Especially for you Foundation Art & Design's programme leader Gabriela Boiangiu recorded a short video instruction on how to make a good portfolio.
Here is Gabriela's interview on the same topic given to BHSAD:
What is a portfolio?
Portfolio is a collection of images which would show the student's ability, creativity and personality.
Is it correct to say "a good portfolio" or "a bad portfolio"?
We talk about good and bad in terms of a format and organization of information in it, not meaning the mastery level of our potential students. Regarding the mastery of works, after the interview students might be recommended to attend the Foundation course or any of the other courses we run before Foundation'. Interview is not an exam. It aims at finding of a perfect fit for a student.
What are the requirements for a good portfolio?
First, we expect students to bring an A1 size portfolio which would include their original artwork, not only digital prints. A portfolio should contain at least 10 plastic sleeves. Works should be displayed on both sides, so, totally, it will be around 20 pages of works. There is no need to put sections and titles. The portfolio should speak visually about the journey, no need to make it clear to us, we do understand.

Second, students should make sure that in the portfolio they demonstrate a variety of skills. One of the skills we are looking for is the observational skills. Drawing from real life from looking at objects, or the landscape, or the portrait. It includes student's capability to use a variety of materials. For example, when recording the reality from direct observation, perhaps, they can use pencils, watercolors, acrylics and different mediums, such as collage.

The third thing for students is to show that they have passion for something. It is important how they put the skills in works they have done during the courses, at school, in teacher taught projects, but it is also important if students demonstrate something they've done of their real creative desire.

The last but not least, we are interested in how students are developing ideas. It might be little sketches and developments in the variety of techniques in the portfolio which show how a student come up with the outcome. We expect 9-12 small images of developing idea plus one bigger image of the outcome to show how they come from the initial idea to the outcome.
Do students need to bring a sketchbook in addition to portfolio?
Students should definitely bring in their sketchbooks. We expect to see at least one or two of A4-3 and A5 sizes. Sketchbook is a personal visual diary which should support some of the works in the portfolio. It should include some research, developments and little writings, kind of self-reflecting annotations. And of course in sketchbooks we are interested to see student's mistakes as well as fabulous works. We want to see that students can overcome difficulties, as we are not looking for perfect students. They come to us to learn, but they need to show us that they can learn from a journey.
Any tips you would like to share with students coming to a Portfolio review?
1. Bring your own portfolio even if it is not finished, even if it is something basic or just a sketchbook. Your work might not fit with the examples of works we are giving. This is fine, because we can't bring 20 different works. So if you bring your own work, we can advise you personally. Use this opportunity. Don't be just a spectator.

2. Show us everything you have done. Sometimes you can be wrong with self perception. You might think that you are absolutely rubbish in painting, and that might not be true. Let go your preconception of what you are good at. Let your weaknesses to be explored. Otherwise they will never be developed into something else. Even you have a completed portfolio, bring in your sketchbooks as well. They might be things there which are important but were not included as part of portfolio. You are relatively new to the creative world so allow our tutors to advise you. Even you have been advised by other tutors, it is important to show to us everything you've got. Even if it is not fabulous. For we can decide what is good and you might be surprised.

3. It is important for students not to focus only on the absolutely perfect work. We are interested to see mistakes as well, we are interested to see the journey. If you have a lot of interesting sketches, some of them could also be mounted and presented in the A1 portfolio.

4. Make sure you demonstrate artworks done through a rigorous process of research. For example, if you like an artist, who makes portraits, investigate, how did she or he do it, what techniques did he or she use. Did he or she draw from a random people from the streets? Did he or she invite relatives to pose in his studio? What are the stories behind his portraits? Try to do something similar to that. Then have a look at the second artist who has a slightly different approach to portraits. Try it on. If some ideas are not working for you, don't just drop them, reflect on them. Why didn't it worked for me, but it worked for the artist I was researching? This is quite an organic process of finding ideas.

5. Be themselves, don't stress out and forget the phrase "I don't know". When we ask students on how did they come to the outcome the answer should be an honest explanation of the story. Every artwork has a story behind it.
How important is the Portfolio review day?
Portfolio review is an important part of the recruitment process. On that day we give a presentation about the course and the quality of work students might be doing if they enter the course. But also we will show current portfolios from our students. And I think that this is really important that students come and see that. Because there is no substitute for meeting the tutors and current students in person, having a discussion and seeing live portfolios. All of that will give potential students a head start for the enrollment interview. And if anyone doesn't speak English we do welcome them. We will have Russian tutors and students.

