In my efforts to move ahead in building my creative business, I’ve found myself a bit stuck on how to categorize my work – of all things! I’ve done traditional graphic design work, web design, digital scrapbooking products, digital stamps, drawings, paintings and bookbinding work. It’s all fun and crafty, but I really need to shape up my presentation to create an official portfolio of work. Which leads me to a thought regarding the website versus the blog. I think they are two separate things and the blog is secondary. It might be combined depending on how your website is organized, but suffice to say that your web presence is the formal side of things and the blog is the more informal side. Blogs come from the word web-blog and it’s just a journal that you are sharing to the general audience. But it’s not a portfolio and not a place to send your clients to in my opinion. At least for my purposes of getting into the licensing industry or even for fine artists or illustrators, you need a gallery or portfolio area so people can see your work quickly and easily. I’m thinking of my website like a professional resume. If I point potential clients to my website, they should be getting the essential information needed to help me get that job. Here’s my work, please contact me type of thing! Of course, you can add the blog, award mentions, etc but don’t clutter it up so much that the original intent is covered.
Anyway, so I am thinking about my portfolio section and how I want to organize it. Even the title of this section can get me stuck… is it a gallery? Licensing gallery? Portfolio? Artwork? Hmm. I had to snap myself out of it and realize that people will get it whatever I call it. No need to get so picky about the vocabulary when everyone will understand in the end. So I started to think about the categories my work would fall into. I want to present my work in an organized format, because they are really different from a visual standpoint at times. I have line art and colored art, patterns…it varies so much. I must admit this probably means I’m a novice in the field…still in the exploration stage of things. But at the same time, I think over time it means I’ll have a wide breadth of work because that is who I am truly. I have many interests and sides to my personality, so they result in different styles of artwork.
I thought it would be best to check out working artists in the licensing world and see what they do. From Puffy P to Alisha Wilson to Kate Harper to Leslie Newman to Leyla Torres to Shawn D Jenkins to Sue Zipkin to Khristian Howell to Heidi Gray to Jen Goode to to Jane Shasky to…I’m sure there are many more to explore, but I had seen enough. I noticed that most veterans in the business showed actual products they have licensed their artwork onto. I also noticed some artists did work outside the realm of licensing and in those cases, they did split up their portfolio into sections by licensing, editorial, illustration, etc. Finally, I noticed many artists only offered previews to give you a taste of their work. Many had private areas for clients to actually review the full collections.
I realized there are many ways of presenting oneself and all those were working artists with different setups. I suppose we just have to find the right combo for ourselves personally. I like the idea of collections, since each can have it’s own style and theme. As a beginner, I don’t have actual products to display and don’t want to delve into mock products at this point. However, I still feel like surface pattern collections should be separated from other artwork collections…hmm.
From the process of organizing and looking at all my work in full, I also realize there are many holes to fill in. It’s important to note that work should be updated to reflect your current body of work…so there are no surprises when a client wants to engage with you. However, as a beginner or a hobbyist going professional…you might want to weed out a lot of stuff. Everyone says you have to show your best work – of course! But at the same time, you only have so much work as a beginner, so I think it’s okay to start with the best possible and keep updating as you go to build up your presence.
I’m thinking of going with previews only for my portfolio. It’s important to show enough to get people interested, but not necessarily reveal it all to non-clients. I have to remember the purpose of sharing my portfolio and going back to the business plan, I have an idea of who my potential clients are and what they might be looking for. I don’t know how many potential clients would be stumbling on my website…more often than not I’m directing people there to see my work or I would have submitted my work already. So I continue to wrestle a bit with how much to present and a few more questions also pop up in my head. I also wonder if lower quality web images would do the job, in the sense that they would be protected from people who rip the images to print. Would manufacturers understand that aspect of things?
How are you planning to organize your work and how much do you want to show? For those wanting to sell the work itself, I would envision something like a virtual gallery setup…so you would have to consider offering more details, pricing and an option to buy. Others might only have a preview of best works displayed, especially if you have a very unique signature style. You don’t need pages and pages to get the point across. I don’t think it’s ever necessary to have your entire lifelong gallery online anyway. Might be a bit dangerous too for those copycats or such as well…it’s more work to have to protect. I’m thinking just the most recent and relevant. Feel free to share your thoughts and portfolio structure or organization plans…thanks!