When should I start making a portfolio?

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  1. #1
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    When should I start making a portfolio?

    My problem is as follows: I'm thinking about making a portfolio but I'm also wondering if I should just get more paintings/drawings done first. I think that if I first make a portfolio with some good pieces and some unfinished pieces or ones that could be better, I could just start updating those after I've assembled some kind of a portfolio.

    But then I think maybe I should just practise more and do more studies and then maybe after that I should try to update some old drawings or do more finished pieces.

    But then I get nothing done, because everything I do feels like I'm avoiding the other. If I'm making a sketch, I should really be finalising a piece for my portfolio. If I'm finalising a piece for my portfolio, I should probably already have some portfolio where I could put that piece into. If I'm working on a portfolio, I should probably be making more drawings I definitely want to put in my portfolio. If I'm doing this, I'm avoiding doing that, so I get nothing done.

    I don't know, what's your take on this? Is it more useful to make any portfolio first, and then update it, or just keep pumping out more drawings... and then make a portfolio? Either just feels like procrastination to me at the moment, so I'm hoping you could help.

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  3. #2
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    A portfolio should have your best pieces in them that are relevant to the
    fields that you are applying for. Do not put unfinished pieces or old
    flawed work in there. Some employers literally get hundreds of portfolios
    sent to them a day, they are only interested in people who can provide
    workable and profitable solutions in a competitive industry.
    You don't need to cram your portfolio to the brim. As mentioned, know
    your target audience and put in a select group of works in that will stand
    out on their own, rather than having the employer search for pieces of
    interest and possibly just pass the portfolio over entirely.

    I suggest you put a portfolio together and submit it to the portfolio
    review section of the forums here. That should give you a good idea
    of where you are at and what you need to work on to make it a successful
    representation of why you should be hired.

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  5. #3
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    Thanks for your answer. However, I was not planning to submit the portfolio with the unfinished pieces anywhere. I was thinking of making it somewhat of a work-in-progress portfolio, that I would eventually update into a finished portfolio that I might represent to someone.

    I thought that maybe it would help me to keep track of my things so that I could take a look at the things I still need to do before my portfolio is finished.

    But yeah, I guess at this point I still have trouble knowing what my target audience is. I have lots of drawings, some that I like, but they have such different subject matters and different styles that I don't know how many I could put into one portfolio. I've been thinking of making pieces specifically for a certain type of portfolio, to fill in the gaps.

    I don't know, I'm just interested in so many things. I'm interested in illustration, in making book covers and in character design. I'm interested in making moody, dark pieces with powerful characters and I'm interested in making light happy scenes with cute characters. I make some pieces with pencils, others with watercolors, some with also gouache and some I've made with Photoshop and some with Painter.

    It just feels like each time I've made something good in one style, I've already gotten bored of it and moved onto something new. And then when I look back, I won't find enough of the same sort of thing to put into a portfolio. Just a lot of different styles.

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    i'd say tuesday.

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  8. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by cro-magnon View Post
    i'd say tuesday.
    Never on a Sunday.

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  9. #6
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    I take it that the answer is: "Whenever."

    Well, except for Sunday.

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    Yes, any time is a good time. Even if you're not submitting it anywhere yet, you might find it a good exercise to make a hand-picked selection of your work, to train your own critical judgment.
    Which works to pick for a specific-themed portfolio? Which ones to pick for a general, "allround" portfolio? When to include or leave out sketches? In what order to show the images? How many of them? "Which ones are truly my strongest?" etc. etc.
    As you find better and more critical answers and rearrange and update your portfolio over time, it'll certainly improve.

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    Thanks for your reply!

    I've decided I'm going to find the work I really want to put in my portfolio. I already have this image in my head of what it should look like. So I'm going to find the ones I think should be there, I'm going to arrange it the way I want, and then I'm going to take notes on what should be improved. Be it about the pieces themselves or the content of the portfolio. Maybe I'll write down what I still have to add.

    But first I'm going to do my last exercises and study for my exams before summer. I just realised my deadlines are getting close, so I wrote down a schedule for myself, and realised I don't really have that much extra time. So I placed working on my portfolio until after the exams, and with my new plan I'm confident I'm going to get it started.

    I don't know if it's the right plan, but it's better than aimlessly stressing out about all the things I have to do. And if it gets me started, then hey! That's all I need!

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  13. #9
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    Well, what exactly is your portfolio for? Game design? Character design? Graphic design? Gallery work? If you do several different things, tailor your portfolio to whomever you submit it to. If you want a website, then you could categorize your work (like, landscapes in one section, life drawings in another). As far as picking your best work, keep it around 10 - 15 pieces. Too much and you could easily dilute the quality of your portfolio. That being said, I always like looking at sketches, so maybe keep a separate folder for unfinished works?

    If you have a mix of serious and lighthearted things, then again, check out the work that gets hired, and tailor it to that.

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    If you have plenty of time to do this then yes. Making portfolio just for yourself helps. Then you can throw new things in and throw bad things away. Watch out though beacause the more you're obsessed about portfolio and jobs, the more you get tense. The more you get tense, the less creative you get beacause creativity is about being relaxed and playful.

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    You don't really need a portfolio until you're trying to gain something with your art. The portfolio is your way of quickly showing your best work. If you're just doing art for personal reasons, I don't see why you really need one. If you want to get paid work then you need one to show what you can do.

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  18. #12
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    Well, my goal is to eventually get paid. Well, I've already sold a few paintings and drawings, but just to acquaintances for cheap. Currently I'm studying landscape architecture, but I always really wanted to do illustration, and also have considered studying graphic design. I would love character design, but I'm not sure about the job opportunities, at least in my country.

    I'm thinking I should have at least some sort of portfolio prepared before seeking out possible job opportunities, and I thought, maybe making a portfolio firstwould help me to see what types of jobs I should look for... Otherwise I don't really know where to start looking for illustration work. I contacted one small card-making company once, and they asked to see more of my work, but instead of sending them anything, I made some more work and then procrastinated forever on sending them, and now I'm not sure if I should anymore. If I'd just had a portfolio ready back then... I don't know.

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    If you can't do ten pieces every six months you aren't ready to look for work. You can't show a portfolio that is two years old of non professional work. Art Directors expect to see new stuff every 6 months and no longer than a year to show you are actually making quality art at a pace that shows you are serious. That means two portfolios a year with no overlap or repeats.

    If you are working professionally then its different and a few paid professional works can stay in your portfolio for a year or more. Even then you want to show you're active and have new work.

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    Well, then I guess I should quit my studies, give up on my summer job and just make art every day and hope I start making money before my savings burn out.

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    I worked a full time job in construction working 10 hour days and still kept up my portfolios, so I don't know what the problems would be.

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    Well, you must have a stronger head than I and I congratulate you on that.

    I am planning to get more artwork done on summer, though, because my job doesn't really require all that much thought and energy. Unlike my studies which nearly burned me out on the first autumn. No one is ever damn well happy with anything I do, and then I stay up day and night working on some assignment I had forgotten existed, because I was too working on another assignment.

    Anyway, this may be an overtly emotional response because I've had a shit day, but don't you dare to berate me for not putting every last drop of my energy into my art. It's the only thing I ever actually wanted for myself, that no one else asked me to do. The reason I'm studying landscape architecture is that I thought that's what people wanted from me, and the reason I'm staying is because I think some parts of it teach me to do better art. I am constantly wanting to make use of the things I've learned, but I need to do other things to survive, and it pains me. And it pains me to know, that whenever I do art, I should be working on something different. And yes, I've still managed to squeeze in time for making art, despite everything, and it always feels fantastic. Then later on I just feel guilty for not doing all the other things I should do.

    I guess my problem is I want to keep my options open. I keep trying to do everything, but there just isn't time to do everything at once. If I'm doing both art and working on school assignments, both tend to suffer.

    Anyway, I've had a shit day, I feel like everything is going to hell and nothing matters. I should get some sleep because I need to wake up early tomorrow to figure out what to do with my car that is required for my summer job, because turns out all the parking spaces here can only be used for fours hours. But on the other hand, I just feel like doing art, so maybe I should do that and fuck everything else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Great Distance View Post
    Well, then I guess I should quit my studies, give up on my summer job and just make art every day and hope I start making money before my savings burn out.
    Well aside the admirable artistic prowess of dpaint, if you're still caught on with your studies, summer jobs etc, why would you make a portfolio? I mean that generally means you are looking for job and what happens if you do get an illustration job but then you get caught up with your summer or other job or school etc etc...? And trust me that can put you into a very uncomfortable situation, especially if you're a beginner with this stuff.

    I'm not against putting up a portfolio for your own needs and to see if there's stuff to be improved, but with your situation I'd consider whether you or your situation is ready for actually needing it yet.

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  27. #18
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    Yeah, I guess you're right... Thanks.

    I guess I just fear I'll throw it all away when the time comes, so I should get more invested in it already. And there's a couple of times when I could've made a portfolio, so I feel guilty for not doing it yet. But yeah, realistically speaking, even if I had sent those drawings to that card making company, there is no way I would've had time to make any work for them.

    But I was thinking, if I DID get some illustration work, and knew for sure it would pay well enough, maybe I could take on a bit less studies and slow down on that part, and put my illustrations first. Hmm.

    But you're right, it could turn out to be really uncomfortable.

    Edit: Oh, I just want to point out that I think being able to make two separate portfolios a year with all new drawings is pretty good advice. It gives me some guideline on how I should approach this situation. And honestly, looking at my old drawings is a bit painful when I feel like I could make much better ones now. So maybe I'll concentrate on making better ones, because that's really all that matters to me.

