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How to Design a Professional Art Portfolio

How to Design a Professional Art Portfolio

Aletta de Wal

This is not the place to rush or scrimp. A good portfolio should say, “I am a professional artist that YOU want to work with!”

The best portfolio is functional, easy for the recipient to review and easy for you to produce.

I’ve seen all types of presentations of artwork, from old cardboard folders or scrapbooks holding snapshots to big fancy black leather custom-made notebooks with engraved stationery and custom-printed oversize photographs. Many of these portfolios are amateur or uselessly elaborate. The easiest container for both you and your viewers is a “dressed” view binder with your promotional identity in the plastic sleeves and spine.

Each portfolio you create is drawn from your Master File (Electronic, print and CD) of all your updated material.

Once you have a Master Portfolio, all you have to do is update it whenever you have an event, award or new body of work. (You do update your material every time you have something new to add, don’t you? If not, you might miss an opportunity!) Make sure to keep a backup off-site and natural disaster-proof.

The contents typically include:
• Cover letter
• One- or two-page resume
• Artist’s statement
• Articles and press
• Labeled color photocopies of images
• Inventory list for all images with retail prices
• Sample rack cards, brochures, postcards, business cards
• CD of contents
• Self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) in back pocket

Make Sure to Follow-up:

Each viewer looks at a portfolio for a different reason. A gallery dealer is interested in the visuals, your prices, and your resume. A museum curator looks at your artist’s statement and experience. The arts writer is interested in newsworthy accomplishments. Collectors want to see if there is anything to buy.

Effective marketing is polite and persistent.

Viewers often flip through and assess portfolios quickly before they return or toss them. Don’t leave it up to busy people to decide when they will get back to you. Show them that you mean business and take the initiative.

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