Hi future art student! If you’re applying to an art program, chances are, you’ll need to put together a stellar portfolio that showcases your work. Which pieces should you include? What can you expect? What should you focus on? Are just a few of the questions you may have. Whether it’s your first audition or your 21st, here are 7 tips to help you prepare for your art portfolio audition.
Our number 1 tip is to practice. Set aside an hour each day to sit down and sketch through direct observation. (No photographs!) Pull out your sketchbook on your commute to school, or sit somewhere quiet for an hour after school. Don’t think of it as homework but incorporate it into your routine. Headed to a younger sibling’s sports practice? Take that time to sketch out something that catches your eye. Each time you practice a new drawing, you’re improving your ability to observe the object and refine your mark, and these are important skills art schools look for.
2. Be prepared
Each art school has their own admissions process, deadlines and requirements. Get a head start by making a calendar of important dates for the schools you’re interested in and the items that you’ll need for your portfolio. Carefully read the instructions beforehand to ensure you meet all the requirements. If there are minimum or maximum size restrictions, plan for them beforehand. If you’re not sure about anything, call the school ahead of time. Taking care of all the necessities in advance gives you more time to focus on creating the art that will fill your portfolio.
3. Pick pieces that highlight your abilities
Not sure which pieces to pick? Choose your art pieces that best showcases your abilities. Show your mastery in a wide variety of subjects. To do so, you’ll have to select not just the best pieces, but the best pieces that showcase your abilities. What’s the difference? Your best pictures may be portraits in watercolor, charcoal and oil pastel. Rather than picking the same subject matter for each medium, try using different subjects matters for each. This way, you’ll showcase your mastery of different mediums and subjects.
4. Put an emphasis on observations
We cannot emphasize enough, the importance of drawing from observation. It’s a fundamental step in creating art. Without the ability to observe the world from new perspective, your art is limited to what you’ve already know. Art schools emphasize am applicant’s ability to observe, beyond the portfolio through live auditions. By working on your observations skills, you’ll have a head start on this portion of your exam. This make it overall less stressful and you’ll allow yourself more time to focus on creating a great piece.
5. Incorporate Details
All pieces in your portfolio should be finished pieces. Although your style can be minimalistic, it’s important to incorporate details in your pieces. Add element to your work that reflects your unique artistic style. Create pieces that shows the audience your perception of your subject matter. Ask yourself, how is my view of my subject, different from the next artist. Your process of adding each feature to your piece will help you define your artistic style.
6. Get it done early
The teachers and faculty who will review your work have already seen countless portfolios. It’s easy for them to differentiate between the ones that were finished 2 minutes before you left for your audition from the ones that were completed early. Give yourself time to put finishing touches on your portfolio. Review the order your pieces appear and practice walking someone through your portfolio. Be prepared to answer questions like, “What was your process for creating this pieces?” or “Why did you pick this as your subject?” Finalizing your art portfolio early on, gives you time to practice and refine your art portfolio.
7. Ask for feedback.
One of the hardest things you’ll hear during your auditions are critiques on your work. Art is very subjective and sometimes you’ll hear harsh critiques during your audition (and throughout your art career.) It’s important to remain professional and courteous, despite the reviewer’s comments. It’s why we recommend asking people for feedback. You don’t have to follow everyone’s suggestions or change your portfolio based on their feedback. Instead, use it as an exercise to get used to hearing lots of different opinions about your art and to develop thicker skin.
Are you ready to ace your art school audition? Tell us which step is the most helpful below. Just getting started with your art school audition portfolio? Sign up for our portfolio development workshop and we'll help you assemble a great art portfolio.