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Create Your Best Portfolio for Graduate School

Create Your Best Portfolio for Graduate School

Amy Wilson

Step two: Curate your portfolio.

Select the images that best represent you and the work you’re doing now – right now. Probably the biggest question you’re grappling with is which images to send. This can be especially tricky for older artists who are returning to school after a prolonged absence, and the right answer is highly individualized. But if you need a rule of thumb, here it is: Try and select works that capture the breadth of your work and the length of your artistic output, but focus the majority (around 2/3) of the portfolio to be images from the last three years (if you are younger and applying directly from an undergraduate program, the last two years is fine).

Who are you?

Tell them who you are. Zero in on the work that makes you a good applicant, out of all the other people applying. Every art student has to spend semesters drawing the figure (or the still-life, or so on), so don’t include images from your freshman figure drawing class. Instead, think about the work that makes you unique and that you want to be remembered for, and send that. Responses to class assignments are ok to include, but put as many individually realized projects as you can.

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Final look

Look at your portfolio and ask yourself: Does this look like a solo show or a group show? Are you sending images of a tight and concise set of works in similar media addressing similar themes, or are your images more eclectic? Whichever your portfolio looks like, be sure and address it in your artist’s statement. If you love painting the figure and have done nothing but that for the past five years, explain why; if you have experimented with a whole variety of ideas and materials, talk about what they have in common and what makes them different, and why you were lead to work in such a diverse manner. There’s no one right way to make art, but you must explain to the committee why you do what it is that you do.

That’s really all there is to it. Good luck putting your portfolio together!

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