We nearly called this blog post 'time management and planning' but then we realised that no-one would probably read it; me included if I am to be honest!
However, I am compelled to write this because of 3 situations with our mentoring that have arisen in the past 4 weeks. Whether you are reading this as we've published this in January or if you're reading it in June whilst you're on your summer break, the message remains the same. START PLANNING YOUR FOLIO NOW! As soon as you know you want to apply to art college take that as the day you start planning.
So, we have 3 students who have just contacted me requesting portfolio support about 15 days before the digital portfolios for Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art need to be submitted.
All students have different needs and their folios tend to be a various stages of development depending on what they are currently studying ie. at school, on a Further Education course, taking a year out, in employment etc. Even within that, a school portfolio from one school can be at a very different stage from one school than it can from another depending on how much direction and support they have from their tutors / teachers.
There is very little that Portfolio Oomph can do to assist you with your portfolio with only 15 days notice. Seriously, it takes a long time to create an art college portfolio, it cannot and should not be created in a matter of weeks.
When I am planning for the Portfolio Oomph website, the Facebook and Twitter pages and my whole year, I work to a time frame of the start of the academic year. For those of you in Scotland that's August, England, Wales and N. Ireland it's more like September. So let's use September as a general guide. Those of you outside the UK, use this date too.
If you're applying to colleges that don't ask for a preliminary digital portfolio then that gives you approximately 7 months for you to create your portfolio. If you're applying to those colleges that do require a digital portfolio at the end of January then that gives you about 4.5 months only and then a bit longer if they then call you to interview later on. However, if you're applying to Edinburgh College of Art then the digital portfolio is the ONLY selection they make, they don't interview (correct at time of writing for 2016 entry – please check on their website for any changes).
Our main eBooks that will get you started are the eBook bundle (but you can buy them separately too) and the Sketchbook Development eCourse. These are essential reading before you even start your portfolio.
You cannot be starting new work that is the main thrust of your portfolio just days before the digital portfolio is required. All colleges ask to see your research and development alongside your finished pieces – research and development has to be just that, to show how your ideas have evolved and they cannot successfully be developed in such a small time frame.
We've encountered a few students who plan their finished piece then work backwards to fulfil the research and development stages. THIS IS NOT GOOD PRACTICE. Sorry, I don't mean to shout but it is really important that these issues are ironed out. There is no point doing any research or development if you've already planned your outcome. The point of research and development is to direct your ideas, find the best ones, explore and make them better, dismiss poor ideas and experiments – this then surely changes what your outcome might be, yes?
So our advice is:
1. start working on your portfolio the moment to you get back to school as this is what your portfolio work is – your school work, which needs to be presented in the manner that the colleges wish to see it.
2. research which colleges you want to apply to in September so you can attend open days and find out when their folio deadlines are. Also, you can get so much more information from them if you attend the open days.
3. don't just go through the motions of doing what the art teacher tells you to do – you need passion and ideas of your own.
4. if you're going to buy our eBooks then buy them in September not January! They are written to get you organised and it's too late to be properly organised in January.
5. if you are close enough to come to Portfolio Oomph for mentoring, then again, come in September or October. We can work together just once a month initially to keep things on track and then ramp it up come January time when deadlines are approaching.
6. if you leave it too late there are limits to how much we or anyone can help you – or even to help yourself.
One of our most successful stories came from a student who came to us an hour each month from September to December, we then packed in about 15 hours together in early January to blitz the ECA and GSA mini / digital portfolios. She didn't just do what the teachers said, or what I recommended, she lived, ate, breathed fashion until it was bursting out of her. She was substantially rewarded for her efforts receiving 5 unconditional offers from some of the UK's most prestigious fashion courses. And that's what the Colleges' want, someone who is so committed it oozes from their application and you can't do this unless you are organised.
Creative people can often be seen to be a little disorganised, not adhering perhaps to rules, deadlines etc. I am the first to quote those on rule breaking but you cannot break the rules of UCAS and College portfolio deadlines!
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” – Pablo Picasso
“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” – Dalai Lama XIV