Writing a personal statement
HOW TO WRITE AN ORIGINAL ART & DESIGN OR ARCHITECTURE PERSONAL STATEMENT
Writing a personal statement for an art or design course? Your portfolio will usually be the key factor when universities are making offers, but the personal statement is your opportunity to give them a glimpse of your creative potential.
We asked art and design admissions tutors what they're looking for in your personal statement - here's what they told us.
What art and design tutors are looking for:
Stay on task, focus it and try and get across your personality and your commitment and enthusiasm for the subject. I love to see some notion that you’ve done something off your own back, like relevant books you’ve read or exhibitions you’ve visited, and how this has informed your own practice. I’m especially impressed when applicants make reference to items they’ll be bringing in their portfolio and write about their approach to a project and what their influences are. I find this very insightful and it makes us feel we really want to meet you. Giving us a sense of where you see yourself going in the future is great too. David Mcgravie | School Of Creative Arts Associate Dean - University Of Hertfordshire
The underlying message is that tutors want to know about you, your practice, your inspirations and your aspirations, and for your personal statement to act as written accompaniment to your portfolio and performance at interview.
How to make your art and design statement stand out
Admissions tutors prefer to read personal statements that don't stick to a predictable formula - here are a few tactics to ensure yours packs a punch.
Focus on the course: Martin Conreen, design admissions tutor at Goldsmiths, University of London, urges applicants for design courses 'not to over-mention art' but to stay focused on design. He also feels some applicants waste too much space on non-relevant factors like their sporting achievements.
Your influences: Martin adds he wants to hear who your influences are, why they inspire you and 'how their work has resonance with your own, or with your own ideas'.
Examples of what inspires you: David Baldry, fine art course leader at University Campus Suffolk echoes this: 'Tell us what inspires you. We want to know what contemporary art interests you, so talk about key artists or an exhibition that made an impression on you. We want to know how you respond to the world creatively, so talk about your experiences or projects you’ve developed independently. Also, edit it so it sounds punchy'.
Demonstrate your artistic ambitions: Alison Jones,fine art admissions tutor at Goldsmiths, is looking for 'interesting individuals who have a passion for art and a commitment to developing themselves as artists. Therefore your personal statement should demonstrate an understanding of your own work, focusing on what is unique about your practice.'
Be original: starting your statement with a well-known quote - such as 'fashion is not something that exists in dresses only' - is inadvisable. 189 applicants quoted that exact Coco Chanel snippet last year, so it really won't make you stand out from the crowd.
It's all summed up nicely by Arts University Bournemouth whose advice is: 'Be focused on the field you're applying for (no scattergun approach), name artists or designers you admire, think contemporary, reflect on exhibitions or galleries or events you've visited and don't think "I'll tell them at the interview" - put it in the statement!'.
Art personal statement help checklist: This is only a guide
You should begin with an opening paragraph that really captures/summaries why you want to study Art, or what you are inspired by or passionate about within the arts: It could also be a quote which you can expand on:
My imagination has always been an incredible driving force in my life, and has done and still does have influence on almost everything I do. It has always been the most natural and easiest way for me to express myself.
Art has always been a massive part of my life. I remember my first painting and I remember how I wished I had more time to make it better. Even as a child I strived for the best from my work. I prefer Fine Art to anything else, as fine art to me has more potential in it to embrace the artists’ emotions and can contain more depth and concept than any other media.
In my opinion art was best defined by Lawrence Weiner in his 2005 piece, which stated 'Bits &
Pieces put together to form a semblance of a whole.' I believe that this is all that art is,
and whether the intent is to form aesthetic beauty or allow a meaning to be shown the
statement still applies. Conceptual art is astounding for me despite its media backlash; From
Michael Duchamp's 'fountain' to Tracy Emin's 'my bed.' Both of which I have seen and pieces
like this make you question what is considered art.
To me, art is like a mystery which is to be solved. I see an artwork as the concentration of an idea or concept into a physical entity. The idea or concept is rarely evident through just looking at piece; it requires analysis or scrutiny to interpret it
Why have you selected this course and the university?
Did you visit it? Describe your experience, what you liked, what you saw, how you felt
What you are studying, describe your interests, talk about topics, themes, do you make links with your other subjects within your art projects? Describe your Art skills, your strengths, describe your themes and describe your artists, your inspirations.
Government and Politics A-Level has largely influence my artwork, for example my Unit 3 work
is based on contemporary issues such as politics and conspiracy theories, in which I am
exploring 3D work inspired by Terence Koh, and Franz West, using media such as Perspex and
mirror. Also, my Unit 1 piece was based on children and their unawareness of culture; this was
inspired by Psychology A-Level which in the first term was about childhood attachments, and
parental roles. For my final outcome I created a life sized image of a child on segmented
pieces of wood, this suggested that we are, ourselves, bits and pieces put together to form a
Other experiences you have had, other interests you have outside of school
Describe gallery visits, extracurricular, do you help out in art clubs, have you won competitions
Concluding paragraph: Why you? What are your goals?
My ultimate goal is to have a job in a creative profession, whether that is as a curator,
educator or professional artist. I believe that a degree course in Fine Art would help me
achieve this. Fine Art interests me because after viewing degree shows in many universities, I
realize how broad ranging and technical the subject is, I am excited to explore these aspects.
my varied experiences have equipped me with abilities that match this criteria, with good communication
and lateral thinking skills. As a student of architecture, I will endeavor to approach this
discipline with a forward thinking and determined attitude, ensuring my successful completion
of the course.
In the file below is examples of 6 students personal statements who applied for Art and Design or Architecure courses: