Recent Video Critiques of Student Art Portfolios for College & Art School Admission

Student Portfolio for college/art school admission by Emily Jiang


I’ve been doing video critiques on student portfolios for college/art school admission for a few months now, and just recently began doing video critiques for professional artists. Many people have commented what a great learning experience it was for them to listen to these critiques. For this reason, I’m now offering the option to have your video critique featured here on my blog, on my Facebook page, and on my Youtube channel. You can choose to have your critique featured anonymously, with your name, or to keep it private.

I’ve also had people inquire about purchasing artworks seen in the video critiques. I am happy to connect artists with anyone who is interested in their artwork. More information on my video critique program is here.

Student Portfolio for college/art school admission by Dessery Dai


For many students who begin art school, group critiques are an unfamiliar format of discussion that takes some adjustment. It’s quite common that the vast majority of students people make an initial assumption that the only interesting part of a group critique is when their own artwork is being discussed.  On the contrary, pretty much all of my students talk about how beneficial it is to hear how someone else’s artwork is received and discussed.  What’s especially interesting is to witness the range of reactions and feedback other artworks facilitate, this really can dramatically broaden your awareness as an artist.

Final Crit

One of the reasons hearing other people’s critiques is so effective is that when it’s not your artwork being discussed, you can listen to the critique much more objectively.  I know for most artists, (myself included) at times we are so close to the artwork and stuck in our own heads, that it can be tough to distance yourself and absorb critical feedback.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“What are common mistakes in college portfolio submissions?”
“What should you include in an art portfolio for art school or college?”
“7 tips for surviving art school.”
“To what extent do grades define an academic career in visual art?”
“Should I drop out of art school?”

Video Critiques for Professional Artists & Art Students


Since I expanded my video critique program to include professional artists a few weeks ago, I’ve critiqued many more portfolios. Above is a recent video critique I did for a professional artist.

Many of the artists who have contacted me for a video critique have commented about how difficult it is for them to find trusted feedback on their artwork. One artist said that since they are not enrolled in a degree program or art class, and don’t live in an area where there is a strong artist community, it was really tough for them to find someone who could provide a professional evaluation of their artwork. In this way, these video critiques are a good alternative to being in school and/or taking a class.

I also do video critiques for students working on a portfolio for college/art school admission, you can watch a sample below. If you are going to be applying for college/art school next year, now is the time to get feedback on your portfolio, while there’s still plenty of time to make changes.  Many students wait until a few weeks before their application deadline to get a video critique. Consequently, there’s no time left for them to improve their portfolio before their application deadlines, so start as soon as you can!

Video critiques are 30 minutes long for a review of portfolio of 8-20 artworks for a $60 USD fee. You can watch more sample video critiques and get info here


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

Video Critiques for Aspiring and Professional Artists

RISD Section 19

Due to popular demand, I am now expanding my video critique program to include video critiques for aspiring and professional artists, in addition to video critiques for students preparing a portfolio for college admission.

Many artists of all ages and levels of experience have emailed to me over the past few months asking for me to critique their artwork. The people who have emailed me have said that they have no one who they can ask for feedback on their artwork, so I am pleased to be able to provide a solution for this need.

Each video critique is 30 minutes long, covers 8-20 artworks, and costs $60 USD. Get more information here, and you can watch a sample video critique of a student’s portfolio for college admission below.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

Ask the Art Prof: How do Visual Artists Handle Commissions?

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“I am currently an art student, and a local company recently contacted me about creating some artwork for their office space. It’s a great opportunity, but I am worried because I have never done a commissioned work before and I don’t know where to start!”

Artists are usually excited to get a commission, but most are not prepared for how dicey commissions can be. Commissioned artwork can be anything: a portrait, a wedding gift, artwork for a hotel, etc. Unfortunately, there are no universal rules for art commissions. Consequently, many clients take advantage of artists, so follow these guidelines to protect yourself.

1) Inform your client about your art making process.

