oldentimes asked: Ok I'm working on improving my portfolio for an interview for illustration and graphics comunnication university courses. I realised all I draw are realistic pencil portraits from favourite photographers or copy other artists e.g Iain MacArthur. I know I need other things but what?!? I just bought some markers/water colours in an attempt to diversify my work but what else can I do?!? I also don't have any original work, I don't really know how to do anything original. HELP!?
I never was applying for illustration so I don’t know what exactly the portfolio requirements are. Can our followers help out?
Universities do not like pictures copied from photographs that are not your own or copying artist. They want color/value studies, life drawings, still life, and original illustrations in portfolios! - shyfather
Schools don’t like to see things copied from 2D sources—I’ve worked behind-the-scenes on portfolio reviews before, and it’s one of the main ways to immediately kill off interest in your work. Search online to for tips in regards to setting up still lives and drawing from life, and start with little practice sketches until you get comfortable with it.
I’m not going to lie; that transition can be difficult. My biggest advice would be to grab scrap paper—stuff that’s been printed or written on, or torn, or whatever—and just sketch any and everything you see. If you’re doing it on paper that’s not pristine, it tends to help keep you a bit more relaxed and willing to make mistakes (I use moleskine sketchbooks nearly exclusively, but had a hard time starting new ones because they were so expensive and pretty looking, until I started purposefully screwing up the first page; it helps a surprising amount).
The real trick to drawing is to learn how to see. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, and something that everybody struggles with. We all grow up with an engrained set of symbols representing objects (the football-shaped eye is a classic example), and think we know what things look like because we see them on an everyday basis, but step one to drawing from life is to not trust your mind. Draw what you see, not what you think you see. Check your angles an proportions more than you think you need to. Look at the nuances in shadow. Check out how reflections work on surfaces you wouldn’t normally assume are reflective.
Hell, take a half hour walking around whatever room you’re in and just observe. You’ll be surprised at how much you miss without realizing it.
Drawing from life is hard to learn for a lot of people, but like with all things in art, it just takes practice. Don’t worry about interesting subject matter when you start out—draw everything.
Once you’re comfortable with that, then move on to practicing composition, lighting, and all that jazz. Don’t try to do everything at once; you’ll just overwhelm yourself and psyche yourself out. Take it a step at a time.
I’ve got a couple all-time favorite pieces of art advice that might help, so let me link those here in case they help:
- If you only ever look at one art tutorial, this is the one to read
- Best advice for anyone in the arts (or any field, really)
- Something I needed like five years before anyone told me
- Just lots of things on lighting, actually; lots of people forget this stuff
- A study schedule, if it helps keep you on-track
- And then here’s just everything I’ve acquired because maybe there’s something in there that can help if you get stuck on something specific
Focus on showing off what you’re good at. Diversity is helpful, but don’t include subpar work just because you feel you need something made with colored pencil or whatnot. Especially if you’re low on time, start with your strengths and expand from there.
I could give a better run-down of the whole portfolio process, but I don’t have time right now to give a catch-all response (I might in the future, but who knows). If anyone’s got questions feel free to hit up my ask box and I’m happy to help! It’s just easier to give specifics than to try to cater to every possible situation and school.
(and sorry if this is a little nonsensical anywhere, but it’s 7:30 in the morning and I haven’t slept… I think it gets the general point across, though. like I said, I’m always happy to chat, and would probably sound more logical when I’m not bouncing all over the place in terms of topic)