Scholarship Season: Artists Paying It Forward

Obstacles, by their very nature, create frustration. They restrict us and often cause us to just give up. Thank goodness, every once in a while, someone comes along to change the status quo and create a new path forward. Alison Hess is such a person. She’s a trailblazer who’s paying it forward.

As a high school student, her heart was set on studying art in college. Yet she didn’t have the financial means to make it happen. Her obstacles were many, including finding scholarship after scholarship for prospective pre-law and pre-med majors but not for burgeoning artists. Having to rely mostly on her good grades and general scholarship opportunities, she made it happen. But that struggle stuck with her.

Fast-forward to 2014 and a new path emerged for students wanting to study art and design in college: Zinggia Ohio Art Scholarship.

Alison, with help from her husband Jason Salisbury, did the difficult legwork to establish the fund. Now beginning their third year, both are happy to report that they’re making a difference in the lives of others. Their goal, to “help art students in Ohio further their education in the visual arts field“ is clearly making a difference. Award winners in the first two years of the fund’s existence have applied their newfound financial resources to art programs at Ohio University and SCAD. The $2,000 scholarship is for Ohio-based high school seniors, and can be used towards art and design study at any college in the U.S. The deadline for this year’s application is March 5th.

passion quote - chasing it downWhen not paying it forward, Alison, an illustrator, can be found selling her artwork through her Esty shop, Canning Crafts.

Jason can be found applying his graphic design skills at Ohio Thrift Stores where he is in charge of marketing, graphic design, and advertising. Together they’re also creating coloring books and other kid-centered creative items.

At the risk of being repetitive, take the time to read Scholarship Season: Tips and Tools for some valuable scholarship insights. And make sure your Ohio-based teen looks into Zinggia. Both parent and teen will be glad you did.

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Scholarship Season: Tips & Tools

scholarship piggy banks from FastwebThis time of year usually creates a stress shift. Hearts and minds have moved beyond the holiday season and those time-consuming college applications have long been completed and submitted. Senior families are now consumed by “the waiting game;” that time when everyone becomes visibly sensitive to each ping, tweet, and swoosh emitted from cell phones and computers. Did she get in? Is he wait-listed? If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to research scholarship opportunities. The cost of higher education isn’t getting cheaper anytime soon, and once admission letters are in hand it might be too late to investigate many opportunities. So, if you haven’t already jumped into this pool, why not dive in now?

The suggestion to research scholarships often results in a deer-in-the-headlights stare from parents and teens alike. Translation: where do I begin? The biggest bang you’ll get will always be from institutions that accept your teen. That being said, there are countless other opportunities to explore. Keep in mind that many deadlines for submission have already passed. And some scholarships might seem small when you consider the overall cost of college. Try not to let this discourage you. Each one can help alleviate the expense of books, art supplies, dorm living, etc. Add multiple wins together and you could be talking some substantial money.

Before you begin a random search, consider a few tips to keep in mind:

Scholastic Art Scholarship  submittal 2014

Scholastic Art Scholarship submittal 2014

Know your resources. The best place to start is with your high school counselors. They can guide you to reputable online sites. Plus, they may be aware of some hidden gems that specifically speak to your search. I’d also reach out to local non-profits and your employer. Both may offer scholarships that you’re unaware of.

Know what you’re searching for. Will he be staying in state? Is she specifically interested in one major? Pay attention to categories that fit your teen. You can search by state, major, religious affiliation, community service, etc.

Read the fine print. Each application has its own unique requirements for submission and awards. Deadlines vary.

Don’t forget college admissions offices. If you’re pretty sure your teen will be accepted at a school – or already has been accepted – you should already be in communication with the admissions office about scholarship opportunities. That’s where you have the chance for the largest financial impact.

Many students feel mentally fatigued from the application process itself. I get that. Spending time searching for scholarships would seem even more draining. And, submitting another unique drawing or essay might feel like a waste of time and energy. I get that too. But your son or daughter won’t have any chance of winning those sought after funds if they don’t even try. That extra effort now may enable a semester for studying abroad or reduce the amount they’ll need to earn over the summer.

Here are a few opportunities to get you started. If you need additional help searching, send me an email and we can work together. I’m at artcollegelife@gmail.com.

