The Top 5 Art Portfolio Tips Every Student Applying to Art School Must Know

These are our top 5 Tips to make an outstanding art portfolio

Over the past 15 years of helping thousands of students make outstanding & scholarship worthy Art Portfolios- with 100% success, we’ve noticed a few things that help the most with the Portfolio making process, and these are our top 5 Tips to make an outstanding art portfolio.

Tip 1- Start with the Basics –  This is the part we’d like to skip over – but taking the time to do exercises like blind drawing, contour line study, value studies, learning about perspective etc, will all make the rest of your art portfolio go much more quickly and easily. 

Tip 2- Draw in your Sketchbook – At Ashcan we encourage all of our students to keep sketchbooks and draw in them daily.  If you do this every day, you’ll see your drawing skills improve really quickly and your ideas for your work will be better. ⁠In your sketchbook make observational work – which are drawings from life- not from a photo- this will help you master fundamental art skills. ⁠

In your sketchbook also draw is to draw the things that interest you. You can’t copy other art for your art portfolio but a few pages devoted to studying an artists, designers or architects work can help you develop your own ideas-

 And use your sketchbook to write down and sketch your ideas and different compositions, and your research. 

Tip 3Research – the difference between a poor or mediocre Art Portfolio piece is so often the amount of research the artist has put into it. There are so many things in the world to be interested in. There are so many artists making work in very different ways. If you find yourself interested in something or someone – learn more about it or them.  A broad interest can become really specific and when you get that interested in something, and let that inspire you, that’s where the really great work comes from. 

Tip 4- Take Small Steps- Seeing that the school you want to go to would like to see 15-20 art pieces from you can feel scary and overwhelming, but if you make it your future goal- to have a great portfolio to apply to school with, and take small steps toward that goal each day, it will feel much more manageable. 

So instead of fearing the future, accept that small actions daily would help. Keep it in the day—and each day, you get to start over new. If you didn’t do anything toward your goal yesterday, you get to today, reset every day. Showing up in this way daily will give you purpose and direction. Instead of being hung up on if your Art Portfolio will be good enough or not, make it your priority to feel inspired in the moment. 

Tip 5- Try different Mediums– Including different mediums in your Art Portfolio shows Art school admission counselors that you have an ability to think creatively and a willingness to experiment and try new things- which is important for Admissions to see in a potential candidate for their school

There are so many different ways to make art, and including several different ways in your portfolio is a great way to capture the attention of admissions advisors. Your work can be representational or conceptual but the materials you can use and the amount of space that they occupy are limitless.

You can  show Admissions that you’re able to go beyond basic technical art and design skills. And you can make art that’s different from what other people are creating. 

It’s difficult and it takes practice to learn to use new different materials, so find a material now that you’re interested in using, and see what you can create. Go easy on yourself, it may take a substantial amount of time to get to use it in the way you’d like it to.

If you’re struggling with drawing for your Art Portfolio, Ashcan Studio Basic Drawing Class is a great place to start, classes are a lot of fun, and you will build your skills as an artist very quickly. You can take classes in NYC, Flushing, Little Neck, Long Island or Online

Call for a consultation 212-967-8101 or email us

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