My name is Terry and I’m an animation student at Sheridan.
Below is my accepted portfolio from 2018. I received perfect on everything except for the storyboard portion.
In this post I’m going to explain exactly what Sheridan is looking for in your portfolio and how to get in.
Best of luck!
My Best Advice
If you’re worried about your skill level, so was I.
Before I started working on my portfolio, I never had any formal training. I hadn’t drawn anything seriously either except for just doodling in my notebooks over the years.
My only advantages were that I spent a year watercoloring an Instagram comic about a gay egg and a secret agent chip mouse, and I had dabbled in stop motion animation in highschool (you’ll see some in my portfolio below).
When I handed my portfolio in, I was very nervous, but I ended up getting 95% – and if I could go from zero to 95% in just a few months, so can you.
Here’s How I Did It
First off, the biggest thing that helped me was knowing the general requirements ahead of time and studying other portfolios that got accepted.
If you search “accepted Sheridan animation portfolio” in Google, you’ll come across a whole bunch of images and videos from other students.
Once I got an idea of what I needed to learn, I began to self study and then hired a tutor to speed up the process.
You don’t have to hire a tutor though, I’ve spoken with dozens of other Sheridan students and everyone did something different:
- Some went to art school
- Some attended summer animation workshops that specialize in Sheridan portfolios
- Some came from Sheridan’s Art Fundamentals program
- Some came from other countries
- Some came from other degree programs
- Some just studied completely on their own
If you’re eager to learn and willing to stick your head down and work hard, I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting in. It’s just a matter of learning the right techniques and applying them with your own creativity.
The requirements generally stay the same every year, but the specifics change (example: they may change the action of the hand next year).
The portfolio requirements are sent out in October (or as soon as you apply) and there’s an open house in November where you can line up to get your portfolio reviewed by a prof. I tried to have the first draft of all my portfolio pieces done (even though some were really rough) so I could get pointers on what to focus on. This was extremely helpful. The prof’s biggest feedback for me was to add my own personality to my pieces. She told me to imagine someone else handing in a portfolio that looked the exact same as mine. How would mine stand out?
This is great advice, since the Sheridan profs look over 1,000 applications. They can only spend a few seconds looking at each piece on their first run-through, so make sure yours stand out immediately.
After I edited my pieces with the prof’s feedback, I kept redoing each piece until I was completely satisfied with it. It felt a bit counter-intuitive to redo something from scratch every time I wanted to change something, but I’m glad I worked this way. It taught me to how to draw efficiently, plus each piece improved overall every time I redid it.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with the portfolio is time management, but it’s completely doable. I was working full time (40+ hours a week) and watercoloring my daily webcomic every morning and evening. I found that just a few hours a day was more than enough to work on my portfolio and get it in in time (it was stressful at times though!)
In the next sections, I’ll tell you what to focus on for each piece.
I found this the toughest. You’ve got to convey motion, stance, structure, etc. very quickly. The only way to get good at this is to do it a lot. Sheridan puts a lot of importance into life drawing. In fact, they offer nightly life drawing classes for students to keep practicing.
I found a studio in Toronto that offered life drawing (Toronto School of Art), so I went about a dozen times and practiced all the time at home from YouTube videos (just search for “life drawing” on YouTube). My tutor also helped a lot with pointers and areas to work on.
At the open house, the prof told me to make sure I included all parts of the body (including the private parts, which I was leaving them out for the sake of time) and to make sure I showed construction of the form (specifically the rib cage, the torso pinch, and the shoulder angle).
Sheridan is looking for four life drawings, two 1-3 minute poses, and two 5-10 minute poses. Make sure you label your drawings with the time you spent on them and don’t try to cheat by spending extra time to make them perfect. It’s very easy to tell if someone spent extra time on their drawings, they should look like they were sketched quickly.
Here are my accepted life drawings:
I found this the easiest. There are many hand-drawing tutorials on YouTube that show you the basics. From there I just kept redrawing until I was happy. I took multiple pictures of my own hand for reference and to practice from.
For me, the assignment was to show a hand about to pick up an object and then a hand holding the object. I thought it would be interesting to show a hand squishing some dough, so I made biscuits from scratch and drew my hand holding the dough. Unfortunately it looks like I’m holding poo
After I had the idea for my character, I used two-point perspective to properly construct her from every view. Sheridan wants a front view, 3/4 front view, side view, and 3/4 back view.
