There are many elements to consider when you start planning how to make an art portfolio for college or university. However, there are some common mistakes that are made when preparing an art college application (via UCAS or any other admissions process) and we aim to address some of these issues here.
All art colleges are different and have their own set of expectations about what a prospective art college student should ‘look like’ so to speak. What’s good for one college may not be suitable for another college. So it is imperative to visit the colleges that you’re interested in, ideally on their Open Day, to get a feel for what they want to see and to talk to current students.
It is also good if you can visit their degree shows that usually take place in May/June time in the UK. Degree Shows are a really good indicator of if the college is right for you. If you're considering the best art schools in the world our eBook will help and give you some good areas to explore if you’re struggling to make your decision on where to apply.
Sometimes it is easy to think that a portfolio for an art college application should be a presentation of finished works. This is only a part of what you should be showing and it is also really important that you address the creative process that you undertook to get to those final pieces. This can be shown in your sketchbook or can be on presentation sheets in your portfolio. Our eBook on ‘Sketchbook development’ is now available and helps you to plan and sort your ideas and how to use a sketchbook.
Yes, drawing is important but actually you would be surprised that it is not always essential for an art college application. If you have taken note of our first point then you should have a fair idea of what your chosen college is wanting to see. One thing that a college does not want to see in an art college application is a whole load of drawing that is just really demonstrating your drawing skills. Just because your mum and your friends think that you’re great at drawing the cat and the fruit and all manner of other things around the house, it doesn’t mean that you’re cut out for art college. This sometimes isn’t even reflected in your grades at school.
So you need to ensure that you’re aware of what the individual colleges are looking for. What about your ideas, what about experimentation, what about doing something new and exciting? In your art college application they are assessing your potential as much as anything and a portfolio that is very accomplished in one particular style or media is a real put off.
If you download nothing else from this website please download the eBook that goes into detail of how to make an art portfolio for college or university, where we give some great examples of subjects that you can explore. Also there are numerous artists to look at that will really open up the possibilities of what you could work on for your portfolio.
Having interviewed 100s of students for art college there is nothing worse than a student who comes with their portfolio and really has nothing to say about it. I have also been that student who had nothing to say about it and gosh I learnt my lesson. I also was guilty of point 3 previously, no ideas, I just drew and painted ‘stuff’ we had in the house, did well in my exams but I had no ideas.
When they asked me what it was about the things I’d drawn that I liked or why I drew them I didn’t know. You need to be questioning yourself about the whys and whats of your work.
Please prepare well and think about answers to possible art interview questions – download our eBook. This year it was one of our most popular eBooks downloaded and we do know that many did get offers at their chosen colleges.
Many of the colleges are now going down the route of requesting to see a digital or mini portfolio where they are making a pre-selection from what they see. Therefore it is essential that you prepare, select and present this stage of your art college application at its very best so that you get through this stage. Once you have an interview lined up after this pre-selection then there is the opportunity for you to sell yourself and your portfolio in person. We have a great blog post on top tips for creating your digital portfolio for university, please read this and take our advice. We also have a new eCourse that guides you though the process of putting your digital portfolio together.
So hopefully this will help you with your application this year. Any comments would be gratefully received here, what issues have you got or had with your art college application? We’d love to help.
The eBooks that we have suggested above are all available in the eBooks section.
Many of our eBooks are essential to the creation of a successful portfolio. Read our eBooks on ‘Creating a sensational art portfolio’ and ‘How to blow them away at interview’ to hear how I did eventually get a place at art college and what I learnt from this.
You can also buy our 4 most popular eBooks below with a saving of £10, for £46.98.
Also published on Medium.