Creating Your Portfolio

A lot of artists have trouble promoting themselves. It goes against the grain for a lot of artists. That's understandable, but that doesn't mean it can be avoided. Whether it's to get a job or to show to a gallery or any number of reasons, a solid portfolio is a must.

You might even be wondering, "What exactly is a portfolio?" Sure, you know it's a sampling of your work but it can't be some sort of haphazard array of works. Your portfolio needs to be a collection of your strongest artistic work presented as professionally as possible. It needs to be your visual interview, which means it needs to cast your work in the best possible light. So how do you go about creating a portfolio?

First comes the task of looking at your work to see what you've created and then objectively deciding what's best. This might also be a good time to ask for opinions from classmates, professors, colleagues, or others who can offer an unbiased opinion about what is your best work.

The process of choosing pieces for your portfolio can be tough. It's easy to want to include that project that took you 20 hours just because, well, it took you 20 hours. But that piece may not be your most representative work and it might not make sense in relation to whoever your pitching your portfolio. Similarly, you might have a work that you consider to be your best, but again, it just might not make sense for this portfolio. Overall, you want samples that match up to the company or gallery in which you're interested and you want the portfolio to demonstrate your creativity and grasp of artistic techniques and principles. You want to illustrate your keen awareness of principles such as composition, spatial perception, conceptual awareness, and general aesthetics. You want to offer a variety, too. You most likely don't want 12 of 15 pieces to be landscapes. You need for potential clients or employers to recognize that you can create the visual solutions for whatever needs that might arise.

If your medium is something such as photography, painting or drawing, you will want to make sure those works are protected using archival print protectors and placed in a high quality portfolio. Another alternative is to put prints and posters into a storage tube. Smaller works will sometimes fit nicely into a presentation case rather than a full-size portfolio. This can be true, too, if you aren't showing the original works but rather photographs of original works, which is often necessary if your medium is of a large scale or three-dimensional in nature.

Remember that presentation matters. Here are some additional tips from the Savannah College of Art & Design:
Fill the frame and don't include anything that distracts from the artwork.
Consider the entire composition.
Images should be clear and easy to read.
Images should show accurate color balance.
Crop images for a professional appearance.
Edit your portfolio by keeping only your strongest work (quality over quantity.)
Clearly label images to coincide with inventory information.

If your medium is something such as photography, painting or drawing, you will want to make sure those works are protected using archival print protectors and placed in a high quality portfolio. Another alternative is to put prints and posters into a storage tube. Smaller works will sometimes fit nicely into a presentation case rather than a full-size portfolio. This can be true, too, if you aren't showing the original works but rather photographs of original works, which is often necessary if your medium is of a large scale or three-dimensional in nature.

And finally, keep your portfolio as updated as possible, replacing older works with newer ones. You never know when you might need to show your portfolio at a moment's notice, so having it updated and professional at all times is important.