Sunday, July 31, 2011

So you want to be a CalArts-tian well whoop-de-Do

Hey there people of the world! Prospective students of the Wonderful craft of animation! WELCOME, WELCOME!!!!!

So many people have asked me the same question. "How do i get into Cal Arts?" You have no idea how many people want to get into CaArts. And they all are doing what I did and what you should be doing. And that's find students that went to Calarts, and hound them. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, heck I did it, and that's what helped me get in. The only thing is that it gets old typing the same advice over and over again to new prospective student, so I created this step by step of what I did, not saying that you should do all this, but this is the advice I got and how I used it. enjoy and I hope this helps!

 here are links to important advice and products you might need to make your portfolio.
things you need to know about making a cal arts Portfolio...

1. Do you love animation, do you want to spend long hours with pinched wrists and hand spasms, as you tirelessly draw the same character over and over again with a dead line in the back of your mind?

2. Do you have the will power to stay up all night and work on something that will only last a couple minutes on the big screen??

3. Does everything I'm saying make you more excited about animation than discouraged???

... well then you are a true animation student in the making, but don't say I didn't warn you!

So this is what you must know if you want to make the most presentable of entrance portfolios for Cal Arts!

Before you go out and buy a fancy plastic black book portfolio with see through plastic slips in it to hold your art in, you must remember to be yourself, and not what Calarts simply wants you to be, because if you are ready to be at this school, they will want YOU. You simply need to be your unique self.
But as a warning to you, you must not rely on talent alone to get in. You have to try harder then what you can do, and give only your best.

The next step is to go out, buy a sketch book, or use the one that you already have and start drawing in it. Draw everything you see, draw your house, or what is out side, or what ever comes to your head, and use this as a journal a way of expressing what you have in you, like ideas, characters you've made of doodles you want to draw. Let this be the real "hey I am unique and I have a vision as an artist." if you end up having multiple sketch books like this, then just choose the best one you have and turn it in. Don't give the teachers too much to have to look at.
Next you want to find a local place where there are nude models that you can draw. These are called life drawing classes. if there are none around you or if you have conservative parents, that's no problem, I didn't go to life drawing classes myself. I got all my life drawing from having friends pose for me at school (fully clothed) and I used websites online. Here are the ones that i used,

These where where I got a bulk of my life and figure drawing from.
And when drawing your life drawings, please DO NOT TRY TO COPY THE MODEL EXACTLY!!!!! Cal arts want to see that you understand the body enough to deform be creative with it. NO STIFF DRAWING THAT LOOK academical!!!! make them loose and show movement. when you are drawing a figure you are drawing a VERB not a NOUN. be colorful and experiment with the mediums you use. I mostly used $5 watercolors set from my local arts store, and they worked just fine, i also used charcoal and a lot of other things. Remember to draw movement in the character you are drawing. AND APOVE ALL STORY!!!!!
Another thing you should do is go to your local zoo if you can, and draw animals. Cal Arts Loves drawings of animals.
But in the end after you have drawn all your life drawings and figure drawings, have gathered a couple of pieces of personal artwork that you think represents you the best, and having had filled a sketch book up completely with drawings personal and life oriented, then it is time to edit yourself.!!!!!!

Next Step... EDITING!!!! Calarts character Animation is a department based on good art but most importantly good story telling. So when ordering your Portfolio it is very important that you don't just haphazardly through you pieces in the portfolio and turn it in. You must organize them in a way that each drawing goes with the other drawings and in a way that it tells a progressive, but not having to be a literal, story. Start with a drawing that you think is maybe your second best or one of your best, and then take your 15 best life drawings or figure drawings and order them appropriately until you end with a strong piece as well. it is possible to have 25 drawing or 30 but I would not exceed that amount. QUALITY over QUANTITY.!
Now all you need to do is put your name and address on your portfolio(s) and sketch book(s) and you are ready to go!
If you have any other questions about Cal Arts or how to get in, i recommend you check out these websites...
the ones above...
and if you have anymore questions don't hesitate!
Good Luck and God Bless!!!


