Extend the October Critique

During yesterday’s massive monthly AP critique, someone (was it Emma K.?) suggested that perhaps we devise another venue, another format for giving feedback to presenters. Two ideas were small handwritten forms, and a response forum. Nothing has prevented anyone from writing either a short comment (from 1st grade on, really) or a substantive analysis, but that benefits only the recipient artist,  not any of the other participants )(because it would be a “private” message.

Coincidentally, a similar blawwg forum was proposed for us and our “sister school” (Lincoln, in [one of the many places called] Manitowoc). This type of posting ought to have some structure, rather than a polite free-for-all, in order for each artist to be able to take away real constructive criticism and suggestions.

Ideas, please. Time frame? Conceptual commentary? Technical? Anonymity (either for the commenters, or “pretend” namelessness for the artist, whilst online)?

One well-meaning proposal yesterday was that one of the artists begin to make more casual portraits in addition to, or instead of, the excellent examples that were shown. I say “instead of” because the proposer was talking about something that wasn’t there rather than the work that was brought to the table. Theory is autobiography in this case: the speaker obviously prefers another style of portraiture, and wasn’t getting it yesterday. Too bad; stick with what’s in front of us in critiques.

OK. Now you chip in. Click on “Comment.”

Really old maps are often the best maps

“Maps and paintings were like walled cities: the subject was contained and complete; the idea formed its own frame… the idea of the picture was likely to extend to the picture’s very edges. One might say that the picture was formed by the edges. One might say that the picture was formed by the edges. Medieval painting can be thought of as an art of assemblage, but the Renaissance painter could no longer freely dispose the component parts of his picture to form a perfect, self-enclosed system. He could, in principle, only change the relationship among the three elements that formed his picture-designing system: the vantage point, the imaginary window, and the (real or imagined) motif. His picture was now a segment of a continuum, part of a larger whole, and the fact gave new authority to the picture’s edges – the means by which the world was edited.” -John Szarkowski, “Photography Until Now”


AP Portfolio 411

Situations are not immutable. On Friday I was given to understand that things are no longer as they were once understood to be. Here are three critical differences.

1. The College Board readers are paid (and expected) to consider the Commentary you write to accompany your portfolio, not only to refer to it in times of uncertainty.

2. Breadth is best displayed in a manner that looks well as a whole, on the screen.

3. The Concentration section is not seen as necessarily chronological, nor should it “start strong and end strong” (as a portfolio would for certain art schools).

W. o’ W.: Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said Esber)

“Poetry cannot change society. Poetry can only change the notion of relationships between things. Culture cannot change without a change in institutions.”

“Poetry that reaches all the people is essentially superficial. Real poetry requires effort because it requires the reader to become, like the poet, a creator. Reading is not reception. I suggest you change your relationship to poetry and art in general.”

W. o’ W.: Mark Steinmetz


“MoMA’s series on Atget and Lee Friedlander’s ‘Factory Valleys’ are wonderfully printed books which demonstrate how richly b/w can describe weather, season, light, and time of day. Perhaps it’s because color is withheld that you have to activate some sort of  poetic imagination in order to read the work. I can feel the effect of sun hitting skin more palpably in Tod Papageorge’s silvery Central Park pictures than in any color picture of someone basking in the sun. There is something excitingly difficult and complex and intellectual in Garry Winogrand’s ‘Public Relations’ (1977) and I’ve yet to see any similar situation in color as tough-minded. Winogrand doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to please anybody.”

“I want to show something of people’s inner lives. I think for portraiture you have to be completely certain that you are interested in photographing this or that person. You can’t be wishy-washy in your motivation. You just have to know that you want to photograph this person and it’s a kind of knowing that eradicates any asking of ‘why?’ My approach is fairly low-key. I don’t want to make waves. I’ll just ask something like ‘Can I photograph you as you are?’ Sometimes I’ll give a little direction like ‘look over that way’ but it’s never elaborate. Having an ability to focus and concentrate is necessary for making good portraits.”

