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Organizing the Perfect Portfolio

Just as a resume attempts to sell you to the audience, a portfolio is also a sales tool to showcase you as an artist.

The Basics

  • Your portfolio should always be professional looking, using only quality materials.
  • It should be accompanied by a cover letter and artist statement along with a biography and index of works.
  • Each work in the portfolio should be labeled with the title, the media, the date the work was completed, and notes on the work.
  • It should include current work and be frequently updated.

Portfolio Purpose

Growth Portfolio

If the purpose of the portfolio is to show your growth as an artist, then you will select works that contrast one another thereby naturally highlighting and accenting your advancement as an artist. With a growth portfolio, chronological organization may be best. Once the chronological organization is decided upon, the next question becomes theme.  Would it be best to organize work by artistic periods, subject matter or medium or perhaps simply early works to more recent? Will the work be chronological and typed by media or will it be strictly chronological?  Think of your audience and the perspective through which they will be viewing it.

Portfolios Showcasing Your Best Work

If the purpose of the portfolio is to showcase your best works, then a wide variety of organization types are possible. Your portfolio is another avenue to let your creativity flourish. Your portfolio becomes a portable gallery.   As you create your portfolio, imagine your work displayed.  What would you want to be viewed first?  Second?  Third?  This portfolio can be organized by media type. It can be organized from most favorite to lesser favorites. It can be organized by color, or it can even be organized chronologically.  Follow your instincts.  Keep it polished and professional and your talent will shine through.

Media-Specific Portfolios

If the portfolio is an attempt to showcase a particular type of work or media type, then consider grouping by subject matter or genre in a chronological fashion.  Tell a story through your portfolio.  Offer the viewer a journey into your world.

Portfolios to Display Works for SaleIf the portfolio is a display for work that is to be sold, consider organizing your works from lowest to highest priced or highest to lowest priced.  This will allow potential buyers to focus on their price range.  Also consider, placing your best works first to attract potential buyers.  Your portfolio is your storefront – masterfully craft it to present.

In what format will the portfolio be displayed?

The materials used or the digital version will not necessarily affect the portfolio tremendously, but it may. Varying thicknesses or three-dimensional elements in the works may necessitate a particular arrangement in a physical portfolio. In instances where the pieces are large, a digital portfolio may be the way to go.  Capturing accurate images of your art is an essential component when your medium is beyond a carry capacity.  Taking the time to translate your piece in a photograph is essential to a high-quality portfolio.

Your Audience

Your audience may largely dictate a particular arrangement. For educational purposes, you may want to showcase particular techniques or mastery of certain elements.  If it is a potential employer, then you may want to focus on the type of works that will be used in that particular job. If the audience is peers or other artists, then you may choose a trendy or flippant approach to your display or one that will showcase creativity or uniqueness. If your audience is a gallery, then you may want to find out what types of works the gallery is most interested in showcasing and place those first in your portfolio. You surely could use the showing to present growth or change in artistic periods.  Good communication with decision-makers in the gallery may be the best way to discover how to organize the portfolio.

An Extension of Your Uniqueness as an Artist

A portfolio is only limited by your creativity.  Brainstorm various ways to showcase your work to accomplish your goals for the portfolio. Perhaps add a form of audio, like music, to a digital portfolio and arrange the works according to the lyrics or music of songs. You could display your works interspersed with famous works by the masters that influenced the work or inspired you on that particular piece. You may even organize your work by different classes that you have taken at BEAU, or by different instructors. You could organize by your age when you created the work or you could organize your works by a palette that moves from winter to spring to summer to autumn. Once again, have more than one portfolio or the flexibility to change your portfolio as often as you wish and based on the audience to whom you will be presenting. This is a key point to success.

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