Looking into Art Universities: Highschool senior


I was considering that, until I looked at the animations coming out of RISD. They are, to put it nicely, very conceptual. To put it more bluntly, they really suck.

I come from a fairly similar background, and will be attending California College of the Arts next year. They have a somewhat stronger academic focus than most art schools (50 liberal arts and science credits to seventy five studio credits; eighty/forty is more common), and an animation faculty drawn almost exclusively from Pixar. They also tend to be vary generous with scholarships for those with good grades and test scores.

If you want to combine an artistic and technical focus, CMU and (I think) Yale are both worth looking at. They combine excellent technical training with good art programs, and and have at least some classes focused on combining the two.


You’ll have to do a bit of digging, but the best repositories I know of are at ca:
accepted portfolios: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=128605
ringling: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=134784
art center: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=24843
ccad: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=45792

Just search for portfolio at ca, and you will turn up hundreds of thread such as these: http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=153633

Google the name of your school of choice + portfolio and there are many, many blogs out there that post work of both students who did and did not get in.

You should be able to get a good idea of what your competition will be like


While those are good recourses (and I’m not just saying that because I started one of them), they can be excessively intimidating. Generally speaking, the people who post on CA.org are among the best applicants to a school. This year, every single person who posted a portfolio on CA was accepted.

So, if your portfolio isn’t quite up to the level of those posted on CA.org, I wouldn’t despair; you still have a very decent chance of getting in, especially with your grades. Still, it’s a good mark to aim for.


I would agree that RISD is not a top choice school for 3D related subject matter - it is, however, a good place for foundations, which the OP might need to establish. It’s always hard to decide on the perfect school - in point of fact, one doesn’t exist.

LA is a good place to be because there are so many options for schooling here. In the end it’s down to a personal choice.


The Southern Cali, or LA area would bea good choice for me since I live there. Any suggestions and explanation of the local schools?

I heard from razorbc that Carnegie’s CFA was a lot of abstract, not what I;m looking for kind of art. I don’t know what that exactly entails. It looks like ag ood school though, and I’m thinking about joining the bagpipe program there.

Any thoughts on USC? I’m really interested in their Interactive Media section, but still unclear as to what it is really. It alked to an alumni who’s from my highschool and from the USC’s Interactive Media and he said its good, but he went there in its infancy.

And am I wasting my time learning Graphic Design? (Package designs, buisness card designs, logos, etc.)


There are many threads with discussions that are similar to this one - I’d recommend trying a search using Google:

site:conceptart.org + Ringling (for example)
site:conceptart.org + Savannah College of Art (for example)
site:conceptart.org + USC

site:cgsociety.org + Ringling(for example)
site:cgsociety.org + Savannah College of Art (for example)
site:cgsociety.org + USC

I’d recommend using this search method in general but in this case there are many, many threads with school related questions and you can glean a ton of information by running some simple searches.


In regard’s to what I’m doing now, here’s the full list of quick pix from what I did until now in the drawing and painting portion of the art studio I’m going.to. In general, most of this is rushed since I have only 5 months to get any portfolio going. A lot of the work is taken from looking at already done stuff and copying, mixing it up here and there.

All in roughly chronological order.
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00220.jpg A pumpkin, in a bowl, not Like a Boss Practice
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00220.jpg A can and apple. Practice
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00232.jpg Still Life Drawing (had teacher to help out with touch ups.)
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00231.jpg Still Life 2 ditto above
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00222.jpg Ear, noses, eyes practice
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00226.jpg Bottom body, arm practice
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00228.jpg Legs torso practice
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00223.jpg Copy practice from another source
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00224.jpg Face practice ditto above, not done
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00225.jpg A face (practice, I don’t know if this is portfolio material.)
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00227.jpg Female nude (copied from another source.)
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00229.jpg Male figure
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00230.jpg Female figure (nudity)
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00218.jpg Painting practice 1. First time with acrylics as a teenager in learning environment. The pumpkin didn’t turn out as good as I wanted it to.
http://http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/DSC00219.jpg Painting practice 2 Day Two. Got better, but used wrong brush, and I’m still unused to the painting as opposed to me using photoshop to paint.

