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Avoiding the Art Portfolio Woes: Ten Tips for Portfolio Success

Published May 22nd 2008

Years ago I was an art rep for both graphic and fine artists. Today, I have my own interior design firm, yet artists still contact me from time to time for advice.

As a result, I’ve seen many portfolios and resumes, and I know firsthand how important it is to present yourself in the best light. Consider what goes on in the minds of the viewer if your presentation is weak—in my mind, I would assume the artist is unorganized, and unprofessional.

Here a few things to work on if you want to make your portfolio shine.

Improve your portfolio presentation

This portfolio is your ticket—your one chance—so do everything possible to make an incredible first impression about yourself and your art.

1. Be meticulous. Don’t show your portfolio until it is clean, perfect, and functional. I still remember when one artist came walking across the lawn towards me with things dropping out of his portfolio. That’s not the image you want to portray.

2. Design the entire package. Integrate your logo, business card, and folder into one well-designed theme. Your contact information should be on everything.

3. Add multimedia. Today, the best portfolios combine a multimedia presentation with hard copies. Put a CD or DVD presentation (in a beautifully designed case, of course) inside a folder along with enlarged images of your art printed on a glossy photo paper. Include your resume as well.

Organize and label your images

Your images build upon your presentation. Use your best, most recent works and when in doubt—leave it out.

4. Group similar artwork together. Do you have a single style or do you paint differently every other day? Grouping artwork together by style is important. You can put have a face and a landscape with the same style, but you wouldn’t want to put abstracts and realism in the same series.

By all means, still show a variety of artwork, just make sure to have it all separated into the appropriate groups inside your portfolio.

5. Include all the important information. Mark the dimensions, medium (oil on canvas, hand painted silk, etc) and price for every piece. Viewers should never have to guess or search for this information.

6. Be consistent in your pricing. Research the market to see what similar works are selling for. It’s important to be fairly compensated for your time and skill, but do not over- or under-price yourself out of the current market. Incidentally, most artists will naturally price their art much lower than its worth.

Start giving off the right attitude

Confident, optimistic people attract success. Fake it at first, if you have to.

7. When showing your portfolio, be positive. Never put yourself down or apologize for your art. If you love your art, and your portfolio makes you smile, the likelihood is that someone else will take notice too.

8. Don’t be a prima donna. You’re never too good, or too famous, of an artist to be nice to others. Sugar can get you everywhere!

Brush up on your salesmanship

Learning HOW to sell is part of being a professional artist. Practice often.

9. Sell yourself first. Art buyers won’t usually find you—you must find them. When you do, get involved, network, and put your best foot forward. If they like you, they’re much more likely to purchase your art.

10. Persevere through rejection. It is important that that you continue trying, even after the tenth phone call or tenth door slammed on you. Keep going and keep smiling!

For more articles by Michele Morgan, please visit her blog at colorthemes.com.

It seems like almost every artist does a little commission work at one time or another. Creating individual works of art for clients is a great way to earn some extra money and expand your portfolio—as long as the commission piece doesn't turn into more trouble than it’s worth. You see, unlike artwork you create by yourself, commissioned art is often subject to the whim of the. . . read more

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