High School Students Interested in Art
October 15, 2020
High School Students Interested in Art
If you fall into the category of high school students interested in art, great! In order to stand out among the competition when you apply to college, you need to hone your craft. You might be wondering how to hone your craft in a way that benefits your future. We’ve outlined 11 ways to work on your talent. Let’s look at your options!
Questions to ask yourself:
To get started, high school students interested in art should ask themselves the following questions:
- How can I explore my interest/passion in art deeper to understand it more?
- How can my love for art help me build competitive college applications?
- What am I doing now to explore this skill and how can I take it to the next level?
- What is unique about my art interest specifically? What is it that inspires me to create art?
- How does my voice/personality/approach to life come through in my artistic expression? Does my artwork connect to an overall theme - ex: environmental awareness/nature?
- Are there any practicing artists I can reach out to for a studio visit to observe their daily life? Can anyone offer me an internship, apprenticeship, teaching assistantship, or even a paid job later?
Developing Your Interest
The following 11 steps can help high school students interested in art discover their niche, hone their skills, and create a unique portfolio.
Set aside time for daily art practice with a project goal in mind
If you hope to engage in direct observation, sketch in nature everyday after school, take your camera with you everywhere, document your discoveries through photography, etc. Experiment with colors and see how they help you develop your idea/themes. Focus on the same subject but represent it in different ways and in various mediums - e.g., don’t just draw your bicycle. You can also do the following:
- An acrylic painting
- Watercolor exploration
- Plaster sculpture
- Ceramic creation
- Found object construction design
- Conceptual piece, photography
- Multimedia work, installation/living art
- Repurposing of recycled items
- A color scheme investigation
- A mural
- A mosaic
- A printmaking block
Mix your media together - don’t be afraid to cross boundaries. The options are limitless. The more you think outside the box, the more you can explore and demonstrate your creative strengths! Here are some great art prompts to get your creative juices flowing and keep up your daily art practice.
Enroll in a local or online art class
Art classes can be found everywhere - your local community college, private art studio, Udemy, Coursera, etc. Get proactive and go beyond just what is available at your school (but be sure to take advantage of those options as well). The more you get out in the world and out of your comfort zone, the more your creativity can bloom, and the more you can experiment in new artistic initiatives. You’ll get your artwork out in the world while also building your network of fellow artistic minds and motivators.
Check out Class Central to start. Some prominent art/design schools, such as Parsons Online Courses and Programs. even offer online certificate programs so you can come away with a great highlight to your resumé in addition to building your portfolio.
Learn More About Art
As high school students interested in art, check out local galleries, art walks, murals, art workshops, museums, online artist galleries/websites, etc. What does their artwork inspire in you and how does it make you feel? Is this feeling what you want to also inspire or aspire to achieve through your own creativity? Read an art history book to learn more about the evolution of art, art movements, art theories and ways to bring creative expression together with an overall understanding of the humanities. This is also a great way to prepare for college-level reading, writing and discourse! I recommend checking out Janson’s History of Art. And here are some great courses online.
Explore ways to connect your interest in art with other activities or interests
Your application persona ties interests together into a signature project. For example, if you are a ballet dancer who also loves sketching and painting, why not observe dancers’ movements in your artwork and/or ask a peer in dance class if you can draw her portrait while dancing? If you are a fashionista and love making your own clothing, why not use this as an opportunity to help your community by volunteering to make prom dresses for low-income students at your school? If you are an aspiring engineer with a panache for sculpture, why not start a club at school for STEM focused students to explore the arts, highlighting the “A” in STEAM? If you love repurposing found objects into art, why not get your school’s earth club, engineering club or community sustainability-focused organization involved? Think creatively, and you’ll discover endless possibilities.
Speaking of clubs - join, start, lead, visit one!
Don’t let your school’s extracurricular offerings limit you - if you love animation, chances are you aren’t the only one, so why not create your own club? Identify a teacher that inspires you and who would be willing to be a faculty sponsor. Or, if that’s not required at your school, do it on your own! Write up your goals for the club, identify target members (start recruiting your friends/peers now), and propose how you can learn more about your interest in art through the club. Then, invite guest speakers, organize club trips, curate an art exhibit together, collaborate with your school newspaper and local art gallery, connect with other related clubs to help with recruitment and promotion, and put your artistic skills to work by making creative outreach materials (make your own postcards to hand out, design a poster to hang up, make a website, etc.).