The Maya work I did at iD Gaming Academy (not in any chronological order)

http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/CharacterWalkCycleFinal105.jpg Character walk cycle
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/CharacterCombatSequenceFinal075.jpg Character combat sequence frame
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/GlassVaseTurntable008.jpg Glass vase
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/BrickWalldynamics060.jpg Brick Wall dynamics frame
http://i218.photobucket.com/albums/cc126/PhatPanda117/Spaceship136.jpgSpace ships animation

I’m doing Graphic design too at the art studio, but I feel like its a direction I really am not liking.

It would be great too if I can get some school suggestions and explanations of their programs to look into since I have no idea where to look and WHAT to really look for in colleges or universities.


I’m looking into taking night classes at the Art Center in Pasadena, CA. Are there any courses that could help ground me in basic skills in art? I found Intro to figure drawing, among other things.


Is there any significant difference or information I should be aware about regarding university/colleges that offer foundation classes, like Savannah College of Art and Design or Art Academy in San Francisco? Would it be better if I take the time to go through a regular 4 year college/university and either get a bachelor’s or transfer out midway to art school?


two schools not listed yet. Rutgers has a pretty strong art program with a traditional focus, as well as an animation program.

also the New York Film Academy has an animation program.
It is a tech/ vocational school and might be a great way for you to get deep into animation before or after attending a 4 year liberal arts.

my own two cents is go to a 4 year liberal arts and supplement your art training elsewhere. the liberal arts prepares you for life and its winding curves. it gives you a better chance at navigating career changes and makes adults more capable of continuing to learn new things which is crucial with each new technology development (or software upgrade). If you are smart enough on paper to consider the Ivies, go that route. learn to think in the full depth that liberal arts gives you.

the strongest students i teach (at NYFA) have a technical background plus art skills. yes computer art demands the return of the rennaisance artist. the romantic artists tend to have troubles with the very technical side of computer art. i think the balance of disciplines you get you get from teh 4 year liberal arts give you more choices in life overall.


I’d take a step back and return the Math and Science path you were formerly on if I were you. Art degrees don’t allow for any sort of fallback employment during rough economies or even if your struggling to get in the door at an art job. A four year BFA degree, isn’t going to qualify you in any other industry for higher employment. However, with a Math/Science degree (or a liberal arts degree as suggested above) or no degree at all, you could surely find employment in the art field if you had a talent for it. Honestly, unless you get a full scholarship your throwing your money away at an art school. I’m not discouraging you from persuing art, or a career in the arts, just that full time art school is not a sound investment, and not even necessary. There are obvious exceptions, as I mentioned previously, if you get a full scholarship to a notable art university. Otherwise I’d really re-think the entire decision, even if that meant taking a year off after High School to contemplate your future, which is actually quite a wise idea.

On a side note. It’s always cheaper to affirm residency in the city/state your college is located, a year prior to enrolling. Out of state students usually pay more, even at private Universities. This will give you the opportunity to learn the location, establish housing and even scope out and acquire part time employment before studies start which will be useful to return to during the summers/holidays or if the school allows it, part time in between classes. Not to mention, establishing residency, it will likely lower your tuition by a good amount.


I actually live in California.

Jettatore, regarding the math and science path I was referring to mostly that I worked myself over on the more academic side of my secondary school stuff. I think I would fare better in liberal arts.


Hey Brian,

I had a similar experience – going to a school that focused me into humanities and sciences, I decided I wanted to learn CG and go to an art school. Like you, its not that liberal arts scares me (If I weren’t here I’d be studying either english or engineering).

Well, I’ve only been at art school for 2 or 3 months, but I’ve already put significant time into trying to figure out where to transfer to. I had a conversation with my Art History teacher a few nights ago in which she explained to me in depth the reasons why I will never find the intellectual stimulation here at art school that I want and, I now realize, very much need.

