IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.
A formal college education can go a long way toward improving your artistic technique and enhancing your skills. However, for many art and design degree programs, colleges are seeking applicants who already have some natural talent. For academic majors like the following, you may need to provide a portfolio of your work before you can even gain acceptance into the program.
Portfolios for Fine Arts Degree Programs
If you plan to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, many schools will require you to submit a portfolio of your best work. As a student, you will choose a type of art in which to specialize, like painting, sculpture, ceramics, drawing or photography. Your portfolio should include at least some work in your intended specialization, but you don’t have to limit your portfolio to that specialized form of art exclusively. In fact, including samples of different art media and approaches shows that you’re eager to learn and willing to experiment with new techniques and forms of art.
Portfolios for Design Degree Programs
A degree program in design may not have as strict portfolio requirements as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program does. However, it’s not unusual for these programs to ask prospective students to submit “sketches and other examples of their artistic ability,” the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. This is true for degree programs in fashion design, graphic design, industrial design and interior design. Applicants may also need to provide a portfolio or some sample work to gain acceptance into an architecture program.
How Important Is an Applicant’s Portfolio?
After graduating, an aspiring artist or designer’s portfolio is perhaps the most important factor in their career success. Prospective employers evaluate them based on the quality and style of the work in their portfolio more so than the school they attended or the internships they completed.
Before they begin their college education, though, the importance of the portfolio can vary from one school to the next. Some art schools and universities’ art programs are highly selective. They may choose to admit only the students who have the best portfolios. Other art degree programs are more inclusive. They admit more students and use the portfolio mainly for the purpose of determining an applicant’s artistic potential.
Tips for a Successful Entrance Portfolio
Aspiring artists should begin cultivating a portfolio of their work as early as possible, regardless of how selective their intended school is. Practicing their art is the most effective means of improving their skills. In fact, the National Association of Schools of Art & Design not only warns prospective art students of the importance of meeting art school portfolio requirements, but also to “Practice, practice, practice” and “Draw ’til you drop.”
Different schools have different portfolio requirements, so applicants should always be mindful of an individual school’s guidelines when preparing and submitting their portfolio. Students should pay attention to the number of samples recommended, the manner of submitting those samples and any preferences or requirements that the specific degree program might have. For example, one art school may request certain types of samples, like still-life portraits or landscapes. One school might ask students to submit portfolios electronically as PDF files, while another might ask for the files on a disc or a flash drive.
For students seeking a creative career as an artist, submitting a portfolio that showcases their abilities is a common – if nerve-racking – requirement. However, applicants should know that art school admissions officers realize you’re applying so you can improve your skills through education – and that they don’t expect you to be perfect.