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Flourishing in Folio Subjects: Key Steps

Wednesday 29th, March 2017

Nick McIndoe

Nick McIndoe graduated in 2012 with an ATAR of 99.65. Here, he offers advice on getting through folio subjects unscathed. If you have questions about folio subjects, check out these sub-forums:
Art | Visual Communication & Design | Media | Studio Arts.


Folio subjects are amazing, but they also suck.

Unless you’ve done or are doing one, I don’t think you can really appreciate just how much time and effort goes into constructing a high-quality folio. I studied both Visual Communication & Design and Art during my VCE, so trust me: I know the struggle.

On the plus side, folios typically reflect effort. Put in heaps of effort? Awesome – you’ll probably end up with a grouse end product.

I stumbled upon my VisCom folios the other day, and I was genuinely proud of what I had produced. Of course, to get to that point, I literally sacrificed blood (darn paper cuts), sweat and tears. Many tears.

Here are some things you might like to consider when constructing your folios. I’m going to focus on VCD, because I only did Art 1/2.

1. I PROMISE YOU: IT WILL END

You’re six pages in, and those six pages feel like they’ve taken forever. Then you realise how much more there is to do. You cry.

Or at least, that’s what I did.

But the end will definitely come around – and probably well before you’d imagine. In fact, when the time comes, you’ll probably pine a little more time. And trust me: the sheer satisfaction of submitting your folio after consistent effort throughout the year is pretty incredible. Use this as motivation to keep working throughout the year.

2. DON’T THROW ANYTHING OUT

If you’re a perfectionist – and even if you’re not – you might be tempted to throw out work you perceive to be of poor quality. I mean, it’s understandable. At the end of the day, you’re the one who chooses what to include – so you probably want everything in there to be absolutely amazing.

But like, that’s not really how it works.

Of course some of your work will be of a higher standard. The result of that is that of course some of your work will be of a lesser standard. That’s just how it goes and, in my opinion at least, it’s super important to include everything.

Make a sketch that looks terrible? Great! Include it, and explain why it’s terrible and why you’re not going to pursue it. Then make a better sketch and explain why that one’s superior.

If you think about it, all you’re doing by throwing work away is selling yourself short. There may be occasions where you invest heaps of time into something that just, well, doesn’t work out. But that’s okay, because at least it tells you what doesn’t work for your final product.

It’s sort of like maths subjects – further to the actual answer, you need to demonstrate your working out. Here, further to the final product, you need to show how you go there. And that includes stuff you might not be so pleased with initially.

3. MIX IT UP – TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

It’s natural to always revert back to what you’re best at. For example, I’d naturally lean toward Copic markers, pencil and Photoshop – even still. I’m just bloody terrible with paints and pretty much every other media you could think of, but I pushed myself to at least give them a crack.

Ultimately, different materials, medias and methods will produce different end products – even if they’re only slightly different. And having that variation allows you the choice of how to best progress. It also demonstrates that you’re thinking broadly, are not too focused on one idea, and are willing to push the boundaries.

4. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EFFORT

It’s as simple as that. You can’t cram a folio – it’s just fundamentally not a thing that can happen. If you leave it all to the last month, the quality of your work will reflect that. Invest some time, on the other hand, and you’ll reap the rewards.

By the end of the year, I genuinely enjoyed getting to school early to work on my folio; it essentially became my baby. When you get into this mindset, it’s so much easier to sit down (or in my case, stand up) and keep on chippin’ away.

Use your teachers, too. If you have a good one, ask them questions. Get feedback on your work, and where they think you could improve. Do it constantly. Trust them.

5. REMEMBER THE THEORY

Most folio subjects contain some sort of theory aspect. Yay, theory!

Check out this thread for an overview of the VCD course. And here’s an equivalent for Media. This is the sort of stuff that will move you from a mid-range student to a top-end student.

Ultimately, the end-of-year exam will have a pretty decent influence on your study score. And it kinda sucks, but your performance on that is likely to moderate your SAC results (and folio results) to some degree. As a result, it’s important to give the theory the love it deserves (or at least the love it requires).

Trust me: so many students don’t do this, and suffer as a result. Don’t be one of those students.

I feel you deep in my soul when I say that folio subjects are hard. Ridiculously hard. But you can do it, and consistency is absolutely crucial. Keep working at it and, further even to your actual results, you’ll produce something of which you are extremely proud. That’s pretty nifty.


If you study VCE English, you’ll absolutely adore this English Q&A. 24/7 access, entirely free – what’s not to love?

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