Zinngia Art Scholarship (Ohio residents, applicable anywhere)

Two-Ten Footwear Foundation

Ladies Auxiliary VFW

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scholarship signage

 

Guest Post: On Building A Portfolio

By Thom Glick

The portfolio is how artists share their work, their skills, their strengths, their weaknesses, their goals, their fears and, of course, themselves.

portfolio - concept art - scad 2Over the years, I have found myself on both sides of the portfolio. I’ve been a high school student applying to BFA programs, an artist applying for jobs and competitions, and an undergraduate applying to MFA programs. I’ve been a judge, jurying art competitions and exhibitions, and a college admissions representative, reviewing applications to a BFA program. Both sides of the portfolio can be equally intimidating, when you don’t have a clear understanding of its purpose. Over the years, I’ve developed an approach to the portfolio, as a builder and as a reviewer, to encourage a more transparent and meaningful dialogue. I’m hoping that the following advice will be helpful for those of you building portfolios as well as those of you reviewing portfolios.

Mind you, this is just my advice.

Regardless of whether you are applying to a college with a traditional foundations program or a direct-to-major curriculum, the portfolio should be built upon the same four basic ideas: technique, concept, risk-taking, and effort. Before we can get into your specific portfolio, which might be focused on animation, portrait painting, abstract sculpture, vehicle design, or something broader or more specific, it’s a good idea to get familiar with them.

The Four Parts

kitchen sink - d'albon high school 2013Technique is about control. When I look for technique in a portfolio, I’m looking to see how well you know your materials, how well you know the basic principles of design and, if you’re working observationally, how well you understand your subject matter. When I look for these things, I’m not looking to see that you’ve mastered them; I’m looking to see that you’re aware of them and making purposeful decisions.

Material can be graphite pencils, oil paint, computer software, stone, fabric, or an infinite number of things. What’s important here is that you do your best to take control over your material and showcase what you know about it and what you can do with it.

Design principles have to do with understanding color relationships, composition, proportion, value relationships, shape relationships, and so on. In other words, the basic building blocks of making a visual art piece.

Understanding your subject, when it comes to technique, has to do with trying to capture the observable world on paper, with clay, or whatever material you choose. For instance, if your subject is people, do you understand anatomy, proportions, skin and hair textures, and posing?

Again, technique is about control. When having your portfolio reviewed, the reviewer assumes that every decision you’ve made, you’ve made purposefully. This is apparent in the material you use, how you use it, why you use certain shapes repeatedly, and why you use certain color combinations. Be prepared to answer questions about your decisions. If you don’t have answers, don’t be afraid to say I don’t know and ask for advice on how to gain more control.

Concept is about communication. Whether you intend it to or not, your artwork reveals something. It speaks. It’s more than graphite on paper, text on a printout, fabric stitched together, or clay cooked in a kiln. Your artwork is alive, and an extension of you. It’s autobiographical, and reveals what interests you and what doesn’t.

portfolio - parsons 2009 - shoesA strong concept engages your audience, encourages discussion, and compels participation. A strong concept might be making a political cartoon, designing a collection of fall garments, or creating a series of abstract sculptures inspired by sea creatures. It’s whatever inspires you, gets you thinking, and challenges your creativity.

This is your opportunity to decide what kind of relationship you want to have with your audience. Do you want to be an entertainer? A storyteller? A protester? An illuminator of ideas? Someone who makes people’s lives easier? Someone who helps people communicate? Someone who speaks about injustice?

Just like technique, you want to take control of your concept. You want your artwork’s message to be purposeful. Consider that what your art doesn’t say can be as interesting as what it does say. Being in control of your concept is important because it shows you’re not just making stuff, you’re thinking and giving your audience a reason to be interested in what you’re sharing.

Risk-taking is about exploring. This is where progress happens. Being an artist is all about taking risks, pushing limits, getting outside of the box, and figuring out what challenges you. If you get too comfortable your work may become stagnant and boring. As you develop more and more skills and confidence, you should constantly be asking yourself what more you can do or need to do to keep growing.

Risk-taking is different for every artist. What is scary or difficult for you might be safe and easy for someone else. For you, it might be working with a different material or subject matter. It might be working larger or smaller, or working dimensionally. It might be telling a story with comics, redesigning a microwave, learning to sew, building a website, or animating a gif.

