An online portfolio is a great place to showcase your work, because it allows viewers to quickly and easily browse your art and explore your style and subject matter.
Unfortunately, it can also quickly turn into a dumping ground for digital images of your art, especially if you’re new to posting your work and trying to build up a collection fast. Online portfolios aren’t the only place that this happens, either. If you belong to any online artist communities, you’ve probably experienced some form of over-sharing there, too—either as a contributor or viewer.
So for those of you who tend to share your doodles, sketches, works in progress, and experiments alongside your finished works, here are a few suggestions for sharing your artwork more effectively:
1. Define what you’re sharing
Before you post an image you’ve created, it helps to label it.
Is it a quick sketch or study? Did you start out doodling something and end up with a nice little graphic piece? Do you want to share a photo of a painting for which you’re seeking a bit of feedback, or are you revealing your latest show quality piece? Maybe you’re posting an original work for sale, or are making a high resolution piece available as prints.
If you think of your works as inventory, what label would you give each piece you post?
By defining what it is you’re uploading, you’ll help yourself realize what you hope to gain from posting it online. Coming up with specific categories for your work will help your viewers understand your purpose, too, and ensure that sure they find what they’re looking for when they visit your website.
In short, you don’t want them finding your works-in-progress when they’re looking for finished pieces to buy!
2. Choose the best place to showcase each image
Once you’ve defined the purpose of a piece you’re going to share online, the next step is to maximize the experience of sharing it. How do you do that, you ask? By uploading it to the best possible place for the type of image you’re sharing.
If you want to market the image as an original or sell prints of it, you’re better off making sure it’s a high quality image of your best work. If you wouldn’t enter it into a show or spend the money to hang it at a festival, rethink whether or not you want to post it for sale online.
Your own professional-looking website is a good place for your strongest pieces to shine (full disclosure, I use EmptyEasel’s art websites). If you’re looking to share your artistic process, your blog would be an ideal place for posting rough sketches, studies, or works in progress. If you’re working on a painting and looking for feedback, seek out an artists’ forum that offers a place for critiques. You’ll have a safe place to get feedback from fellow artists without confusing potential customers browsing through your work.
Use caution if you’re a student posting your classwork—many budding artists post classwork assignments for sale without realizing that they are infringing on copyright.
For example: if you created an image as part of an assignment, make sure you own the reference material before posting it. Even if your teacher gave you a reference photo he or she originally took, you don’t have the right to sell images created from that photo unless you’ve specifically gotten permission to do so.
Likewise, if you’re posting an image you re-created from a famous photo or trademarked character, you’re leaving yourself open to potential copyright issues and possibly marking yourself as an amateur.
Post these images in a venue (such as a blog or forum) that makes it clear you’re sharing part of your artistic journey while acknowledging that you’re using material from outside sources.
3. Be selective in what you share
Showing your work is a natural part of being an artist. With all of the outlets available for artists to publicize their latest works, it’s natural to feel pressured to keep your name out there—tempting you to post frequently, even if you don’t have any earth-shattering achievements to share.
Resist the urge to keep up with the posting schedule of your fellow artists. Don’t dig out old works that no longer fit your style or dash off a quick sketch just to have something to post. If you’ve completed a series or collection of work you’re excited to post, release your images a little at a time, so that you’re not bombarding your viewers with a rush of pieces that disappear quickly from their memories because of your eagerness to post the images all at once.
In addition, make sure you take a great photo of your artwork before posting it. A badly cropped, fuzzy photo of your latest completed work isn’t going to convey the time and effort you put into creating the piece. Follow this process for a professional-looking image online.
Lastly, remember that not everything you create is meant to be available for others to see. Sure, you’re a creative artist who likes to explore new possibilities and ideas. You’re proud of your latest accomplishments and want the world to know what you’re capable of creating.
However, dumping ALL of your work onto one online collection forces any potential viewer to sift through everything you’ve ever created in order to try to understand you as an artist. Less is more when it comes to maximizing the impact your collection of work will have on your viewers—it never hurts to go back and remove old images that no longer match your current skill level and artistic style.
Selecting only the pieces that show how much time and skill you’ve put into being an artist will help you stand out as a confident professional. In turn, this will draw admiration from your viewers, and build anticipation for your future works as well.
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