Visual Arts Application For Students

In order to start studying art, most art schools require an application folder, also known as an art folder. This should show the artistic and creative suitability. Since there are usually considerably more applicants than study places in the artistic degree programmes, the application portfolio is of decisive importance. The following article gives some tips for a promising portfolio (focus: application portfolio for art studies).

I have compiled my portfolio 1987/88 and applied to the Udk Berlin (former HdK Berlin – Hochschule der K√ľnste Berlin, FB 6 Kunsterziehung). Fortunately, it worked out right the first time. During my studies I was a member of the admission committee three times as a student representative (without voting rights). Therefore I can describe the procedure of that time. Just by the external guidelines a lot becomes clear, I hope… The pictures in this article by the way all come from my application folder).

When is a portfolio “good” and “convincing”?

The first tip you usually hear is: “The portfolio must be good. The work must be convincing! – Unfortunately, this diffuse statement is of little use. Because good is relative, and can convince work always only in the overall context. One must first clarify the situation in order to understand when a commission can find the work “good” and “convincing” at all. Because: it’s about the selection of future students, not about the selection of established artists for a group exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art.

Two to three minutes per applicant

In our case at that time it was as follows: once a year you could apply. There were about 20 – 25 study places each. The pre-selection based on the artistic portfolios always took two days. About 150 – 200 portfolios were submitted. Per day the commission had to look at about 80 – 100 folders. There were about 5 hours available for this (300 min). We always started at 10 o’clock and ended at 16 o’clock. Two breaks of 15 minutes each as well as a 30 minute lunch break left time for the visual air snapping.

That means three to four minutes per application folder. If you consider that the portfolios have to be balanced on the table, tied up and opened during this time, then there was about 2 minutes to evaluate the artistic suitability of an applicant. That’s not much, but in my experience it’s sufficient. If, yes if the application folder is structured correctly.

Who is present when the portfolio is selected?

In addition to the commission, two house workers and a secretary were present. The house workers always took turns putting a folder on the table, opening it and leafing through the pages (slowly, faster, or backwards when requested to do so). While one application folder was still closed, the other housewife put the next one on the table. It was a real “assembly line job”. While one folder was opened for viewing, the secretary read the “Key data of the applicant”. Basically only two things were important: man or woman and age. In individual cases it was still asked whether and where portfolio preparation courses were attended. That can be quite helpful, but evenly nevertheless also not rarely obstructive. Because many portfolio preparation courses have a rigid framework that can be read from the portfolio. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing more to see of the person behind it. Those who attend a portfolio preparation course should first find out what reputation the provider has at the university before handing in the portfolio. The best thing is to simply ask…

What is the spatial situation like?

We had two presentation tables. One was a large table (approx. 1.20 x 4 meters), behind which the commission sat or stood. However, only small folders and individual sheets were placed on this table for close-up viewing. The actual folder presentation table was a huge angled desk. It was similar to a drawing table, which can be adjusted in height at the back. It had an angle of about 45 degrees and a rail at the bottom, which prevented the folder from slipping down. This desk stood about three meters in front of the table. So you have to imagine that the commission first sees the sheets from a distance of about 4 meters.

The reason for this presentation is simple: You approach a folder visually. First you get an overview, quite distanced. If the first leaves are right, you are interested in details and can put a leaf on the table to take a closer look at it.

How large should an application folder be?

Files that are too small usually appear hesitant or cute. We didn’t like that at the time. In my opinion DinA3 is too small in most cases. In my opinion, an application folder for an artistic study should at least be DinA2 ( 42 x 59 cm). I would recommend to create the portfolio in DinA1 (59 x 84 cm). This does not necessarily mean that it is not possible to submit small sketches. Because often folder sheets are very interesting if several single sketches are put together on one sheet and glued next to each other.

How heavy can an application file be?

So far this article was only about “sheets”. These are simple white pages of solid paper. Some small drawings and pictures are glued onto these sheets, others are directly the picture carrier. As described above, the basic rule is: the lighter and easier to handle, the better. However, the sheets must also be easy to draw. I would advise you to choose a paper thickness of 200 gr. This is strong enough on the one hand, but not too heavy on the other. But of course “extra sheets” may also be inserted: a picture on canvas, a drawing on black cardboard or whatever. As long as there are only a maximum of three sheets falling out of the frame, this is positive because it is varied.


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