Art: school application portfolio, review needed

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  1. #1
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    school application portfolio, review needed

    -edited- took out a couple digital pieces as per unanimous recommendation, added some figure drawing. Not really sure if it's strong enough to be there.

    I'm working out a portfolio for applications, mainly as a transfer to FIT as an illustration major. With the credits I have so far I think I'm still a freshman and I have a unbelievably bad academic history so I am scared out of my mind to submit my portfolio as it will either save me or finalize my rejection. So I'm just gonna take it like a man and post what I have here so far, I'd really really appreciate feedback on what I've got so far. I want to continue seriously refining this even after I submit.

    Are the photos themselves looking alright? I have little experience photographing trad work.
    What pieces are the weakest, what absolutely needs to be replaced?
    Is the sketchier stuff portfolio-appropriate?
    Would this work redeem an academic failure?
    Is the digital stuff out of place?
    Should I post this in the critique center?

    The folio requirements are 7-10 pieces from direct obs (don't have enough yet), 7-10 from photos, imagination or obs, and one observational landscape in charcoal or graphite (dont have that ready to post yet)

    5 from direct obs:
    school application portfolio, review needed
    still life, acrylic on canvas

    school application portfolio, review needed
    still life, acrylic on bristol board

    school application portfolio, review needed
    20 min figure drawing, charcoal on rough newsprint

    school application portfolio, review needed
    self portrait, oil on canvas

    school application portfolio, review needed
    still life, acrylic on bristol board

    school application portfolio, review needed
    25 min figure drawing

    school application portfolio, review needed
    25 min figure drawing

    school application portfolio, review needed
    25 min figure drawing

    from imagination, photo ref, direct observation:
    school application portfolio, review needed
    self portrait from photo ref, water color

    school application portfolio, review needed
    self portrait from photo ref, water color

    school application portfolio, review needed
    photo study, photoshop

    school application portfolio, review needed
    landscape from photo ref, oil on canvas

    school application portfolio, review needed
    portrait from photo ref, acrylic on canvas

    school application portfolio, review needed
    collage, tissue paper and colored pencil on bristol

    school application portfolio, review needed
    abstracted still life directly observed, acrylic on canvas


    thank you for any guidance you can spare

    Last edited by StarBelly; January 1st, 2012 at 12:09 PM.
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  3. #2
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    I would leave out the first "anthropomorphic character illustration", think of your audience. The second "anthropomorphic character illustration" has some points that could be reworked if you have the time to do so. They are not as strong as some of your other works. I think your sketchier stuff is visually interesting and I would leave those in. I don't have much to say about whether or not the rest of the pieces should go into your portfolio or not. I know that not much will make up for poor academic performance but the portfolio is a chance to argue your validity as a student. You might have to accept that most of your credits won't transfer. Schools don't like to take transfer credits usually, they like money, any excuse for enrolling you in more classes and they will take do it. Think of your portfolio as a part of an argument, "why I should be placed into your school". My grades were poor before being enrolled in school, but thankfully art school is more about proving yourself with skills then on high school chemistry grades (or something similar). Show passion, intensity and dedication.

    Good luck to you.

    "Now punch that laziness in the face!" -Bobby Chiu
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  4. #3
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    Hi StarBelly.

    First, a disclaimer for my credibility critiquing your portoflio for application purposes: I went to a school that wanted all my money no matter what--I didn't even need to show them any of my work whatsoever. So I'm really unaware of what schools are looking for. And I know even less how much they care about previous grades in other schools.

    But I can give you my opinion even if its useless!

    I really like the acrylic paintings--those are definitely my favorite. I think they're very promising--including the abstract piece.

    I dont personally like the watercolors. But I see the skill in proportions and drawing in them, so maybe theyre valuable?

    The ballerina digital painting is great and I dont think there is any problem including digital medium especially in this digital era. The anthropomorphic images are not very convincing but they do show some creativity? The first one in particular does seem very silly and ugly \=

    And on a final note--you are much better than I was when I started art school. Your skill definitely deserves to be nurtured by a school

    Good luck!

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  5. #4
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    The thing about art school is, if you already know everything then there may not be room for improvement! I think your skills are fair enough for study for sure. I would get rid of the anthro illustrations immediately. They greatly detract from the otherwise academic portfolio you have here. My favorite is the photoshop study of the woman. It shows great skill in anatomy and color sensitivity. I think more work like that in traditional medium would strengthen your portfolio. Your other traditional works are more linear and less focused on value. Paint planes of light instead of "objects" and your work will improve. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. #5
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    Thanks everyone for sharing your input thus far, I really really really appreciate it! I'm going to try to embrace your recommendations in further work as well, if you have any more I'm still looking for guidance

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    I went to art high school and had to submit portfolios for architecture school (got in everywhere included #1 ranked Cornell) so I know a thing or two of what they're looking for in general.

    The first still life may be my favorite; good composition, variety of textures, well drawn/painted, pretty good contrast, etc.

