Q: Hello! Currently, I am a freshmen student at Portland State University, but I hope to attend an art school next year. By trade, I am a drawer/2D artist, but have recently ventured into 3 dimensional work. I'm probably not going to apply to RISD (too prestigious, I'm definitely not good enough), but I would like to know if schools allow 2D AND 3D work in your application portfolio? Also, what is art school REALLY like? Is there active student life? What are the students like? Are there parties? Are you instructed by accomplished, working artist like they say?
A: To start, do not doubt yourself when applying to RISD, or other prestigious institutions. If you have self - doubt, a lack of confidence will show through the quality of your application. Be bold and fearless when putting together all aspects of your application. RISD is not looking for perfection, they are looking for strong potential (I cannot stress this enough).
When putting together your portfolio, it is a very good idea to have, both, 2D and 3D work. A range of mediums and techniques express your ability to take risks, exploring various fields and ideas. Having 3D work will also show your dedication towards all forms of artistic expression. The Freshmen foundation studies program, which transfer students must also undergo throughout the summer, requires an intensive drawing class, an explorational design class, and a spatial dynamics class. A variety of materials and dimensions within your portfolio may give your application an edge, showing the reviewers that you are ready to take on the vast challenges of the foundation studies program.
Art school can be many things. I believe that it is what you make of it. Due to the heavy work load and challenging assignments, many students do not have much free time for extracurriculars, clubs, or social interaction. WIth that said, RISD tries its best to involve its students in various activities around campus. The most significant party at RISD is the annual Artist Ball, a a huge costume event hosted by RISD. Brown University, right up the hill, also hosts many events. Some RISD students even participate in brown clubs or extracurriculars when possible. Lots of students find it difficult to balance academic life with their social lives, but it is possible to maintain a healthy relationship between both factors.
Most RISD students are dedicated to their work, and strive for the best. RISD has established a strong community within its student body. Students are more than willing to help others and find ways to solve problems. RISD's solid student community is what makes it different from other schools. The faculty at RISD is also top notch, which they take great pride in. Most faculty members have lengthy resumes, which contain past exhibitions and achievements. Most faculty members are current practicing artists in their field. At RISD, it is also important to accept that there will always be students who have stronger work, and to learn from their processes. Not every student at RISD is perfect, though. Some get caught up in their social life and neglect their work. Their weak work clearly shows continuously throughout semester critiques, leading many to leave RISD. Overall, RISD has a plethora of beneficial factors to offer to its students: a strong student body, fantastic faculty, challenging courses, and many activities for student involvement.
As for your piece, above, I find it very strong. There is a solid sense direction and organization within the overlapping pattern. The only thing I would explore would be greater hierarchy. Personally, I read the larger tropical flower as dominant among the other leaves. You could experiment with a firmer focal point within the composition, playing with the delicate balance between background and foreground. The overall detail of the piece is very nice, and the intentional border adds an active sense of aesthetic containment. Very nice piece!
Griffin Boswell is a textile student at the Rhode Island School of Design. His work is investigates the abstraction of interaction and form. Many of Boswell's pieces are created through an array of experimental techniques and inventive methods that explore artistic boundaries.
You can view and purchase his work on his Etsy page:
This design won the Teachers Design Challenge and is part of Threadless Causes, community-based design for the power of good. 100% of sales from this tee will go to DonorsChoose.org
to help provide much-needed supplies to public school teachers across the country. Each tee also comes with a $20 gift card to DonorsChoose.org
, which you can donate to the project that most inspires you.
Q: Hi! I'm a high school senior and I just came back from driving 800 miles from visiting RISD, and I absolutely LOVED it. I'm only nervous applying because I've seen the talent now, and it's overwhelming. I'm worried my stuff might not be up to caliber with other applicants, I know RISD stresses drawing from observation, which I'll try my best at, however my talents really are more with printmaking, ceramics, and the like. If I have some stellar pieces, but not necessarily A+ drawings, any suggestions? Later on when I've photographed everything I'll upload some pieces. Thank you very much, Kate.
A: I'm glad to hear that you loved visiting RISD! It's a fantastic school! It is also great to hear that you are comfortable with a range of various mediums. When I first visited, I too was blown away by the amount of talent and work students put into their assignments. Low confidence in your portfolio should motivate you to create stronger work. RISD is looking for potential, not perfection. Understand that the work you saw when visiting RISD was created by RISD students, not high school students. A lot is learned throughout the freshman foundation year, and many of the freshman pieces created were challenging due to the nature of the assignments.
My advice would be for you to create assignments for yourself that challenge your artistic abilities, pushing you outside of your comfort zone. By setting boundaries and limits, you will find yourself thinking more intently about your work and work process. Exploration is also key to a great portfolio. Explore through the lens of observation, and draw subjects that interest you most. RISD stresses drawing from observation because it is a fundamental communication of your artistic thoughts and ideas. Throughout your foundation drawing courses, you will be faced with obstacles that may seem impossible to overcome, but you must conceptualize and articulate with poise. RISD wants you to be prepared for these challenges, and believes that you should prepare by drawing from observation as much as you can. You can also experiment with size of your drawings. My first semester of drawing at RISD was fairly terrifying and challenging to say the least, but fantastic and exhilarating at the same time. My professor had us doing three foot by four foot charcoal drawings for homework every week. Try stepping out of your comfort zone, and take risks.
