For the past five decades, Sheridan College has undoubtedly become one of the best animation schools in the world. Its four-year Bachelor of Animation program is well-known for being synonymous to the word “intensive.” With only a few slots for students available each school year, applicants from all over work hard to compile winning portfolios.
And Winged Canvas alums Andrew Chang, 18, and Samantha Chow, 19 proved that hard work really does pay off.
For both artists, animation has been a huge passion since their younger ages. Attending extracurricular art classes and sketching just for fun, both Andrew and Sam decided to follow their dreams. And, unsurprisingly, their formulas for getting accepted into the animation program involved two key components: practice and a keen attention to detail.
While Andrew spent much of his time honing his skills by starting his art portfolio early, Sam took a gap year to pursue more art mentorship programs to help finesse her life drawing skills. Although there is no set in stone way to guarantee an acceptance, here are some tips that helped Andrew and Sam get to where they are today.
Why did you want to go into Sheridan’s Bachelor of Animation program?
Sam: Ever since I was a young child I was really into designing characters and environments, and giving these characters their own story. So I thought Sheridan had a really excellent program to teach me how to storyboard and how to put my skills into practice where my interests lie.
Andrew: As a kid I always liked drawing and I would always draw in my notes in class. I did some drawing classes once in awhile. At the end of the day, art was always my passion so I always went back to it. I had a particular interest in animated films, so I decided to be an animator.
What was the application process like?
Sam: It was very simple but you also had to do a lot of research yourself based on some examples of previous applicants who got accepted, just to know what they’re looking for. So I searched up Sheridan Animation art portfolios. Most of [the application] is focused on the portfolio itself, rather than your grades. They give you a list of all the requirements and you just have to go through each one carefully, making sure that you don’t give them the wrong file format. I thought overall it was a simple, easy process.
Andrew: You had to make sure everything follows the criteria properly, and try to make it flawless. Just get a general idea of how the portfolio’s going to be like, so by the time you have to submit it you have it done correctly. Because that’s the most important part: following the criteria.
How long did it take to finish your art portfolio?
Sam: Approximately three months. I started in late December and I started with a storyboard first because I thought that it was weighed the heaviest, so I spent the longest on that, and from that point on I spent two weeks on each piece up until the deadline in February. I gave myself a few days before the deadline just in case I wanted to correct any mistakes right before I uploaded them.
Even though it took you three months to get it ready, you were you getting it ready years before with previous pieces?
Sam: For the life drawing pieces, I spent approximately a year doing life drawing and I chose some of my older pieces to put in my art portfolio.
What was the hardest part about creating an art portfolio for the Animation program?
Sam: For me I think it was the storyboard. It took a long time, I spent about three weeks on it, because I had to plan a story based on the two characters provided, which was a possum and a clown. First of all, there were many parts to it. There was a creative scheme as well as trying to find a composition that works for each panel, because it had to show an effective story in just four panels. It was a short storyline: you have to think very carefully about where you place things in the piece.
Andrew: I thought the character design was the hardest. Because it was really hard to find a final design for the character without getting slightly disappointed with the small mistakes. It was also hard to keep the character consistent.
How long did those projects take you? How long did your character design take?
Sam: It took me about a good three weeks because I kept having to scrap things and going over it again. I just wanted something that was effective.
Andrew: It was quite a huge process. I started it the year before when I saw Sheridan Animation and their portfolio. I was just making slight changes to it up until the due date.
What were your lowest and highest scoring portfolio pieces? What did you do well and what could you have done better?
Sam: For me, I got the highest on animation and life drawing. I think it had to do with all the practice I spent, as well as the use of fundamentals. So for life drawing I tried to show a lot of structure, but I tried to be fluid and loose with my gesture drawings. My animation I tried to show the fundamental techniques of animation, such as the squish and squash [movements]. In terms of my lowest scoring piece, it was my storyboard. I scored the lowest because I wasn’t careful with my camera placements, I jumped behind the character as well as in front of the character and that would lead the audience to feel confused about the camera angles. So just be careful about where you’re placing your camera and try to stay consistent throughout the storyboard.
Andrew: I did the best in the short animation, which I didn’t lose any marks off of, which is pretty surprising. My storyboard was also pretty good. Those two were my most time-invested parts of the portfolio, because animations are really time consuming and storyboards requires lots of craft to perfect the story.
What are some of your expert tips for putting together your portfolio?
Andrew: Make sure everything is in the correct spot because I know their format’s a little weird right now on their website.
Sam: I would recommend that you would start life drawing probably a year before, just so you have enough time to ready your skills, because life drawing is a practice and you will have to do it as often for about at least a year, just before you see some good improvement in your work.
Where would you recommend your peers go to get life drawing in the area or other art mentorship programs?
Sam: For me, when I started doing life drawing I usually went locally. I went to the Open Life Drawing at Winged Canvas in Markham, I also went to the Varley Art Gallery, I also went to OCAD. For OCAD and Winged Canvas they had a good schedule for timing for each pose. The acceptance committee likes to see short poses—quick sketches that take about two minutes to draw—as well as a variety of long poses, which are more detailed sketches.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to your younger selves (and future applicants)?
Sam: Number one, don’t procrastinate. Number two make things that you enjoy in your portfolio. The best work is often work that you like and therefore you would put more effort and time towards it. Choose things that you like rather than forcing yourself to adhere to a different style.
Andrew: Draw everyday. Back then I didn’t really take the art portfolio seriously, but the more you practice the more you’ll get better at what you’re doing. It’s repetitive to say draw everyday, but it’s true and without it I wouldn’t have gotten accepted.
So there you have it! If you’re looking to apply for the Bachelor of Animation program, start working on perfecting your art portfolio today. Don’t procrastinate and draw every day. There’s also no such thing as “too little, too late.” If you need more time to craft your winning portfolio, maybe take a gap year or invest in art mentorship programs and practice life drawing. If you can draw the human figure, you can draw anything.
Want even more tips? Check out these five steps on how to build your winning portfolio.