Portfolio preparation course at the National Galleries of Scotland

Portfolio preparation course at the National Galleries of Scotland

The October break is a great time to really start focusing on your art college application and your art college ideas. You’ve had time to settle back into school and hopefully get into a project or 2 in the art department.

Last year we ran a portfolio preparation course at the National Galleries in Edinburgh – based at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

A Practical Guide for Portfolio preparation course

Our focus as ever is to enable students to create an individual body of work during this time and we instill this through the use of sketchbooks. Essentially we followed our downloadable art sketchbook ideas eCourse and ran it over 5 days.

In my profession, I am aware of some schools that still don’t really use sketchbooks at Higher and Advanced Higher levels and for others, they use it more as a presentation of successful experiments. However, our belief and ethos that is in line with the expectations of the art colleges are that sketchbooks should be a working book that is worked directly, not a scrap book type thing.

Throughout the week we focussed on the notion of play and there was no expectation at all to produce any ‘finished’ pieces of work. When we play with ideas this allows experiments, mistakes, and a freedom that is hard to achieve when having a final goal in mind. The pressure of having to submit work for exams sometimes stunts the creative process and this play aspect.

I know some students found this quite a difficult way to work – because it is. It’s about trusting your instincts, following your desires but also about reflecting on this to take you, further along, that path to completed work.


The feedback that we had from the students was that it was really nice not to have to plan their final outcome. I was quite alarmed to hear that many students at school have to plan their finished piece then do the research and experimentation in line with what their final outcome dictates. This seems to contradict the real reason behind doing research and development. The reason for research and development is to steer your journey to its destination and if the final piece has already been decided upon from the outset then there is very little point in doing the research and development.

I’d be interested to hear your comments on how you use your sketchbooks to assist with your artworks – even better let us see some of your sketchbooks! Please post below or send us a link to your Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr accounts as we’d love to see your work.

So, if you’re still wondering how to make an art portfolio for college or university then please visit our eBooks page and get all the support you can.

Some of the feedback from the week:

My favourite thing was exploring different techniques and not feeling rushed or pressured. In future I would like to start exploring my ideas within a sketchbook! And be more free I my art. I feel I worked well in the classes environment and possible a regular session to get through portfolio work and discuss ideas would be useful. 

I loved the opportunity to work with different materials and the course was great. In the future I will do more development work and combine materials more.

I liked best drawing using the inks and bleach and working with Julie. This course has made me want to change my choices at university.

I enjoyed experimenting with the different techniques and I think this workshop will make me open to new ideas more.

Plus a few photos below from the week. © Peter Dibdin www.peterdibdin.com



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