What you need to put in your artist’s portfolio to get hired
If you’re looking for a career in art, you’re going to have to make a portfolio sooner or later. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you can’t show that talent to people. That’s why portfolios exist, and that’s why they’re especially important in the artistic world, where showing people what you can do is all you can do. What separates portfolios from resumes is that they don’t show off your history or experience, they show what you can do right now. Here’s how you can make a portfolio that’ll get noticed, sourced from Agora Gallery, the Art Career Project, and the Artist’s Network.
Limit it to a few strong samples
Tempting as it is, don’t put all of your work into your portfolio! Less is more, and you should be using the fewest images to show your best side. Five or six pieces seems to be the magic number when it comes to what goes in an art portfolio. It can be tough to choose that small of an amount of art, but that’s about as much as a portfolio should have. You might want to show how you’ve grown as an artist over time, but it’s better to just pick your best pieces, so you don’t have anything less than your most awesome work in there. A bad image can sink the whole thing, and you may find yourself judged based on your weakest work.
Start while you’re still in school
Don’t wait until you’re about to graduate to make your portfolio. The middle of school is where and when you should start your art portfolio. Your initial five or six pieces will probably be everything you’ve done, then, as you progress, you’ll swap them out for better ones, and keep an eye out for anything else that’s portfolio-worthy.
Show off your unique side
When you’re making a resume or CV, uniqueness is generally frowned upon. The upside of making a portfolio is that you get to show off what makes you different or special, and try and stand out since there are less strict requirements about what an art portfolio should look like. So, figure out what’s unique about your art, and emphasize it.
Pay attention to the non-art content
Don’t spend so much time picking what’s in your portfolio that you don’t pay attention to the layout, and especially the spelling and grammar. That stuff’s just as important when it comes to how to present an art portfolio. Regardless of how good the art is, a typo could get your portfolio rejected. Make sure the non-art portions of the portfolio are clean, simple, and point the reader to the things you want them to see. You don’t want to distract from the important part.
Go both online and physical
Nowadays, a portfolio can be a website you put together yourself or a physical binder of samples. But if you really want to make sure you give an employer what they need, you’ll make both versions. Some employers will want to see your art in person, while others will be fine with images on a computer screen. You should cater to both.
Make sure the actual images are good
I’m not talking about what’s in the portfolio, but how it’s presented. If your work exists in digital picture form, pick the best-quality files you can. Similarly, if your art needs to be photographed, don’t skimp on the quality. Use a good digital camera, and if you aren’t a good photographer, find one.
Change your portfolio to suit who’s looking at it
Different people are going to look at your portfolio for different reasons, so you need to tailor your portfolio for the parts of yourself you want to emphasize, and maybe even create several different ones for different eyes. Furthermore, the groups you’re sending it to might have specific requirements you need to follow, and a portfolio that doesn’t fit those will wind up being rejected.
Looking for a program to help you develop that portfolio? The goal of Centennial College’s Art and Design Fundamentals program is to help you make a portfolio for admission into the job market, or into other art programs. In just one year, you’ll pick up skills to nurture your artistic talents, as well as entrepreneurial knowledge to get your career going, all through hands-on art creation. But the goal is always to help you make the best professional art portfolio possible.
Written by: Anthony Geremia