Personally, the bulk of my portfolio when applying to RISD was graphic design based work. I also had a few multi-media pieces, and definitely a couple drawings from observation done in graphite and charcoal. I even had a few pages from my sketchbook. On a side note, I also believe it helps if you try to complete your home-tests from observation as much as possible. Overall, step outside of the box and display your dedication for becoming an inspiring artist. Your portfolio is a chance to express your voice, so let it be heard.
Q: Hi Bo,
I am doing ED to RISD. However, my SAT scores aren't very great. I just wanted to know how important are SAT scores for application at RISD.
Also if you can give some important guidelines I must think of before submitting my application.
Thank you so much
Please revert back as soon as possible
A: In general, RISD seeks students who are very well rounded and with potential. For any school, applying early decision is extremely competitive, so every aspect of your application is important. Having a great SAT score will set you apart from other applicants, but your portfolio is the truly the most important factor. When I applied to RISD, my SAT scores were definitely below average, but I did not apply early decision. Even though a great portfolio is key, I would recommend having an above average SAT score to become a qualifying contender throughout the application process.
Before submitting your application, make sure that you know everything you can about the school, and about the department which you are most interested in. This is extremely important if you are applying early decision. Yes, RISD has a fantastic reputation, but it may not be what you think. Personally, I love RISD, the faculty and the student body, but it is a huge work load, especially during foundation year. You must be committed. Freshmen foundation studio classes start around 8AM and end around 5PM. Professors also require you to spend endless hours on homework for each class, but it is all worth it. You are learning and studying from working artists within the field, and are surrounded by likeminded individuals who are equally as passionate as you are.
For your application, you have two chances to express yourself as a person and as an artist. The first is your portfolio. Have a portfolio that contains a wide range of mediums, conceptual subjects, and challenges. Make sure you choose your strongest pieces, and only include pieces which you hold the most conviction. It is a good idea to have pieces that are drawn / created from observation, such as figure drawings, still life compositions, interiors / exteriors etc. You can even include pages from your sketchbook to show your artistic processes. The second chance to express yourself as a person / artist are your essays. Have strong essays that are compelling and noteworthy. Be yourself, and do not hesitate to write about the most interesting and unique qualities of who you are. Both, your portfolio and your essays are two key factors which will set you apart from other applicants. Good luck!
This is my portfolio
I aspire to be in art school for an MFA but i also have dreams of being a big-time artist tell me what you think i wanna meet more artists all around the world feel free to check out the pages and share em if you want send me a link to your art i would love to see
A: It is very apparent that you have a distinctive style and voice, both of which are crucial in becoming a successful artist. I can see that you are not afraid to experiment with your techniques and mediums. You also do a lot of sketching, which is great. Since you know how to create imaginative and fantastical pieces, I would recommend studying the complete opposite.
Try drawing from observation. Observational drawing will bring your artistic skill to the next level, and you will be able to incorporate those skills into your fictional work. Draw people, objects, spaces, whatever interests you as an artist, but do so by drawing from observation. You may also want to think about the way you compose your pieces, and the layout which you represent them. I can see that some of your pieces are quite jumbled and complex, yet some are sparse and minimal. Experiment with combining the two, and arrange your compositions using visual hierarchy. Hierarchy allows for viewers to experience work in stages or layers. What part of the piece do you experience first? Which elements are less important? Those are a few questions you should be asking yourself before beginning a final piece.
Here is Mary Jane Begin, a RISD professor, explaining visual hierarchy: Creating Visual Hierarchy
Q: I am an aspiring student, applying for the MFA (three year program)... I have never been to an art school or ever taken a class. However, I somehow found myself picking up graphic and really loving it. I made this poster for a friend contesting for elections in Harvard Law School. I thought my idea was pretty interesting, but it would be nice, if you had a look at it.A:
It's fantastic that you have found a creative outlet and voice. Before coming to RISD, I hadn't taken an art class until my senior year in high school. I was busy studying to become a classical musician, and later found art and design to be a broader creative expression.
As for your piece, it is very dynamic. Compositionally, I would try to organize the piece into a cleaner grid system. I find this helpful when working with concentric circles as the main form. By working with a grid, specific elements, like the logo on the bottom left will become better align with the text and flow of the design. You can learn more about grids within graphic design here: The Grid System
This is also a great article: Design Grids Are Not Mathematical Grids
I believe that it is important to think about symbolism and references within your design, and who your targeted audience is. When I first glanced at the piece, I thought of the video game "Pac Man" right away, which may not be the message you want to send. What is the significance of the maze like pattern? How can the maze be more effect or straight to the point? Find ways to creatively execute your designs without losing your primary message.