Most clients have no idea what goes into creating an artwork; it’s up to you to lay out a concrete plan for the commission. Clients have to understand that a commission is a mutual commitment, and that their continual involvement is mandatory. Walk your client through every step of the process from beginning to end. For example, steps to create a painting might be listed like this: 1) pencil sketches, 2) colored pencil sketches, 3) small acrylic paintings 4) final acrylic painting, 5) framing, delivery, and installation.

2) Clients who commission artwork usually have no idea what they want.

Assume that a client’s verbal description of what he or she wants is not going to align with your visual interpretation right away. Don’t rely on anything a client says until you’ve actually put the results in front of them. I had one colleague who created a commission exactly as agreed after many rounds of presentations. Despite how faithful my colleague had been to the client’s wishes throughout the entire process, the client’s reaction to the finished piece was “I just don’t like it.”

Clients do however, seem to always know what they don’t want, which is much less useful. I did a portrait commission once, and the client told me that the cheek of a person in the painting was “too pink.” I lightened the cheek slightly, only to be told “now it’s too pale.” One of my former professors who was a portrait painter for over 20 years told me that he was sick to death of endless complaints from clients. He used to intentionally do an exceptionally bad job on one area of the painting so that the client could complain about that area, (usually a trivial detail like the collar of a shirt, which would be easy to fix) instead of some other area on the face that would take weeks of shooting in the dark until the client was satisfied.

3) Write a detailed contract.

A contract is mandatory for any commission. Write down every detail in the contract, such as the size and media of the artwork, your compensation, due dates for payments, who is responsible for framing, installation, delivery of the artwork, etc. If your client balks at signing a contract, WALK AWAY.

4) Have down payments and/or kill fees.

Down payments and kill fees protect artists from investing labor without pay. A kill fee is charged if the client decides to end the project prematurely. Some artists don’t have a kill fee, but ask for a 50% non-refundable down payment . Other artists will ask for a smaller non-refundable down payment and have a kill fee. Clients are also less likely to end a project if they have already invested money.

5) Do not commence work until a contract is signed.

When I was a recent graduate, I received a commission from a local community center. I met with one person, who said they were thinking about a painting of a klezmer band, painted with bright colors. I got to work right away, it didn’t occur to me at the time that I had no contract. I called up a local klezmer band, drove 40 minutes to one of their performances, and shot reference photos for the paintings. I drew many sketches, and made small scale paintings.

I presented the sketches and paintings at a meeting with four people. They hated everything, in fact, one person said that the paintings looked “scary” to her (how a colorful painting of a klezmer band could be scary is beyond me). By the end of the meeting, they said they wanted to see a “mixed collage that featured singing children in a garden.” After that meeting I never heard from them again, and I lost my own time and money.

6) Have an approval process.

Divide your process into stages, and require your client to approve each stage before moving forward. Working in stages lets you catch client concerns before you get too far into the process. I once did a portrait commission where the client approved the sketches, so I proceeded onto the final painting. I was about 75% finished, when the client decided last minute that she wanted to change the black background to yellow, and her daughter’s black shirt into a red sweater. I essentially had to start from scratch. I had written nothing in the contract about making changes after approval, so my workload doubled without any additional pay.

When the commission is complete, ask your client to sign another contract that states that they have accepted the commission as complete, and that any changes made beyond that point will incur a fee.

7) Keep framing, installation, and delivery separate from the commission.

If applicable, ask the client to take financial responsibility for any framing, installation and delivery. These costs can add up quickly for an artist: professional framing is always expensive, delivering a large work involves renting a truck, and installation of the work really needs to be done by a professional art installer. You don’t want to risk a large painting falling off the wall and getting damaged, and most clients want artwork that can remain on permanent display.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“How can an artist overcome their financial issues?”
“How do you explain to potential clients that artists need to be paid?”
“How do you price art?”

Preparing an Art Portfolio for College Admission

Class Photo

I finished up teaching RISD Pre-College last Friday, and as usual I’m collecting my thoughts after a packed 6 weeks of teaching. In the final week, I was particularly struck by how unprepared most of the Pre-College students were in terms of their portfolios for art school admission.

