Thursday, November 28, 2013

National Portfolio Day 2013: My Experience and Tips & Tricks

I attended National Portfolio Day on November 17, 2013 in New York City. It was hosted at the Javits Center (which is huge...). I'll share my experience and some advice.

I arrived about 2 and a half hours early because there was no traffic going into the city. If you want to see the most schools in the amount of time you are there, I recommend getting there about 2 hours early. By the time it was a half hour before the event, people were on the other side of the building lining up.

When they let us in, I went straight to SAIC. I was the first person there, but the review they gave me was quick and unspecific. Within 8 minutes I was off to Pratt. Pratt's line was still only about 5 minutes at this point. I waited and got a review with the foundation staff (there was another line for admissions reps also). This review was longer but the only thing he told me was to keep doing what I was doing. I think that these schools mostly blew me off because I was a junior and didn't spend as much time with me.

Next I went to SMFA, which I was not impressed with. The people I spoke to originally were nice, but my reviewer didn't seem to care for looking at my work or listening to what I had to say. She asked me what I wanted to do in college and I said painting, and two minutes later she asked me if I had ever considered doing children's illustration. She explained that I "would need to have some kind of job after college" so I should consider it. But whatever. Then, at the end of my review she began saying that I should create art on the computer because that's what you need to do in "this day and age". Basically, what I gathered from this was that their school didn't want more painters or she was just trying to find a nice way to say I sucked at it.

I was pretty bummed out by this point, but it was only 40 minutes into the event, so I got on line for Montserrat while my mom stood on line for Montclair state, which were thankfully right next to each other. The Montserrat line was about an hour and the Montclair state line was about 40 minutes. I recommend only having someone wait on line for you if you are sure you will be done first or if the lines are close to each other so that you can switch like I had to. I ended up getting reviewed by Monclair state first. The woman was very nice and actually gave me honest feedback on my work, as in what she though should and should not be in my portfolio. I had a conversation with her about my pieces and I felt that she actually cared about what I had to say.

Once I finished Montclair state, I was up next for Monsterrat. Their line took so long because they were giving in depth 20 to 30 minute reviews. My reviewer was excellent and worked through each piece with me, telling me what I needed to work on and improve. This review alone was worth my whole trip into the city. Not only did I gain valuable tips, I became hopeful for the future when he told me that Monsterrat would be lucky to have me before he realized that I was only a junior.

After Montserrat, I was reviewed by Rowan which was interesting, but it was not a school I was really interested in. They wanted more observational art in my portfolio.

Overall, I was highly satisfied with my experience. I got to see 6 schools and received a wide variety of feedback and advice. I would recommend that any high school junior or senior go to their closest National Portfolio Day.

Now for some tips:
  • Bring a mix of physical work and pictures. If you have a lot of canvases, take pictures of them and put them in a display book. An 8 by 10 print works. Then just let the reviewers know that they are pictures of the actual (larger) work. This way you are not the poor soul lugging around gigantic canvases that we all feel bad for. Then just bring some flat works with you so they can see some of your actual work.
  • Sketch while waiting in line for those 2 hours!

  • Come with an open mind and be willing to take criticism!
  • Come with lunch! Chances are that the venue will either not have food or it will be expensive.
  • Plan which schools you want to go to before hand. I recommend picking one or two big schools, one or two small schools, and a few others for if you have extra time.

  • Only bring work you can talk about. You should be able to say what it was created with, why you included it and why you drew/painted/took a picture of it
  • Go as a junior! You can relax and enjoy the process. Plus it helps a lot more to get this feedback a year before you need it rather than a month!
Thanks for reading this post, I hope it was useful to you! Enjoy some pictures I took on the way back home.