Art schools do not accept students based on academic rigor, writing skills, critical thinking abilities, etc. They focus entirely on portfolio. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes a problem. Any non-art classes in the curriculum are usually there only because to get a BFA program certified, there needs to be a certain number of humanities/science programs. So the kids in these classes become not people who are interested in the subject matter, but people who need the credits and don’t really care whatsoever about the course. The teacher will have to lower the course’s content dramatically in order to make it teachable to an excruciatingly broad audience.

When I was in high school, I was surrounded by people who cared, people who wanted to learn, and people who participated in and were thrilled by open class discussion. I didn’t put much credit in this because it was always there. Well, theres a lot of merit to that.

Another thing that has happened since I got here is that I have arguably learned more from books and tutorials that I find on the servers than I have from my teachers. I can’t speak for all schools, but, at least here, the environment is absolutely not one of conducive learning and improving. The feeling is that we are all artists, but some are better than others and some are worse. It is a really de-humanizing feeling. Art school feels less like a place people go to learn art, and more like a place that young artists go to do art and maintain their current skill levels.

I am currently across the country, but am originally from Seattle. My interest in CG stems from my desire to work on videogames. I am planning on dropping out next year and applying to Digipen. This may seem backwards, since they are a school completely focused on gaming, rather than on a broader, more liberal arts approach, like I crave. However, they are one of very few schools that I know of that have very strong physics, math, and engineering departments (as well as an english minor :slight_smile: ) and that will completely cater to my desire to make art for games.

I know I might not have the most experience on the matter. However, my advice is this: do not choose a college based primarily on what you want to do in the future. Choose a college based on the kinds of classes you really are interested in taking. If you enjoy psychology and writing, but want to do VFX in hollywood, don’t discard you academic interests for a career oriented one. Find a school that will teach you all three.


Of course you’re gonna learn more from tutorials and books than from teachers.
Why? Because you can personally spend hours upon hours doing it. A teacher has an entire class to manage and can not entirely cater to every persons needs in one class period.

I know you feel that SVA focuses entirely on artistic ability and not academics but thats what it is man. If you’re an artist and you come to this school. THIS is your DREAM. No one here is here for the academics, hence why they don’t even look at your SAT’s. I’m sorry you’re so disappointed that there aren’t any hardcore writing and psycology classes, but no one in art school is gung ho for either. You’re a freshman. Since you are a computer art student, your English and Art History classes are bullshit filler classes. If you were an Art History student, your Art History class would be challenging. The school plans around your major.

There are teachers at SVA who went to Harvard, who teach humanities, and are serious about what they do, and they challenge you and assign you tons of homework. But that’s not what the average art student wants when they have a thesis to make, or 20 illustrations to draw, or 300 pages of inbetweens to animate. You come to find that you’re art is more important and will get you the job, not some 20 page paper on “Candide”.

If you want to go to Digipen then be my guest. But do not expect some magical place where they do art and humanities at the same level. Remember, Digipen is not an art school. Instead of art, its game programming and scripting. Sure, they have a game art program but it is completely inferior to the game art program you can do at SVA.

You need to step back and think to yourself. Do I want to make art for games. (Modeling, Level Design, Texturing) or do I want to code games.

Also, I have a question. Where the heck did you go to Highschool?

“When I was in high school, I was surrounded by people who cared, people who wanted to learn, and people who participated in and were thrilled by open class discussion. I didn’t put much credit in this because it was always there. Well, theres a lot of merit to that.”

I wish I could have had that experience but at SVA you still get that exact experience but with art. Im sorry that there are not many people at SVA as thrilled about learning humanities as you but those people are everywhere and it’s not like going to Digipen will change that. You have to focus at being the best artist you can be here. No one will do it for you. At Digipen im sure a majority of your classes will be filled with kids disregarding their humanities classes and focusing on their coding and programming homework.

If you want to be an artist then be an artist. If you wanna go to school for psychology then go do that. You can not expect to be an expert in both fields.

