How to Make Your Art Portfolio Stand Out- Art Portfolio Tricks that Work! PART 1

Art Portfolios can all start to look the same to admissions counselors after a while, they see a lot of rectangular white paper and canvas….. a lot of the same common ideas and common materials. 

At Ashcan we have a few different effective ways to help your Art Portfolio really stand out. 


One way you can stand out is to use an unusual surface. Choosing an unconventional surface to work on is a fairly simple way to make you come across as more sophisticated, innovative and experimental, important qualities admissions counselors look for in an ideal candidate for their school. 

Almost any surface, if you can put gesso on it, you can paint it. 

Toys, metal, furniture, plastic, books, newspapers, different shaped canvas, like round canvas, or even a door. When you think about what to do for your next project think of a creative, unconventional surface you could use. 


Another way to stand out among thousands of other applicants, that’s similar to choosing to work on unusual surfaces, is to make a drawing or painting three-dimensional. You can do this by cutting out pieces of paper, and or layering parts of the composition, adding objects or movement. This can be like making a collage with your own drawings or paintings.  


Adding political art or art that explores current events or history- can also be an effective way to make your Art Portfolio stand out. It’s a way to show admissions counselors that you’re engaged, that you have values and opinions, and that you stand for something. 

This kind of art appeals to our minds and also to feelings of empathy, and generates complex associations we have with religion, and culture. Most of us have something that when the topic comes up we feel strongly about it, and as artists we are in a unique and powerful position to actually make a difference.


Another great way to stand out is to make art that has meaning and uses symbolism, where the mystery makes admissions counselors look a little longer and think about who you are. Using symbolism in art is intriguing, so allow your work to tell a story, it can be simple and fun, multi-layered and personal or serious and dark, as long as it’s designed for the active internal work of the viewer, arouses feelings and also makes them want to understand what’s happening in the picture.

If you do one or all of these for your Art Portfolio it will demonstrate to Admissions that you’re able to go beyond basic technical art skills. That you’re original and inspired to try new things and push yourself. And you can make art that’s different from what other people are creating.

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