AN INDEPENDENT ART EDUCATOR
Julie Read founded the website Portfolio Oomph to advise secondary school students in the application process for entry into art college.
“You might think that your portfolio should be your advanced Higher course work, but students realise when they go to open days at colleges that what is expected is not in line with what they were doing at school. So their concern is, ‘How are we going to bridge that gap?’.”
“The portfolio is the crux of the application. Make sure that you’re not just following a brief you’ve been given at school, but that you’re doing something that is of personal interest to you that you can thoroughly interrogate. You need to go way beyond that. Art colleges are really looking for someone with individuality who has a portfolio that’s different from everybody else. You need to be living and breathing art, going to exhibitions, keeping up with what’s happening in the area you’re interested in.”
“Colleges are interested in how you get to the finished piece, how you are thinking and exploring and making decisions about what’s good and what’s not, what bits you’ve developed and what bits you’ve ditched. A sketchbook is really important for showing that process. A lot of sketchbooks produced at school are like scrapbooks. They’ve put in all the best bits and spent a lot of time making it look good. Whereas a sketchbook should be everything.”
“Not all school-leavers are ready for art school. Quite a mature way of thinking is required. There’s different maturity from one person to another, and some people respond to it better than others. One of the reasons I set up the website is that I applied when I was 18 and didn’t get a place anywhere. I applied again the following year and got a place at three colleges. For me at the time there was also that feeling of, ‘What am I going to make work about? If they don’t want to see still lifes or pictures of this or that, what am I making my art about?’ I’ve not experienced life.’ So it depends very much on the individual.”
“I understand parents’ concern that an art degree might not be the best qualification for making a living. This has come up quite a lot recently with comments by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, talking about the stem subjects like science and technology and saying that an arts degree is not a good career option. But I think there’s more awareness now of the transferable skills you learn in an art education, such as using your own judgement, coming up with your own solutions and lateral thinking.” www.portfolio-oomph.com