Arts & Culture Visual Arts

The Artist’s Guide to Building a Standout Art Portfolio

Every artist needs a portfolio. It doesn’t matter what your preferred genre of art is, or what role you hope to ultimately perform professionally, if you don’t have a stand out art portfolio, you will struggle to become a standout artist. However, while some artists choose to create a portfolio by simply keeping records of every piece of work they’ve done, those who take the time to carefully consider what they include will end up with a much more effective portfolio.

Your portfolio should be about showcasing your talents, and therefore selling your work to a viewer. If your portfolio is simply a mass of all the different pieces of art you have attempted, it will appear more like a visual diary than an artist showcasing their best work. It is much more effective to approach your portfolio in a more careful and considered manner. Remember, the ultimate goal of your portfolio is to help you to secure work, not to show off (not that there’s anything wrong with just a little showing off!).

The following guide will help you in putting together your own portfolio in such a way that it serves as an effective tool for generating new clients and showcasing what you are capable of in a focused and useful way.

What Work to Include

You want your portfolio to include a reasonably diverse range of work, but not too diverse. If you simply throw every piece of art that you produce into your portfolio, a potential employer or client might interpret this as being indicative of a lack of focus. It is much better to present them with an art portfolio which showcases the range of skills that you have.

When you are applying for particular jobs or trying to advertise yourself to a particular market, you may well want to produce a portfolio for them which focuses on a very specific area. However, it is also a good idea, essential in fact, to maintain a more general art portfolio which can gain you general interest.

You therefore need to strike a balance. On the one hand, you want your portfolio to showcase your various talents and abilities. On the other hand, you don’t want a portfolio that is so broad that the viewer won’t be able to identify any areas where you are particularly skilled. The best way of approaching the decision as to what to include in your general portfolio is therefore to consider both your professional ambitions and your personal skills and tastes.

What to Write

Producing a worthwhile portfolio means not only demonstrating the kind of work that you are capable of, but also demonstrating the kind of thinking and thought processes that go into producing that artwork. When you set about creating a piece, make sure to ask yourself what the purpose or message of it is, whether it is supposed to convey a particular narrative, emotion, or even a political statement. The point is, every piece you produce should be made with purpose and with a specific goal in mind.

By conveying these things in writing to accompany your artwork, you will be demonstrating to potential employers and clients that you aren’t just a talented artist on a technical level, but that you are also capable of producing pieces that convey a deeper meaning and significance. In doing this, you are also demonstrating your ability to connect with your chosen subject matter on a deeper level.

It is also important that any writing you produce that is related to your artwork also acknowledges your weaknesses as well as your strengths. No reasonable viewer will think less of you for being able to identify your own weaknesses. Just make sure that you also make it clear how you plan to overcome those weaknesses and improve your future pieces.

Building a Website

When it comes to producing art portfolios, the internet is an invaluable tool. Hosting an art portfolio online makes it much easier to get your work in front of a wider audience than a physical portfolio would. You can only reach people close to you with a physical portfolio and you’ll need multiple copies to distribute which will have additional costs to prepare.

This is why building a website to showcase your work is so much more effective. Not only will it allow you to get your work in front of a much wider audience, but you will have a single, central point to send curious parties to who want to know more about your work. However, simply putting your artwork online via a website is not going to be enough. If you want your online portfolio or website to make a real difference, you will have to build it and promote it in the right way.

It can be tempting to simply use social media to promote yourself. While social media definitely has its place when it comes to promoting your artwork, it is no substitute for having a fully-fledged website. For one thing, you will have complete control over a website. This means that you can choose the appearance and style of the entire website, not just your page on it.

It is much more effective to build your own website. This allows you to showcase your artwork in the way you want, but also allows you to take advantage of search engine optimization and other techniques for making your website more prominent. It is much easier to raise the profile of a dedicated website than it is a social media profile page.

Another significant advantage to hosting your portfolio on your own website is that you can choose exactly how to monetize it. Whether you decide to do this through selling your artwork directly, or through another means such as advertising revenues, this gives you the opportunity to bring in a little extra income on your own terms.


Marketing your art portfolio online isn’t difficult. However, it is easy to make missteps if you aren’t paying attention to, and thinking about, what it is that you are doing. When you are deciding on where and how to market your online art portfolio, you need to remain mindful of both who your target audience is, and what you plan to ultimately do with your art.

Whatever your ultimate intentions, social media offers a number of excellent platforms for sharing your work with others. If you are going to use social media, however, it is vital that you take the time to learn the intricacies and subtleties of each individual platform. This will be beneficial in the long run and help you with your audience.

Having a standout art portfolio which shows off your skills is essential if you want to make it as an artist. However, it is important that your portfolio is not just a collection of random pieces of work. You should aim to produce a focused and considered portfolio which showcases your strongest skills while also proving that you are capable of branching out. What you choose to write about your art will also make a considerable difference in many cases.

As long as your portfolio demonstrates specific talents and shows the thought processes that went into each piece, it will impress whoever sees it.

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