"Ms. Brown" by Fredrick Lee (2007 graduate of the Brandeis Art Academy)

“Ms. Brown” by Fredrick Lee (2007 graduate of the Brandeis Art Academy)

  • Get your grades up.

All art schools rank students according to academics, talent and drive. Some schools like LaGuardia won’t even consider students who do not have high test scores and report card grades.

Other schools may not be as demanding about academics if you have talent, but when push comes to shove and there are two equally talented artists; the student with the better grades gets the higher ranking.

  • Improve your attendance. Get to school on time!

Just like your grades, attendance can be used as a deciding factor when ranking students. The schools have access to your test scores and attendance record. That means they know exactly how many times you were late or absent your 7th grade year. Some schools take into consideration students who have improved their attendance from one year to the next and may also ask for 8th grade report cards when auditioning.

  • Learn to draw from observation.

Buy a book, practice by watching YouTube videos, or take a class. In many auditions you must draw a live model and/or a still life. They are looking for correct proportion and perspective, composition, awareness of contrast & value and use of the materials given. You have 20-40 minutes to look at the subject and draw what is in front of you. Drawing is a skill that everyone has the ability to learn. So learn it! Practice it! It’s usually a HUGE percent of the total audition grade.

  • Take an art class, attend an arts summer camp or get an art tutor.

Art classes and summer camps help you build skills needed during the audition and also help create work you can use in your portfolio. Try to find classes that are less “crafty” and more Fine Arts based (i.e.… less lanyards and tie-dye / more drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, digital art, printmaking, etc.) It will most likely be fun and who knows, you may be sitting next to a future classmate!

  • Work on your portfolio.
  1. A) Include drawings from observation (portraits, figures, still life, landscapes, etc.)
  2. B) Show your personality and your creativity.
  3. C) Include your sketchbook. Arts schools love to see that you are interested in art enough to be drawing and creating all of the time.
  4. D) Include class assignments if they are strong. Usually your art teacher knows what they are doing. They want kids to feel successful and love art, so they choose age-appropriate assignments that that students can master (which means they look good). And sometimes your teacher even mats the work!
  5. E) Avoid cartoons or Anime-type figures that you have copied. If you must add this type of art:

1) Make sure in addition to the cartoons, you have other types of art included in your portfolio

2) Include characters that you have invented, not copied.

3) Put the characters in a scene or background.

4) Include written information about these characters.

  • Mat your artwork

Presentation is everything! You wouldn’t go to an interview with ripped up jeans and a dirty hoody. So why send your artwork to a portfolio review crinkled, unfinished and not-matted. Cleaning up your work and matting it (even by gluing it to a sheet of black construction paper) shows that you care enough to take that extra step and it makes your work look better…… a lot better!

  • Talk to students from the schools you want to attend.

There are many arts schools across New York City. Talk to students who go to the schools you are interested in. Find out what they think about the school, what classes they offer, how far the commute is going to be, etc. You would hate to get accepted to a school that doesn’t have a darkroom if you are really interested in photography or a cartooning class if you are passionate about cartoons. You could also ask them what to expect at the audition.

  • Ask the school the best way to prepare for the audition.

Many schools have a link on their website how to prepare for the audition. Some will give you advice if you call or email their assistant principal that is responsible for art. All schools will give you this information at the high school fairs; although, it’s better to start preparing before these fairs, which are held in the fall.

  • Start preparing now.

Don’t wait until two weeks before the audition to get your portfolio together and learn how to draw. START NOW!!!

Good luck. In the end I believe all of the students end up at the school where they were meant to be!