Before you know everything, teach someone else.Sam M.

The Portfolio Process: The first & longest step

posted by admin at 3:37 pm on October 8, 2012

Dianne & Riley discuss her fashion story

The process of building a portfolio is a long and sometimes arduous journey. It requires the student to commit time to mastery and the development of technique. Creating and innovating is a scary proposition at times as one must boldly experiment and challenge their media and the boundaries of their imagination. Sometimes the most difficult challenge becomes deconstructing what you have already created as you reconstruct a new, more compelling idea.

It is always in the experimental phase that the best ideas have been discovered and  developed. Ideas found in this period of brainstorming are fresh, original and have come directly from the artist themselves without being shaped by hesitation or self-critique (or the critique of others). Experimentation is all about trying new things, breaking free from what has already been done, and taking chances. Though so much freedom allows for great creations, creating without guidelines is also difficult because it requires a great deal of motivation, self  discipline and concentrated creative effort. The journey requires many hours of sketching, playing and experimenting in the sketch book. Pages and pages of observations made from life, as well as curiosities rendered and pondered, give students a greater database from which to–sometimes literally–draw when it comes to understanding shape, form, function and meaning.

Consideration of the ordinary in daily life seen from a different, carefully observed perspective gives students a new and extraordinary outlook. All of a sudden, discoveries are made and we are surprised at the fact that the answer we had been looking for was there just waiting to be known by the inquisitive mind.

Spencer's still life study

Creating a portfolio is a process that requires the evaluation and study of deeply intellectual material to help us understand connections. Through developing a large body of work where each piece tells a story, and often where one piece’s story also informs another’s, we foster a rich purpose for the work we create. Finally at the core of the portfolio is the authentic mark, voice and vision of the artist. To achieve authentic ideas takes years, so students must be patient in the journey, but fearless in their experimenting with materials in the studio and always willing to challenge themselves.

Check out some of our alumni portfolios under the “Work” tab above or by clicking here.

5 Comments Leave your own

  1. David Giordano 12:38 am on October 9, 2012

    Phew, it’s been a while! Reading this post brings me back to the heady days of throwing my portfolio together in a matter of months! It was quite the journey. Through that process I’ve learned a lot about artistic expression and ways of coming up with unique and compelling ideas (ideation as we call it in entertainment design). The fundamentals I learned through the School of Art and Innovation have definitely been refined and put into perspective while at school in LA.

    Dianne has a good point in asserting that each art piece should tell a story. The most accessible and successful art accomplishes one basic function, to visually reach the viewer and tell a story. That is the core of what you will be doing in the art world, whether abstractly or in a concrete and obvious way. I think the strongest part of my portfolio was the ideas and story driving it. I literally had nothing to work on for my portfolio until I came up with my story. It addressed issues of feminism, mythology, Russian culture, and war, all things I was curious about exploring in art and writing.

    Otis is filled with industry pro professors, and many of them, especially concept artists and illustrators, stress the importance of story in art making for entertainment. In every concept class I’ve been in we are required to modify existing stories our develop our own to create concept art. Having experience with critical and divergent thinking through training at SAI, coming up with story ideas is extremely easy. I am also interested in writing and am currently on track to get a creative writing minor from Otis, so that helps in story development as well. So whether you are doing entertainment work or building a fashion portfolio, a strong understanding of story and narrative is invaluable and will give focus and cohesion to your work.

    A few ways of cultivating that skill are: Working with Dianne! Reading lots and lots of books! That is the best way of seeing how story functions, and with illustrated books or comics you get an excellent look into seeing how to connect ideas, words and images. If you aren’t a reader, look at forms of entertainment like movies and video games that are notable for strong storytelling. Directors like Christopher Nolan and game studios like Valve are excellent at crafting compelling and unique stories. How can anyone forget movies like The Dark Knight and Inception, or games like Half Life and Portal? These are all groundbreaking entertainment art forms firmly grounded in good storytelling.

    Lastly, think outside the box. If you have a cool idea, that’s great, but how can you push it further? If you have a story or portfolio about suburban life, what if you included aliens, or elves? Putting in something unusual and bizarre in your story (as long as it makes sense conceptually) is a great way of expanding ideas and catching someones attention. More and more students are going into art, and with internet training and more art schools opening, how are you going to stand out in an increasingly competitive world? Divergent thinking and a unique artistic voice are the tools you have to be a cut above the rest, so definitely develop them while at SAI. That’s all I have for now, it’s been great to go over what I’ve learned on my art journey!

  2. admin 12:32 pm on October 9, 2012

    David, Thank you for your comments. You have very excellent points and you have provided some insightful information!

  3. Alana Roecker 2:15 am on October 10, 2012

    Dianne, this is a lovely post. You make building a portfolio sound a little bit less scary. I love what you have to say about inspiration. Ideas about things don’t have to be grand and profound. Sometimes the most powerful art pieces are extraordinary perspectives on really ordinary things. With a little bit of thought and observation that’s something any curious artist can do.

    David, I also appreciate what you said about pushing ideas. If you think you have a good idea, ask yourself how can I make it better? If you have an interesting art piece, how can I make it more compelling? This is definitely a great reminder for me as I’m building my portfolio–like you pointed out, there’s no room for half baked ideas a competitive industry. I think what you have to say is a great commentary of what it means to think “out of the box.” It’s not about having some crazy brilliant idea–it’s just pushing those ideas you have to their biggest potential. This completely applies to design as well. You start with a basic, classic design and push it’s limits: change the color, adding an unexpected detail, alter the silhouette–add aliens to a suburban story.

    Thanks for all these thoughts!


  4. admin 1:05 pm on October 16, 2012

    Thank you Alana, you are a student that has great potential and it has been so wonderful to work with you! I have seen how you are now taking your concepts and building great projects that reflect your unique point of view with high standards of mastery. Alana Roecker you will do quite well in your professional aspirations.

  5. Karina 2:29 am on October 16, 2012

    What all three of you have written seems to wrap up the essentials of not only portfolio building but also–as you say David–the needed foundation in any art or design driven industry. Thank you for the wonderful reminder of what portfolios are all about–preparing for our personal goals by understanding, and showing others we understand, how we view the world in each of our unique ways.

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