On the last day of class, I gave the Pre-College students the option to have individual appointments with me to review their portfolios.  Out of the approximately 50 student portfolios I reviewed, I didn’t see a single student whose portfolio was ready. In fact, the students weren’t even close in terms of the level of quality that is required to gain admission into a rigorous undergraduate art program.

Out of the hundreds of student artworks in portfolios that I reviewed last week, I can count on one hand the number of drawings that were drawn from direct observation. Almost every drawing I saw was a tight pencil drawing copied from a photograph with the subject in the dead center of the composition, with a blank white background. I’ve never understood the exclusive use of pencil as a drawing medium in high school students, when you consider the amazing range of wonderful drawing materials that are readily available.  Students told me left and right that they were instructed to do pencil drawings only from photographs by their art teachers, to use a grid method to draw, to strive to make their pencil drawings as photo realistic as possible, as well as other terrible drawing methods.   On top of that, every student told me that they were basically building their portfolios on their own, with no help or advice from anyone.  I told pretty much every student that they had to start over.

Chipboard Sculptures

I discussed strategies with the Pre-College students about what they should do to improve their portfolios, as well as what to avoid for their portfolios. However, it seems that the problem goes far deeper than that. From my experience, the root of the problem is that the vast majority of high school art students have no idea what makes for a good quality artwork. In athletics, it is obvious who scored the most points to win the game, or who ran the fastest.

Visual arts is challenging because what defines a compelling artwork is subjective, what is “good” to one person may well be “bad” to someone else.  In this particular context, I’m not trying to label artworks as “bad” and “good.”  I’m talking about simply weeding out the artwork that is total garbage (most of what you see on the Internet), which apparently is all the Pre-College students are looking at for inspiration.  When I asked the Pre-College students who their favorite artists were, they either said they didn’t know any artists, or showed me an amateur’s work on Tumblr. Not one student named an artist who would be in any standard art history textbook. If these students don’t even have an understanding of what is good quality artwork is to begin with, it makes sense that they would not know where to begin with their own art.

Foamcore Staircase Assignment

I don’t know any other field where at the high school level, most students don’t understand what they should be striving for, have no options for rigorous training, and are taught faulty methods.  It’s the equivalent of a soccer player not understanding that to win you have to score more goals than the other team, and then on top of that, having a coach they see once a week for one hour, who trains them to kick the ball only with their heels. Sounds ridiculous?  Well, from what I heard from my Pre-College students this summer, that pretty much sums up how many high school students experience visual arts.

As an art professor, it upsets me that my Pre-College students were left to navigate their portfolios on their own, and that there was no one to steer them in the right direction. It is no fault of theirs that they didn’t know what to do, or how to do it. One thing I am sure of is that you cannot train to be an artist on your own.  Like any other field, you need a continuous support system of established mentors, competitive peers, and rigorous programs behind you.  And yet in visual arts in high school, most students are left sitting on a mountain in isolation, being forced to reinvent the wheel by themselves.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.

Ask the Art Prof: How Can I Balance Planning and Spontaneity in My Artwork?

Chipboard Personality Sculptures

“I paint based on my intuition, and I usually do not know what the message of the painting is until the draft is down. This usually evolves over a few weeks, with new insights and connections happening. I feel rather out of control, and my tutors say I should finalize a plan and then execute it. Instead, I modify during execution. Is there some balance between planning and going on impulse that is ideal? “

The key is to strike a balance so that planning and spontaneity are mutually supportive. You can maximize the benefits of both by organizing your time and fostering work habits that will allow these two approaches to complement each other. I organize my time so that I have periods that are dedicated to loose experimentation that are balanced by periods of executing finished pieces. Managing these periods in this way keeps me focused and provides a well-rounded experience.

The ability to think and work in an unpredictable manner is most useful in the beginning stages of an artwork. This approach significantly expands the range of work you can create, and is especially critical when brainstorming ideas for your artwork. From a practical standpoint, it’s crucial to limit the physical execution of the artwork to small scale sketches. This strategy allows you to quickly make fundamental, sweeping changes without the consequences of wasting expensive art materials or needing to start over a time-consuming piece. You can explore many options without investing large amounts of time.

