4 Highly-Portable Portfolio Ideas: Is Your Art Ready to Show?

Published Feb. 15th 2010

Have you ever been at a party and someone said, “I didn’t know you were an artist. What do you do?”

Or someone at the park says, “I love art. I have a lot hanging in my home. What is yours like?”

Each of these scenarios have happened to me. In this first situation I handed over a business card—they already needed my email address for something else, so it seemed appropriate. In the second scenario, I gave my easy-to-remember website address. In both cases, neither potential patron looked at my site.

Upon reflection, it would have been nicer to draw them both in a bit more. In short, I should have had a portable portfolio, or at least one image that I always have with me that I can share.

Here are a few ideas.

The default: a business card

You must have business cards if you are a professional, and you should always carry them with you. As an artist, it would probably be a mistake to NOT have your artwork your cards, so that if someone just needs your email address or contact information, you can still put your art int front of them.

The drawbacks to this method are that your business cards will likely only have one image on them, and even your best image will probably have low impact on a small business card.

Slightly better: a pack of business card prints

It’s also possible to have several different images printed on separate business cards with your info on the back. This gives you the chance to share more than one image with people and gives an interested person a better view of your artwork.

The problem? In a strictly business setting, multiple business cards may seem less professional. In addition, it’s more expensive to print different images on every card, and packaging them in a nice way will cost more too (since you won’t want to just hand someone a clumsy stack!)

A nicer option: the photo book

Think “Grammy’s Brag Book,” but better. . . a very small photo book is about right.

Just throw it in your bag or pocket and can whip it out when someone asks about your work. All you have to do is print out a few of your images and crop them for the book. Even a photo envelope would work, if you want something cheaper.

This project was on my to-do list for several months until I found a better solution. If you can’t implement the next portfolio option, you should do this one.

The tech solution: a digital portfolio on your phone

If you have an iPod, iPhone, or other suitable mobile device, you have the answer right there. Create a folder of your best digital images, load it up, and when someone asks, hand it over.

I recently did this and am thrilled with the results. It took me about ten minutes to choose several images, put them in a folder and point my software to the folder. Now, when I create a new portfolio-worthy image, I just stick in that folder and the software will sync it with the device.

Mobile devices like iPods are designed to display content—and there’s no reason that content shouldn’t be your art. In addition, you already carry your mobile device everywhere, so it’s not another thing to keep track of.

If that park incident happened now, I’d be ready. On the day, I didn’t have my purse, so I didn’t even have my business cards. . . it was an opportunity lost.

And don’t forget, you still need some business cards! This will give them your contact information and your website. Hopefully, though, because you’ve already shown them several images, they’ll be curious enough to follow up online.

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