A couple of years ago my framer asked me to help her son apply for
acceptance to an undergrad art program in the large university near us. So I
took a day off work and we went up & had lunch with a couple of the profs, &
a tour. When they told us what they were looking for in portfolios, it
quickly became clear to him that he had nothing - nothing! His teacher had
never even mentioned this school had an annual "portfolio review day". He
went home and tried desperately to catch up on his own, but to no avail. He
wasn't accepted. He was devastated, crushed, demoralized. All he'd ever
wanted to do was go to that school and study art. He'd gone above and beyond
all his assignments - wasn't he the star pupil? - after all, he got lots of
medals at the annual art banquet...
What did he lack? drawing. No ongoing sketchbook, no "observational", no
"memory", no "imaginative". What did he have? cartoons, lots of "juried
student show ad competitions" - lots and lots of flashy magazine photo
transfers, polaroid transfers, photocopier transfers, collages. Paper mache
animals for an ecology project that got his teacher's picture in the paper.
But when it came down to what a strong university program needed in order to
see who they were really dealing with - he had NOTHING.
The kid bounced back - got a temp job at the zoo in the graphics fabrication
department and started going to another school part time as an art major.
The zoo realized the treasure he is and made it a "real job", so he's
securely in the graphic-design track he'd intended. (I ran into him at the
Pizza Hut Sunday and he told me he eventually wants to get his MEd). As for
me, I couldn't stop thinking about it. The experience deeply upset me - so I
decided to examine those powerful emotions to see what I was trying to tell
myself. It came down to "if you think you can do it better, you'd better get
to it". So I am - if I manage to find a job!
Betty (BA art, MFA printmaking)