Portfolio Formats: Which is Right for You?



Being an Artist: An Unconventional Career Path


As promised, I am elaborating about marketing techniques as part of a series which will feature artist portfolios. Part 1 of this series will be about artist portfolios, and subsequent parts will follow as I research and discover content that I deem to be helpful to other artists as they travel this unconventional career path. For example, in my limited experience of this being a professional artist is a path like no other career, in that it is often difficult to navigate and make decisions about how to advance you. There are countless books, articles, and blogs that promise instant success or even urge you to quit your day job and do art full-time, or seem to imply that notion with titles like, Starving to Successful. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t really make about its value to judgment artists. 

It’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, and know what to believe or apply to your career. In addition, other career paths such as Nursing, Social Work, Teaching, etc., seem to have a more definite path, which includes: obtaining the degree, often a masters degree, procuring experience in internships, volunteer opportunities, etc., learning to network, writing a killer resume, learning to sell yourself, etc. It is my hope that these articles will bring clarity and direction to your journey as an artist, in whatever form that may take, whether you are a hobby artist, an amateur artist, or a professional artist. But I digress. Ok, so to the topic of the week “What portfolio format options are available to artists?” More importantly, what are the pros and cons of each format?

Artist Portfolios: Why are they Important?

To investigate this topic in greater depth, I read an article entitled, “How to Create a Powerful Art Portfolio,” from Lori McNee’s website, Art and Fine Art Tips. This article was written by guest blogger, Jason Horejs, who is the owner of Xanadu Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and an astute art business consultant.  Horejs states that, for artists, their portfolio is their resume and that it helps them to gain the attention of gallery owners, potential collectors, etc. (Horejs, 2009).

What Types of Artist Portfolios Exist? An Overview

According to Jason Horejs, there are three main formats for portfolios. They include, but may not be limited to 1.) The CD; which is inundated with “digital images,” of your art, and an affordable option, 2.) the printed book, published by an online provider such as Blurb.com, and 3.) The Presentation Folder, which is a binder that you fill up with clear plastic folders to house prints of your current artwork.  All have both pluses and minuses, although Horejs’ favorite format is the presentation folder. (ibid) In his view, this option makes it easy and inexpensive to update, plus gallery owners don’t have to even open up a computer program to view your artwork, and perhaps, find out to their dismay that your images on CD are not compatible with their PC or Mac computer. (ibid) In the interests of length, I will just discuss two options for portfolios and they are the published book and the presentation folder.

Art Portfolio Option 1: Published Book

Another option for art portfolio formats is to create a published book of your best works through online printing. (ibid)  Web sites such as Blurb.com and mypublisher.com can reproduce your artwork in a book format. (ibid) On the other hand, this format can quickly become obsolete as you develop your body of work over time, and if you want to use it, you will have to keep updating and re-printing it to stay current. (ibid)  This option can be a nice addition if you have a booth of your work at an art festival. (ibid)  For example, having a book about your artwork on hand can serve a talking point for potential customers who may ask the question that I dread most, “What is your art about?” (ibid)

Art Portfolio Option2: Presentation Folder

A final option and Horej’s favorite is the “Presentation Folder”. (ibid) This type of portfolio can be purchased at stores such as Staples, Office Depot and others. (ibid) These can be duplicated as many times as you need for the distribution of your portfolio to art galleries or other decision makers. (ibid) To illustrate your portfolio, print your digital images from a “high-quality inkjet printer,” and put the printed pages into your folder. Be sure to include details about the work in your portfolio such as title, medium, etc. (ibid). Remember, not to include every piece of artwork you’ve made since your first art class! Horejs recommends 20-35 images maximum to be included in your portfolio. (ibid) If you are in doubt about what pieces to include, consult a trusted friend, teacher, mentor, etc., to give you an objective opinion.

Dad and I
Dad and I, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
A Life Remembered 034
Dad and Phyllis, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and I (Birthday)
The Gift, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and 1929 Ford
Dad and his 1929 Ford, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.

Also, it might help to spread out various works of your artwork and look for patterns that define your style and subject matter of choice as an artist. Is it color, Texture, Line, Repetition, or a specific subject or topic that lights you up? What things do you like to draw paint or sculpt the most? Is it animals, architecture, landscapes, still life or portrait? Defining these attributes about your artwork will ensure that it has a consistent look to the portfolio, and it will help you know how to share your artwork when people ask you about it.

What has been my experience with Artist Portfolios?

As for me, it’s been many years since I have assembled and distributed a portfolio for an art show or for anything else. The first example that comes to mind is, my senior year at McDaniel College, in which I created a senior art project based on self-portraits painted in oil. The format I chose to organize my art was a PowerPoint presentation on CD. My second experience with building an art portfolio was when I applied to graduate school for a masters degree in Studio Art. This time, I used 35 milimiterFuji color slide film to record my artwork because that was the method that the schools had required in the application process. Both examples were from many years ago, in 2005 and in 2006 respectively, and obviously, the options have changed. I confess I haven’t kept current with all the new options for displaying portfolio work, for a variety of reasons. For one thing,  I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with art for a long time, going from being fully engaged and filled with dreams and ambitions, to self-doubt, and even extended breaks from making art, and exploring other career paths through college classes, volunteering, etc. Somehow though, I always end up returning to making art.

