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  • Entering Art School

    [11.30.06]
    - Samuel Crowe

  •  Portfolio Requirements

    Many schools require that you submit a portfolio before being accepted into the program. I personally do not agree with this method-if you exhibit the skills needed to be accepted, then why bother going in the first place? Many schools do this to ensure that you are serious about perusing a career in art, as well as the basic understanding and skill needed to produce quality artwork. Portfolios also allow the school to structure their classes. If they see that are receiving a large number of portfolios that are of poor quality, then the school may need to put more emphasis in the basic courses.

    Be sure you check with each school to see what the portfolio requirements are. In general, here is a list of what you may be asked to show in your portfolio:

    • Still life, color and monotone
    • Painting using a wet medium
    • Examples showing basic color theory
    • Examples showing basic design
    • Any figure drawing from life
    • No comic book or line based drawings
    • Master studies or copies
    • Refrain from tracing photographs
    • Refrain from tracing!
    • What you consider your best work and a written document explaining why.
    • Some type of documentation for each image.
    • An essay explaining why you are doing this and what you intend to gain from attending school.

    Or let your creations make your portfolio for you.

    Choosing a School

    Choosing a school to attend can be very nerve-wracking at first, especially if you just graduated from High School yesterday. If this is you, you need to stop reading this and start researching the schools you want to attend, as well as the career you want. Once you have that information, then come back and read the advice section.

    If you are still in High School, then you should start researching as much as possible. Keep a record of the schools you find and list the types of degrees, the types of programs and of course the fees required.

    Do not choose a school because a popular artist graduated from there. Do not choose a school because it is "popular." Do not choose a school because they have a "high recruitment of students into the industry." Here is why:

    A popular artist graduated from that school, so you want to go there? You will find that no matter what school you go to, it is up to you as an individual to work on your skills. As an illustrator friend once said: "Art school is where you go to teach yourself."

    High recruitment has always a big selling point. Keyword there being "selling." A university or any other school is a business and in order to stay up and running, they need your money. Many schools invest heavily in advertising their courses and degree programs. One of the all time favorites is to say: "we have a 90% recruitment of students who graduated" or " 90% of our students are currently working in the industry after graduation." The first question you need to ask is, "What industry?" Does McDonalds count as the "industry"? Yes it does! How many of those students are still working in their chosen field? Much if not all of this information is given to the school by the graduating students through alumni organizations. How much of it is true or false is unknown. In some cases, schools do have a high recruitment ratio, but what you need to ask yourself is: will that ratio still remain in two to 4 years when I graduate? Chances are slim that it will.

    Once You're In

    Time to party and stay drunk! No afraid not, all those movies you've seen are far from the truth. If you decide to spend your time partying then you will soon find yourself with about $50,000 of debt and no school to attend. I'm not saying to avoid fun and parties, but I am saying be smart about it. Colleges and other schools offer so many distractions it's amazing anyone graduates. Just be smart about it.


    But don't be down.

    Accept the fact that you're going to produce low quality art, stop trying to impress your classmates by looking for shortcuts to produce "popular" or eye catching art. Instead, I suggest making your mistakes and learning from them and then moving on. Make progress as much as you can. Keep everything you do, no matter how bad it is. At some point, those bad drawings or paintings can be recycled or used as great pieces of personal inspiration when you are in a rut.

    Drop the ego that you are the best artist on campus, there will always be someone better and if have a big ego you will lose the chance to work with or learn from the "better" artist.

    Art students are poor!!!! You will have very little money to spend on booze and eating out. This is because you're always buying supplies. Your art supplies usually last for about the length of a semester and it's time to buy more. Do not buy all your supplies at once. You may find that you only use a quarter of what is required.

    Pay attention here, because this is the most important bit of information I can give any starting art student...

    Take as much of color theory, basic design and art history as you can! Everything you do, painting, drawing, 3D, animation all of it, is based on your understanding of color theory and design. You must master these fundamentals before you graduate and expect to have a successful career. The good news is, as artists, you will find that most of color theory and design comes natural to you. You just never had the opportunity to study it in depth and master it. Learn Art History, learn about the masters before us and study them. Understanding art movements throughout history will have a strong impact on you as an artist as well as the type of work you produce.

    Do not wait until the last minute to complete your assignments. What is the point of doing that? You're not going to learn anything; you're only doing it because you are required to. Always try to learn from everything you do, spend some time understanding the way you think and the way you work. If you are concerned with getting an "A" there is a big possibility you are only doing the basic requirements to pass the class. Because of this, many instructors set a very high bar for what is required to get an "A."

    Keep a collection of artists and artwork that you like. Keep this file on your computer or in a box somewhere. As you mature as an artist you will notice that your tastes change as well as your style. It's important that you understand this and learn from it. Always ask yourself: "What do I like about this image, what is this image telling me?" Sometimes you may just like the image for what it is, other times you may hate the style, but love the story it presents.

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