Art & Design Portfolio Reviews

Transfer students: A portfolio review is required for these programs:
  • Art Education
  • Design
  • Studio Art
  • Visual Communication Design

First-year students applying to art & design programs do not require a portfolio review for admission, just for a scholarship.

There is no portfolio requirement for the Art History major.


  • Submit the appropriate application: First-time students | Transfer students
  • Schedule your portfolio review
    • Timing: Reviews are held from fall to spring. All review dates will close two weeks prior, so please register early.
    • Format: In-person, with a virtual option if you cannot make it to one of our in-person dates. For a virtual option, email Amanda Hayes at
  • Upload any relevant materials to your Admissions Dashboard

Schedule Your Portfolio Review

Select a review date


Virtual portfolio review

Applicants who would like to complete a portfolio review virtually can complete our virtual portfolio request form. Once this form is completed, a new box will appear on the applicants Admissions Dashboard where portfolio pieces can be uploaded. Please plan to submit all pieces of work at once. 

Once your portfolio is submitted, our faculty will review it. If you would like to accompany your portfolio with an interview, please email Mitch Messina at

Portfolio Review Process

What to include

A strong portfolio includes 7-10 pieces, at least some based on direct observation from life (as opposed to photographs). We recommend portraits and self-portraits, drawings of hands and feet, landscapes, perspective drawings and a well-composed still-life. Do NOT include pieces that are copied from published photographs, advertisements, logos, copyrighted characters, etc.

In addition a strong portfolio should demonstrate your artistic spirit and personal creative direction within your area of interest.

The portfolio is evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the elements of art and principles of design (dynamic, balanced composition).
  • Idea development (content is inventive; the piece communicates an idea).
  • Craftsmanship (evidence of skill; technique enhances the meaning of the art).
  • Presentation of the portfolio (professional, clean, well-organized); electronic and slide portfolios must have documentation of images, and the images must clearly and accurately represent the work.

The pieces chosen for your portfolio should include:

  • Your strongest work.
  • At least three different media (pencil, charcoal, pen & ink, pastels, acrylics, water color, collage and some three-dimensional work if possible: clay, metals, etc.) Photography and digital work can also be included.
  • Drawings from life (still life, self-portrait, figure drawing, landscape).
  • Thematic projects showing the development of concepts.
Basic drawing from life

Pencil, charcoal, graphite, pen & ink

  • Heads: life-size from a variety of angles, not just head-on.
  • Figures: If it is possible, the ambitious student may want to take a figure drawing course. If not, clothed figures are fine.
  • Page of life-size hands: drawings of the student's hand in gestures.
  • Self-portrait: life-size, showing at least the student's head and drawing hand. (The student must give some thought to lighting, what to wear, background, etc.)
  • Perspective Drawing: a view down a hallway with lots of detail or the exterior of a complicated building, rendered beautifully. Combine lines with tonality and a sense of atmosphere.
Three-dimensional works
  • Realistic sculpture of a head in clay
  • Thrown ceramic forms exhibiting inventive form/surface relationships
  • Expressive or symbolic self-portrait in clay or other 3D materials
  • Interpretation of an object using found objects
  • Planar interpretation of a tool or musical instrument (e.g. using cardboard)
  • Linear interpretation of a tool or musical instrument (e.g. using wire)
  • A container emphasizing interior/exterior relationships
  • A wearable piece that exaggerates or visually alters the body
  • A wearable piece designed as a tribute to an artist
  • A surrealistic architectural space constructed of clay, metal, wood, etc.
Thematic projects

Consider the following thematic projects done in drawing and painting, printmaking, and or digital imaging:

  • Realistic color landscape: with pastels (from observation, not photos).
  • Fauve landscape: Look it up. A good companion piece for the realistic landscape done with more expressive strokes and more emotional use of color.
  • Creative still-life: One that says something about the student - items should go beyond the usual vases, etc.
  • Cubist still-life: A variation on the usual realistic image after the student has some knowledge of what the Cubists were doing with form, color, texture, etc.
  • Surrealism: Explore juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects to create symbolic imagery.
  • Expressionism: An emotional piece influenced by German Expressionism.
  • Abstraction based on forms, textures, shapes, etc. Elements of the subject matter, whether it is landscape, still-life, machinery, architecture, etc., can be reordered, transformed, echoed, amplified, severely cropped, and exaggerated in many ways.
  • Grid drawings or designs.

Portfolio tips

Tips from Mitch Messina, art and design professor, who reviews art portfolios:

  • Be yourself. Every student and every portfolio is different and individual. No two portfolios will or should look the same; they reflect the fact that no high school programs are the same in terms of preparation.
  • You are encouraged to submit your best work and to try to demonstrate that you have some understanding of foundations and principles of art.
  • The portfolio review is not intended to exclude students from attending Nazareth. Instead, think of it as a way of ensuring that you have the tools for success, not unlike the way that your school transcript indicates that you are academically ready and prepared to enter college.
  • The Art and Design Department wants every student to succeed and not struggle. If the department feels that you need more work to prepare for the rigor of college work, we can give that advice as a recommendation before entering the college and department.
  • The portfolio review also gives the Art and Design Department an opportunity to recognize special talent and dedication to the art field with a talent scholarship that would not be recognized in the traditional academic transcript.
Portfolio examples


For technology issues, questions about the admissions process, or questions regarding your application:

For questions related to the art & design department or portfolio material:


Each portfolio submitted for review, as part of the admissions process, is evaluated for its quality to determine admission into a program and for possible additional scholarships.