From there, it’s just a matter of using a ruler to draw out all the basic shapes (squares/spheres) and then rounding them out and filling in the details. The 3/4 back perspective is the hardest and most closely scrutinized.
Here are some more tips:
- Parts of the character that are closer to the viewer should be thicker.
- The profs want to see consistency between drawings, so it helps to draw the front view first, then extend lines from the top and the bottom of the character onto another page so your character is the same size in the next rotation.
- Consider how weight plays a role in your character, it should look heavy
- Do not pose your character, this is a mistake many students make. The point of this exercise to show what a character in a neutral position looks like so it can be handed to an animator for them to animate.
- The best character designs evoke story. To do this, think of two unconnected elements and combine them into a single character. Some simple examples are a bird that’s afraid to fly (what would she look like?), or a supermodel trash man, or an insect exterminator who keeps insects as pets.
- Don’t get carried away with accessories, the profs are interested in the structure, weight, and proportions of your character.
- This is a great place to showcase your creativity. After looking at thousands of characters, they eventually all look the same, so my robot chicken grandma definitely stood out 🙂
Two drawings with simple two-point perspective are required here. Once I learned the basics of perspective, everything kinda fell into place. To practice, I found pictures of rooms and then tried to copy them using perspective. If you’re just starting out, one perspective dot should be placed off the frame on either the right side or left. The opposite perspective dot should be placed three times as far away on the other side. This will give you a nice looking perspective. From there, just use a ruler to line up all the shapes from where you place them in the frame.
The profs are also looking to see if you can draw things in proportion to one another and also want to see a good variety of shapes and objects on angles. For the room I learned a typical ceiling should be 9ft high and the door 7ft high. They also want to see you layout a scene properly (rule of thirds, etc.) and get creative with what’s in the scene.
Originally I had stiff, Disney-looking characters in my room, but the prof said to redo them in my own style. Also, objects that are closer should have thicker lines.
For me, the assignment was to draw my bedroom and a park. I tried to incorporate a sense of story into the bedroom to make it more interesting. My idea was a teenage kid with some secret wizard powers 🙂
The requirements are to use four frames to create a story (beginning, middle, and end) and to use long shots, medium shots, and close ups.
I found it difficult to come up with an idea in four frames because I wanted it to be simple enough that anyone could understand what was happening at a glance, while avoiding the random twist ending I saw portrayed in most other portfolios (note: twists don’t often work well, because they end up being cliche and disappointing).
I didn’t get perfect marks here, so I’m not sure how they viewed mine (there’s no feedback on your portfolio). However, the biggest feedback I got from the open house was to use a variety of interesting shots and also that characters had to stay on the same side of the page using the rule of 180 (ex. If Character A starts on the left side, he should generally be on the left side in the rest of the panels or it breaks the flow).
Try to show action and expression as much as possible. There shouldn’t be any hidden or hard to see details in the frame that are crucial to telling the story.
Here’s mine. The characters were provided and the topic was “Hunger.” Everything else was left up to me.
The animation requirements were to animate a character doing a recognizable action within 24 to 48 frames.
I downloaded an app on the iPad called FlipaClip to create mine. The prof at the open house was surprised since most of the ones she saw were hand drawn (they also showed construction) and scanned. I asked her if I should redo mine to be hand drawn, and she said mine was more than she was expecting so it was fine. I tried hand drawing at first using a light board, but found the app way easier. I also animated the clown they gave from the storyboard to limit creating a new character and also so they could easily recognize it. I chose running because that’s one of the basic animation sequences to learn.
5 Personal Pieces
This is where you can submit anything – sculpture, painting, animation, etc.
I ran out of time creating anything new, so I used some of my animations from high school and panels from my Instagram comic. If you have any extra animation, prioritize that, because it’s an animation program 🙂
A Final Word
I hope this helps!
If you have any questions at all, I’m more than happy to help. I found it difficult to find and get feedback until I hired a tutor, so I know what it’s like.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
And, you can follow my progress as an animation student by following my instagram, or emailing me (email@example.com) and I’ll put you on my watercolor animation newsletter list 🙂
Best of luck!