If you've chosen to apply for an Art subject at university, you might have to submit a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of artwork from projects you've completed, usually including A Level or GCSE projects and art you've worked on at home. It's a great opportunity to share the topics you studied and explain why you're interested in them.

In this article, I am referring mainly to creating a digital portfolio. However, you could apply these same principles to making a physical portfolio as well.

Find Your Style

Before you start making your portfolio, design a layout and style for it. Don't make it too complicated or distracting, remember that you want your artwork to stand out, not the background. Using a white background works well if you have very colourful artwork. Simple is best, but don't be afraid to experiment with different styles until you find something that you are happy with. Creating an invisible border around the edge of the page that all the pictures and text fit inside is a good way to keep all your pages looking coherent.

Be Selective

Not every project you've created will fit in your portfolio, neither will all your work from one sketchbook. Start by selecting your favourite and most interesting projects to showcase as well as anything that is relevant to the subject you're applying for. Think about why you're including each one and the opportunities they present you to talk about. You also need to be selective with the pictures you're going to include for each project, import them to the document and see how many you can realistically fit on a page.

Be Prepared to Change it

Each university will have different requirements regarding the size of portfolios. Page size and the number of projects they want to see will vary. They will most likely send you an email with a link to a page where you can read exactly what they to see want in the portfolio, if not, send them an email asking what they are looking for.

Make one portfolio to start with and then adjust it according to the needs of each university. Some universities might only want to see a select number of projects, so carefully select these from the ones you've already chosen.

Variety is Key

Make your portfolio interesting to look at by showing a different discipline or topic on each page. Try to show different mediums such as sculpture, mixed media, watercolour etc. Universities like to see that you can work in different mediums and that you're not afraid to try different things.

Give Insight

Caption your photos, explaining briefly what each project was about, the artists that inspired it and what your final outcome was. 

Stand Out

All of your artwork is unique to you, but you'll have projects that were particularly unusual or unique, displaying these will make you stand out and be memorable. In your captions for these pictures, you can talk about the elements of the project that took you out of your comfort zone.

Add Sketchbook Pages

Don't just include final pieces and artwork. Show sketchbook pages - not only do these show your process throughout a project but they also demonstrate to university staff that you have experience of displaying artwork well.

Use Dates and Titles

Universities are keen for you to date and title each image in your portfolio. The titles don't have to be complicated, just make it clear what each picture is showing. See the page below for an example.

Be Prepared to Talk Through it

A University might request an interview after you have submitted a portfolio. In an interview, they will most likely want to discuss your portfolio and ask questions about particular projects you have included. This is another reason to think carefully about the things you're including and to know what you enjoyed about it.

Link It to Your Personal Statement

If you talked about an art project in your personal statement, include it in your portfolio. This gives universities a chance to see a visual representation of what you talked about already.

See below an example of how you could lay out a page in your portfolio:

If you liked this post, you might be interested in my guide on writing a Personal Statement

Writing a portfolio can be a challenge, but it's actually enjoyable and gives you a chance to see all you've achieved with your creative work.

Are you preparing a portfolio for university?

Thanks for popping by! I hope you learnt something from this post.


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