Many art majors graduate with the intention of working in art history, art restoration, studio arts, and museums. The degree that one chooses to pursue for their undergraduate program determines, only slightly, the odds that they’ll get a job directly correlated to their degree. Many times, art students will be hard pressed to find work at all within the first few years of graduation. This is a result of the flooded economy and rapid growth in students attending college. There is, however, one advantage that college students today have over previous generations: our many ways to build and showcase a working artist portfolio.
All art portfolios follow a basic outline. Depending on the employer, you may be asked to showcase different things, but the general layout is universal. Choosing the right pieces for your portfolio will be the most challenging, especially when taking into consideration that your future relies on it. You must choose your absolute best, most mastered works. Ten to twenty is the typical range. Keep in mind that quality trumps quantity. Employers are much faster to recognize seven to ten quality works over twenty mediocre works.
Gaining peer evaluations will help you gain a better sense of your strong works. Aside from personal work, it’s smart to include items, such as awards, publications, and articles highlighting your achievements, if such exist. This will show that you have had experience applying for exhibitions and other events and can handle the pressure of assembling work under deadlines while showing professionalism and motivation. Another sure-fire way to build a strong portfolio is to visit the gallery that you’re applying for and capture the essence of the exhibit. What are they looking for? What body of works can you provide that will fit their theme? This leads into the last, yet strongest, piece of advice when it comes to building a portfolio. Make sure you have enough works to diversify. The worst thing to happen is to apply for a position that you’re not equipped to apply for. Be sure to be stocked up on finished pieces before considering employment.
The reason why the employment process favors portfolios is that it’s a readily available way to view a prospective employee’s work. In this digital age, sending out your portfolio online truly works to your advantage. A digital portfolio differs dramatically from a physical one. The biggest problem with a digital portfolio is that art is often complemented by a three-dimensional perspective, whereas the internet has the inconvenience of only providing two. Another downside to digital portfolios is the lack of greetings and introduction and prefatory conduct that often boosts your relationship with the employer. In this day and age, many are hesitant to admit that the digital realm is every bit as inconvenient as it is convenient, collectively.
However, positive sides of online portfolios do exist. They can be viewed by anyone and everyone. This includes the employers who you haven’t thought to reach out to yet. While some may argue that this dilutes the significance and rarity of a persons work, it can also work for the other angle. Another plus side, some people find it easier to make adjustments to your portfolio. If all it takes to update your body of work is “drag and drop,” then this is true. Taking photographs of things like ceramics, sculptures and installations are all necessary for a well-captured portfolio. NY Times elaborates how a mere collection of photographs earned Diane Arbus a seat at the front of the spotlight. This portfolio was recognized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The benefits of having a well-organized and diverse portfolio are as such: providing your employer with your best work, easily navigate and arrange your works, organize according to theme or exhibition, and so on. Without a working portfolio, an art career is quickly set back. Every day that someone postpones arranging their portfolio, another person with one of striking quality is taking their place. Whether your medium is ceramics, illustration, graphic design, graphite, etc., an artist portfolio will provide the art world with a clear picture of your ambitions and a great reason to bring you in.