So I got accepted into FZD…

20150415 - pitbull cartoon sketchGuess who’s going to art school? Yes, I am going to study at FZD (Feng Zhu School of Design). This is a quick long blog post on four topics: 1. Applying for FZD 2. The Entry Test 3. The Interview 4. Why so serious?
Whew. The last months it felt like my days were going nowhere and suddenly I got into this amazing design school. Why does my first post feel so far away?

“My plan is to create a portfolio and go to art school.” – that was only January.

Here I am.

Next destination on my art journey: the class room. And a pretty fancy one. I’ve always regarded FZD as the best art school out there. During the interview, they said “We treat our students like professionals”. That appeals me. That scares me as well. Since last year I had been thinking that I had to study there. When? I didn’t know yet. Maybe when I turned 35 years old. Maybe next year. Well, apparently I’m going in less than two months…

  1. Applying for FZD

I’m very insecure, I beat myself up constantly. At times, I’m afraid to draw. But soon I’ll be forced to draw 18 hours a day, regardless of how timid I feel about it.

Look at the students’ gallery on their site, or the before & after section. These guys are good. I feel they learn more in a few weeks than I managed to self-study in three years.

When applying, I was very focused on the artwork. I kinda ignored the English certificate that was also a requirement. Well, first lesson learned: if you need an English certificate: do that as soon as possible. I looked at getting a certificate only when I felt ready to apply. Guess what? They have the exams just a few times a year and after that you have to wait at least two weeks before you get the results. By the time I had everything, the February and June intake were both full.

On the plus side, the FZD staff is quick and helpful with replying to any question. Seeing both June and October getting full, I applied for the October waiting list, with the February intake as my back-up plan. I was busy with the application procedure for over a month, due to the time between the various stages, and suddenly everything went very fast two days after the interview. We’ve got a spot over for June. Wanna come? HELL YEAH!

  1. The Entry Test

Next up was the entry test.

The entry test is different for every intake. Every student has to take it… at least, that’s what they replied when I asked, but I suspect that if you’re really really good, you can skip it. There are a few fellow students who didn’t have to take it, and their portfolios are mind blowing. (hey, how do you dare outshine me before we even started…). Anyhow, if you look at the sketchbook section on the school website, you have an idea of what they’ll ask. First off all, it will be line drawing. Secondly, you’ll need perspective.

Oh man, I suspected this before I even got the design prompt. Why? Because my portfolio was devoid of anything mechanical or structured. By the way, this is the portfolio I used:

Iris Hopp - Portfolio

Don’t take it as an example, I’ll explain in the interview section what they didn’t like about it 😉

Now, I was eating myself up for two weeks. I was convinced I would get vehicles designs as the test’s theme. Why? Because vehicles are my weakest area. Guess what I got? Vehicle designs!

Here’s what I made:

2. Sketch Sheet (1)
Sketch sheet 1
2. Sketch Sheet (2)
Sketch sheet 2
3. Final Design

Again, don’t take my work as an example. I have no idea whether they liked it or not. If you want a reference, look at the school’s sketchbook gallery. That’s what they gave me as a final submission reference.

They clearly said: “We want to see how you think on paper.” There’s only one thing you should never do: cheating. Never cheat. So no copying or tracing. The test also has a deadline of 50 hours after starting, so it’s possible that they want to check your punctuality besides your drawing.

Depending on your intake, you might get observational drawings or design options. Buildings, vehicles, environments, … You can prepare by practicing drawing and by practicing perspective. That’s it. 🙂

There’s something else I learned from the entry test, but it only clicked a few weeks later. I’ll first talk about the interview. 🙂

  1. The Interview

You’ll hear everyone say the same: the interview is pretty chill. I still prepared for it. If you can prepare and do better, why wouldn’t you? Preparing for interviews is the same as preparing for exams.

First step, brainstorm about the questions they might ask.

Second step, prepare your answers to those questions.

Third step, whatever you can’t answer, plot it out or look it up.
As often, the most important question to ask is “why”. Why do you want to study art? Why do you choose FZD? And in my case, why now, after already completing a bachelor degree?

That’s actually what makes the interview so pleasant – you get to talk about your dreams and your inspirations. Heck, you can talk about television series and video games and travel all you like.

So yeah, my first tip would be to prepare it by inventing questions as described above. My second tip would be body language. If you’re an international student, you’ll do the interview by Skype. For me that means no control on stress and slouching and even showing some nervous ticks. For all presentations and interviews I’ve done so far, it helped me tremendously to watch my body language. Straight back, chest up, slow breathing. Oh, and smile. Here’s the TED talk that explains why it works:

Your body associates a confident attitude with a safe situation, so your stress levels will lower and you will do better.

Now, I spent the last few paragraphs talking about how relaxed the interview was, but actually I didn’t feel good about it. They emphasized the stress and little sleep, I felt like an outsider because hadn’t been submerged in games, movies and series for years and most of all, it bugged me that I had such a huge shortcoming – lack of creativity. They pointed out the contrast between my portfolio and my entry test. They said I might have to take a second entry test. They asked to send life sketches and “representative” drawing.

This will forever stick with me: my portfolio is sterile. Their words, not mine, but I fully agree. What is representative of my drawing? Unfinished, quick, goofy. My portfolio was sterile because I only wanted to add finished work, instead of sketches and doodles. In a way the sterile feeling is representative. When I try to finish something, I worry about how it looks, about which colour to use, about how I’m doing everything wrong. The fun goes out of it. On top of that, I’m afraid to experiment. “But I don’t know how to draw this!” I exclaim in despair and then I never draw it. Hallways of castles, crown princes, dream scenery: it seems too difficult and I put it off.

They want a creative portfolio, regardless of drawing ability. I’ve always avoided subjects that didn’t match my ability. I’m insecure and afraid. Why do you think “practice perspective” has been on my to-do list for so long?

So I felt pretty awful after the interview, thinking I had been doing everything wrong and that I might never make it, because hey, I lacked the courage to make mistakes.

But here’s lesson 4: have fun.

  1. Why so serious?

I had fun with the entry test. It was weird, I was ready to be all serious and boring about it, but in their mail they literally said “do your best and have fun.”

So I decided to have fun. And it was great. That’s why my entry test submission didn’t look as sterile as my portfolio pieces.

There is a conflict between “fun” and “drawing” for me. Pretty weird, ain’t drawing all about fun? Nah. I am afraid to fail. Causing me to fail.

I failed at creativity and at having fun. As a result, I just drew less. My pen hovered above the page, yet didn’t touch it. “But I don’t know how to…”

Well, dammit. Perspective, construction, anatomy, I’m going to learn that at school. The next weeks before school starts, I have to prepare in a different way – I have to break my self-imposed limits, my drawing shyness. So far it isn’t working. Heck, I’m telling myself to just doodle along for the next month! When did fun ever require courage? We’ll see how I’ll manage next month.


20150305 - girl woman people painting imag 2h30min
Challenge accepted.

Now the next challenge is preparing all the practical stuff in just a month, seeing how I’ll only be back in Belgium after a two weeks. Aaaah.

Singapore, here I come!

– Iris