At this early stage, spill everything on paper and entertain every option without passing judgment prematurely. Maintaining flexibility is hugely important; you have to give yourself the freedom to react to anything that arises and then run with it. If you are too fixated and on your first ideas and unwilling to make impromptu changes, you will shut down potential options that might have been great.

An impulsive approach can lead to fresh and exciting ideas that might otherwise not come up. Excessive planning and thinking can sometimes paralyze your creativity. The equivalent would be a baseball player who ruminates about how to hit the ball, when really, no amount of thinking will help when the ball is being thrown at you at 85 mph. I frequently tell my students to turn off their brains and just touch the paper with the charcoal. Start a physical action and then let yourself react to those actions in the moment. This approach will get your creative juices pumping and push your progress forward.

However, you can’t do this forever, and ultimately you have to arrive at a cohesive vision. At a certain point, you will start feeling scattered and overwhelmed. When jumping around becomes detrimental to your process, it’s a signal that it’s time to start making decisions and nailing down what you want to do.

If the preparatory stages of your work was substantial and exhaustive, fabricating the final pieces should be fairly straightforward and smooth. In my own artwork, executing the final pieces always takes much less time than the planning stage. Frequently I spend months, sometimes even up to a year brainstorming and sketching. As a result, I reap many rewards; my preliminary work is comprehensive enough that by the time I’m ready to make the final pieces, I’ve anticipated and ironed out almost all of the problems. I can concentrate exclusively on the technical aspects of interacting with my art materials. This allows me to work without the distraction of troubleshooting unresolved issues.

Keep in mind that fundamental, sweeping changes at the execution stage can be disruptive, expensive, and impractical. You can waste a lot of time and art materials, and end up doing a lot unnecessary backtracking. Once you’ve spent $300 on canvas and paints, and invested 12 hours working on the painting, it can be painful to discover that deep into the process, you want to scrap everything and create a pastel drawing instead. Once in a while, the situation can be so dire that starting over really is the only solution. After all, no one wants to squander their time beating a dead horse. So, be thorough in the brainstorming stage, and avoid this situation if you can.

I’m not saying you can’t make changes while you execute the final work. Inevitably, new challenges emerge that you couldn’t predict, and you have to build in room for adjustments. Modifications made at this point should be minor, so that they enhance the overall work without sabotaging your progress.

Sometimes major changes are just not possible because of a professional commitment you’ve made. When I’ve spent a year creating a body of artwork for a solo exhibition, I cannot make hasty decisions one month before the exhibition opens. Despite a burning desire to investigate a new idea, I’ve had to immediately reject radical changes because it was just too late. Running with a last-minute idea at that point would have been foolish, and I couldn’t risk everything I had accomplished.

Take the initiative to exercise both spontaneous and planned approaches in your work process. If you limit yourself to only one way of working, you’re missing out on everything the other has to offer. Let these methods influence each other in a positive manner, and you’ll begin to achieve a balance that will make your overall studio practice more fluid and coherent.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“How do you keep pushing yourself to get to that next level?”
“Would you improve more if you took art classes than just studying on your own?”
“How do you break out of your comfort zone?”
“How do you get out of thinking you can’t get any better?”
“How do you develop patience for learning curves?”
“When do you let go of an idea?”
“How do I help my daughter reach her potential in art?”
“How can I study to become a professional artist on my own?”
“How do you begin to think conceptually as a visual artist?”

Ask the Art Prof: How Do You Price Art?

Unseen & Unknown: Opening Reception

“How do you put a price on a piece of art? Is it different for different forms of art? I’m specifically interested in paintings. How are paintings priced in general?”

There are essentially four criteria which factor into the price of an artwork: 1) the media of the artwork, 2) the size of the artwork, and 3) the artist’s position in the art world and 4) the venue where the artwork is being exhibited.