I am still figuring out what level of involvement I want to have with art. I think my current level of involvement is now an amateur artist, as I have been trying to move in a more professional direction, by requiring that clients sign contracts for my custom art pieces to secure my services, as well as asking them for a non-refundable deposit of 50% of the custom art price.  However, I have not yet been able to make a living from it yet. The earnings are always inconsistent from month to month, even when I really hustle and do lots of art shows, and events to advertise my art. I’m keeping my day job so I can focus on making art and not be worrying about paying the bills.

So what’s my next step? At the moment, I am working on reassembling a new and improved portfolio that reflects my current style, medium and subject matter of choice. A big part of meeting that goal is working in my sketchbook, Draw Every day, Draw Every Way: Sketch, Paint, and Doodle through One Creative Year, by Julia Orkin-Lewis. Here’s a link that describes the book in more detail, in case you are interested: http://augustwren.com/draw-every-day-book/. I’m including some of my sketches from this book that I made with pencil and colored pencil to give you an idea of how the book is structured.



Where did All My Time Go?

I just got back from a much-needed vacation to Cape May, New Jersey, last week to celebrate my ten year anniversary. I had a wonderful, relaxing time and got a chance to just be, enjoying sunsets, walking around the town of Cape May and drinking in the beautiful Victorian architecture, listening to the reassuring rhythm of crashing waves, tasting great food, and reconnecting with my man. But when I got back from the trip, I had a major reality check. Several tasks awaited my attention, such as: scheduling a doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, dishes, vacuuming, putting all my things away and preparing for two upcoming art shows to name a few. I felt overwhelmed just thinking about it, and my to-do list seemed endless. In addition, I had fallen behind in several areas of my art business prior to my vacation: such as an inventory of paintings and sketches, producing new art, bookkeeping, blogging, and following up on sales leads.

It was quite an adjustment to go from four days of unstructured vacation days to a more regimented schedule. During this time, I didn’t have to clean cook or do anything much, unless I wanted to plan an outing or decide where I wanted to have lunch or dinner, while I was a guest at the Angel of the Sea Bed and Breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey. I highly recommend this Bed and Breakfast if you need a relaxing getaway and you like historic towns. Now, I am trying to figure out how to catch up on things for my art business, without feeling overwhelmed. Enter an article I read this week entitled, Control Your Time and Become a More Successful Artist, by Jason Horejs, October 11, 2017, http://reddotblog.com. It seems that someone frequently writes a blog post about a subject that is meaningful to me just when I need it most. Thank you, Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona!

Like me, Jason has been struggling with time management and organizing the many hats that we as entrepreneurs wear as small business owners, such as following up on sales leads, answering emails, bookkeeping, marketing, etc, (Horejs, 2017). But unlike me, he is a gallery owner and doesn’t produce artwork; he markets other artists and runs a gallery to help promote the artwork of other artists. I, on the other hand, am an artist and business owner, but we seem to be following similar tracks in our lives.And in the words of Jason Horejs (2017),

the list was “simply too high, and “I felt I was falling behind in accomplishing everything I wanted to get done.” In Horejs’s article, Control Your Time and Become a More Successful Artist, (2017) he shares how in the midst of an overwhelming to-do list, he found some time management tools that have been helpful in clarifying his priorities and getting things done (Horejs, 2017). One of the tools he mentions is an Ideal Week template, which is based on a model created by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers (Horejs, 2017).

In the Ideal Week Template, Jason Horejs blocks out his day in segments of time to define what tasks are most pressing and how much time he plans to spend on them (Horejs, 2017). Michael Hyatt offers a downloadable spreadsheet on his blog, which can be customized to fit your schedule (Horejs, 2017). According to Horejs, this method of blocking out his time in segments has been helpful in prioritizing the most important tasks. In addition, Hyatt suggests that it is helpful to begin your day with “your long-term priorities,” instead of daily busy work (Horejs, 2017). After reading this article, I am realizing that most of my time is spent on day to day tasks such as cataloging art inventory, marketing my art projects and art shows on Instagram and Facebook, following up sales leads, blogging or researching articles about art business which could make good blog topics, maintaining my artist website, etc.

And while these tasks are important for running a successful art business, I am realizing that very little time has gone into working on new artwork. And as an artist, making artwork is what I would like to spend most of my time doing. However, the only art practice I have been somewhat consistent with has been drawing portraits for my 100 Faces in 100 Days Drawing Challenge, which I started back in June of this year. I still have 5 more drawings to complete to achieve the 100 portraits drawing challenge goal. I want to take some time in the coming week to block out my ideal week and see where I can block in time to work on my drawings and paintings, preferably in the morning before other things intrude or my energy wanes. I will let you know how it goes and post the artwork that I plan to create. Meanwhile, here are some vacation pictures that my husband took with his Nikon D40 camera. If you are interested in downloading the Ideal template, here is the pdf file,https://michaelhyatt.com/myresources/my-ideal-week.pdf. Thanks for stopping by! my-ideal-week