by Carolyn Edlund
I recently spoke with three artists who sought feedback on their portfolios. Each one faced different challenges. Do any of these situations resonate with you?
The Generalist – The first artist had a rather small body of work, because she hadn’t been painting for very long. Because of this, she showed everything she had ever made in her portfolio to “pad” it, including several pieces that weren’t very successful. That weakened her overall presentation.
But the main problem with her portfolio was the work in her portfolio fell into “general categories” of landscapes, still lifes, and florals. These categories reflected what she had painted in class and the workshops she had taken, but she had not moved beyond them.
She didn’t really have her own style yet, and had a lot of work ahead of her in the studio exploring and experimenting with different techniques and directions to develop her own signature look. Although she might continue to paint landscapes, for example, she needed to transcend the basics she had learned and find her artistic voice. As she continued to mature in her work, she could look forward to creating a body of work that was thoughtful and compelling.
The Eclectic Artist – The second artist’s portfolio showed work in three very different mediums. But none of the work she did in each medium related to any other. There were no elements that flowed through all of them – each collection of work was distinctly different. The overall effect to the viewer was confusion. What did this artist really want to do? Why was she going in so many directions at once?
The artist indicated that she was a very creative person with different tastes, and loved all the mediums, but she acknowledged that this was a problem for her presentation. My suggestion was that she continue to work in any mediums she wished, but that she didn’t have to include all of this work in her portfolio.
She needed to make a decision about what to present to the world that worked in a cohesive way. She would be able to make greater impact with one tightly related body of work. Then, she could move forward with a message that made sense about her inspiration and technique, and coordinate her marketing in a consistent way.
The Aspiring Artist – The third artist had a beautifully made body of sculptural work with a clear signature style. He had aspirations of appealing to fine art collectors, and also working with corporate art consultants to place his sculpture in those environments.
The problem? His photos were substandard. He worked in a highly reflective medium that is difficult to photograph. Cutting corners by taking photos himself produced results that were less than impressive. Glare, hot spots, and blurriness were evident on some of his images. Others had backgrounds that were discordant with the artwork.
Clearly he needed a professional to take photographs that emphasized the aesthetic qualities of his artwork, and showed them to best advantage. It was an expensive undertaking, but he realized that the audience he wanted to pursue would expect an outstanding presentation. His next step was to ensure professional presentation to be able to market his work to his target audience.