You can read the entire interview whence this is excerpted at http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/a_conversation_with_mark_steinmetz/


“Are you ready for the next phase in your artistic career? By applying to the YoungArts program you are eligible for:

  • Exclusive Presidential Scholar in the Arts nominations
  • $500,000 in total monetary awards
  • $10,000 Gold Awards, $5,000 Silver awards
  • All-expense paid trip to Miami for YoungArts Week in January 2011
  • Master Classes with world-renowned artists
  • $3 million in scholarship opportunities
  • Lifetime of alumni networking

We are the only organization that encourages and recognizes artistic excellence in the literary, visual and performing arts, including dance, cinematic arts, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing.

This year, the YoungArts staff will be holding a conference call on October 7 to answer pre-submitted questions about the the application process. To reserve a spot on this call, and to submit questions, please email conferencecall@youngarts.org with the subject line “Application Conference Call.” If you have immediate questions, please call YoungArts at 800.970.ARTS and the programs team will assist you.

Key Dates and Fees:
March 15-June 30, 2010: Early Registration fees apply / $25
July 1-October 15, 2010: Regular Registration fees apply / $35   
October 15, 2010: Online Application closes (9 p.m. EST)
October 30, 2010: Audition/Portfolio Materials due (5 p.m. EST)”

Follow the link on the right, under Resources.

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Advanced Placement 2-D Design Studio, May 2010


(Print by O. Kottke)

W. o’ W.: Steve Albini

“For the same reason that having a radio didn’t mean that you wouldn’t also have a record collection, having the Internet available doesn’t mean that you won’t also have a record collection. The scale of things has changed dramatically. The one thing that has survived intact has been vinyl record sales. There are vinyl reissue labels and labels that now do better business with their vinyl releases than they do with CD releases. Obviously the primary mode of music is going to be electronic, but people still want to have permanent evidence of their appreciation of a band. Hi-fi shops are doing great business selling record players. I don’t see the vinyl record disappearing in my lifetime.”

Build an Effective Portfolio

Your portfolio should include at least 10-20 examples of your best and most recent work (usually completed within the last year). It is very important that you conduct research about the schools you are most interested in, and find out what is required within the portfolio.

Personal work and/or work outside the classroom assignments can strengthen the overall portfolio; this demonstrates personal motivation. You should assume complete ownership for the ideas and visual information in each piece. You should also try to use assignments and technical exercises as vehicles to express your own personal ideas, viewpoints, emotions, stylistic approaches and individual ways of working.

Here are suggestions regarding work that could be included in your portfolio.

Breadth: art based on life, objects and general surroundings (when working observationally, you should try to address personal concerns).

Portraiture. A common source for observational work is the self-portrait.

Objects (Still Life). You might locate items that hold some meaning or are visually interesting to use in the work.

The Figure is one of the most traditional subjects utilized throughout the history of art. Working with the human body as subject matter can add a better understanding of formal structure. You can sometimes use the body as a reference point for your ideas.

Landscape, working with both exteriors and interiors to explore depth and spatial relationships.

Personal Work / Thematic Concentration: work based on imagination, personal interests and ideas, and exploration into selected subjects.

The Sketchbook is one of your most important tools as an artist. A sketchbook is your diary/journal. It is not uncommon for a student to include some of their strongest from a sketchbook in an admissions portfolio.

Choice of Medium: some portfolios have a medium concentration (such as photography, graphic design, or digital animation) to emphasize one’s own personal interests.

The Series, or “Body of Work.” Working in a theme or in a series can help you find personal focus, add a sense of cohesiveness, and identify strengths or possible future topics.

Portfolio Context and Arrangement

Think about the portfolio as a written essay: each piece placed in your portfolio is a like sentence in that essay.

Or, think about the portfolio as a musical composition. This can be especially helpful if your work tends to be more expressive or abstract. Try to identify relationships through rhythm, pattern, tone, and color.

Or, think about your portfolio as a solo professional exhibition. Imagine how to arrange the “body” of work for display. What is the first piece you would like the viewer to see? What is the last? Do not just put all the best work in the beginning, or at the end; try to balance your entire portfolio. Attempt to start off strong and end strong.

Just because a school requires a maximum amount or 20 pieces doesn’t mean you might also consider the minimum amount of 10-15 pieces. You do not want to put in “filler” work – work that is unfinished, work that is older than two years, or work that does not relate to the bulk of your portfolio. Including work that you do not feel strongly about can sometimes weaken the overall presentation. You want to make the best impact that you can.