Author Archives: Julie Read

Taking risks in the classroom/studio

Education very much these days is about getting it right, achieving and moving on. But when did getting it right all the time make for the best outcome?

Certainly in the art classroom and in the life of many artists and designers, getting it wrong can be as much a learning experience as getting it right.

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The Big Draw – drawing techniques

We are excited to be partnering with The Big Draw this year in delivering a workshop online that you can all take part in, for free! Anyone across the globe can take part using your GPS location tracking system on your mobile device along with a simple GPS Drawing app. This type of drawing technique is fun, experimental and really doesn’t require any previous experience.

In true Portfolio Oomph style, we have a free eBook that guides you through the process of setting up the app and using your body position on the earth as your pencil!

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Digital portfolios for art college – Portfolio Oomph’s top 10 tips

From the blog – online hub covering all aspects of applying to art college.

Are your students applying for art college this year? Not all colleges interview every student anymore as the time, costs and organisation involved in this process is immense. Digital portfolios are the way to go!

Some of the colleges now require that you submit an digital portfolio or e-folio that is a representation of your work that is uploaded to their server. This is so that they can make an initial selection of students to interview, therefore if you pass through this selection process then you will be invited for interview. Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art both have this method in place as they struggle to cope with the large number of applicants all coming for interview now that you can make 5 choices of college on your UCAS application.

As we’ve been working with one of our mentoring students last week in finalising his digital portfolio for application to Glasgow School of Art we thought we’d share our top 10 tips for this part of the application.

1. Read the literature from each college on what they need to see for your digital portfolio  in terms of number of images, file size (memory kb etc.) and image size (pixels) – all will be different so you might not be able to use the same images for all the colleges you’re applying to.

2. Check that you’ve got enough work that sits in each category if they specify how many of each they want to see – for example in research, development, final images, time based work.

3. Check to see how they want to see time based work in your digital portfolio (video, film, animation), do they want stills or can you upload a link to Youtube, Vimeo or similar?

4. Take good photos or scans of your work, use lights or photograph outside it it’s light enough! Don’t use a flash if it makes a glare on your work. Focus, focus, focus!

5. If you can make a compilation of images then do so to enable you to include as much as possible in this digital portfolio. You might need to use an image manipulation programme such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements here to get a professional look.

6. If you can upload a piece of text that goes with each image in your digital portfolio to explain it a little do so. Don’t just describe what it is, talk about your ideas, the project and how it fulfills the brief.

7. Don’t upload images that are too small so that when they are viewed they need to be magnified. This will result in pixelisation and really poor quality images. This won’t do your work any justice at all.

8. Seek help of your teachers, technicians or parents, friends etc. who have some digital skills to help you make the very best job of this. If you mess up on this digital portfolio you won’t get a chance to demonstrate face to face why they should be taking you on the course.

9. Don’t leave it to the last minute to upload your digital portfolio as there might be technical issues outwith your control that leave you unable to submit your images to the colleges for their deadline.

10. Final review, does your digital portfolio do your work justice – honestly? If not, re-photograph your work until it does.

Good luck in this first part of your application. Anyone reading who’s already done it? Please give us some feedback on how it’s gone for you!

Visit for more information and resources on applying to art college.

Colour and the figure

Yesterday I was working with my students on figure drawing using colour. Most of the work we’ve done until now has been using the usual monochromatic media of charcoal, inks, conte crayon etc. so introducing colour is always a bit of a challenge.

How often have you really looked at the colour of your own skin close up? Take a wee look now, what do you notice? Of course, it’s not just one colour it’s a variation of colours and it’s not just pink I shouldn’t imagine. What you’re seeing is the transparency of the skin and blood vessels and veins that slow beneath the surface. Equally if you are black, white or Asian, you will see variations in skin tone and colour.

If you’re white you will see anything from pinks, ivories, creams, blues, yellows and purples. It also depends on how warm you are, if you’ve been exercising, how much sun you’ve been exposed to over your life and your general health and wellbeing.

skin tones and colours

Looking at the figure from a further distance, 2 or 3 meters for example as it typical in the life drawing room, the changes in colour and tone correspond to the lighting, shadows and reflected light.

So how can we use these observations and knowledge when we’re drawing the figure?

Well, 2 artists that you’d be crazy not to look at are Jenny Saville and of course the master of figure painting, Lucian Freud. (below)

Lucian Freud

Jenny Saville

Due to time restraints and student experience we have mainly worked with coloured pastels as we only have sessions that last 1hour 45 minutes. If you have more time and are more experienced I would suggest using paints, either watercolours or acrylics and a set of large-ish brushes.

When considering the approach to your life drawing/painting you’ll need to think about whether you want to make your work closely linked to the colours that you’re seeing or to work more freely in a creative sense. In the works of Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud the colours are exaggerated and simplified somewhat, however, this allows us to observe more keenly. Basically we’re looking for neutral colours with hints of these colours that we mentioned earlier; pinks, ivories, creams, blues, yellows and purples that flow from one to another.

Introducing colour in a really simple way by working on coloured paper can be helpful. As is remembering that we’re not only thinking about colour but also tone. It’s worth spending a little time just looking at the model to begin with and making some observations of colour, tone and relation to shadows, highlights and mid tones. Don’t get too bogged down in mixing lots of paint to tackle each colour.

By taking a look at the colour mixes below you should be able to start mixing some basic colours that correspond to the areas of colour and tone that you are seeing. Remember to think also in terms of warm areas and cooler areas in context of light and shadow.

painted flesh tones