The artist’s position in the art world is probably the most important aspect to consider. Emerging artists haven’t developed a name yet, so they can’t demand thousands of dollars for a single artwork. The majority of emerging artists will usually sell an oil painting within the $100-$1,000 range. An artist who can sell an oil painting for $30,000 would be considered by most people to be very successful. Then there’s the top of the art world where some artists can sell an oil painting for $500,000 and more. These artists are the select few who are internationally renowned and showing at the top museums.

Generally speaking, the most highly priced media is large-scale sculpture. Sculpture that is being sold professionally has to be in a permanent material, such as bronze or stone. Works created in these materials require specialized fabrication processes that can cost the artist thousands of dollars for a single sculpture. After large-sculpture, large paintings tend to be priced the highest. Paintings will always be on the higher end because they are unique objects.

Prints and works on paper are usually priced less than sculpture and painting. Since many copies of the same print exist, several people can own the same print, therefore making each print less valuable. Many painters create companion bodies of work in printmaking, which allows them to have an inventory of work with a more diverse range of prices. For example, if an artist sells a 48″ x 48″ oil painting for $2,000, a 9″ x 12″ drawing on paper by that same artist might sell for $200.

2015-03-09-1425905219-3126511-5390774082_d575bf35e3_b.jpg

Large-scale artworks tend to command higher prices, although there certainly are exceptions for small scale works that are exceptionally labor intensive. Not only are large-scale works more expensive to create because they require more materials, but they also cater to an entirely different kind of patron. The average person who buys a 9″ x 12″ artwork is usually purchasing the artwork to decorate their home. Most people simply don’t have the space to fit a 48″ x 60″ painting in their living room. The patron who purchases a 48″ x 60″ painting has to have an extremely spacious residence, and/or be a major art collector.

The venue where your artwork is being shown also determines how you price your work. On the low end is open studios, which is generally a very casual neighborhood event where an artist opens their studio to the public. At most open studios events, anything priced over $50 is unlikely to sell. The crowd at an open studios event is mostly local people who have interest in art, and the purchases they make are usually small impulse buys. When I’ve done open studios events in the past, I treat the event like a yard sale; works that generally sell are small sketches for $50 and or less. The highest priced work I ever sold at an open studios event was a 36″ x 24″ charcoal drawing on paper for $90.

By contrast, at a commercial gallery in a big city, pricing an artwork for $50 would never happen. Every gallery is unique, but it’s typical for prices at a commercial gallery to begin at around $300 for small works, going up to $20,000 for larger pieces, and even more at the top galleries. You also have to factor in that most galleries take a 50% commission, and that the gallery will likely have a say in determining the price of your work.

So how do you approach pricing your own artwork? Avoid prices that are so low or so high that it becomes embarrassing. When I was director of a college gallery, I worked with a relatively unknown artist who priced his 36″ x 48″ ink drawings on paper at $55,000 each. All things considered, this price was astronomical. On the other hand, if you saw that same 36″ x 48″ ink drawing on paper in the same gallery priced at $90, that low price would be detrimental to a visitor’s opinion of the artist.

When I price my artwork, I consider the cost of the art materials and the approximate number of hours I worked on the piece. The total cost of art materials can vary tremendously depending on the piece. For example, an oil painting requires that I pay for a heavy-duty wooden frame, canvas, primer, oil paint, brushes, rags, a palette, solvent, etc. By comparison, an ink drawing on paper of the same size costs practically nothing because ink and paper cost very little.

Then, I estimate how many hours have gone into the work and multiply that by an hourly rate. (Most artists choose a rate that ranges from $15-$50 an hour.) Between the labor and art supplies, I can usually arrive at a price that comes close to what I think will be appropriate.

Pricing art is always tricky, especially for new artists who don’t have a track record. Once you have had the chance to sell your work in a number of contrasting venues, you’ll develop a stronger awareness of what’s appropriate.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

FB    Youtube    Pinterest     Instagram    Twitter    email    etsy


PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


Related articles
“How do artists handle commissions?”
“How can an artist overcome their financial issues?”
“How do you explain to potential clients that artists need to be paid?”
“How do you price art?”