PAFA BFA Portfolio Guide

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Undergraduate Guide to Portfolio Development

Creating a portfolio can be an exciting but challenging process. The following guide is designed to help you develop a portfolio for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Please note: Portfolio requirements are different for each school, please contact each school for specifics.

Keep in mind that this is merely a guide. Each applicant is different and must submit work that appropriately represents his or her individual strengths. Our goal at the Office of Admissions at PAFA is to help you create a successful portfolio. Please contact us if you have any questions or if you would like to set up an appointment to meet with one of our portfolio counselors:

call (215) 972-7625 or email



PAFA requires a portfolio of 12-15 strong images. We are interested in well-developed portfolios and we look for a high level of skill, creativity, focus and ambition. Your portfolio should consist of observational pieces that investigate the fundamentals of art-making (line, composition, value, proportion, illusion of depth…). We also want to see works that showcase the complexity of your thinking as well as how you create and organize visual images. These works should explore concepts creatively and ambitiously, may be implemented observationally, imaginatively, or abstractly, and can be executed in any media. In every case, we want to see your strongest work.

Observational Work

A successful undergraduate portfolio will include examples of observational work. An observational piece is any image that you create while looking at actual subject matter. It can be a figure drawing, portrait, still life, interior space, landscape, etc. Do not use photographs as reference. The ability to translate a three-dimensional space into a two-dimensional image is a challenging task; it is critical that we are able to evaluate this ability.

Creative Thinking

In addition to evaluating your observational and technical skills, we will look for evidence that you have the ability to think conceptually and that you have the ability to create images according to your own personal vision. These works can be in any medium. They should also be finished pieces that are thoroughly developed and that clearly use elements of visual language.


Beyond technical skill and conceptual thinking, a quality portfolio will display the artist’s response to a variety of challenges. Outstanding portfolios will maintain strong conceptual themes while exploring a diversity of media, scale, and technique. Students should strive to create complex compositions, to display extraordinary skill, and to exhibit a unique artistic point of view. Your portfolio should demonstrate focus and commitment; these are the elements that distinguish scholarship-winning portfolios. Remember, it is never a good idea to sacrifice or dilute quality; a portfolio should only contain your strongest images. Do not include work that is ambitious if it is not also well executed.

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How should the portfolio be submitted?

The quality of each image is extremely important. All artwork should be photographed with sufficient lighting and a neutral background. Make sure that each image is clear and correctly formatted. Edit your images to improve their presentation and to honestly reflect the original artwork. Do not submit images that are outdated or of low-quality.

Applicants should submit their portfolio online, via SlideRoom, at

All portfolio images must be in JPEG format. For good image quality and fast upload, image files should be sized with a maximum dimension of 1240 pixels at 72dpi. (Higher

resolutions will make your images unnecessarily large and make the uploading experience, for both you and us, difficult).

Contact Office of Admissions at if you are experiencing difficulty with your on-line application.

10. The Long Shower


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