“Think of your portfolio as a snapshot of your potential as an artist – a way of showing the art school of your dreams your style, skills and thinking, and how you can develop these while studying with them.”
At Art Academy London, every year we see how nerve-wracking prospective students find the application process: it can feel like they are being asked to lay their soul bare to a group of judgmental strangers. However, as with any educational path, the way to take the pressure and emotion out of the application process is the same: preparation, preparation, preparation!
Let’s start with the basic principles of preparing for your interview: presenting your work. Think of your portfolio as a snapshot of your potential as an artist – a way of showing the art school of your dreams your style, skills and thinking, and how you can develop these while studying with them.
Your portfolio should comprise around 20 pieces of work, featuring a range of research, ideas development, experimentation with different materials, techniques and media, and some finished pieces.
It’s also useful to organise your portfolio into categories to make it easier to view and present. Avoid repetition and try to demonstrate a range of your skills – and not just technical skills, but also your ability to find inventive and creative solutions to visual problems. You can include brief explanations, but avoid falling into the A-Level trap of writing a detailed analysis of your work: one or two sentences is enough.
At interview, it’s essential that you can talk confidently about your work – not only to show passion and determination, but also to justify your decisions. Each piece in your portfolio should have a thought process behind it, and it can’t just be “I made that piece because my art teacher told me to!”
To stand out from the crowd, think about ways of developing creativity and thinking differently (but don’t confuse this with trying to shock an art tutor, as they’ve seen most things already). It’s about being authentic to your own creativity and pushing the boundaries of that.
It’s essential that you show an interest in art, culture and society and can talk about how this informs your own work. This type of contextual knowledge will really strengthen your portfolio and show your commitment when interviewing for an art school. However, you don’t need to limit your interests to creative fields: politics, the environment, media, history, religion, philosophy, music, theatre, cinema, literature, film or new technologies can all inspire your art. Building your knowledge on a subject that interests you and incorporating that into your practice adds a new layer of meaning to your work. And if you’re passionate and interested about it, you’ll find it easier to speak engagingly at an interview.