  1. Thank you, this is extremely helpful! Time to start life drawing like crazy.

  2. Thank you for this advice. Does CalArts have an illustration program?

  3. Thank you so much! I'm going to work so hard on my portfolio! Great advise! Thank you for the links~

  4. Hello, I'm curious as to what size(s) for the portfolio and the sketchbook are acceptable for CalArts?

  5. You forgot to mention stuff like XD Interesting approach, Miss Portlynn! See you in September!

  6. I'm actually in the process of starting my portfolio for application. This has been EXTREMELY helpful and it's always good to get the insight from someone who's currently in the system. Thanks for this informative tip, I will keep it in mind!

  7. Hi! Your guide is extremely helpful in making my portfolio :) Thank you so much! I am having trouble with writing an artist statement, though. Can you provide me with any uhh... guide questions please? The site wasn't much help -_-

  8. As some of you ardent drawers are aware of, the dean of calarts character animation sent an email of a detail explaination of what they want to see from our portfolios (Not sure though if it is legit). He claimed that we should draw hands, heads and feet as we draw postures (not so stiff and stifled as Tagavi, the generous madam, says above) to show that you have grasped the basics of drawing. Everyone, even me, may have difficult time understanding how face, hands and feet are drawn, and that is what they look for, (dedication and comprehension of basics.) The posture that we draw should tell the audience the story. I recommend looking at some of the prominent scuplturer(?) such as Michealengelo and other renaissance artists. Calarts indeed have a hefty tuition for us to pay, but I have heard of hearsays that it totally worth paying it, unless you are lazy and not as passionate as the alumni of calarts.

    google woahreferences calarts animation and look for yourself for more ideas. :D

    I am still a student who have recently graduated from high school, and thus far I have studied anatomy and posture drawing myself (Not easy, cuz I started drawing at my 12th grade year.) I wish some of my info helps and hope we meet someday in Calarts and bring the characters we have created to life! Bye :D -Sketchycut-

    1. And thank you for the information, miss. I hope i will be part of the community with y'all and do all those crazy allnighting project to finish for. XD

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. You have no idea how helpful this was for me! Thank you eternally :]

  11. Hi I have a question. On Calarts's website they mention the portfolio requirements as:
    -minimum 15 observational drawings (pieces of personal artwork)
    -filled sketchbook
    -other work

    So are the observational drawings just the ones you pick from your sketchbook? Or are they more large-scale complete/separate works of art. And if the latter, then do you mail them in with your sketchbook? I'm confused on the way it works. Do they simply look at your blog for the 15 observational drawings / other works (digital art, etc.) and then you just send them the sketchbook? should you also include pictures of the sketchbook in the blog? Also, what do you do to create digital art? I've never used it. Im a sophomore in high school and dont really have anywhere to turn to for these questions. Also, I really need help with life drawing but we dont really do that stuff in class. I realize I really need to step up my game here. running out of time. Any advice helps, thanks! :]

  12. Glad I could help, but something you should know is that you must send all your work into the school, hard physical copies of it. They want your sketchbook, you observational drawings, which are separate from your sketchbook, and anything else that represents you. There is no need for digital work in your portfolio bless you want to do that, but if you don't feel like it's a strong suit of your don't try to make yourself get better at it just for the sake of getting into the school. If you are more comfortable with traditional medium, I would just focus on that. plus if you're just a sophomore you really don't have to kill yourself trying to prepare a portfolio now, cause whatever work you make this year will be crap compared to next year when you're skills have gotten better, and even that won't be as good as your skills your senior year. So I wouldn't sweat it now. If I was you I would just take the time to get better as an artist for yourself, don't concentrate on Calarts, focus on reading good books that you can learn animation and art from. Anatomy is extremely important, and being yourself and having somewhat of your own voice about things is what matters. Hope that helped some. Good luck

  13. hey portlynn, very greatful for this blog post, but just a note. just recently (i think, the last 1 or 2 years) calarts switched to a digital portfolio format. everything is digitally submitted except for the sketchbook. they won't even take physical copies. you have to scan or photograph anything in the portfolio

  14. After reading this Im assuming I will not get in this year. I did everything you said except deforming the human figure while drawing. I'm gonna die. Help.

    1. You don't really have to deform the figure. It should just feel like you know what the figure is and that you know how to exaggerate it in your storytelling poses.

      also... this is kind of an outdated post. the rules and guidelines for applying have changed since I was a freshman. So take this post with a grain of salt in terms of the exact thing I did for my portfolio.

      Good luck I'm sure you'll do fine!

  15. Does CalArts need the A-G college requirements to get in?