CAL ARTS Portfolio & Essay Requirements


Checklist General Portfolio requirements:

    1. Synopsis
    2. A one-paragraph biography
    3. Comments on films, books, art, etc.
    4. Project plans
    5. A brief explanation (one page) of why you are interested
    6. Portfolio requirements by major

Fine Art Requirements

BFA applicants
Submit examples of personal work, not class assignments. We want to know what your interests are and how you represent them in your practice. Your work can be in any medium; we are interested in a variety of media integrations.

Graphic Design Requirements

BFA applicants
Submit a portfolio of your current work with a minimum of 20 pieces. These should include examples of graphic design, typography, conceptual visualization (drawing as examples of conceptual thinking) and your level of experience with technology. These examples may range from class assignments and self-initiated projects to professional work.
The following project is optional but highly recommended for applicants who lack examples of graphic design in their admissions portfolio.

Optional Graphic Design Project

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Demonstrate your abilities in designing a visual message. According to the specifications below create a street poster for the Be Green campaign and include it as part of your portfolio for admissions to the CalArts Program in Graphic Design.
Project Brief 
Design a 12″ x 18″ vertical street poster for the Be Green campaign. Your audience is the general public. Imagine that your poster will be displayed at bus stops and train stations in any big city. The goal of the Be Green campaign is to motivate people to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Your poster must combine type and image to create a powerful, clear, and memorable visual message. You may work digitally or with tradi- tional materials or any combination of both.
Focus on creating an inventive and communicative visual message and a well composed design. On page 3, you will find a selection of historic and contemporary posters by professional and student designers that may be helpful and inspirational. HAVE FUN!
Your poster must be 12″x 18″, vertical.
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Step 1 Choose a topic
The Be Green campaign consists of five topics.
Choose ONE topic from the list  and design a poster for that topic.
Step 2 Develop an image concept
Brainstorm and conceive of an image that will motivate your audience. Thumbnail sketches are a great way to think visually.
Step 3 Create your image

Once you’ve decided on your image concept, create your image using a medium of your choice: digital, drawing, painting, photography, photo-copy, collage, mixed-media, etc.
Step 4 Design your poster

Next, integrate your typographic information with your image to create a dynamic composition. Your poster must include a title and sub-title from the choices
on page 2. Create your type with a medium of your choice: digital, hand-made, collage, etc. Be sure to con- sider style, color, and how they relate to your message. Compose your type and image elements any way you wish. Elements may rotate, overlap or bleed off the edge.

Choose ONE and include the title & sub- title.
Share Rides
Sharing rides to school and work reduces emissions and helps reduce global warming.
TITLE: Be Green

SUB-TITLE: Share Rides
Alternative Energy
Electric cars, solar and wind power are
just few sources of alternative, non-carbon
energy sources.
TITLE: Be Green 18″
SUB-TITLE: Use Alternative Energy
• Buy Local
Purchasing food and other goods from businesses in your area reduces energy and emissions that would otherwise be used to transport the same goods to your area.
TITLE: Be Green
SUB-TITLE: Buy Local
• Ride a Bike
Riding a bike to work or school reduces emissions, fossil fuel dependency, and pro- motes green living.
TITLE: Be Green
SUB-TITLE: Ride a Bike
• Change Your Light Bulbs
Replacing traditional light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs is an easy way to conserve energy and help reduce global warming.
TITLE: Be Green

SUB-TITLE: Use Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
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Graphic Design Artist Statement
In your statement, we recommend that you specifically address your interest and knowledge of graphic design as a professional practice. In addition, please describe your design projects and any additional design related experience you have. When applying online, this statement should be submitted with both your online application and your online portfolio.

