ArtSchool portfolios

For many years, educators in the visual arts have relied on a portfolio to determine if a candidate is good enough for entry to school.

The assumption underlying this is that the more “competitive” the portfolio selection process is, the “better” the school is.

I can’t but disagree with this viewpoint.

If you take a school that relies on demonstrated capacity in portfolio as a gate way to entry – the question to ask is how did the school change the student? What was the process of education about?

Looking to the success of select graduates some years after school, the likelihood of that success may very very little same the same group of students without educational intervention. They were good when they came in, and after hanging around with other artists for a few years, some of them were successful after school.

Surely the test of a program is what happens to every student in that program? If the process of instruction and mentoring is robust, every student has the chance to improve exponentially compared to their abilities commencing study.

This rings more truly with digital arts. There are few clear markers of talent in these areas prior to tertiary study, and they draw upon a range of potential creative processes – from visual design to logic. Strong drawing skills may help – but they are not a clear marker of success. Students who are autodidacts in software skills are often clever mimics – without contextual application of their skills. There are no clear predictors of who will be successful in animation, visual effects, motion design and even film production, as these highly complex and integrative arts are practiced and evaluated over very long periods. The quality of a professional and peer community of mentors is vital to great development – but a portfolio?


Take it or leave it.

Success in my experience is based on persistence. The greatest aptitude is thoughtful discrimination, and that can be taught.

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