Portfolio Assessments at a School vs Studio
Is there a difference between an “Animation Program Application to a College Portfolio” and an “Animation Studio Portfolio”?
Yes, there definitely is a difference.

There are actually a few differences:

College Portfolio
A series of specific works that you have created in a previous course that typically include (but are not limited to) the following:

• Life Drawing - human figures, showing: anatomy, structure, proportions, volumes, perspective, weight, and balance. This usually includes a couple of drawings of your hand and possibly some portrait work from real life.

• Object Drawing - everyday items that focus on 3 dimensional drawing and perspective.

• Environmental Drawing - usually a couple of drawings of a room in your house to show structure, proportions, perspective, and spatial relationships.

• Character Drawing - some of your own character cartoon work to show your ability and style.

• Favorite Drawings - a mish-mash of your own personal favorite drawings that usually show your area of artistic strength, i.e., if you're really good at perspective, more drawings of rooms and objects.

In some cases, the College you are applying to will have a list of other specific things they want you to draw especially for their portfolio submission, such as a storyboard using a given character doing something from a story passage, or draw a given character showing a variety of different emotions.

College Presentation
Usually submitted in 8 1/2” x 11” photocopied format, stapled together rather than in a portfolio case.

The reason for this is so that the people assessing the portfolios can handle them easily and quickly. Having to go through 500 - 1000 portfolios is not something you can do in 1 day.

Because the portfolios are all sent in at approximately the same time, they need to be sorted, catalogued and stored easily. This makes the 8 1/2” x 11” format very simple to handle. The portfolios are usually always destroyed after assessment as opposed to spending huge amounts of money to ship them back to the sender. Placing the artwork into a portfolio folder or binder is a wasted expense. It’s not the case that gets you accepted into the program, it’s the quality of the artwork.

College Portfolio - Consistency
Being consistent with your drawing ability is far more important than showing a variety of styles in a College level portfolio.

College Acceptance
A College level program is an annual event. Every year at the same time, the school will be accepting a given number of students into their program. This will not change unless the program is either expanded to take in more students or canceled completely. It is guaranteed to happen.

Of course it’s a competition for the top number of spots that are available so, only the best people will get in. This is very similar to a studio job application.

A school application usually needs to be started around November of the year before you plan to go and the portfolio is usually required by February or March for assessment.

Acceptance letters are then sent out in April - May.

How Some College Portfolios Are Graded
A school assessment is based upon the fact that the school will have a limited number of seats available in the program. A school that receives 1000 portfolios for 100 positions will only take in the top 100 portfolios even though the top 150 were all good looking portfolios. It simply means the bottom 50 people wern’t good enough to beat out the other top 100. If the intake was 150, then everyone with a good portfolio would be accepted.

As was mentioned before, portfolios are graded on a scale of 1 to 10. The percentages for each of these grades is usually pretty consistent. Over the past 17 years I’ve noticed a trend that breaks down this way:

Portfolios with a score of:

9 - 10 .002% It’s very rare that you would assess a portfolio at 9 or 10 as this person would have an amazing looking portfolio and would have had extensive training at a college level in art and life drawing.

8 - 9 1% 1 in 100 portfolios reach this level. These people are also rare but have very good looking portfolios with maybe a few flaws here and there, usually in perspective drawing or cartoon characters. Their life drawing is usually very good.

7 - 8 3% 3 in 100 portfolios. This is usually the highest score for a portfolio for someone who has had some college level training in something like an Art Fundamentals program where they teach life drawing, perspective/object drawing, and the odd cartooning where it’s available.

6 - 7 5% 5 in 100 portfolios. These people have some college level training and were slightly above average with their grades in and around the ‘B’ level. Some minor mistakes in life drawing such as proportion or anatomy and some perspective errors. Their cartooning skills tend to be weaker.

5 - 6 15% 15 in 100 portfolios. This is where the bulk of the students who are accepted come from. Most of the time, I found that slightly more than half of these people just missed the cutoff line. If you have a program that takes in, let’s say 3 classes of 22 students, that’s 66 students total. A program this size will probably get about 500 portfolio applicants so the intake ratio is 1 to 7.5 (or for every 7.5 people that apply, only 1 is accepted). (For larger programs, the ratio is closer to 1 to 10.)

If we use the percentages that I’m offering here for the 66 student program that means that you’ll get the following students:

8 - 9 5 students
7 - 8 15 students
6 - 7 25 students
5 - 6 21 students are all that can be taken from this group of 45.

4 - 5 20% 20 in 100 portfolios. These people are lacking some of the basic drawing skills. They may have gone through a college level program but either have failed, dropped out or received a very low grade. These people tend to rely on copying existing characters or design styles and submitting them in their portfolio.

