Teachers’ Resources

Dear Friends,

Over the years we have visited your classroom and you have requested examples of Memphis College of Art’s talented students. It is our pleasure to share with you and your students these works to use as a resource in your class and enhance your personal work.

For additional sketchbook ideas, please contact us for our sketchbook poster and “The Complete High Schooler’s Guide to Organizing Your Portfolio”. As a leader in art education, we want to assist you and your students endeavors in the best way we can.

Please contact us for a teacher packet, sketchbook poster and portfolio guide by emailing us at info@mca.edu or call us at 1-800-727-1088 or locally at 272-5151. We would love to add you to our mailing list and keep you updated on all upcoming events. Please fill out the information card below and hit submit! We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Memphis College of Art hosts 3 National Portfolio Days:  Memphis, Charlotte, and New Orleans.  Check for details under Admissions Events.

If you would like to arrange a class tour, please call one of the following offices:  9th through 12th grades call MCA Admissions Office at 800-727-1088 or 901-272-5151; K through 8th grades call MCA Community Education Office at 901-272-5142.  Tours are offered Monday through Friday by arrangement with the appropriate office.

For a two-page profile of Memphis College of Art click here.

GET A HANDLE ON YOUR PORTFOLIO

What’s the best way to show off your work to a college – for admissions and scholarship consideration? This brochure is designed to give you some advice that should be helpful in getting your work together and presenting it for entry into the school of your choice and for scholarship consideration.

What should you include?
It may be easier to start with what not to include…old work should not be considered since your most recent work will usually be your best. Try to choose from work done in the past two years (three years at the most). At Memphis College of Art, we ask to see ten to twenty examples, include on the high side of that if you have enough to choose from (check specific requirements at the schools you’re applying to). But also try to think quality, over quantity! In other words, don’t include more work for the sake of having a lot to show, be sure you’re still choosing from your best. We recommend not including any of the following: Viking warrior men or women, unicorns or other mythological creatures, anime cartoons or any other over used imagery – whether copied or original, copies from magazines, or portraits of celebrities. Even if that’s what you might prefer to draw, colleges look for a different type of original work. (Keep in mind, however, that nothing is absolute – if you’re interested in illustration and want to submit one or two representations of work from reference material, limit this to one or two. The bulk of your portfolio should be drawing from direct observation.)

What is the admissions committee looking for?
When we suggest drawing from direct observation, we mean looking at three-dimensional objects and translating that to the two-dimensional surface of your paper or canvas. Draw still lifes, portraits, self-portraits, landscapes or cityscapes from life! When you draw from a photograph, half the work has already been done for you. The composition has been laid out and your values captured by the camera. It is important that you learn to visualize these things on your own. That’s why we encourage drawing from life. You may also like to draw from your imagination, but again, schools are going to want to see the direct observational drawing to look at your ability to see and make the translation of imagery from life to your 2-dimensional surface. It’s more difficult to draw from life and may be frustrating at first but as you strengthen your visual skills you’ll see a remarkable improvement. Self-portraits are a wonderful addition to your portfolio. Admissions committees can get some insight into you – also you can be your own best model, always available when you’re ready to draw–from a mirror.

The next most important thing to keep in mind is variety. Varied subject matter, media, scale, techniques, even working methods. This will show that you are not afraid to experiment with new ideas, techniques and materials. You shouldn’t be locked into any particular style yet; you’ll want to show flexibility and diversity. Some color work, along with your black and white drawings will really add strength to your portfolio. Although you do want to show variety, you don’t want to do that at the sake of adding something in an unfamiliar medium. Don’t show the first watercolor that you ever attempted. Practice will make you comfortable and more proficient in your media and techniques. Some of your pieces can be carefully rendered while others may be quick studies, contour line, or gesture drawings that take less time. Both are appropriate to include.

If you are considering a career in graphics, illustration, photography or another specific discipline, you may submit a few pieces from those areas. In graphics, where craftsmanship is so important, pay careful attention to your lettering, your layout and your design. The concept is just as important as the final pieces; both should be carefully executed. Illustrations often require working from reference material and not direct observation. Illustrators do work from photos to create images that a camera can’t capture. This is one of those exceptions to the rule where your work may not be solely from life–but don’t forget that the bulk of your portfolio should be.

Other important considerations:

Interesting subject matter with varying textures or focusing on and enlarging an area of a still life can lend interest as can cropping an object off at an unusual angle. Concentrating on a series can be interesting as well–it also shows an admissions committee that you can take a problem through several alternative solutions. You might explore the use of one subject with varied media or a series of one technique with varied subject matter.