Create an online website or portfolio
Carbonmade.com is a good place for high school students interested in art to start organizing artwork/ideas. You can also use this to start building a personal website. This can be used for applying to art programs, internships, competitions, and college — so it’s never too early to start!
Review art portfolio examples online to see examples of portfolios, Yours should highlight strengths, and demonstrate variety in your skills, experiments and curiosity. You can start by exploring student portfolios/projects from schools that interest you. Take note of the following:
- Different presentation styles,
- Variety of perspectives
- Diverse strengths in more than one medium
- Observational project ideas transformed into final products
- Exploration of specific themes, and how the artist’s voice is represented through the portfolio.
- Does the work intrigue you to want to keep exploring their work?
(Sidenote - keep everything! It’s tempting to give away your art as gifts or purge it when done sometimes, but first you need to photograph or document it. You never know when you may need it later and don’t want to regret getting rid of it because it may end up being a highlight of your portfolio later.)
Start building your virtual presence through your art
Already have an Instagram account? Why not make a page just for your artwork and art-related endeavors? Or if you like to mentor others, why not start a YouTube channel to teach tutorials or share your love for art history?
And the bonus is, the more you build a community and following through your art (online and offline), the more you can highlight that as leadership, community impact, and sustained commitment in an activity - which is what schools focus on when reviewing your Common App activities list!
Apply to art summer programs and competitions
Not only is this a way to craft your skills, hone your focus, and build your network, but you may also be awarded a variety of amazing opportunities such as cash prizes, scholarships, publications, exhibitions, invitations to art opening events, features on organizations’ websites, and more! And of course, these look great on college applications, while helping you get more involved in the art world. Some top programs to consider are Congressional Art Competition, National YoungArts Foundation, Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
Mentor others with your art skills
Love making designs and working with children? Why not learn printmaking and teach younger kids how to make t-shirts with their own designs? Or volunteer as a teaching assistant in a class you’ve already excelled in. Maybe your art teacher wants to lead your class on a study abroad program —why not ask if you can be a TA? Propose and offer to teach a course at a local community center. Share your love for all things art by helping others see your love - another great way to build community, highlight leadership abilities, gain some future recommendations. You could even feature your students’ art projects in your portfolio, resumé, website, social media and more!
Consider taking AP Art and the AP Art History exams.
Enrolled in AP, honors, or advanced art and art history courses already at school or externally? Self-studying in the arts? Ready for a challenge to demonstrate your knowledge? Ready to put your knowledge of art techniques, practice, movements, theories, and artists to the test (literally)? Then these exams may be a great option for you to show that your artwork and knowledge of art are strong in both quality and quantity (two important aspects admissions officers look for in your experiences) through advanced study, practice, and results-driven demonstration. In preparing for the AP Art courses/exams, you will also build your portfolio.
Exhibit, exhibit, exhibit!
Art is not only a personal exploration and outlet, but also our chance to share a “universal language” with the world by bringing people of all backgrounds together - so get your artwork out there to be seen, noticed, and talked about! It can start on the walls of your school’s art studio class, then transform to your own mural project (why not get a community organization involved to support a cause close to your heart too!), installation commission, Etsy shop (why not sell your work too!), etc. Reach out to local/national/international organizations of interest and purpose your art skills — start within your school and build from there.
Many high school students interested in art don’t even realize all the exhibition opportunities available to them even within their own school. Does your school have a gallery space or exhibition hall? What public walls at your school would make a great mural project space? Does your school have a mural club or project (if not, start one!)? Talk to your teachers and school administrators about exhibiting and creating exhibition space - liven up your school’s lobby space or main office with artwork, propose an art project to a non-art teacher to connect with another subject through the arts. For example, you can create a painting series on European History to feature in your history classroom.
Check out local cafes, libraries, bookshops, recreation centers and even galleries and inquire about the process for exhibiting artwork. Beyond building on your artistic practice and developing your portfolio, you may even be able to also sell your artwork and use the money for college, art supplies, or donate it to an important cause. You can also start with the practical use of art during the COVID-19 pandemic. Love designing patterns? Why not sew face masks with your own designs, brand them, sell them in your community (or online for global potential) and donate the proceeds! The most important thing is getting your artwork out there — no exhibition opportunity is too small or too big!
Since there are thousands of high school students interested in art, you must distinguish yourself from the competition. Use our tips to explore your talent and polish your skills as you develop a unique application angle that separates you from other students. Finding your way to an acceptance letter from your dream school may not be an easy task, but it’s far from impossible. Good luck!