3 - 4 25% These are people who have had no college level training, maybe only some High School art. They tend to rely on photographic reference and the bulk of their portfolio is made up of High School art projects. Lots of weird dream artwork and badly copied comic book work.

2 - 3 30%

(2 is usually called a “mercy grade” (at least that’s what I call it) for portfolios that fall into the “really, really bad” category. You give them a 2 because 1 sounds too low.) This is where the majority of the portfolios fall. These people like to draw but have Art Society workshop or no formal training in art at all. They submit artwork that makes you cringe when you see it. The life drawing is lacking in proportions, volumes, proper human anatomy and structure. There is little if no understanding of the rules of perspective. The use of multiple horizon lines and too many vanishing points that don’t relate to the object is evident in the drawings of objects and rooms.

All this is not to say that the people who receive a grade between 2 and 5 cannot become good artists. With the proper training and a good attitude on the part of the student, you can improve your drawing skills. It all depends on how far you want to go and how hard you’re willing to work to get there.

For some people it seems to come naturally and for others, it’s a constant struggle. I think that I’m somewhere in the middle. When I first started drawing with the idea that I wanted to be an artist (back in grade 4) I relied on formulas. I saw a drawing, traced it over and over and developed a step-by-step system of replicating the drawing on command. (This made me very popular with my friends.) I remember quite distinctly that I learned to draw “Popeye the Sailor Man” first. Then I broadened my portfolio with “Archie” and then “Betty”. I then drew a horse head of my own design.

Studio Portfolio
These are usually geared to a specific department that you are applying to.

You don’t just contact a studio and say, “I would like a job with your studio.”

Their response will be, “Which department should I direct you to?”

If you are applying to the Character Design Department, then your portfolio would have a lot of character design work in it. If you’re applying to the Background Painting department, you wouldn’t put in character design work, you’d put in background paintings.

Of course there are supplementary elements that would be included such as Life Drawing for character design or animation and Layout or Environmental Drawings for background painting.

Studios will sometimes place a limit on the number of drawings to include for each specific area (usually no more than 10 - 20 pieces each). In the case of a studio portfolio, more is better and they all have to be of the same high quality.

Studio Presentation
A studio portfolio is something that you use either when you are ready to apply or when the studio needs people to apply. This means the application process could occur at any time of the year. It is here that professionalism can help you out. A nice, neat, manageable sized portfolio can make the difference between a pleasant portfolio assessment and a bad one.

I have looked at portfolios that were either badly laid out and you had to keep rotating the portfolio to get the drawings to face the right side up or that were sloppily pasted up and the drawings are falling out of the pages. If you have to spend more time adjusting the portfolio than you do in looking at the artwork, that’s not a good thing!

Starting off your portfolio with the best piece of artwork is not a good idea... it leaves you no where to go but down. Leave the best for last and make them feel like, “Wow! that was a nice piece at the end.” It leaves them with a good feeling going out... end on a high note.

Tell the reviewer a story about your artistic abilities. Make the artwork flow not only on each page but from one page to the next.

Don’t clutter the pages with a lot of little tiny drawings. Each page is viewed, on average, for about 5 seconds. If you have to look at 50 little sketches as opposed to 2, you’re going to see more. Quality! NOT quantity! Make the portfolio your best work only! Don’t try to fill it with drawings that are “o.k.” as opposed to “amazing”. If you don’t have 10 - 20 “really good” or “amazing” drawings to put in your portfolio, you’re probably not ready for a job yet and you need to practice more or come up with more “really good” drawings.

Studio Portfolio - Flexibility
Showing that you are consistent in your level of drawing skill is important, however, being able to show that you can be a “human chameleon” and draw in a multitude of different styles shows your flexibility and the fact that you can adapt to any given style that they might need you to work on. If all you can do is “Anime” and the studio gets a contract to work on a ‘1930’s rubber hose cartoon” you’re going to be in trouble if you can’t adapt to that style.

Studio Acceptance
Just like a school, your job application can be a competition, depending on how many people are applying for the position and how many positions are available. The numbers are much lower for a studio. An established studio may hire on 1 to 10 people at a time in any given department, depending on the needs of the production. The competition for these positions can be fierce and the artwork is of a very high level of quality. Some of the people who are applying may be 30 year veterans

A production can begin at any time of the year. You can find out about jobs at websites like animationmagazine.com or awn.com (Animation World Network). Your program coordinator can sometimes help with directing you to a studio or you can just phone the studio and set up an appointment for a portfolio review.

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O.k., I'm Interested! What do I do Now?

Portfolio Guidelines

Typical Portfolio Requirements

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