    Last edited by Great Distance; May 20th, 2012 at 06:09 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Great Distance View Post
    Anyway, this may be an overtly emotional response because I've had a shit day, but don't you dare to berate me for not putting every last drop of my energy into my art. It's the only thing I ever actually wanted for myself, that no one else asked me to do.
    This is a bit premature. I don't believe dpaint was trying to berate you. He was relating his own expearence. I also worked full time in construction while I put my portfolio together. My day consisted of getting up a 5:30am I got home at 6:30pm spent family time with the wife and kids. At 9pm I would start painting until about 1am and do it all week. I crashed on the weekends, but I still got my painting time in. Having no time to work on art is common. There comes a point where you have to know what you want and do everything in your power to achive it. I started trying to assemble a portfolio, but most of the art wasn't good enough at first and I had to keep working to get better stuff... I still do.

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  30. #20
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    Hey, I was in construction as well! If Shorinji, dpaint and myself ever form a band
    there's going to be a fight about who gets to dress in the hardhat and toolbelt and
    who will get the leather biker gear.

    (well, not really, I like leather.)

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  32. #21
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    It's fun to stay at the Y...M...C..A...

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  34. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Great Distance View Post
    Well, you must have a stronger head than I and I congratulate you on that.

    I am planning to get more artwork done on summer, though, because my job doesn't really require all that much thought and energy. Unlike my studies which nearly burned me out on the first autumn. No one is ever damn well happy with anything I do, and then I stay up day and night working on some assignment I had forgotten existed, because I was too working on another assignment.

    Anyway, this may be an overtly emotional response because I've had a shit day, but don't you dare to berate me for not putting every last drop of my energy into my art. It's the only thing I ever actually wanted for myself, that no one else asked me to do. The reason I'm studying landscape architecture is that I thought that's what people wanted from me, and the reason I'm staying is because I think some parts of it teach me to do better art. I am constantly wanting to make use of the things I've learned, but I need to do other things to survive, and it pains me. And it pains me to know, that whenever I do art, I should be working on something different. And yes, I've still managed to squeeze in time for making art, despite everything, and it always feels fantastic. Then later on I just feel guilty for not doing all the other things I should do.

    I guess my problem is I want to keep my options open. I keep trying to do everything, but there just isn't time to do everything at once. If I'm doing both art and working on school assignments, both tend to suffer.

    Anyway, I've had a shit day, I feel like everything is going to hell and nothing matters. I should get some sleep because I need to wake up early tomorrow to figure out what to do with my car that is required for my summer job, because turns out all the parking spaces here can only be used for fours hours. But on the other hand, I just feel like doing art, so maybe I should do that and fuck everything else.
    Yeah whatever, you're having a bad day.
    Two things:

    One I didn't berate you. I'm giving you professional advice since you seem to not understand what will be expected of you. You were the one with the smart ass comment when I gave you information. If you can't up your game to that level you won't ever make it. No one else cares how hard you try or how much you care about what you do they only care about results.

    Two, if you can't do the work, you need to cut things out of your life that don't allow you to do the work. Almost everyone who has wanted to be an artist has been in the same boat.

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  36. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shorinji_Knight View Post
    This is a bit premature. I don't believe dpaint was trying to berate you. He was relating his own expearence. I also worked full time in construction while I put my portfolio together. My day consisted of getting up a 5:30am I got home at 6:30pm spent family time with the wife and kids. At 9pm I would start painting until about 1am and do it all week. I crashed on the weekends, but I still got my painting time in. Having no time to work on art is common. There comes a point where you have to know what you want and do everything in your power to achive it. I started trying to assemble a portfolio, but most of the art wasn't good enough at first and I had to keep working to get better stuff... I still do.
    Yep, that sounds like one of my past days exactly. That's
    construction all right. (EDIT: Except for the kids, but married,
    housework, fitness, reservist duties, etc...)
    When I got my first local published gig I took unpaid leave to make
    sure I met the deadline and still worked for over 24 hours straight more
    than once during that time.

    If you want it bad enough you can make it happen.

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  38. #24
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    Yeah whatever, you're having a bad day.
    Two things:

    One I didn't berate you. I'm giving you professional advice since you seem to not understand what will be expected of you. You were the one with the smart ass comment when I gave you information. If you can't up your game to that level you won't ever make it. No one else cares how hard you try or how much you care about what you do they only care about results.

    Two, if you can't do the work, you need to cut things out of your life that don't allow you to do the work. Almost everyone who has wanted to be an artist has been in the same boat.
    Yeah, I was being a bit rash. I realise that now. Sorry.

    I don't know if you managed to see the edit to my latest post, but I do realise now what you said was sound advice. It may actually be precisely what I needed to know. Thank you.

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  40. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Art Directors expect to see new stuff every 6 months and no longer than a year to show you are actually making quality art at a pace that shows you are serious. That means two portfolios a year with no overlap or repeats.
    Huh. So you should be sending Art Directors two portfolios a year even if you aren't looking for work? If you are currently working for them, do you still send an updated portfolio? (poor Art Directors must get a lot of portfolios!)

    /stupid questions

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