Robert McCormack: Getting into Art School!

Robert McCormack shares his experiences in getting into Art School...

Welcome to the shark infested waters of applying to art schools. Watch out it’s not easy, its fraught with danger that could pull you under at any minute… I’m kidding it’s not that bad and actually it’s a lot of fun and a bit of hard work. So you’re applying to Art school? You have decided to take the leap of faith, but what next? How do you actually get into the well defended fortresses that they call Art Schools?

Creating a portfolio that is individual and that reflects your work and inspiration, is really important. This plastic folder and all its contents, is what will help you kick down the doors of those Art Schools. When I started I thought I had a whole year to create my Portfolio. However I only had about 6 months because digital folios have to be submitted to some Art Schools by January. So having an understanding of deadlines is something to watch out for, as making work takes time.   As the deadlines for portfolios moved closer, I don’t think I have ever worked so hard in my life. I was constantly planning and making “to do” lists. One day I would be working on a sculpture in school and then I would go home and paint after tea. The next day I might cast said sculpture or try to figure out how my digital folio might work. It was crazy, but enjoyable as I was doing stuff I love and it all paid off in the end.

For me, having a theme propelled my work. My theme allowed me to make work with meaning rather than just making attractive pictures. Draw, draw, draw! For me drawing is essential. Life drawing was really good because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. This year I went to life drawing every week until Christmas which I think made a huge difference. I have also been making  a sketch a day for about two years, which I think is a really good habit. I think that if you can draw it is easy to apply those skills to sculpture, print, paint or any medium that takes your fancy. Although I applied for painting courses my folio contained sculpture and a combination of drawings, paintings, prints and even sewing. I didn’t want to tie my self down to any medium but to experiment and push my self in a variety of creative directions.

Becoming inspired by artists has made the folio making experience that much more interesting. I tried to look as many artists as I could that related to my theme ranging from Rembrandt to Tracy Emin. I believe that looking at other artists drove my work forward in ways that I never expected. One of my favourite things to do is listen to an artists talk on YouTube while I paint. You learn so much not just about their work but also your own. Here’s an example of the kind of thing I find useful:

I also tried to take part in a lot of courses out side of school that gave me experience in print making and glass work as well as visiting galleries locally and abroad. I think this helped me to broaden my skill sets and encouraged me to experiment as well as improving my understanding of art practice and the context that underlies it.

Art School open days were really useful. I went to open days in my fourth year and this helped me to focus early on. Depending where you live, there are often talks put on by Art Schools about what you can do to get into Art School.  Even up here in the Highlands, the Glasgow School of Art regularly give talks on how you can get into Art School.  I attended two of these and they really helped me to better understand what art schools wanted.

If I was to give any advice it would be to experiment, do lots of drawing and listen to the people around you. I have a fantastic Art Department where all the teachers have been so supportive and invested in my work. I really don’t think I could have done it alone. I really needed the criticism, advice and praise to encourage me to create work for my Portfolio.

Hope this helps. Art schools are hard to get into only about 1 in 10 get in, however if you love this subject and work hard nothing will stop you. All the best if luck.

If you have any questions I would love to chat so just give me a message on Facebook.