You haven’t even hit your second semester yet. You haven’t taken any “real” classes.
Do not feel so underwhelmed when your schooling hasn’t even really begun.


This isn’t “my dream.” It is one of my interests that I’ve chosen to pursue.

I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into being a less rounded person just to get a certain job. 2 years ago I would have told you I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world. 4 years ago I might have told you that I wanted to study high level physics. I no longer know if I am interested in going to school to learn a specific trade.

The point of bringing up Digipen was not to compare it’s artistic merit to that of SVA. I left out the name of my school intentionally to avoid this discussion. However, Digipen is not exclusively a game programming and scripting school. Also, SVA does not have a game art program. SVA’s program apparently caters to the film and animation industries. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, since it translates over, but I’m just saying.

One of my complaints about SVA is that I am no longer sure I want to be at an art school whatsoever. This isn’t something that you can relate to yourself, I’m sure, and it’s possible that for most people on this forum, the fact that I would trade a BFA for a BA makes no sense. However, for the Original Poster, I think this topic has merit.

International Community School. It was a very small 7-12 charter school with a very focused humanities/sciences curriculum and stellar teachers (as well as 5 years of mandatory art classes).

I am 18 years old, and fresh out of high school. I have had very minimal experience with life in general, and have no real way of knowing what I want. And that’s what this discussion, for me, essentially breaks down to.


Your argument is totally valid. Its an argument that comes up time and time again.
I mean when I applied to colleges I applied to many high end robotics programs. I got into every single school I applied to.

What I gathered from working in the last year and listening from a lot of great teachers I had. In this industry, there is no room to breath in a way. You have to either go big or go home. Its too competitive of a field to not give 100% of your energy into making a great demo reel.

The point is, if you want to be a game ARTIST. Your art has to be at production level when you graduate to get a job.

The question you should ask yourself isn’t whether or not you want to go to an art school. It should be whether or not you want to be a Game Artist.
If you crave sciences and physics then you should go to Digipen. But not for content creation. Go there for programing.


Well, there are a lot of different positions for game artists, and they each require very different skills from a wide swath of areas. Really, to find my way in life the way you suggest, I should find a position in a specific company’s workflow and focus entirely on fulfilling that position so that I can take that specific person’s job. My point is that what you are saying is, I think, a bit absurd and over-focused.

How can you know what you want to do already? How can you be willing to spend 4 years driving yourself nuts spending 80 hours a week doing whatever it takes to do that one thing? I feel like the scenario you are setting up is one that may apply to some people, but only a relatively small portion of the young-adult population – those who actually do have a very specific dream, and one that they know they will enjoy pursuing.

There are most definitely times to focus and times to learn trade skills. I am not arguing against that.

What I am suggesting to the Original Poster is that by taking a broader course, you will get the chance to explore your interests. Moreover, by focusing on learning the things that really deeply interest you, instead of focusing on learning the things that will get you a certain job, you will find out what job is really right for you (what job will make you happy). Additionally, you will be training yourself in your interests as you find your way towards that end goal.

And honestly, if you are under-trained in specific skills for that job (example: 3d modeller) you can pursue those trade skills in much more focused ways, at schools with shorter programs (example: gnomon or VFS).

It might cost more and take longer, and is definitely a trade off (by no means always the best choice), but I think that, for me at least, it seems like a much better way to go.

On that note, with both of our arguments presented, I really think we should avoid turning this into a one-on-one conversation. Can we get back to the Original Post now?


Go to school to learn the craft, get some academic instruction, and get life experience. You can learn everything else at the cost of a couple late fees at your local library.


If anything, right now College apply list looks like this:








Carnegie Mellon University

And I want to posit that I am coming from a high school filled with above-average (mostly Asians, and this is demographically) academic achievers (this includes the gangsters who aren’t really gangsters and cheerleaders and nerds and everyone else), so I am not entirely opposed to a broad education on top of said art education. and that I do not have a portfolio, and that I feel I do better with intimate classroom environments with an involved teacher rather than just words on a page. I think sometimes some tutorials do miss something that I cannot see.


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