It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Admitster’s very own college admissions expert, Soliana Habte! Soliana received her Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Harvard. She went on to study photography at Parsons Paris and received a Master of Arts in Image & Communication from Goldsmiths College, in London. Soliana has been a tutor for the last seven years and has taught English literature, grammar, composition, creative writing, and US history. She loves showing students how to apply what they are studying at school to other areas in their lives, such as cooking, sports, and art. She’s also a skilled artist, working primarily with sculpture, video, and photography. If you’re thinking about applying to art school, read on for Soliana’s advice on how best to prepare your portfolio!
An art portfolio is not just an opportunity to demonstrate your technical skills, but a chance to show how you actually think. Admissions committees want to know what makes you curious and get a sense of who you are by your subject and material choices. If you have any interest in applying to art school, and particularly if you don’t have the chance to work on art projects in a class at school, it’s a good idea to create projects for yourself. Any good art teacher will challenge students to experiment with different media and concepts, but the good news is that you can challenge yourself as well.
To get you going, here are a few project suggestions:
- Make a film about where you come from. Research the history of where you live or your family and then interview people who can add color and descriptions to help the viewer better understand your background.
- Draw from observation: most art schools want observational drawings. The most important thing is that they are actually done from observation (not photographs). It really doesn’t matter how well you can draw. You can still reveal quite a lot about yourself by what you choose to draw, as well as your perspective and style.
- Try making something three-dimensional. You can use any materials, from clay or papier-mâché to found materials or wood and rock from nature. This is a really good way to balance your portfolio if you’ve already included a lot of films, drawings, or other 2D work.
- Observe the work of artists who you admire. If you can, go to a museum and wander around. Otherwise, take yourself to your local library, where you can discover new works in books, or search the Internet for inspiration. Make a work directly inspired by the piece and then explain how your piece is linked to it.
- Keep in mind that you probably won’t be able to use photographs in your portfolio. Most schools won’t accept them unless they are printed from film, so plan accordingly.
- The more types of media you represent in your portfolio, the better. It doesn’t even matter what you choose to experiment with, working in a wide variety of media shows that you are open, creative, and flexible.
- Try not to worry about what you “should” include. If you genuinely pursue your interests, that will come through in your portfolio and you will end up standing out. A lot of applicants overthink what they are making and forget to be sincere – don’t fall into that trap!
- Try to be yourself. For instance, one applicant who still stands out in my mind was obsessed with teeth and would have her dad go with her to the butcher to pry teeth out of hogs’ heads. In her portfolio she had a couple abstract paintings of teeth (one was a self portrait), along with painted boar and shark teeth with meaningful motifs from her heritage. Not everything in her portfolio had to do with teeth, but she showed such a strong interest that it made her personality come to life.
In short, when it comes to your portfolio, be bold and brave in your choices! The more risks you take the better your portfolio will be.
If you have questions about applying to art school, feel free to reach out to Soliana at email@example.com