WELL WELL….it looks like maybe Spring might be actually sprung here in CT finally. Every year…. why am I still surprised each year!! I feel like I’ve crawled out from under a ‘rock’ and back in the creative swing! How about you?
Christy and I had the privilege and fun of presenting at the NE SCBWI Spring Conference in Springfield MA earlier this month. (Christy will be at the NJ conference first weekend of June as well! ) What fun we had doing a presentation together on Portfolios...What to pack essentially in your bag for the trip down their theme the Yellow Brick Road. We almost did a song and dance routine…..but wisely thought better of it.
I did want to share a couple of the key points that might help other artists refresh or rethink their portfolios….and their work in general that they wish to present on-line (A WEBSITE!) and in a ‘book,’ physical portfolio for visits and conference reviews. We did 24 portfolio reviews between us on Sat. and often it was the same hints we shared with artists over and over. We’d entitled our presentation “Character, Expression and Narrative…OH MY!” I thought that was a HUGE hint as to what we’d be looking for…. but the call to DO MORE with all three was almost a constant. So I expect it might be with other artists’ portfolios. So here goes….and write me if you have questions….
I think a short hint I mentioned at the beginning of our presentation says it all: THIS IS A BUSINESS! So you have to think about WHAT you are presenting, and TO WHOM you are presenting, and TO WHAT END- WHY? (hoped for result)
The WHAT you are presenting is your work…your style…your talents…your capabilities… YOU. You might only have this one chance to make a GREAT impression! (or not so great) Remember that! Only put in/up your best and strongest work. Show as much diversity of character, expression and narrative as possible in 10-15 ish samples. Show them how you THINK by showing a couple of story sequential scenes with the same characters interacting. Show them lots of your characters, and how well you can show their emotions and growth even. How else can they tell? It’s SHOW- not TELL. That segues into the TO WHOM you are presenting.
Or maybe I should tackle TO WHAT END or WHY first …. that has to be clear to YOU before you think about the TO WHOM. Assumably you want to be hired by a publisher…picture book, board books, educational products, covers, magazines, etc. in the CHILDREN’S market. You’d be surprised how many portfolios we see with NO KIDS! hmmmm Now there are some genre’s that maybe don’t require kids all that much, but it does seem rather expected that you can draw and paint them. So don’t shy away. If you don’t do them well so you always do animals…think of kids AS animals and tackles them the same way you do the cute fuzzy ones. If kids aren’t depicted, buyers assume you can’t DO kids and thus your range of possible interest/ jobs is made much more narrow. If you want to BE HIRED, show them what they WANT and need.
Now back TO WHOM you are presenting to online or at a conference or visit. Buyers, editors and art directors and designers, are looking for talent. They NEED talent…and new talent often. But they are very very busy, and understaffed and on deadlines. Time and ease is very important . Make their job easy. Keep your website or ‘book’ simple and clean and easy to manuver. No gimmicks, just great art exhibited in a way they can ‘see’ what you might do for them. That is the confidence you need to give them with your professional quality choices for your portfolio. You’ve only a moment or so to do it too! Keep that person who might be looking at your work in mind. Do your homework, study their other books. Then study the artists who are being hired. Analyze WHY they are being hired: their color, artistic technique, character development, compositions. Figure it out…not to copy (always be careful to NOT plagiarizing!) but to use what you’ve learned in your own way.
Keep these hints about what, to whom, and why in mind while refreshing your work and portfolios this spring and summer. Make it easier for buyers to hire YOU… and that IS the point of this journey of illustration…OH MY!!
and from Anait Semirdzhyan…. CAT lovin’