Help me make my professional portfolio look professional
February 28, 2010 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What is the typical way to include artists' work in a portfolio? Do you include any kind of disclaimer, copyright notice, and labels for the content?

I'm finally putting together a real portfolio of my work, and I have a few questions since I've never done this before, and I haven't really seen examples of other artist's portfolios.

I have a standard Itoya 11"x17" portfolio to fill. My work ranges from graphic design pieces done for the company I'm employed with and my personal artwork—which, of course, varies in size and medium (from big digital pieces to smaller paintings and drawings).

The graphic design examples, because they are print pieces, are easy. I just print new copies and include them. However, my personal artwork is trickier... I have scans or photos of my work, and I have simply reprinted copies pieces small enough to fit at the original sizes and I reduced the larger pieces down to 11x17 prints.

But I'm wondering: do I include some kind of disclaimer to the extent that "the content consists of reprints that may not reflect the full quality of the originals ... and the originals sizes vary and have been reduced when necessary to be displayed"? Do people do this? But I suspect that anyone that would request to see my portfolio would already know it contains example prints and it would not be necessary to explicitly state this. Or—I could be completely off in left field—maybe typical artists' portfolios contain originals?! I wouldn't think so...and if so, that will be difficult.

And a few related questions: do artists typically sign each reprint or include some copyright disclaimer? is it common to include a label with each piece? (for the labels, I was considering the title, original size, medium, if it was shown/sold- if applicable)

Hope me, metafilter artists! I want to do this right!
posted by Eicats to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I normally include title, medium, size, copyright date and my name,website and contact info on each page - I set up a standard format - not quite a letterhead but similar for name and contact info. I don't include any disclaimer about the reproduction - everyone knows they're reproductions and if you include the size of the actual piece it's implicit. My portfolio is for fine art pieces not graphic design - others who focus on design may tell you to do something else.
posted by leslies at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's my two knuts:

The best way to look professional in presenting your creative work is to know exactly the audience you want to address. Graphic Design work audiences will differ from Fine Art audiences. Many galleries and academic venues will let you know exactly their preferential presentation style, and you should follow their constraints exactly or risk being completely ignored.

Original work is not generally submitted in a portfolio. Many audiences nowadays will ask for a link or website. Sending large graphic files or submitting too much work (generally under twenty works) does not make a favorable impression. Identify contents with a contact sheet so the potential viewer will know the information on the disc before risking using it---a graphic teaser label makes a good impression.

Identify: title, author, size, date, media, year. A Fine Artist's emphasis on a resume will differ with emphasis on shows, a job resume on job experience. An Artist's Statement with Fine Art works.

The contents should lead with what you feel is your strongest work, and close with your second strongest. Seasoned viewers look at work pretty quickly, so don't get discouraged by that.

Good luck.
posted by effluvia at 2:39 PM on February 28, 2010

Leslies basically said it, but just to add:

I include an "image list" with my images, so the text does not distract from the image itself. If the person looking at the image is curious, they will look at the image list.
The image list contains the following:

year created
photo credit

The header of the image list includes your name, so you dont have to put your name next to each item.
Each image should be numbered the same in your portfolio as on the image list.
I usually submit my work in digital format. Most calls for artwork have a very specific way they want the images labeled...its usually something like this:
(you always want to use 01-09 instead of 1-9 because you dont want 10 before 1 when you list the digital files)

Your case seems to be that you will be bringing a physical portfolio with you. I think each image could have a small number, and in the end, you have an image list with all the above information...or you could have all the info on the image, but I feel like that is a distraction.

I just want stress how important excellent quality images are. Everyone knows they are reproductions. It is EXTREMELY rare that someone would ask for an original to be sent/shown for any sort of application process.
Its kind of sad, but pieces of art work often exist in the world only as images of the pieces, not the actual those images must be of super high quality. They are representations of the work itself.
What/who are you planning to show this portfolio to? If it is for a design job, I'm not sure what design firms are looking for, but I can still guarantee that the images need to be basically perfect...simple, in focus, and crisp.
Everything should be the same throughout. Find your own design/font/layout.
Hey, your a graphic designer, you should know all about that kind of thing.

Hiring a professional photographer is sometimes the best investment an artist can make if they cant photograph well.

good luck.
posted by bdoop21 at 2:43 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Basically, all in all.....consistency is key in any presentation.
posted by bdoop21 at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2010

Thanks everyone so far! Leslies summed it up nicely and bdoop21 brought up a point that was bothering me: I also thought a label would be very distracting and was hesitant to obscure the page with one. So I love the image list idea! I will definitely go with that.

Effluvia brought up a whole other issue: the Artist's Statement. I haven't done that yet either; but, that's a very good point. I should. Any links that anyone might have to good examples/format for that would be much appreciated. I have seen few examples, but it never hurts to have a solid format to follow!

And to clarify—I'm not preparing the portfolio to show anyone specifically right now. It's just that I'm at the point where I have a pretty solid volume of work (enough to scale it down to the best pieces, as suggested) and I figured it would be a good idea to get one going. Also because I have shown and sold some of my work, I'm sure it will be a necessity at some point in the future to have a portfolio at the ready (along with a website and/or digital volume, but I'll save that for another day).
posted by Eicats at 3:26 PM on February 28, 2010

The creative world is full of little niches, and they kind of can turn in to pigeonholes. Knowing what the niche you fit into will help you pitch to the right audience. Minimalist galleries would not be interested in Thomas Kincaid, for example, no matter how well his work sells to the public.

Seconding the suggestion of the professional photographer.
posted by effluvia at 3:38 PM on February 28, 2010

For Artist's Statements, Peter Selz and Katherine Stiles published a whole tome of artists statements by noted artists called "Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Writing" you can take what styles you find inspiring.
posted by effluvia at 3:41 PM on February 28, 2010

One comment about the selection of work in your portfolio - you want a consistent body of work. I would not generally include graphic design work and fine art work in the same portfolio - you should put together specific groupings depending on who you are submitting to. And yes - really good photos of your work are essential. My normal portfolio is an 8.5 x 11 notebook with pages in sheet protectors and last pages are statement and a no more than 2 page resume.

some good information about artist statements here - Alyson Stanfield is a well known art business expert.
posted by leslies at 3:57 PM on February 28, 2010

good point about creating separate portfolios... I was considering that. I figured that when it came to actually showing my portfolio that I would edit it according to the audience. For now I was just deciding what to include of both. But leslies is probably right—I might as well keep it separated right from the start.
posted by Eicats at 4:04 PM on February 28, 2010

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