    The bottle still life I would say is out, or needs serious refinement, which wouldn't be worth it for acrylic. The reason is mostly the backdrop cloth or whatever you put the bottle on: Its really confusing and makes it hard to tell whats going on and distracts from the bottle itself, which is the real focus of the still life, or at least it should be. You also have a lot of the background paint (ideally there should be no such thing as a background in a painting, just elements that are farther away in space, but since your cloth is so confusing, it acts like a background) mixing in with the side of the bottle, especially on the left. I'm a bit confused as to why this is, being that acrylic dries so quickly that you can paint things separately, and if one gets on the other one you can just wipe it off (i.e. paint a layer of your bottle, take a break and let it dry, paint a layer of the cloth, and if some of the cloth layer gets on the bottle, the bottle paint is dry so you cant just wipe off the cloth paint without messing up your bottle paint). However, having still lives is very important so I would say do another one, perhaps with more than one bottle, or the bottle and something that isn't glass to give a contrast between the transparency of the glass and something that's opaque like a fruit maybe or whatever you have laying around. So in conclusion for this piece, redo the bottle still life with something else in it I think. Also, are you drawing before you paint? because if not you REALLY should.

    I'll address your figure drawings as a whole. You have some really good potential there, but you're limiting yourself greatly by only doing 20-30 minutes on them. I can tell you know some anatomy, some vital shading theory/techniques, etc., but in short you're selling yourself short by having things half shaded or not shaded at all, and yes, they are too sketchy for portfolio apps. Now, line drawings are absolutely fine, but theres a difference between a line drawing and something that just isn't shaded; the latter is what you have. I suggest doing some longer poses, perhaps 2 hours is a good time; try it out, post it, and we'll see.

    your self portrait is a bit interesting in the subjective color department, but also a bit stereotypical since it has been done so often with that color scheme/style. I think you can keep it, but you should go back in and sharpen some things up, especially around the eyes.

    The fruit still life is much better than the bottle, but still has the same problem with the cloth. Here it isn't as much of a problem, though, because you have more than one object, and those objects themselves are done better, so I don't think you need to change anything about this one.

    Your watercolor self portraits are quite good; you're using the paint pretty loosely but still technically enough to make it work because of what you drew under it. I do think that something other than a white background would be good though. White backgrounds tend to make things look like studies rather than finished works. So definitely keep them, and if you have time try to do something with the white.

    The same goes for the nude photoshop image; its well done, loose but tight enough at this point, but there's just a blank void of space that turns into a background instead of having something that can interact with the main focus of the image; this one I would say has a higher priority to change the background than the self portraits, but still not as high as the other pieces.

    Landscape, good job, no changes needed, but maybe do another one of a different setting. Do NOT do another one of nice pretty mountains and meadows. Do a river or something that has some action in it to contrast the solidity of the mountains.

    On the acrylic portrait the area below the neck bothers me, as I'm seeing a pattern now in your work of focusing on the faces (especially in your busts) and sorta leaving the rest a bit sloppy. Now, it's not a bad technique to accentuate the focus of the piece and leave the rest more blurry, but you've gone a bit too far. If you can, sharpen up the neck/chest area, esp. the shoulder. And, once again, you have a background. This one is better than the others b/c you have some contrast around the face, but again if you can, change it.

    The collage was quite unexpected, but that can be very good for you. It shows that you're experimenting a bit, which is VERY good. The big thing I have against it is that you have very little contrast in the boy (especially darks), whereas he's holding a gun that is about as black as you can make it. So, since the boy is pretty light, and the gun is very dark, the contrast is between the two of them, and there's no contrast within the two themselves. Perhaps you wanted to do this, and if so good job, but I think that the boy needs some much darker darks (in the hair, the armpit, the cast shadows, and ESPECIALLY the pupils).

    The abstract still life is a good thing to have, but I'm not particularly fond of this one. It's not so much what you painted, but how you painted it. There are only a couple of objects that have highlights or shadows at all. Most of the objects are just one matte color or sometimes two. This makes everything have the same medium value, so that if you make it all grayscale in photoshop a lot of it will be around the same gray. This is NOT at all what you want, so go back in and redo the values on every object. Or you could do another still life like it and just start over, but make sure the values are varied like on the first image you posted.

    So, overall, you have a good bit of potential, but you still need some work. Main advice is to make your backgrounds into integrated parts of the image, and to make sure you have a good amount of contrast in every piece. When is this due? If you have any questions feel free to ask here or you can PM me.

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  8. #7
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    I agree with SweetPea regarding your figure drawings - you would really benefit from longer poses showing what you can do with shading (and colors?)

    I'd have to say that your 2nd and 3rd still life, along with your landscape and collage, need to go. I just get the impression that they're beneath your current skill level. The still lives show a rather timid approach to folds and drapery that pushes back the quality of the entire piece - your other work suggests you might be starting to get the hang of those things, though, so a new piece would show enormous improvement. The landscape seems a bit uninspired, and there are patches that appear downright unfinished. While the collage has a nice concept, the kid with the rifle doesn't blend very nicely with the background - a background that, at the same time, isn't executed in a particularly interesting way. If you gave this another shot, I'm sure you could come up with something a lot more vivid.

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