3 Art Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid

by Carolyn Edlund

These true case studies share some of the pitfalls artists experience when preparing a portfolio presentation.


Are You Making these Portfolio Mistakes? How artists can give their best presentation


Too Broad

An artist was choosing work from his portfolio to share. He wanted to show the breadth of his work, which included painting and photography. Since he planned to use between 8-10 images, he put together a collection that showed his full range of abilities.

However, in doing so, he ended up with a presentation that was disjointed. In his studio practice, he had created several series that were cohesive. But in his haste to show everything that he could do, he ignored those similar works, and put together a disparate group of images that gave the impression he was going in too many directions at once.

It can be challenging to select work for a portfolio presentation that will make maximum impact and be memorable. Consistency is incredibly important. Rather than select a wide variety of pieces, thoughtfully construct a presentation of pieces that relate to each other and show your signature style. The goal should be to make it clear that the work is by the same artist, and to present a collection that is more compelling than the sum of its parts.

Too Similar

Another artist worked in a very specific painting style. Her textural abstract work was perfect for corporate environments, and she worked in series that used subtle color palettes. However, when she chose a grouping for a presentation, her images were so similar that they seemed to run together. Her grouping was actually too cohesive. Although there were some differences between her canvases, it was like playing one note, over and over.

Her solution to this “sameness” was to choose paintings from another series she had created, which was still in her painterly style but used a different color palette. These bright spots of color provided pop to her presentation, and brought her portfolio alive.

Too Crowded

A third artist, also an abstract painter, displayed her artwork on her art website but was unhappy with her online presentation. Her Home page showed a large grouping of her artwork, but each image was small, and the images were tightly grouped together. It was easy to miss the subtleties in her minimalist style, because the presentation was far too crowded.

What she had failed to do was to highlight each of her paintings as a special piece by giving it visual breathing room.

The artist made changes to her website to display her work in a larger size. She used detail shots and also in situ photos to share the impact that each piece of her art had on a room. This brought out the best features of her portfolio, and gave the impression of greater value to her art.


Have you made similar or other portfolio mistakes? How did you resolve them? What did you learn? 


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