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ArtOrder Portfolio Building Class #4 - Making A Plan

Building a powerful and successful portfolio requires a lot more than just a great strategy...it requires action!

Monday, January 07, 2013 by Jon Schindehette in Blog, Creativity

Welcome back to class four of the Portfolio Building Class. Please make sure that you are current in the program before moving into this current phase.

Class Introduction

Class #1 - What is a Portfolio?

Class #2 - Self Assessment

Class #3 - Setting A Strategy

Did you do your homework for Class #3? Was it tough or simple? Don't worry, neither answer is correct. If you did the assignment and learned something new about yourself, or your work, then the assignment was successful.

Last week we were talking about setting a strategy for yourself, and your portfolio. Having a strategy is just the first step in building a powerful portfolio. A strategy is great for mapping out what you want to accomplish, and helping you walk through the process so that you can ensure that your goals and strategies match up with who you want to be. The strategy your "IDEA" for who and what you want to be...what you want to accomplish.

I asked you to chart out a timeline, and set up some milestones for completing upon your strategy. Simply put, this is your "plan". A plan is nothing more than a list of tasks that you will take to accomplish a goal. So, I pulled a fast one on you. If you did the homework from the last session, you created your strategy, and your plan!

So, you've got a strategy and a plan, you've got everything you need to be successful, right? Not quite. It is one thing to have a plan of action, but until you transition it into actual "action" nothing will actual come into existence. For me, this is when all the self-doubt, and internal conversations start up. For me, nothing is more detrimental than the crap that get's said in my own head - this is where some of the most dangerous roadblocks to success are generated. So let's talk about some of the roadblocks that we often put into our way that take us out of integrity with our plans, or cause us to derail ourselves.

"I don't know how to start."

Don't sweat it. Anytime we come into a space of stress or the unknown, we always get into the space of fight, flight or freeze. It's just a normal human reaction. For me, I often get into that "frozen in place" spot when I try to do everything, all at one time. Being in that space often leaves me feeling overwhelmed and without an understanding where to start. That is one of the reasons that I focus on using a single image to have the voice required to address the needs of my portfolio. If I can get one image that fulfills my requirements, then I can do what Irene Gallo is famous for saying "now, go do ten more just like this..."

So, if you end up in a space like this, remember, that you can only do one thing at a time. Pick just one thing to accomplish, and go do it. It doesn't matter what that one thing is. There really isn't a right way to start. The trick is just to start...to get into action with the intent of accomplishing something that will get you further down the path.

"I don't have the time...or money...or dedication...or..."

... or whatever else you want to use as an excuse or justification of why you don't want to get into action, or keep in action. The truth of being is quite simple - you will either choose to make building your portfolio a priority, or you will choose to make something else a priority. There is nothing wrong with either choice - it is just what it is, but you have to come to understand that there is no integrity in saying "I want to be a successful artist", and not setting a priority that keeps you in action towards the state of being that you are declaring. In addition to dealing with our choices around priorities, there is an interesting event that happens in our lives when we start to talk about "scarcity" in our lives. When we say "I don't have enough time...", we are actual telling our mind that a situation exists, and that there is scarcity of time in our lives, and that there is nothing we can do to rectify the issue. This is an amazingly powerful statement. It doesn't seem like much, but we create so much in our lives through the language we use. I used to run my life in the mode of "not enough time" all the time. And amazingly enough, it was true, I never had enough time for anything! It was frustrating and removed a lot of joy from my life. For the past few months, I've ben operating from the space that I have "plenty of time" for the things that are truly important to me. Funny, when I operate from that space, I tend to take a few minutes to evaluate the time I have available to me, the tasks I have have before me, and the choices that I can make that keep me in integrity with who I want to be. Now, you might think it's all a bunch of mumbo jumbo word games, but after doing this for a few months, I have come to the understanding that I seem to have suddenly become a lot more "efficient in my time management" 'cause I'm able to get so much more accomplished. HA! I haven't become any more efficient. I've become more selective. Turns out, I spent a lot of my time taking on tasks and projects that had absolutely nothing to do with who I wanted to be, and everything to do with trying to look good to others, or make myself feel better about myself, or just flat out done for no useful reason at all....like out of guilt. When I took all of that out of the mix, and accomplished things simply because they fit in with the who I wanted to be - I found I had plenty of time to do everything that was important to me, and often found that I even had time left over to "goof around with". Consider taking on your life from a space of plenty, rather than a space of scarcity and see what shows up for you.