Experimental Animation Requirements

The Program in Experimental Animation promotes and supports animation as a fine art. In making admissions decisions, the program’s faculty considers animation and other visual materials such as flip books, paintings, drawings, storyboards and photographs that suggest motion or animation. The faculty recommends submitting portfolios that contain examples of unique, personal expressive art. Submit animated film or video work if at all possible. If you do not have a film or video to present, it is especially important to submit visual artworks that indicate your creative potential. Personal creative visual work that represents your interests is preferred over class assignments.
  • Do not submit static art or video art as interactive portfolio
 presentations. However, you may submit work originally designed as interactive art.
  • If submitting work that was part of a collaborative project, please describe your role in the process or inception.
Mail four copies the following written materials to The Office of Admissions using the Portfolio Mailing Label below in addition to uploading them on the online portfolio site:
  1. Synopsis: One or two sentence synopsis of each work submitted.
  2. A one-paragraph biography with 2-4 stills from your work to be kept on file.
  3. Comments on films, books, art, etc., that you feel have influenced your thoughts and work as an artist. It is important to say why and how these works have influenced you. Avoid writing plot summaries.
  4. Project plans. Keep in mind that such a plan is meant to give faculty an idea of the type of filmmaking that interests you, not an idea of a project you will necessarily produce at CalArts.
  5. A brief explanation (one page) of why you are interested specifically in the Program in Experimental Animation at CalArts.
Mail four collated, labeled copies of all written materials, including the Artist Statement that was submitted with your application.

Character Animation Requirements

The Character Animation program supports animation that focuses on character development and narrative storytelling. The faculty admissions committee seeks portfolios that show evidence of strong, creative life drawing skills, artistic originality, and the potential to tell stories and develop characters using sequential imagery. The faculty welcomes a range of creative work, including drawings and other traditional artwork, 2D digital art, and 3D computer graphics (CG).
  • The Program in Character Animation requires a physical sketchbook be submitted by mail.
  • Observational drawings and other work should be submitted using our online portfolio submission system.
  • Both the mailed sketchbook and the online submissions are due by the application deadline.
  • Students are accepted into this program at the BFA1 level (first-year undergraduate) because of the highly sequential nature of the studies. Students will be expected to be in residence the full four years.
Application Portfolio Requirements:
Part I: Observational Drawings (minimum 15 drawings):
Examples: Drawings of people and animals from life that explore elements like shape, form, contour, and contrast. These drawings should range from one-minute gestures to longer poses. Indicate hands, feet, and faces.
Drawings of interior environments and exterior landscapes that showcase depth, ambiance, and mood.  Do not erase your construction lines ––they are especially  helpful to the faculty in understanding your approach to observational drawing. Do not submit traced pictures or copies of work by others.
Part II: Sketchbook / Visual Diary (filled or completed sketchbook):
Examples: Sketches from your everyday life. Drawings that illustrate film ideas and story concepts. Thumbnails of scenes that you plan to animate one day.  Random jottings that interest you. Character designs.  Studies of images from films or other sources you like.
Part III: Other Work:
Include any combination of the following: Sequential image storytelling: Work that showcases your ability to tell a story and develop a character. For example: storyboards,  graphic novels, comics, flipbooks, or short stories with thumbnails. Digital creative work (animated or still): Creative work that you produce, or manipulate, in one or more computer programs. This might take the form of:
                        2D digital art or 3D computer graphics
                        Character designs
Submission Format:
Sketchbooks: Mail to the Office of Admissions at CalArts.
Mailed sketchbooks should include a completed Portfolio Information Form and be mailed using the Portfolio Mailing Label. Do not  send your portfolio directly to the School of Film/Video. Doing so will cause a delay in the review of your work.
The Office of Admissions will return your portfolio to you by mail only if you send a prepaid self-addressed package for return mailing.
Observational drawings and other work (photographs, paintings, large drawings, sculptures, installations, murals, etc.) should be digitally reproduced and uploaded to our online portfolio submissions system

One thought on “CAL ARTS Portfolio & Essay Requirements

  1. I’m really interested in Character Animation and I am stuck with what to do and how to make such stunning art portfolios. Whenever I see accepted portfolio videos on YouTube, they all drew well and all they seem to have done is just organising their works into CalArts style. Do most people learn by themselves? or do they have art teachers who taught them how to draw and use specific art materials?

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