Creating an effective portfolio is not as easy as it seems. What you are creating is a rank-and-file representation of how smart, experienced, hip and aware you are as an artist, and this takes some doing. Although no portfolio will contain all of the items on the list below, a strong one will contain a diverse sampling. Cover as many bases as you can and don't hesitate to ask advice from your teachers, trusted friends and, of course, professional artists. Art programs are looking for evidence of the depth and breadth of your artistic proficiency and dedication, but this is tricky to communicate to an audience that doesn't know you well.
For convenience sake, most projects created in high school are done inside the art room. Occasional sketchbook assignments take you out of the classroom into the "real world" but result in very few finished works from observation. Scenes with bridges, commercial buildings, trees, bodies of water, suburban yards, clouds, weather conditions, various qualities of light, and candid views of daily activity are, sadly, very rare in portfolios. Anywhere an artist might take a camera should be considered an artistic possibility for images in other media.
The portability of a sketchbook facilitates easy chronicling of what you see and think in a given day. It's also an excellent place to catalogue and comment on your influences. When you travel, when you study art history, when you find important artists and art works you like, when you discover interesting patterns or ideas, include them in your sketchbook and comment on them. Write down why you find them interesting-why you'd like to be influenced by them.
Series of thumbnail sketches are useful to demonstrate the way you analyze a complex scenario and the way you choose an appropriate aspect of the subject for composition and content. Accompanying your sketches with written descriptions of what, when, where, why, and how of your chosen subjects will make the drawings more valuable later.
The following is a list of works that might be found in an unusually diverse and strong portfolio:
This is an exciting, formative time of your life when growth, learning and self-realization are everyday challenges. Let your portfolio reflect the complexity of your life and your struggles to understand and master your unique circumstances. This unique, artistic "fingerprint" will make your work stand out and give you the best chance to get you where you want to go. Good luck!
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