Do you come across as aimless and confused to admissions?

If your Art Portfolio is haphazardly put together, you will come across as aimless and confused to Admissions Counselors. Here’s how to make your art portfolio look unified, by finding a clear common thread throughout the portfolio.

We’ve helped thousands of students make a great portfolio to apply to Art School with. And one misconception we hear often is that the more skillful your portfolio is the more admissions counselors will like it.

What we’ve found is that skill is not paramount, in fact we’ve noticed that some very technically skillful students relied on that and didn’t explore how to make the work their own.

Whether it was obvious or subtle, in the best portfolios, all pieces have a common thread.

This is what Scholastic Art Awards means when they say that they look for personal voice or vision and originality. The top art schools are looking for the same. It’s important to show that your work is personal, that it’s something that you are invested in. If you’re having trouble thinking about what that common thread could be for you, start to think about what makes you curious.

Is it relationships, fashion, poetry, a current event, fairytales, an object? The common thread can also be more visual than literal. A visual thread that streams through each artwork could be colors, materials, repetition, self, the use of personal symbolism. Ideally you would have both subject and visual threads.

Ashcan Student Work
ashcan student work

If this seems daunting, thinking about what you’d like to base your work on, at Ashcan we have a few ways to get the ball rolling.

First, it’s important to be brave, be genuine and to feel comfortable expressing your true interests and self. Feel willing to be vulnerable, because work that is honest has the most impact. 

Also ease up on expectations, expectations weigh you down with worry. Instead focus on expansion and give faith to your unique creative voice.

First, brainstorm ideas in your sketchbook. One of the first things we ask our students to do is create an opposites list, where you list your likes and dislikes.

Then quickly jot down your favorite and least favorite location, the biggest thing you’ve ever seen, the smallest thing you’ve ever seen, a memory, your favorite book or story, pick a scene form a film and describe it, list your fears or a phobia, what are your favorite body parts, describe something or someone that’s beautiful.

Don’t over think these questions, and don’t be afraid to be funny or dramatic, write down the first thing that comes to your mind, but use detail.

Slide 18 Now that you have this information realize that all of it is valid and interesting and deserves to be seen and valued in creative form. When you look everything over something will jump out to you as peaking your interest more than others. Or maybe there’s a consistent language throughout and each question can turn into an art piece. In any case choose one to start with. 

The next step is research, look up on google, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram and find books about the subject or word you’ve chosen. You have to do your homework. Finding out more about things that interests you gives them purpose, and everything you do should be done with purpose.

Ashcan Student Work
ashcan student work


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