto paper as it is usually not allowed to add canvas to your portfolio. The same applies to any other 3D-work or sculptures because you cannot send them in or take them with you to the interview. If you want to include them in your portfolio though, you should take photos of them and mount them on paper as well. It is important that your folder looks clean and nicely prepared because nobody wants to open a dirty old folder with messy content.

Also, don't forget to write your name onto every work and onto your sketchbooks and folders!
Usually, you should also label your individual works and write down the date, the method and material you used, so the viewer knows exactly what you did. If your work has a name, write it onto it as well. Anyway, the labels should be small and usually in the bottom corner of the work, so that they don't disturb anyone while looking at your artwork.

If you send in your portfolio by post, you should make sure that you don't send in originals! The uni cannot make sure that there is nothing getting lost in the post and it would be a shame if your work was in vain. Usually, it is also better to send in your postal portfolio as DIN-A4, but every university asks for something different.

If you decide to upload your portfolio online, you should make sure that the photos of your work are really good quality and that you follow all the instructions on the website, otherwise you will not pass the conditions. But personally, I prefer sending in 'real' work because it is much easier for tutors to see evidence of your talent by looking at real drawings than at photos. Anyway, if you don't want to do it on the postal way, you can also send in a DVD or CD-ROM with a presentation of your portfolio.

And one last thing: Don't ever think your work is not good enough to be sent in! Think about what YOU want the university to see, and not what they may be expecting. It is always important to be confident about your own work and be able to talk about your ideas, no matter how strange they might be. Remember that creativity doesn't have any rules and as long as you follow the instructions of the uni, you'll be finde by experimenting and being as creative as you can possiblely be. The industry searches for individuals who stand out with their talent and innovation, so don't think that you don't fit in!

Hopefully, this post was useful for some of you, thanks for reading. :-)
Leave any further questions in the comments or add some information I may have forgotten!

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