So, you’re thinking of applying to university and have questions about how best to secure your place. While most prospective students may be staring at a blank word document, wondering how on earth to write their personal statement, you artsy-types have got the added challenge of not only completing your personal statement but also your portfolio (it will be worth the extra effort, I promise). After all, the portfolio backs up all the claims you make in your personal statement and is your first chance to show your potential future tutors who you are as an artist.
Universities are all about development and teaching you the skills you need to survive in the professional world. They are a place for you to comfortably master your craft before you venture out into the many, many creative industries. Don’t worry about your work not being slick and gallery-ready – if it were, you wouldn’t need the degree
So, what do they want to see? The short answer – you. Who are you as an artist and the work have you created that best represents that. What work have you done that has led you to be the artist you are today? How have you developed and how do you hope to further develop? If you work with a range of media, think how best to present this in an interview. You may want to present some electronically, if they are digital compositions perhaps. You may want to present big, beautiful canvases – which might be tricky to carry to and from the interview. I’d suggest photographing big pieces of work and showing electronically. Personally, I created a blog where I photographed key works and embedded short videos, with particular attention to key themes which were commonly explored within my artistic practice.
Be organised with how you present your portfolio. The last thing you want to be doing in an interview is faffing around looking for work amongst endless sheets of A1. Keep it all neat and in a specific order, letting your portfolio demonstrate your creative journey. You can take sketchbooks with you too, so if your interviewer asks more about a specific piece you can easily demonstrate your artistic processes.
If you’re presenting an online portfolio using a blog format such as Tumblr or Blogger, you may want to organise your posts by themes or artistic methods. The biggest piece of advice I can give
about e-portfolios is to make is as easily accessible as you can. Keep it simple and user friendly. Under each key piece of work write a short statement about the work (why you made it / what inspired it…) Make sure any images are uploaded via your own computer and not linked from the internet – internet images can be removed at any time and your blog will contain broken links which looks unprofessional and sloppy.
Be prepared to discuss your portfolio. Tutors will want to discuss your work in detail, so make sure you are ready to talk pretentious-art-school-lingo (it’s good practice for your future student self as you will no doubt spend many a critique having to defend your work to the heavens – jus’ kidding, it’s not that bad).
The way you present your portfolio is an extension of how you are presenting yourself as an artist. Although your personal statement is an important focal point at this stage, please, please, please consider your portfolio. And remember, quality not quantity. Tutors want to see you at your very best, not you and a hundred unfinished concepts.