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How to Build a Professional Art Portfolio

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Building an artist’s portfolio is not exactly a walk in the park. Especially for artists just starting out, it can be one hell of a ride. As a brief introduction, a portfolio is a mode of showcasing an artists pieces to potential connections (buyers, galleries, programs) what their current discipline is and what varied or specific interests. It shows who an artist is and how they want to progress further in a specific subject. Art of all mediums can be included in a portfolio; sculptor, painter, designer and many more.

As an artist, having a powerful portfolio can help to get noticed and create exposure to the right sources needed to advance in the art world. Whether the artist is trying to secure an art related job, vying for gallery representation, or securing a spot in art school, the quality and effectiveness of the portfolio can make a huge difference in ones success or failure.

Here are some tips needed when building for any artist trying to build their professional artist portfolio.       

Research

First of all, make your inquiries. If you know what schools, galleries, organisations you want to apply to, research their portfolio requirements carefully and early. Some may require a physical portfolio rather than a digital one, so just to be sure, ensure you research properly. During the beginning process, you should also look at examples of previously submitted art portfolios if you can find them. Looking at the portfolios other students have created can be very helpful in developing your own portfolio. If you are already in art school, you can search the library, or just go online for good examples.

Artist Statement

In the artist statement, you should describe your work as a whole. Explain the meaning behind your work, your artistic process, and why it is that you create what you do. Be sure to keep your statement concise (the general guideline is 500 words or less).

Artist Biography

Your biography should address your artist background, including where you went to school, formal exhibitions, and other pertinent details.

Artist Resume/ CV

This should focus primarily on your artistic accomplishments. This includes awards, publications, major exhibits (both individual and group shows), and past gallery representation is applicable.

Cover Letter (If the organisation asks for it)

First of all, personalize the letter to address each individual gallery you intend to make contact with. In the body, introduce yourself and your artwork in such a way as to catch the reader’s attention and help your portfolio to stand out. If you don’t know how to craft a good cover letter, you can always check out sites for references.

Choose the Right Pieces

You will need about a dozen pieces of work for your portfolio. But the number depends on the institution you are submitting to. These can be pieces you created for a class or outside of school. All of your work should be clear and simple, so that it’s easy to follow for the reviewer. Every piece should be labeled, with title, media, any notes and your name and contact information. In addition, place all written documents strategically so that the portfolio recipient will be able to find them quickly and easily. Choose pieces targeted specifically to the gallery or institution you are sending your work to, and make sure they demonstrate the quality of your work, your mastery of technical elements, your creative vision, and the range of your abilities.

Ask for Feedback

After compiling the portfolio to the best of your ability, it’s always best to ask for feedback from someone who is already in the field. Someone who can give you quality advice and point out mistakes without prejudice. You can also ask for feedback throughout your portfolio-making process especially if you’re just starting out and don’t know what to do. You can either get it from your art teacher, colleagues, or fairs that focus on portfolio evaluation.

Keep your portfolio updated

Keep in mind that you’ll keep growing in your profession. Any time you create a new body of work, have another show, or receive an award, include it in your portfolio. If need be, take out older achievements and replace them with the newer ones. By doing this, gallery/school representatives can see that you are active in the art world.

Author

Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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