One of the things that I really wanted to come across last year (but didn’t find) in my self-conducted nerdy research sessions was OCADU portfolio-related articles. I knew that OCADU was a top-notch school for artists, and being pretty creatively limited, I wanted to get some tips from people who had already gone through the experience. I am by no means an art expert; in fact, I’m probably the most artistically-challenged person in this entire city, but nevertheless, for all of those who are in my previous position, this is for you!
Selecting your pieces. Include a variety of mediums. I applied with a focus in photography, but you shouldn’t show up to the portfolio interview with only a couple of your best photographs in hand. They want to see that you are open-minded and like to explore different things, even if you want to place emphasis on a specific stream. I included some short film to show off ability to compose, edit, and narrate, which are also important things to consider in photography. Apart from photographs, I also used some logo design to explain that I liked the commercialism side to art.
Know why you chose/did your piece. For almost every piece I was asked what made me want to do this, what was the idea behind it, and how it evokes a public reaction. You definitely need to know why you like your work (even if others don’t) and be able to defend it. For me at the time, I was interested in “capturing the moment” rather than posed, studio arts. I liked the idea of photojournalism as opposed to fine arts photography, so the motif of naturalism was ubiquitous in my work.
Creative sketchbook. OCADU is big on visual documentation of your creative process, your concepts, and ideas. That is one thing I didn’t like – because everyone processes ideas differently, including my way, which meant everything was filed away in my imagination and not drawn/written/organized on paper. Nevertheless, you have to have one, so honestly, I put together my sketchbook a week beforehand. If you already have a sketchbook/journal, definitely bring it; if not, fill one up with scraps and ideas, sketches, photos, and even 3D paper work.
Attend a portfolio information session. You get to attend a workshop, take a tour of the school, and hear about what makes a successful portfolio. The above image was made in a little introduction to experimental production’s photography class. I would strongly recommend attending, as it makes the entire process a lot clearer. You can also go over some of the pieces in your portfolio and get some tips from the senior students and/or professors.
The process. We were interviewed in groups of 15-ish people all in the same room. It made for a nerve-wracking experience because you don’t get private time with a professor, and while others are waiting for an interview, they listen intently at your conversation trying to pick up on some tips. The interviewers basically jot down notes, “grade” you on your interview, and give you a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ admission. There is a lengthy wait for a quick, 10-minute talk, so just keep calm and remember that each interviewer wants to hear about your work. It’s your time to shine!
Celebrate! You’ve just completed your interview of getting into art school – now all that’s left to do is wait! I received my admission at the end of March, so you’ve got quite a bit of time to chillax.
In the meantime, I’d consider your university choices and why you want to attend OCADU. Personally, I regret not doing more research on the schools I applied to. Basically I visited York and OCADU and that was it out of the seven institutions I sent applications to. I was more stuck on the reputation that OCAD had, and decided immediately that this was the school I wanted to attend. I will never deny that OCADU is an absolutely amazing institution with top-of-the-line speakers, events, and talented students. But it’s not for everyone, even if you are a great artist. Think of it as, you might be smart enough to get into Harvard, but you may not fit in the Harvard environment.
Such as the case for me. I decided to go to OCADU because it was Canada’s leading art institute – and who was I to turn that offer of admission down? But now I realize that no matter how good of an education I may receive in art, I am more or less miserable in this tiny environment where campus only consists of six floors, clubs and activities only consists of arts, the subject of conversation includes colors and galleries, and the student who is not the “rebellious art student” is considered the outsider. It isn’t really a university experience so much as high school all over again, only this time everyone is focussed on one subject and seems to have interest in little else.
There are also other factors such as the extremely expensive living situations of downtown Toronto, and the fact that OCADU gives out virtually no scholarships. But if you know that art is what you thrive on, then this is the place for you. Good luck!