The College Scoops Podcast

Episode 130: Creating a Portfolio That Stands Out

July 12, 2022

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How can a prospective student create a portfolio that stands out? What are admissions representatives looking for when reviewing a portfolio? When should a student start to create a portfolio? These are the questions Kavin Buck will answer today as he shares with us his experience as an admissions reader and evaluator for prospective arts students.

Key Takeaways:

Don’t worry about the BFA and BA until you have a college list, unless you want to be a performing musician or a designer architect. 

A BA program has 50-60% of the coursework in the liberal arts but a BFA program only has approximately 30% of their coursework with focus on liberal arts courses. 

Every artist should keep all of their artwork in a special place and never throw away any pieces because you never know how someone may critique a particular piece of work in the future.

Never make a portfolio for a college, you want to edit a portfolio for a college.

Each school will want something different and you never know what that might be, so do not get caught off guard during the application process.

Admissions are trying to learn how you think, how you “see”, and how you solve problems. An admissions representative wants to understand how a student thinks.

There can be three buckets of content that colleges and universities want to review. 

  • The 1st part of a portfolio requires an observational drawing (drawing 101). Draw what you see without any interpretation. It is a basic observational drawing. An artist should be drawing 2-3 a week during your high school years so you will have many drawings to share. The reviewer does not care about your concept. They are not looking for great artists. They are looking for artists who are willing to learn. 
  • The 2nd part of the portfolio involves a selection of your personal work. During high school, create work you love to make (fashion drawings, animation, jewelry design). Make a lot of it. 2-3 pieces a month to collect over the course of 2-3 years. For this aspect of the project, they are looking at concepts. Why are you making this? What is behind your thinking?
  • The 3rd part of the portfolio is the homework assignment that is specific to that college or university. The faculty will design a concept for artists to solve. The want to see how artists think and problem solve.

A liberal arts education is so important for artists to better understand how to evaluate art, how to express yourself in different mediums, and how to think about different ways to market your artwork. There is a message embedded in all artwork. 

The Artist’s Statement is an opportunity for prospective students to explain their artwork above and beyond what an admissions representative actually sees. Artists can illustrate their statement with their portfolio which is a wonderful opportunity for artists.

Important Resources and Links:

Kavin Buck


Book Information: http://kavinbuck.com/publications

Meet Kavin Buck

Kavin Buck received an MFA at the California Institute of the Arts and his BFA from the Otis College of Art and Design. He attended the American University in Paris (France) and completed post-graduate studies with the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. In Kavin’s over 25 years of arts education experience he has taught classes in many disciplines including portfolio development for undergraduate and graduate college admissions. As an admissions professional in the performing and visual arts, Kavin is the former Director of Admissions at Otis College of Art and Design, Director of Enrollment and Outreach at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and Vice President of Enrollment at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Kavin has conducted workshops in schools and conferences throughout the country on finding the right fit arts program, portfolio development, and supplemental application information and is a past president of the Western Association for College Admissions Counseling. His personal artwork has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including shows at Laguna Art Museum, La Estacion Arte Contemporaneo (Chihuahua, MX), Los Angeles Contemporary Gallery, University of Virginia Art Museum, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, The Drawing Center New York, and the PS1 Museum. His works are included in many public, private, and corporate collections.

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Episode 130 Full Transcript

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College Scoops has a team of college interns who share their insights and expertise with our community. Our team consists of editors, writers, videographers, social media experts, and storytellers who work hard to produce relevant and interesting content for students (and parents) whether they are applying to, attending or graduating from college.

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