I wanted to start this thread here, after some discussion in one of the other threads, about the portfolio building process for college/university. I am far from having any superior knowledge on how to build a portfolio for art college, however I've just gone through the process myself this past year, to build myself a portfolio to get me into a very selective art college, and to also receive a scholarship based on my portfolio submissions.
I spent about a year and a half building my portfolio for college. Why I took so long was not because I intended on taking so long to build it, I understand that being in high school probably won't allow you a lot of time to work on the details of your portfolio, however I ended up taking a year off after high school, to decide on what I wanted to do with my post-secondary studies. My work throughout that year, as well as my senior year in high school was what made up my portfolio.
The first time I attempted to build my portfolio (before I decided I didnt want to go to school that year), I posted here on WC and received some great feedback, as well as feedback from many other sources, some of which I'll restate in this thread. That feedback greatly helped me re-shape my portfolio I used to actually get into the school, so thankyou WC and everyone else
Know the requirements
When you are going to start building your portfolio, the first think you should do is check out if there are any requirements your institution has set for your portfolio! This is a very important step, so you will know that the work you are doing now will in fact be allowed in your portfolio - I can't imagine how much it would *bite* if you did all this work on a portfolio, only to have several of the pieces or the entire portfolio application rejected because you have not met the requirements.
For my particular institution, there were several listed on their website/through their application package
-Size requirements was one thing listed - they would not accepted a portfolio larger than the set listing. This would be different depending on the institution - My institution wanted some ACTUAL artwork included - other institutions will want you to submit in slides or whatever.
-They had listed a recommended maximum/minimum amount of portfolio submissions. In regards to the max/min of portfolio submissions, I was told by members of the admissions office that although there was no real set limit for the number of pieces in your portfolio, they had set the numbers to make sure you do not send every piece of artwork you have ever made - but also include enough work to show your strengths.
-Projects were also listed that were to be included in the portfolio. There were a number of compulsory projects, and also a number of optional projects listed, from which I had to chose a set number to work on and include in my portfolio. Without the completion of these projects, My portfolio would not be accepted in the college, and therefore I would not be able to apply, so making sure these projects were completed was very important.
-My college also had an essay which had to be included in with the application and my portfolio. Making sure the essay was not only written within the maximum/minimum word requirements, I also made sure it was proofread (and lord knows i need someone to proofread....) and typed up nice and neat for presentation purposes.
Check for Deadlines
There are probably going to be deadlines for submissions to your institution. Know the dates and make sure you get things in on time!!
Try and work from life
Let's face it, it impresses people to see work done from actual life. One of the requirements from my institution, actually, was that I was not allowed to work from photographs, period. So, include still-life studies, on-site landscapes, life studies. I ended up including several life studies in pastel of hands and feet, as well as 40 minute drawings in graphite of people from life.
Show that you're versatile
Try and show that you are flexible, as you are going to an institution which is designed to challenge you. Let these people know that you are willing to take on whatever it is they are going to throw at you to the best of your ability. Including works done in several different mediums can help, also including many different subject matters in your portfolio will help show them that nothing frightens you and that you will tackle anything!
Prove you are into exploring art independently
Putting pieces that you did in a high-school art class is absolutely fine, but also show them that you are interested in art outside of the classroom by including works or series that you completed on your own time.
Keep your work recent
Make sure that the work in your portfolio is rather recent in relation to the time you submit. Pieces that you did several years ago may not be as welcomed as a piece you worked on during this last year.
Show who you are
Not only should the portfolio include what the institution wants to see, but also what you want to see, after all it is YOUR portfolio! I have to admit, I am a fantasy art lover which is fairly frowned upon (from what I have been told) by my college - however it is what I do and so I did not forget to include that into my portfolio. Works of your own interest next to studies or projects you did for your portfolio will help the institution know who you are, what you're style is, and what you're really interested and where your strengths lie. Hower, don't fill your portfolio completely with pieces that you want to do - show your interest in other areas by studies of different subjects or styles outside of your norm.
Edit your work
In many cases, being able to edit your work will be a very important part of the portfolio. Include the best of what you can do!! But also, like I said above, don't include everything you've ever done. In some cases, you may have pieces that are not particularly your best, but they demonstrate a good quality that you have in your work. Point that quality out to them, with a written description included with your works. Make it clear why you want them to see this piece, and why it is a valuable part to your portfolio.
Like everything professional, presentation is extremely important and you want to come across as being professional and serious as possible. Making sure everything is neat and organized is important. If you have a sloppy presentation then that will reflect on how the college sees you. Remember that these people are not interested in getting a bunch of lazy, sloppy, kids into their institution - they want people who will make them look good, and who they think will act like professionals in their work environment. Be thoughtful about the presentation, and think of what kind of things you want the review committee to think of you when they first lay their eyes on it. If you can collect all of your works into a presentation case, that will be fantastic, or if you can put them neatly into slides that may also be the way to go. In my case, having to include real work in my portfolio, I ended up connecting them all with a basic black "mat-frame" constructed of bristol board, with an inset double mat of canson paper that complimented the image. Then, I put all of that together in a large portfolio bag large enough to carry everything.
Also, the order in which you present your portfolio will also be very important. Try and think, and remember, the first thing and the last thing they see will be what they really remember you by, so try and stick your most impressive pieces around this order in the line-up, and stick less important pieces in between. I put what i considered to be my best pieces every 2 or 3 images in the order of things, so there was always something positive to look at, with my very bests at the beginning and at the end.
My portfolio included a small presentation duotang (with a use clear front page) which kept all of my paperwork neat and in order with the corresponding images which I numbered on my black frame-mats. Including a title page, a short table of contents, and my admissions essay at the end, every page corresponded with one of my images. I stated the title, medium, date, size, and also a description of the piece, or in the case of some of the projects, the written half to that particular project. This made sure all my papers were together nice and neat and nothing got lost.
Label your pieces
I can't imagine how horrible it would be to submit a portfolio and then loose a piece and not be able to trace its whereabouts because it had not been labeled properly! Perhaps when you put your signature to a piece you and your close followers can recognize it is yours off the bat, however remember that these institutions will probably be reviewing hundreds of applications, and shuffling through hundreds or even thousands of works. Remember to label EVERYTHING! On all my pieces, and on my portfolio bag, the text with my images, the "frames" of my images..... everything included my name, in print, and my phone number so if something was lost I could be called and the owner would be found. So, drawings might be easier to label, but what about paintings on canvas? I used a piece of electrical tape on the corner, and wrote the info on with a gell pen - it stuck fast good enough not to fall off, and yet was easily removed afterwards.
Delivering/Receiving the portfolio
You will most-likely be in charge of the delivering and the receiving of your portfolio. In my case, I was lucky enough to be close enough that I could drive to the college to do my thing. However, you may have to mail your portfolio, in which case you will probably be asked to handle the return shipping charged and stuff, on top of the charges it took to get it there. So, be sure to look into making the appropriate arrangements to get your portfolio to and from the institution.
So I'm hoping that this will help you all start with the building of your portfolios if you are about to try and get into an institution to study art. Also, if anyone has more to include from their experience, please let us know! Let's see how much useful portfolio-building info we can pack into one little thread, eh?