What to include in an art portfolio

What to include in an Art Portfolio for University or Art school acceptance

Applying for university or art school entrance can be a daunting process, what to include, what not to include in your portfolio of work. Basically most schools will ask for a specific portfolio that showcases your broad talent range. That means you need to have finished work from a variety of mediums, a variety of styles and a variety of work that showcases your engagement with different material investigations. Most schools don't allow an endless portfolio, so that means your portfolio needs to be succinct and effective in showing off your skills in around 10-15 major works. They will also ask you to explain the concept of your work, for e.g. why did you do the work in that style, what is the work about, what are the works measurements.

If you consider it this way forget that your best work is a painting, or drawing or sculpture, pick your best two and move on. You want to show your knowledge of materials, that means everything that could be used in the art world from man made materials like fabric, paper, metals, paint, pencils, glues, embellishments, plastics, resins, fiberglass to naturally derived materials such as using leaves to dye fabric or wool, creating your own recycled paper, modelling clay, creating ephemeral art from nature, using bark, basically anything from nature.

Think broadly, you want to show your range............

Let's have a look at a portfolio.

You could design each page of your digital portfolio with a simple painting, and to the page add other ways that show that you have explored different ways to produce and add to this work, this will show that you can develop and extend your original work idea, a practice that is extensively taught at university. Here's what l mean:

Re-paint the image in a different way adding a focus point of difference. Now these works don't have to be large or take all day to do, this work is about 20cm x 14cm, and only took about a hour to paint each one. This exercise about showcasing your ideas extension, and your exploration of an 'idea'. Here's another one.

Nothing is faster then digitally altering your work, Adobe Photoshop is an artist's best friend, getting to know this computer software program will definitely enrich your artistry. Free older programs are available over the net to learn and discover the basics, and will include the ability to change the colour of your work in seconds and achieving thousands of variations you can really create a multitude of printable works from your original work.

For this work l simply added colour.

Here's another way of painting the same work, extend yourself to unrealistic styling, shows your not stale in your thought process, that your willing to try different approaches.

And again the work is digitally altered in photoshop.

No medium, is off limits in an art portfolio, by adding fabric techniques your showing broader range, and many artists use mixed media in their work, and fabric application techniques is actually taught at university level. So you could get credit based on what you showcase. Here are a few ways to do it.

This one is simply creating a picture on black fabric via a sewing machine.

Show different sewing techniques and stitches to maximize your creativity and exploration of stitch techniques.

Create an artwork purely from patterned fabrics and layering fabrics to create depth.

Another way is applique work and sewing together fabrics in a decorative way.

You can also create 3D structures from fabric.

Drawing is another way to show your diversity, provide a range of skills, drawing of a caricature is one, and again show how you can extend your thinking of it digitally. 

Drawing doesn't have to be grey lead pencils, drawing in artistic terms is the creation of a mark, think about what that means, google the term "mark' or check out the definition of the word.

Sculpture is a good one to showcase, you can make a simple struct from clay, wood, fabric, even paper.

It doesn't even have to cost you money, you can use the local beach sand.

This is fabric sculpture, easy to do, just add pva glue to fabric, shape and allow to dry.

If you have a camera you can get these sorts of images by moving a torch and photographing it, using car lights and changing the shutter speed or using sparklers for example.

This was taken out the front windscreen of a car

This is done using sparklers outside at night, get creative!

Try to show at least one page where your experimenting with materials, taking them from their natural shape and turning it into something else. This is cheap and really easy project. Here are some ideas to guide you.

A simple soft drink can can show your process of material exploration really well.

Straws are another very cheap option for exploring sculpture building.

Melting straws can be interesting

Again art can be very cheap, this is wool trapped in a large block of ice, again it shows your being creative and thinking outside the box.

Another cheap idea (Toilet paper) 

Water painting is a great ephemeral activity and again can provide multiple photographic images.

Created from borax into water and enamel oil paint.

Head to the tip or opp shops or maybe a younger sibling or child in the house with a pile of unwanted toy bits, sculptures from toys can be really fun, especially changing the overall look with paint later.

I used no nails glue from bunnings and string to tie it all together till it dried.

Head out into nature and look for ways to create works in natural settings.

Head out into nature and look for interesting logs and sticks and create a natural sculpture.

Obviously whatever your major skill is, you want to highlight it, say my major medium is painting, however l also like to explore different techniques and show them.

I think you get the idea, basically diversity should be displayed in an art portfolio, the more diversity you can show tells the schools assessors that your open to be instructed, open to learning new techniques, and open to researching new processes. Being an art student is all about learning materials and processes, and extending your knowledge. You may have a style and you may stay with that style the whole way through university however you will learn to extend your critical thinking and knowledge of materials which will definity see you branching out and extending yourself from what you were doing prior to study. Doing an art degree is an exciting process, your always learning new and exciting things.

Good luck with your portfolio and entrance into your art schooling, l hope that l have given you more thought into how and what you present in your folio.


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