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Students Perfect Portfolios at Tyler Center for the Arts

Students learned tips and techniques from art pro Renee Egan in her "Building a Better Portfolio" camp at Tyler Center for the Arts in Richboro last week.

Want to get into art school? Portfolio requirements vary depending on the type of art institution you set your sights on, but most require 12 to 20 pieces of work, nearly half of which should be drawn from direct observation. The student needs to show strong composition and a wide range of values in the artwork.

Prospective art students often hear the advice: "Draw, draw, draw and then when you're tired, draw some more!"

Last week, students from area high schools did just that in a college-prep art portfolio class. They learned a variety of techniques from artist and instructor, Renee Egan, who teaches a variety of courses in the art department at Ewing High School in New Jersey and at various summer art camps, including at the Artists of Yardley Art Center.

"Art schools are looking at how you use composition that includes proportion, line quality and values from dark to light," Egan said. "They want to see your perspective on things; not someone else's. They want to see how you think."

If you want to attend Tyler School of Art (at Temple University), for example, it will help to have a variety of media (at least 15 pieces) including drawings and paintings and possibly sculpture and photography from the last two years. In addition, Tyler requires a self-portrait in pencil, charcoal or conte crayon drawn from a mirror reflection. Sketchbooks are also an important part of the portfolio review.

Setting your sights on Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)? In addition to a varied portfolio, this highly ranked art school requires a drawing of a bicycle and a second drawing chosen from the following: "25 related images in a single visualization of a single calendar day; visualize the invisible; or an image of water, from an observed body of water."

Applicants usually schedule a portfolio review where the student presents and discusses each piece with a faculty member. The review can be done on campus or at a National Portfolio Day event.

Last week, the students worked on portraiture in charcoal and oil, landscape painting in oil, reflections in silver items, drawing hanging birdhouses in pencil and charcoal — all drawn from observation.

"Art schools want to see if you can draw from real life, and that you're creative as well," Egan said. "They don't want to see things drawn from photographs or copied from books and magazines. They can tell if you've copied something; your work has to be original."

All of the students will be applying to art schools during their upcoming senior year.

Many of the art students plan to take advanced placement (AP) art classes this year including Shannon Fahey (at Council Rock South), Sarah McAlister (at Council Rock North), and Dani Kristich (at Council Rock South). Maura Egan (no relation to Renee) will take an art portfolio class during her senior year at George School in Newtown.

The students were all very enthusiastic about Egan's class and everything they had learned during the week, some of which was brand new to them. Kristich enjoyed oil painting for the first time. All of the students enjoyed painting "plein air" at Tyler State Park.

"Painting outside in the park was a great experience and so much fun," Fahey said. Most had never drawn from a live model.

Egan said she is confident in the girls' talent.

"These girls are exceptional artists who worked hard this week," Egan said. "Each one has her own artistic gifts and style. They all are driven to succeed — I am sure they'll get into a great art school next year."

Shannon Fahey and Maura Egan are thinking of applying to RISD next year. Sarah McAlister likes University of Southern California because she attended a summer camp there. Dani Kristich will look into a couple of the state schools' art education programs.

"We all learned so much this week. I highly recommend this experience to anyone looking into applying to an art program," said student Maura Egan.

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