Composition is important. Try to avoid the typical composition of an object stuck in the middle of the paper. Consider placement before you start your piece–don’t leave it to chance. Do preliminary sketches or thumbnail sketches; from these choose the composition that you find most interesting. Letting your image run off the edges of the picture plane can break up the negative or background space. Be sure to show a full range of values in your drawings, whether you’re working in black and white or color. It is important to show value contrast which is achieved by making your shaded areas very dark and your lighted areas very light. Consider your background as important as the imagery in your drawings as well. You can ruin a good piece by concentrating on the image and quickly treating the background to get it done.

What should I draw?
You should never lack for ideas about your art (what to draw or what to try next). Explore other artists’ work by looking through current art publications such as Art in America, Graphis, and by visiting galleries to see what contemporary artists are doing or by going to art museums and reading art history books to see what artists before you have done. Not only can this be inspirational, but you can apply some of these ideas to your own work.

Presentation
Presentation of your work will speak of your craftsmanship and professionalism. It’s like going on a job interview—you want to make the best impression possible. Take pride in your work and in how you present it. Keep it stored in a safe, clean place—not under your bed or in an attic collecting dust. A portfolio case can be purchased at any art store or you can make a case with two large pieces of cardboard taped together. Once you’ve made decisions about which pieces you plan to include in your portfolio, clean them up as much as possible. It is not necessary to mount, matt, or especially, frame your work. If you choose to do so, simple is the best. Don’t use colored matts– they detract from your drawing which is what you want to be most obvious. Nothing should obscure it.

It is not required but you may consider covering your original pieces with acetate mounting and/or shrink wrap. Not only does it look good, but it keeps your work clean and helps protect it from damage. Ask for shrink wrap or acetate at an art supply store. Make sure your name is clearly marked on all your pieces–back or front–and on the outside of your portfolio.

What about slides or submitting work electronically?
Never give your work away or sell it without first documenting it by taking a photograph or a slide. Slides are a good choice as they will reproduce your work well, but they can be a lot of work. Mark your slides with your name, the name of the piece, medium, the size, and an arrow showing the top of the slide for work where this is not obvious. You may also include a description sheet along with your slides detailing assignments and other information you feel the committee should know about each piece. Slides should be focused on your work not on the background–focus in on the image as close up as possible. The easiest way to take your own artwork on a black cloth that is covering a large chair (always use a neutral background), place your work out of direct sunlight but in a light area, and shoot. Be sure to take off the glass or acetate before taking a slide.

Three-dimensional work, sculpture or ceramics, or any work that is not flat, should be submitted in slide form. You should include no more than two views of the same piece. Remember if you are applying to more than one college (and you should be) the deadlines often overlap, which means you will probably need to take slides. Take your slides early because you must have time to see if your film was exposed correctly before you part with your work. Too dark or too light? Do them over! It is less expensive to take several shots of the same image if you want duplicates than to take one shot and ask the processing lab to make duplicates for you. If you need more help with making slides, call us for a copy of our brochure, “Recipe for Good Slides.”

The easiest way to submit work is in a digital format by taking digital photos and submitting them on formats such as CD, email, or on a web site. Check ahead to find out which format is best to submit digital work in (i.e. jpeg). If you are attending a portfolio day, you will be required to provide the equipment necessary for viewing your digital work such as a lap top computer —including your power supply.

Do you work on art each day?A great way to get a feel for what art school is like is to keep a sketchbook now. Working in a sketchbook is a good way to keep your art–and your ideas about art–with you at all times. Memphis College of Art’s admissions committee really likes you to submit your sketchbook as one of the pieces in your portfolio. This tells of your thought processes and ideas and shows that you do work on your art out of class. Your sketchbook should be complete–all 100 pages. Now if you wrote a grocery list on one page or so, that’s fine, Picasso did that in his sketchbook, too. (To see Picasso’s sketchbook, you could go to a library or bookstore and ask for Je Suis Le Cahiers–that may give you some other good ideas.)How should you submit
your work?

If you are planning to mail your portfolio, it is important to package it in a sturdy box. Your local U-Haul or Mayflower moving company has mirror boxes that are just perfect for mailing portfolios. Of course, you should not submit pieces that are under glass because of breakage. But protecting your work is a good idea. If you have mailed your work to us, we will U.P.S. it back to you, C.O.D., insured. If you are submitting your work electronically, you’ll want to send a description page describing the medium you used, the dimensions of your work, and the year the piece was completed. Many schools, including Memphis College of Art will look at your portfolio during a portfolio review event and can accept the portfolio component of your application at that time so you won’t have to send materials later.  You can send your work via email to portfolio@mca.edu.  Be sure to put your first and last name in the subject box.Where can you get help?

