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Art Portfolio Presentation Tips to Help You Stand Out 

Every artist needs a portfolio. You’ll need to put together a portfolio to show off your skills whether you’re applying for an art school, applying for a job, or just trying to prove your worth to a valuable contact in the community.

Anyone can put together a decent portfolio, and if you’re a good enough artist, your work may speak for itself. But if you want to maximize your chances of success, and make a better impression with everyone who sees your portfolio and the presentation that accompanies that, it’s important to find ways to stand out.

These are some of the best ways to improve your portfolio, your portfolio presentation, and your appearance of originality.

Always Read the Requirements

Many artists make the mistake of creating one, singular portfolio that they use for every application and every context. There’s nothing wrong with having a template like this to start from, but for each portfolio presentation, you should create something unique. 

Always read the requirements for whatever application you’re pursuing; are there specific formatting requirements to which you’ll need to add here? Are there certain types of pieces that should or shouldn’t be included?

If you neglect these requirements, it could be a black mark for you. Don’t start your interactions on the wrong foot just because you refused to make changes based on the requirements.

Invest in Your Materials

Whether you’re getting a board to show off your best pieces or you’re putting together a perfect bound book to highlight your successes, it’s important to invest in your materials. Ideally, reviewers are going to look at the quality of your artwork, rather than the quality of the materials presenting those pieces of art, but the quality of your materials does make an impact – even if it’s just forming a first impression. 

Work with a printer that takes quality assurance seriously, be prepared to spend a bit more money, and be discerning when selecting options like paper stock.

Curate Pieces That Show Your Versatility

In most applications, versatility counts – and it’s a great way to stand out from other artists. Include at least a handful of pieces that include mediums, subject matter, or elements of presentation that deviate strongly from the norm. Even if these pieces don’t reflect your technical skill as well as your core pieces, they’ll do an excellent job of setting you apart from the competition.

Show Off Your Best Works First and Last

First and last impressions matter when it comes to art portfolios; the first piece of your portfolio is going to set the tone, and the last piece is probably going to be the most memorable. Accordingly, you should bookend your art portfolio with your strongest pieces. Which pieces best represent your artistic abilities?

Write Clear and Intriguing Labels

Every piece in your portfolio needs to be labeled clearly and in a way that makes the piece intriguing. This is one of your best chances to optimize your portfolio for distinctiveness; what’s going to draw people in?

Tell Stories

Human beings respond to stories more so than other forms of communication. That’s why it’s important to tell stories about the pieces in your portfolio – or use the pieces themselves to tell a story. The arrangement of your pieces, your written commentary, and your verbal commentary in the presentation can all form a coherent narrative. With a narrative in place, your presentation is going to be much more compelling.

Do Something Unconventional

Find a way to work something unconventional into your art portfolio. Do something that these portfolio reviewers may never have seen before, even if it means taking a risk.

·       Theme and background. Can you coordinate all your included pieces around a bigger theme? Can you select a perfect background that highlights the best features of your works?

·       Organizational choices. Can you position or organize your pieces in a way that provokes thought or forces people to see your work in a new light?

·       Interactive elements. Interactive content elements can also heighten your presentation, though they may be tricky to implement. Can you coordinate the digital and physical version of your portfolio?

Look to the Future

Most artists use their portfolio to showcase what they’ve done in the past, so distinguish yourself from the crowd by also including materials that showcase what you’re going to do in the future. Talk about your goals as an artist, what you’re hoping to do next, or give a sneak peek of what you’re currently working on.

Be Prepared for Discussion

Finally, be prepared to discuss all the pieces you include in your portfolio. This is especially important if you’re going to present your portfolio in person. Don’t just reiterate what you already said in the portfolio; show off your unique way of thinking and your dynamic personality.

For many aspiring artists, assembling a portfolio is a stressful and high-pressure event. After all, how do you summarize yourself as an artist when you only have a handful of pages to work with? But if you have a strategy from the outset, and you’re focused on standing out from your peers, you’ll have a much better chance of putting together a portfolio that works. 

Put some extra effort into your selections and organization to maximize your probability of success. 

About the author

Jamie Moses

Jamie Moses founded Artvoice in 1990

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