Portfolio Prep classes with Sonya Blesofsky

One thing Art Ready aims to do is educate students about the process of getting into art school, in addition to specific career paths in the arts. For the past four years, we have been offering special workshops on art portfolio preparation with Smack Mellon teaching artist, artist mentor, and professional artist Sonya Blesofsky. These workshops feature the following components:

I. A group discussion: looking at various art school admission pages to see what different schools require; and looking at the AP Studio Art website for examples of successful and less successful student portfolios in different media.

II. Individual critiques of students’ artwork

During the group discussion component, Sonya has given the following general advice (taken from her handout):

Questions to ask yourself when applying to College

  • Do I want to go to a 4-year University, an Art School, a vocational school, or transfer from a Community College?
  • Do I want to stay local or go out of town/state?
  • What kind of program do I want to apply to/what program is the best fit for my interests?
  • What colleges offer the best financial aid?

Portfolio should include:
Observational Skills

  • Draw what you see, not what you know.
  • Draw objects in space (not floating on a white background)

Color and Compositional Skills

Work in a Variety of Media

  •  Show an understanding of the materials you’re using/technically proficient work.

Creative Problem Solving Skills

  • Show that you know how to solve composition issues, address interesting subject matter in a new way, and you rise to the challenges presented by materials and projects.

Invention and Commitment

Communication Skills

  • Show that you know how to speak about your work– This is very important at Portfolio Days and if you are granted an  interview!!!

Things to help you when making work to include in your Portfolio

  • Still Life
  • Spaces/environments (from observation)
  • Abstract and non-objective work
  • Figure drawing
  • Portraits
  • Sketches/sketchbook pages
  • Composition/Design work
  • Photography (only Art photography!)
  • Sculpture/Installation
  • Video/Animation
  • Work from outside of class assignments

Some common feedback students received from Sonya during the “looking at work” portion has included the following:

  • Work from life, not just from photos
  • Practice in a sketchbook
  • If your work includes appropriated images (i.e. in graphic design work) make sure you include some of your original drawings too
  • For photography portfolios, understand the difference between snapshots, and “artistic” photos. Avoid photos snapped with your phone!
  • Even if applying in a very specialized area like fashion, it’s good to show that you can do other types of art (drawing, etc.) including drawing from life!
  • Think about how all your work looks together–for example, it helps to lay it out and consider the order in which you want to show it.
  • If you are applying to a field for which you haven’t taken any actual classes, you can include work that shows you’re developing the building blocks for that field (for example: if you are applying to animation programs but haven’t had the chance to make a full animated video, you can show that you know how to develop a character, or tell a story in sequence, through your drawings).

Sonya has shown students the following helpful links during our group discussion:

AP Studio Art Portfolios: Examples of HS Student Artwork
Drawing: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/exam/exam_information/213872.html
3-D Artwork:  http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/exam/exam_information/213881.html
Photo: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/exam/exam_information/208311.html

Portfolio Requirements
RISD: http://www.risd.edu/Admissions/Apply/Freshmen/
MICA: http://www.mica.edu/Admission_and_Financial_Aid/Undergraduate_Admission_and_Financial_Aid/Preparing_Your_Portfolio/Portfolio_Preparation_for_Freshmen.html
Parsons: http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/subpage.aspx?id=29971

Art Schools
is a great website with TONS of resources for students and prospective students.

Documenting your artwork
has some good info about preparing your portfolio and shooting work.

Writing an artist statement
Download the Artist’s Statement tools worksheet!

Read about Sonya’s 2010 Art Ready portfolio prep workshop

Visit our resources page for a complete list!


About smartready

Mentorship Program Manager, Smack Mellon
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