Thursday, 17 May 2012

Submitting a portfolio

I was asked a while ago by an up and coming artist my tips for constructing a portfolio. I thought I'd put the answers up here so everyone can take advantage of them - bare in mind I'm still learning myself, but I hope these tips help when putting together your showcase for the conference! ^_^

FOLIO'S DUE (at the latest) 15th JUNE! 


non attendees submitting their portfolios by mail : Portfolios to be delivered on or before June 15th (see conference website for mailing details, please include self-addressed, postage paid envelope for return) 
Attending delegates delivering their portfolios in person:: Portfolios to be delivered to the conference venue reception desk before 2pm on June 29th.

1. What is a portfolio?
A portfolio is a collection of your best work - usually between 10 and 20 pieces. It should be themed to highlight the type of work you want - for example, if you want to do educational work then your portfolio would contain plenty of vignettes of children performing daily tasks, a wide ethnic diversity and both black and white and colour studies. It 

2. What should it look like?
Your portfolio should be presented cleanly and professionally, usually in a hard bound case (thick plastic is fine) with your name clearly placed on the front and on all your pieces. It should have no originals (just in case) and all your pieces should have the same orientation to insure ease of viewing. In terms of size you must again consider ease of viewing, if your portfolio is too big to hold and turn pages whilst standing then you need to make it smaller. (largest is A3 for the conference) I would also recommend splurging on really nice quality prints. It really does make a huge difference, not only in the way your work looks but what you say about your self and your art - Aren't you worth good quality prints?

3. How many pieces should be in it?
Again I touched on this already but you should have somewhere between 10 and 20 pieces - the general idea is you should have enough for the recruiter to get a really good idea of your talent and range but leave them wanting more! 

4. Can you put sketches in it?
Yes you can, but try and organise your sketches in a clean, presentable way. DON'T put in a grubby piece of paper with an brilliant idea you had while putting your portfolio together the night before. The best way to do it is scan your sketches and arrange them into a cohesive layout in photoshop. 
If you need tips on scanning in and arranging sketches let me know :) 

5. Is it best to show different media?
This really depends on what your looking at getting into. If you were attempting to get into animation for example it may be beneficial to show you are proficient with both traditional and 3D methods - If you are getting into design however you really only need to convince them that you can handle shapes and variety well and have a good understanding of perspective and anatomy. Software and other mediums can be taught quickly - an understanding of the principals of art can not. 

6. Is it wrong to put a portrait of a celebrity in a portfolio? (because they usually look for original art right?)
Again it applies to what your specialty is. If you want to be a caricature artist then having a portrait of a celebrity is a good idea as it shows your proficiency with characterising someone that the recruiters will recognise. If you want to be a character designer however you should show that you can do that - Design characters. If you were trying to get into story-boarding, then the focus will be on your ability to tell a story, so you could use established characters or personalities to tell the story. 

7. What's original - What is considered original?
Original artwork happens any time you pick up a pencil and draw. However there are degrees of originality. Obviously a picture that you have thought of, composed, drawn and coloured devoid of any other artistic inspiration or appropriation is more original than if you copied another artists work in any way. But originality is a tricky thing. We're always inspired in someway by another artist or creation whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Unless of course you've been living under a rock ;) 

The important thing to remember is by being you, drawing on your own experiences, inspiration and inherent style you will create something original! 

8. Should you put in references and inspiration to show your areas of interest?
NO, you should not have anyone else's work in your portfolio - you are promoting yourself not other artists or teachers. 

Well I hope that helps, 

If anyone else has something to add please comment below! ^_^

Good luck everyone!



  1. Lesley, I'm sorry but I don't understand the June 15th deadline for submission of portfolios. Can we bring our folios with us to the conference...or do we need to post them in advance?

  2. Hi. I'm a non-attendee and want to drop off my portfolio as I live in Sydney. That's OK, right? Or to one of the illustration co-ordinators?
    Also, I won't be back from the 4th Croatian Illustration Biennale in Zagreb until the 17th...

    1. Hey Gregory - best to drop it off on the 29th, that way the Hughenden won't have to store it and it won't get lost.

      Good luck in Croatia!

    2. Great! Thanks Lesley. Will try to co-ordinate that closer to the date. G.