Check out the date of the nearest Portfolio review on our website in «Events».
Examples of works for portfolio
Especially for you we gathered pieces from portfolios of students of Foundation Art & Design, Pre-Foundation Art & Design and Introduction to Art & Design. Use them as source of inspiration!
Creative exercises for portfolio building
Programme leaders of Introduction to Art & Design and Pre-Foundation Art & Design – Julia Stepanova and Misha Levin – developed a series of creative exercises to help you to create or improve your portfolio.
Exercise 1. Drawings
Brief: Observational drawing in a sketchbook

Subject of drawing, for instance:
  • View from your window
  • Moving objects, eg transport
  • People (doing some actions)
  • Objects with details, interesting texture
  • Animals
  • Nature phenomena
Types of mark-making:
  • Drawings using only dots
  • Drawings using only dashes
  • Drawing using only curvy lines
  • Drawing using continuous line
  • Drawing using flat brush and one colour (watercolours or ink)
Materials to work with:
  • Charcoal
  • Acrylic/watercolour paint
  • Ink
  • Pencils
David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, George Surratt
A6-A4 sketchbook consisting of minimum 32-pages full of observational drawings using different techniques

Lucian Freud

George Surratt
Exercise 2. Exploring approaches

Part 1. Exploration
  1. Use your phone camera and make a panoramic photo of your local area,
  2. Print it out on a large format and work on top
  3. Develop it but using colour, marks, text and any additional details

Part 2. Research
  1. Think and describe yourself the atmosphere you want to convey in the work
  2. Research the history of your local area and find some interesting information
  3. Decide what you want to use from what you found out through your research
  4. Explore additional details that can be added to the composition
  5. Experiment with a volume of specific parts of the work in order to make some emphasises in the composition

Part 3. Response

Narrate a story about your neighbourhood! Who can be your main characters (make several sketches)? Develop the plot, what type of story it can be, what genre? Could it be somehow connected to an artist or an art movement? May be the costumes of the main heroes will be inspired by some artwork or style.

Part 4. Development
When you finish with the story, think how you can visualize it and how they can be placed into the environment that you have already created. For example, you could create a series photo montage outcomes, a video / stop motion animation with plasticine characters.

Man Ray, Martin Parr, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston, Daniel Richter, Gerhard Richter, Peter Doig, Neo Rauch, Grayson Perry


You are free to choose any medium that can communicate your story: a series of photo, video, animation, comic strip, book, etc. Be experimental and ambitious!

David Hockney

David Hockney
Exercise 3. Sense of Contrast

  1. Think and write down different types of contrasts, it can be contrast of size, colour, meaning, feeling, etc. Try to come up with at least 5 different ones
  2. Make sketches or take photos that can illustrate what you have written down in order to show those differences
  3. Research art and design history and find at least 5 examples of the use of contrast and explain how each example works in your opinion
  4. Take two different objects and evaluate scale and qualities of them. Write down the analysis of what you have noticed
  5. Try to find similar sense from the contrast but with different things/objects and compare them. How are they different and what are the similarities?
  6. Manipulate with your object by using light source, by placing them in different environment, by looking at them from unusual angle.
  7. Document each manipulation by creating a series of photo images and carefully select the set for each series of photographs
  8. Create a short video in which you will need to show and exaggerate the differences between the objects.


Pablo Picasso, Johannes Itten, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Steve McCurry, Jeff Koons, Richard Tuttle, Sam Winston, Richard Serra, Slinkachu, Jun Kitagawa, Dalton Ghetti, Nazca Lines (geoglyphs), JR (Kibera project)

All the process of work in the sketchbook: sketches and analysis of your exploration of contrast
The final outcomes: a series of photo, a short video, illustrating your observations.

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Exercise 4. Response on research and idea generation

Visit an exhibition, find a work, that you fall in love. Research it, find out about it's origin, author, context (time, place, environment), medium and technique. Understand the idea of the work and a reason why the author made this interpretation. Remake it in your own vision and/or concept. This should not be a copy of the work, it has to be your interpretation of the artwork. You can use change it's meaning, work's composition, transform context, etc.

Materials and techniques:
You can create an outcome using any media: painting, photo or video, sculpture, a piece of textile or furniture, etc – follow your personal interests and passions.


2017 International Rijksstudio Award

Paul Cezanne, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Frank Auerbach, Damien Hirst, Marcel Duchamp, Peter Blake

You can choose any method and medium to create your responce: Drawing(s), painting(s), photo, video,piece of furniture, 3D object, illustration, garment, etc

Student works of Introduction to Art & Design course created according to a similar brief:
1. Video interpretation by Anna Blumenkrants

Henri Matisse
2. Video interpretation by Ekaterina Goloktionova

Edgar Degas
Interpretations performed in other techniques you can find here.
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