Portfolio Preparation

Fine Art

Technical Skill and Experimentation:

Include your strongest work in your portfolio. Some variety of media helps by showing that you have explored more than one mode of working. But if you excel in a particular media or style, your portfolio should reflect this by including more of that work. It’s best to include both work from your art classes and work that you create independently. The more you practice and learn new skills, the more work you will have to choose from. So, if your portfolio consists primarily of drawing, consider experimenting with paint, collage or sculpture!

Direct Observation:

Fine artists and designers should include two or more realistic images created primarily from direct observation of real life. Examples include drawings and paintings in modes such as still life, figure study, landscapes, and interiors.

Works created by referring to photographs or one’s imagination are great too, but they don’t demonstrate your ability in direct observation.

Conceptual Skill:

Perhaps the most challenging skill to demonstrate is conveying ideas or emotions in your work. Creating a series of related works (as in an AP Art concentration) helps to develop this ability. Brainstorming, researching, and keeping a sketchbook are good methods of planning conceptual artwork. Writing and talking about your finished work is also an important skill for any visual art student or professional.


Photography portfolios can consist mostly or entirely of photographs. Keep in mind that the photography program at Watkins has an emphasis in conceptual work. While it’s great to build your skills by taking all kinds of photos, you want your portfolio to set you apart from the crowd and demonstrate your ability to convey an idea or an emotion through imagery. Photographers often work in series. A series consists of a group of photographs that are dealing with the same idea or subject matter in a few different ways. A series can also be narrative in nature by telling a story- whether it is abstract or straight forward.

Graphic Design

A graphic design portfolio should consist of mostly drawings, paintings, prints or other artworks (see the guidelines for “fine art” portfolios above). However, it’s a good idea to begin working with design skills too. Try some projects where you incorporate text and imagery into a finished piece. Some examples might include posters, album covers, and logo designs. Working by hand is a very important aspect of a graphic design portfolio.

If you have taken classes in design, you should include your best digital work. But don’t overlook the importance of drawing skills or the effectiveness of a medium like collage in creating graphic elements. If you have interest in illustration, consider making a series of images that tells a story.

Interior Design

Interior design portfolios can consist largely of fine art work (see the guidelines for “fine art” portfolios above). To help specialize your portfolio toward a major in interior design, add life drawings of interior spaces or architectural structures. Works that emphasize pattern, texture, mood, and color theory in either realistic or abstract compositions are great, too. Even photographs of a space you have designed or decorated could help convey your point of view and design sense.


Film portfolios usually consist of one or more short films, and sometimes include script samples, storyboards, or other supporting materials. When including group productions, make note of your specific role when making the film. Keep your film reel short- 5 to 8 minutes of video is plenty of time to showcase your best work. If your films are longer than that, it is best to combine short excerpts from several projects. Note that it is helpful to include full scenes in your reel so that your sense of storytelling is clearly represented.

Digital Portfolio

Your final portfolio will need to be in the form of digital images of your work, complete with information about each piece (that you will add to the “description” section when uploading your media to the online application).

Steps to documenting your work:documentation

  1. Use a camera of scanner to make digital images of your artwork. Frame your work to fill the photograph and use a plain white or black background when documenting Three-Dimensional work. Be sure that you make the photograph in a well-lit area. To ensure even lighting, photograph your work outside on an overcast day or in the shade. Use a tripod and set your work on an easel, chair or bench.
  2. If available, use photoshop or other imaging software to perform image corrections if necessary. But don’t change the colors or contrast of your actual pieces. Keep your documentation as true to the original pieces as possible.
  3. Keep a list of title, media, dimensions, and date of each piece in your portfolio.  Also, write a short description for each piece to help us better understand your pieces.