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Tips on Samples of Work


How to Approach the Samples of Work

The Samples of Work section is one that has high impact on the outcome of a jury evaluation. Jurors use samples to evaluate the quality and artistic merit of the work, as well as to get a sense of who you are as an artist and your ability to realize your project. The Samples of Work section should be treated with as much care as a professional portfolio. As we do not accept originals, ideally you should be as confident in the documentation of the work as you are in the original piece itself. In many cases, such as performance art, theatre and music, the reproduction or documentation of the piece will be the long-lasting footprint of an ephemeral performance.

  • Select support material that strengthens your project. Samples should reflect your artistic path and recent development. They should illustrate the evolution of your work, most substantially focusing on recent works and work that is relevant to your proposed project in concept, technique, theme or material. If you picture your artistic trajectory as an arc, focus on works that follow the arc, not on outliers or one-off, unrelated projects. It can be helpful to also include a “proof of concept” sample – a sketch or basic outline of the proposed work.
  • Never assume that the jury is familiar with your work outside of your application. Jurors are instructed to consider only the application in front of them, so they rely solely on the included samples to assess your artistic work.
  • Consider the professional quality of the sample. If it is a photograph or image scan, is it a high quality image that successfully captures the original work? If it is an audio clip, is the sound quality faithful to the performance? If a document, is it formatted to be clear and legible?
  • If photographing work, place your piece on a neutral background to eliminate distraction and pay attention to composition, lighting, focus and white balance. It can be a good idea to learn the basics of photography, as this will help you to promote and share your work in the future. Take pictures from various angles to determine the best vantage point. More important than using a fancy camera is capturing an image that is a faithful representation of the work. Check that color in the image matches the true color in the piece, paying special attention to the whites and blacks (this can often be achieved by adjusting lighting and white balance settings). If your work has texture or fine detail, you may want to include close-up detail shots.
  • When submitting an excerpt of a piece, think about what you want to convey through this excerpt, be it style, ability, creative range. How best can you capture the essence of your work? Pay close attention to how the work is framed from beginning to end of the excerpt. If you are including multiple excerpts within one video or document, indicate this at the beginning of the excerpt and/or insert a title before the start of each new excerpt.
    • If unable to make an excerpt, please provide time stamps or a page range for a combined maximum of 10 minutes or 10 pages.
  • As a general guideline, keep things simple when including video documentation of a performance. You do not want to distract the jury from the work itself. The main thing to focus on is that you can be clearly seen and heard. If in a performance with multiple people, indicate which person you are, often by identifying clothing.
  • In disciplines such as theatre, it can be difficult to produce quality documentation of professional stage performances, as the artist does not always have a say in the documentation of the work. If this is the case, supplement with video from rehearsals, casting calls and/or videotape an original performance to build a stronger portfolio. Play bills and performance posters are not strong samples of work.
  • If you require assistance to produce high quality documentation of your work, consider applying to the Professionalization & Promotion component of the Career Development program, designed to assist artists to produce tools related to the promotion of the artist’s work.

Keep Criteria in Mind

  • Do not send originals; they will not be presented to the jury.
  • You can include an accompanying list that indicates the title, medium, size, and date of the work along with a brief description. However, it is strongly advised to fill out the fields “Title” and “Description” for each sample of work you provide. This way, the jury knows what each sample represents without having to switch constantly between the samples list and the actual samples.
  • For programs other than Arts Scholarships, do not present student work to the jury. Samples should be created since leaving your institution.
  • The combined length of samples should not exceed 10 minutes of footage or audio, or 10 pages of text.
  • Note that if you are not uploading samples to our online application form, we prefer samples be uploaded to an online platform, such as YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud or Bandcamp. If you are sending in physical samples, include one copy on USB or CD clearly labeled with your name. Please see program descriptions for further formatting criteria.
  • Test your material before submission to ensure that is formatted correctly and that it can be accessed or played back.

Any questions ?

If you have further questions regarding samples, please contact the New Brunswick Arts Board at 506.444.4444, or send us an email.

Work sample tips influenced by pages 28-41 of The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love. Jackie Battenfield. Da Capo Press, 2009.