Don’t be discouraged if your work isn’t always successful. Failure has a way of revealing things and can guide you ever closer to success.

When adding exploratory work to your portfolio, make sure it supplements your other work. It shouldn’t be disparate or distracting. It should be complementary, offering more insight into your goals and interests. As a reviewer, I’m looking at your risk-taking work as a way of understanding what you’re aspiring to as an artist.

Effort is about commitment. You can’t have a strong portfolio if you don’t have effort.

This should be the easiest of the four components to understand, but can often be one of the most difficult to execute. As artists, we constantly question our decisions and chase after a perfection that doesn’t exist. In this way, we can often be our own worst enemies.

If you’re truly serious about building a successful portfolio, being a successful artist, and getting into your dream art college, my advice is get organized. Make a plan. Build yourself a schedule. Set aside time every day to work. Some days you might write down ideas and do research, or do preliminary work, sketches, and mockups. Other days you might work on your final piece. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish by setting aside as little as thirty minutes a day.

Your effort is apparent to the person reviewing your portfolio. This is important. I suggest that you include 15-20 pieces in it. If you have fewer, it might be a sign that you’re not devoting enough time to your work. The same rule applies for portfolios with more unfinished than finished pieces. And, consider what it says if all of your work is from your art class. Reviewers can easily determine which pieces are class assignments. Class assignments can be good portfolio pieces, but we do want to see that you’re working outside of class, that you’re making work even when no one is asking you to.

Effort is so important because it tells your reviewer, almost immediately, how serious you are.

Your Portfolio
Think about the four parts as a foundation upon which you build something that is uniquely yours. What actually goes into your portfolio should represent your interests, your goals, and above all else, it should represent you. As colleges become more selective and applications more competitive, it’s important to find ways to separate yourself from others. The more purposeful your portfolio is the better.

Make sure your portfolio lines up with your interests. If you say you want to be a fashion designer, but your portfolio is full of portrait paintings, there’s a disconnect. You might not have access to the right equipment or know how to make garments, so you might have to get creative. Consider designing a collection with illustrations or paper dolls. Do some research; look at fashion portfolios online for ideas on what to include. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals to ask for advice. For any major or career you might consider, think about whether or not the work you’re producing contributes to your interests or dilutes them.

Portfolio folder 1Don’t be afraid to be specialized. If you’re interested in animation and specifically focusing on backgrounds, that should be apparent in your portfolio. If you’re interested in industrial design and specifically designing office furniture, your portfolio should reflect it. If you’re interested in sculpture specifically multimedia abstracts, your portfolio should show that.

Don’t be afraid to be multidisciplinary. If you’re interested in more than one major, career or type of art, consider how you can include that and still build a cohesive portfolio. Look for the intersections within the different types of work and exploit them. If you’re interested in fashion design and cinematic arts, your intersection might be storytelling. As you build your portfolio, focus on how important storytelling is to your fashion design and cinematic arts work.

Have influences, but find your own voice. It’s important to have influences, ones you admire and ones you loath, and as many as you can find. It’s also important not to simply copy your influences. You should be looking to develop your own voice, your own way of working, your own style, your own spin, your own way of solving problems.

When building your portfolio, remember, it’s your portfolio. Be true to yourself and your goals. Be smart, be passionate, be creative, and make sure you’re portfolio says to your reviewer what you want it to say.

Now What?
Do keep in mind that some colleges have specific portfolio requirements. Some might ask for a specific number of drawings from life or works based on a particular theme. Some want more variety, some want more focus. Be sure to do your research and follow directions.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your art teachers, local artists, artists you find on the internet, and college reps. Have your portfolio reviewed often and by different people. You’ll hear a variety of feedback, some you’ll like, and some you won’t. Be smart about the feedback you accept and the feedback you dismiss; all feedback has value. Some will guide you to what you want to accomplish and some will guide you away from what you want to accomplish. The more you work on your portfolio and the more you have it reviewed, the better you’ll be at curating the feedback you receive and ultimately, the better you’ll understand your goals and the work you’re making.

Thom Glick is a graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design. He has been working as a professional freelance artist for over fourteen years and in college admissions for over seven. Connect with him online at thomglick.com or linkedin.com/in/thomglick.

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