One great way to get more help with your portfolio is to come to one of the National Portfolio Days (for event dates go online to www.npda.org). These are hosted at colleges and universities across the country, so there is bound to be one within driving distance to you. Schools such as Memphis College of Art, Parsons, Rhode Island School of Design, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and Art Center in Pasadena participate. National Portfolio Day is a time when Admissions representatives and faculty members will talk with you about your work and about their school’s programs. Each of the schools represented at National Portfolio Days is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). This is the only national professional accrediting agency for educational institutions in the visual arts recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation and the United States Department of Education. Check to see if the college or university you are considering is accredited by NASAD.

In addition to National Portfolio Days, Memphis College of Art offers and excellent opportunity for you to have your portfolio reviewed at our Weekend Workshops. We invite high school sophomores, juniors, seniors, college students considering transfer, art teachers, and parents to visit the school. The day is filled with working in the studios with our faculty, learning about portfolio preparation and careers in art, talking with instructors about your own artwork, meeting our students, touring the facilities, and answering your questions about college.For more information about applying to Memphis College of Art and submitting work, call Annette Moore, Director of Admissions, at 1-800-727-1088.

In Memphis, call 272-5151.

Or write to: Memphis College of Art, 1930 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104-2764.

E-mail us at info@mca.edu.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Memphis National Portfolio Day

Saturday, October 13, 2012
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Rust Hall
Overton Park
Memphis, TN

Call 1-800-727-1088 or 901-272-5151 for more information

Colleges attending Memphis National Portfolio Day:

Art Academy of Cincinnati
Cleveland Institute of Art
College for Creative Studies
Columbus College of Art & Design
Ecole Parsons a Paris
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Kansas City Art Institute
Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
MICA/Maryland Institute College of Art
Memphis College of Art
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
Montserrat College of Art
Ringling College of Art and Design
San Francisco Art Institute
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of Visual Arts
Washington University College of Art
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

Charlotte National Portfolio Day

Sunday, November 18, 2012
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Hilton Charlotte Executive Park
5624 Westpark Drive
Charlotte, NC 28217

Call 1-800-727-1088 or 901-272-5151 for more information

Colleges attending Charlotte National Portfolio Day:

Art Academy of Cincinnati
California College of the Arts
Cleveland Institute of Art
Columbus College of Art & Design
College for Creative Studies
Corcoran College of Art & Design
Ecole Parsons a Paris
FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Kansas City Art Institute
Maine College of Art
MICA/Maryland Institute College of Art
Memphis College of Art
Montserrat College of Art
Moore College of Art & Design
New Hampshire Institute of Art
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Pratt Institute
Pratt MWP
Ringling College of Art and Design
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of Visual Arts
University of the Arts
Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film

New Orleans National Portfolio Day

Saturday, January 19, 2013
NOON – 4 p.m.
Four Points Sheraton New Orleans Airport Hotel
6401 Veterans Memorial Blvd.
Metairie, LA 70003

Call 1-800-727-1088 or 901-272-5151 for more information

Colleges attending New Orleans National Portfolio Day:

Columbus College of Art & Design
The Cooper Union School of Art
Ecole Parsons a Paris
Kansas City Art Institute
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
MICA/Maryland Institute College of Art
Memphis College of Art
Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Pratt MWP
Ringling College of Art and Design
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
School of Visual Arts
University of the Arts
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film


DRAWING PROBLEM : VOLUME OF A HUMAN HEAD

After students have spent a good deal of time learning linear perspective and drawing from observation, which usually involves still life, it is time for a challenge. Drawing a human head offers plenty of complexity without overwhelming them with a full figure. I think it is best that students work from a sitter however a self-portrait from a mirror will also suffice. Have them work from a three-quarter viewpoint and include whatever is in the background.

Students should draw the head using only lines and employ a ruler in the drawing of all lines. Using the ruler should simplify the student’s line work and emphasize the planes of the head and facial features. The block-like reduction of the head should allow students to relate the head to perspective and focus on proportion and volume. Emphasize to them that this problem is about volume, not likeness.

Materials:
Conte, Charcoal Pencil or Ebony Pencil
Hard eraser
18″ x 24″ Bond Paper

Download a visual for the drawing problem above (1.2 MB)


Click here to view information on the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers