I am lucky to have the Assistant Dean of Admissions from Tyler School of Art
visit my class every fall. She reviews and approves portfolios on the spot
and her advice is always the same.
observation drawing observation drawing observation drawing
Subject matter can be the simplest combination of objects. But the drawing
needs to contain a sense of values, spatial relations, and composition;
drawings that include a total environment. At least 5 good observation
drawings any media. She passes right over anything drawn from photographs.
"Imaginary" drawings are not very important. Good admissions people want to
see a student that can look at something from life and interpret that onto a
At least one or two pieces that demonstrate a sense color knowledge, again
media doesn't matter.
At least one 2-d Design project.
Anything else is optional and depends on the students strengths. Sculpture,
ceramics, photo, crafts, etc. An excellent sketchbook is a plus. The
sketchbook should demonstrate thinking process and evolution of ideas.
Sketchbooks filled with doodles are worthless.
I understand that a figure drawing is often a deciding factor in scholarship
You have to help your students make decisions. They want to include
everything. Try to eliminate anything done before the junior year, unless
it's something spectacular. Remember, art schools are not looking for
polished artists, they are looking for potential, and students that are
teachable. They have their own foundation programs that will mold and
provide technique. They want students that will be successful in those
I encourage my juniors to visit National Portfolio Days and observe and
listen to portfolio reviews. Unfortunately these Portfolio days have become
so huge that often my seniors come back discouraged. The lines are so long
they are usually limited to seeing one or two places of choice. Sometimes
they are treated rudely by the counselors. They come back to me and I have
to do a lot of soothing and rebuilding of egos and tell them that yes they
can get into art school.
We artists are such a sensitive lot, aren't we?