If you are applying to art school or art programs at college and need to create a portfolio, this post has portfolio advice from a number of admissions officers at various art colleges: MassArt, SAIC, and RISD. While art schools have different requirements for the art portfolio, the advice given here is applicable to most schools such as showing technical drawing skills, process, risk-taking & failure, 2D and 3D pieces, and a variety of mediums.
Other useful advice when it comes to portfolio development includes:
- Get feedback from art school admissions officers through National Portfolio Day, scheduled appointments if offered, and virtual portfolio reviews.
- Include pieces that demonstrate your technical drawing skills such as observational pieces of figures, still lifes, and buildings.
- Show risk taking by including process of what you were trying to do.
- Show a variety of mediums EVEN if you think the work in one area isn’t as strong as in the area that you intend to major in. For example, you might be thinking of majoring in illustration, but you have a graphic design piece that you think is ok but not as strong as your watercolors or drawings. You will want to include it to show that you are also willing to try things outside of your comfort zone.
- Leave enough time to label and describe your pieces thoughtfully as this demonstrates your ability to articulate your work in a written format. You don’t have a lot of words so edit carefully.
- Do not label your pieces as “untitled.”
- Not all the work should be finished pieces. Be sure to include sketches and studies from your sketchbook.
- Pieces that convey your point of view are great to include, particularly ones that make a statement grounded in history or politics or about society. Not all your pieces need to have meaning behind your work, but it’s powerful to include a few that do.
MassArt Portfolio Advice
An admissions officer at MassArt gives advice on how to put together a successful portfolio.
RISD Portfolio Advice
RISD’s advice is for 12 to 20 images of your best and most recent work, but avoid artwork done from photographs, copies of anime characters, master copies, and architecture CAD work.
RISD Portfolio: Show Process with Multiple Images on One Slide
On one image, you can have 3 pictures that is still considered one image. Use these multiple pictures on one image to show process.
RISD Portfolio and Risk Taking
This is a common refrain from the art school admissions officers: show risk taking and failure! Here are ideas for risk taking. Art schools want to see risk taking and failure because that is what they want you to do when you come to their school. Creative problem solving is the journey from risk taking and failure.
RISD Portfolio Assignment
For those applying to RISD, they require their own portfolio assignment. It’s an example of what first year students will be doing in class. The guidelines are up to you how you interpret it. It could be literal or a metaphor. Create something that is personal to you. The assignment includes a short reflection on your two pieces.
SAIC (School of Art Institute of Chicago) Portfolio Advice
SAIC wants to see what you are passionate about. They want to see artwork that reflects you. In their session, they offered portfolio reviews in which they determined which portfolios “passed,” thus only requiring the academic piece including SAT scores (they have a minimum SAT verbal score) in order to determine acceptance.
National Portfolio Day in Boston
National Portfolio Day dates just came out. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on your portfolio from multiple art schools. It does take some strategic planning, however, if you want to see more than one popular art school. It’s when relatives come in handy to stand in line at different schools for you. Also, be sure to pre-register and go at least an hour early to the event.
p.s. More about Art Colleges from our college tours:
and some fun stuff …
If you are visiting New York City, here are our cheap foodie finds.
p.p.s. My books: