Building your portfolio can be a very tough with all the stress of compiling and displaying your cherished hard work plus the inevitable bus or train journey to get to your favoured university could equal one mess of a student (I’ve been there!). So we want to make this time as easy as we can for you, so here's our guide to creating the strongest portfolio of work to best represent you.
The Artist's Portfolio, Pont Aven, Paul Gauguin, source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Know yourself, and your work
Before putting together a selection of your work that best represents you, you should look at who you are as an artist/designer, and take a look at your work as a whole. Ask the questions:
- What motivates you?
- What special approaches and qualities do you bring to your work?
- What would you say about your work in one sentence?
Familiarise yourself with the course you’re applying for
All art and design courses are different, and the type of portfolio they want can vary widely. Reading and re-reading application guidelines throughout the process allows you to cater your portfolio to a specific audience and incorporate their individual requirements as your ideas progress and your work develops.
Show your steps
Remember that not every piece of work has to be finished. You should always include a few sketches and unfinished pieces that show your own personal way of working. The method is most certainly in the madness, and tutors need to see this process. It’s always important to showcase the development of your practice and projects.
Presentation is key
Be sure to take care and mount your artwork using the same card throughout and be sure to stick it on straight. If you're wondering which portfolio to choose from we’ve put together a product guide below to help you with the best selection to showcase your practice in the best manner.
Below are examples and tips from artist Felicity Meachem showcasing the versality and vibrancy achieved on how to make your porfolio stand out from the crowd!
'Portfolios are going to be an important tool in your artistic career, not just for applying to university, so this is great practice! It's a bit of a cliché but definitely don’t leave it to the last minute. Portfolios take time and should be constantly updated as you make new work. Make sure to pay close attention to detail - it shows you are professional and are proud of your work. Applying for university is not just about grades anymore, your work is what’s key. Most importantly, do not let someone else dictate your portfolio for you. Always welcome a fresh set of eyes to look at your work but remember, you are the artist and you are in charge. University is about you becoming an independent artist rather than always relying on what your teachers tell you to do. Trust your instincts, you can’t pretend to be something you're not!'
'Depending on what kind of course you're applying for, it can vary. In terms of painting it is very important. Showing your own unique flair is what interviewers are looking for. They see the same thing all the time so try to find some kind of distinctive hook or thumbprint that sets you apart from other candidates. For instance, you could use something unconventional to fold your work in. I knew a girl who put her work in an old vintage suitcase that she inherited from her grandparents.' - Felicity Meachem
Extract from Felicitys portfolio
Pick a portfolio
Most BA courses accept an A2 portfolio, but it’s best to check the requirements with the college or your current tutor. We offer a range of suitable options which you can find here, it’s often a good idea to invest in your portfolio as they can last you a long time. We have our own range of portfolios designed with students in mind: ring bound with a 2 year guarantee, made from recycled materials. This applies for our deluxe leather-look version too.
Fill it with sleeves!
It’s recommended to use portfolio sleeves that have a matte finish. This is because the light fittings in universities and colleges are often fluorescent overhead lamps. This means an extra glossy sleeve will reflect this, rather than letting the work be the focus.
Sleeves can also be tricky because different portfolios have different fastenings on the spine – some with varying amounts of rings or hole punches. Our Cass Art range of presentation sleeves are made from medium-gauge PVC, their non-stick surface means your work won’t be trapped or damaged when it comes to unveiling your portfolio. They also work perfectly with our portfolio range!
Choosing your paper
The paper you choose to mount your work on tends to be totally dependent on the nature of your work. Across the board, it’s recommended that you choose a crisp white heavy weight paper to let your work do the talking. Try Cass Art’s heavy weight pads of cartridge paper in sizes A4 to A2. There are 25 sheets per pad so you’ll have plenty of room to make mistakes. If your style is generally of quite light and subtle, then it could be an idea to choose a darker paper so your work stands out, such as the black range from Canford. Talk to your tutor and your classmates to see what other students decide to do. Brief annotations for your sheets are typically required too, choosing your font style, size and colour is yet another hurdle when creating of your portfolio. Helvetica, size 10, dark grey is the common choice, being the most subtle yet legible type.
Mounting your work
Once you have all your images printed and cut to size (best to use your current college’s guillotine for this or a scalpel knife and cutting mat) it’s time to mount. Measure for the centre of your pages using a light pencil line, mechanical pencils are great for this because they never go blunt. Use either double sided sticky tape or spray mount to secure your images to the sheet. Spray mount is fantastic because you can reposition your photography for up to 12 hours, if you didn’t get it right first time, without damaging a thing! Remember that you have to use it in a well-ventilated area as it is solvent based. Use a putty eraser to remove any excess glue or pencil marks, it’s the softest you can get so it won’t tear, crease or mark the surface.
There you have it! Slide your sheets into your sleeves and clip into place inside the portfolio. We at Cass Art wish the very best of luck to all students facing portfolio season this year!