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Portfolio Requirements

As a part of your application for admission to any of the Art programs, we require  a portfolio consisting of 12-15 pieces of your artwork (represented by actual work, slides, or CD-ROM). Dates for portfolio reviews are posted on the admissions website. Each year the Art Department awards scholarships of $1,500 or $3,000. Each portfolio is considered for a scholarship award; the selection is based entirely on the quality of the portfolio.

Portfolio Requirements

A strong portfolio includes a significant number of pieces based on observation from life. Do NOT include pieces that are copied from published photographs, advertisements, logos, copyrighted characters, etc.

The portfolio is evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the elements of art and principles of design (dynamic, balanced composition).
  • Idea development (content is inventive; there is communication of an idea).
  • Craftsmanship (evidence of skill; technique enhances the meaning of the art).
  • Presentation of the portfolio (professional, clean, well-organized); electronic and slide portfolios must have documentation of images, and the images must clearly and accurately represent the work.

The pieces chosen for your portfolio should include:

  • Your strongest work.
  • At least three different media.
  • Renderings from life (examples: still life, self-portrait, figure drawing, landscape).

Submitting your Portfolio

Submit at Portfolio Review Day

You may submit your portfolio for review during a scheduled Portfolio Review Day (see the Admissions pages for scheduled dates). If you are unable to attend a Portfolio Review Day but wish to submit a portfolio in person, please schedule an appointment by emailing Mitch Messina at, or by calling 585-389-2530.

Digital Submission

Digital portfolios can be submitted on a CD-ROM labeled with the applicant's name. An index of all necessary files should include the applicant's name, title of work, medium/programs used, dimensions, date of completion, and a brief description of the piece. A printed copy of the index should be submitted with the CD-ROM. Acceptable file formats are high-resolution files with a suffix of .jpg, .jpeg, .pdf or digital portfolios created in PowerPoint.

Portfolio Recommendations

Basic drawing from life

Pencil, charcoal, graphite, pen & ink

  • Heads: life-size from a variety of angles, not just head-on.
  • Figures: If it is possible, the ambitious student may want to take a figure drawing course. If not, clothed figures are fine.
  • Page of life-size hands: drawings of the student's hand in gestures.
  • Self-portrait: life-size, showing at least the student's head and drawing hand. (The student must give some thought to lighting, what to wear, background, etc.)
  • Perspective Drawing: a view down a hallway with lots of detail or the exterior of a complicated building, rendered beautifully. Combine lines with tonality and a sense of atmosphere.

Three-Dimensional Works

  • Realistic sculpture of a head in clay
  • Thrown ceramic forms exhibiting inventive form/surface relationships
  • Expressive or symbolic self-portrait in clay or other 3D materials
  • Interpretation of an object using found objects
  • Planar interpretation of a tool or musical instrument (e.g. using cardboard)
  • Linear interpretation of a tool or musical instrument (e.g. using wire)
  • A container emphasizing interior/exterior relationships
  • A wearable piece that exaggerates or visually alters the body
  • A wearable piece designed as a tribute to an artist
  • A surrealistic architectural space constructed of clay, metal, wood, etc.

Photographic Work

traditional and/or digital

  • Pinhole photography
  • Non-traditional portraits and self-portraits
  • "Environmental portraits" (portraits that include "signifiers" that tell the viewer something important about the subject.)
  • Social documentation
  • Still-life (symbolic and/or non-traditional)
  • "Directorial" photography (staged photographs that tell a story or convey a subject)
  • Realistic and/or abstract views that reveal an appreciation of detail, shape, texture, value and the subtleties of light
  • Images that demonstrate "the decisive moment" (Pressing the shutter button when the details of the subject come together in a meaningful way. Typically, this type of image requires patience, quick thinking and the ability to anticipate when a subject is going to reveal itself in an interesting way.)
  • Images that explore photography's unique relationship with time (freezing action, motion blur, etc.)
  • Architectural photography that emphasizes form, line, shape, pattern, etc.
  • Landscape photography that conveys atmosphere and/or mood
  • Images that demonstrate an exploration of "point of view" through camera position, lens selection, etc.

Thematic Projects

Consider the following thematic projects done in drawing and painting, printmaking, and or digital imaging:

  • Realistic color landscape: with pastels (from observation, not photos).
  • Fauve landscape: Look it up. A good companion piece for the realistic landscape done with more expressive strokes and more emotional use of color.
  • Creative still-life: One that says something about the student - items should go beyond the usual vases, etc.
  • Cubist still-life: A variation on the usual realistic image after the student has some knowledge of what the Cubists were doing with form, color, texture, etc.
  • Surrealism: Explore juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects to create symbolic imagery.
  • Expressionism: An emotional piece influenced by German Expressionism.
  • Abstraction based on forms, textures, shapes, etc. Elements of the subject matter, whether it is landscape, still-life, machinery, architecture, etc., can be reordered, transformed, echoed, amplified, severely cropped, and exaggerated in many ways.
  • Grid drawings or designs.
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