"I understand all the requirements, but I just don't have the hand skills, or talent do hit the mark."

Do you catch that this is just another scarcity discussion? Now, it might be a truth...but it's still scarcity. If you don't have the skills, then there is only one task in front of you then. Practice until you attain mastery. I've heard folks talk about the concept of 10,000 hours of practice to attain mastery. It's a cool concept, but it's deceptive. It's not about the quantity of hours, it's about the quality of hours. I can spend an afternoon sketching in my book and never learn anything new. Sure I'm "practicing", but I'm practicing doing what I already know. There is no learning there. The only thing you will master is staying exactly where you are at this moment. Instead, we must practice with intent. We much hold the space for growth and maturity before we begin our practice. Our practice has to be in the space of discovering something new - of being challenged and confronted during our practice. When ever I am practicing something, I am present to the understanding that when I'm in the midst of my practice and I'm "in the groove" and everything is coming together amazingly - it often means that I'm not be challenged or confronted by the learning process. And in fact, I'm often not learning anything, but rather I am just practicing what I know. This isn't just about drawing or painting either. Any place in my life where I want to grow, this comes into play. So if there is a skill that you don't have in place, then you have the amazing opportunity to make this you first task to practice. And while you are working on that skill, you can also be working on any compositional, design or other technical requirements that you need to get into place for your chosen company or product that you want to take on with your portfolio.

"I've created the perfect portfolio. It hits all the requirements I identified, but I'm still not successful"

Without seeing your portfolio, I can't hope to address this in a vacuum, but let me look at a few of the most common reasons for this type of issue.

You might have the perfect portfolio, but you may not be dealing with your self-promotion effectively. This is a subject that I plan to address later in the class. Improper self-promotion can be ineffective at best, and down right destructive to your career if done improperly. Let's dig into this more in the sessions in the future.

You may not be able to recognize the "magic", or when it is happening. Too often, we fall in love with our images. We lose the ability to be objective and authentically view our work for what it is. I often have to get away from my work for a bit before I can get enough emotional distance from the piece to really evaluate it well. When we are in the midst of a hardcore deadline on a freelance project, we often have the luxury of stepping away from a piece for a few days or weeks, but when we are talking about a piece that could affect the rest of our career, it is imperative that we step away from our work for the time it takes to disconnect your emotions from the work, and then go in an evaluate the work with a critical and discerning eye. Saving ourself a few weeks by powering through a painting won't help you when you step into a portfolio review and aren't really prepared...and have to wait 6 months before you can get in front of him again. Did saving those few weeks of work really help you out, or did you just leave the AD with a vision of your work for the next six months that you might spend years trying to overcome. And sometimes you just have to get a fresh perspective - get someone you trust to give your honest feedback to review the work. Just make sure they understand what you are up to. If they review your portfolio from a different place that you are working from, even if they give you honest feedback, it won't be tailored for what you are up to. Make sense?

You may not truly understand the requirements needed for the company or product that you want to work for. While most art directors don't have the time to review every portfolio that wanders into their inbox, they are often more than willing to answer a couple of well thought out and concise questions. If I get a request for a review, while I would love to accommodate every single person, I have other priorities in my life. Now, if you sent me an email that said something to the effect of - "I'm interested in doing work for D&D book covers. I understand that these are some of the requirements that the art work needs to accomplish.... If there are any other requirements that I have missed, can you please share them with me?" Now there is a question I can probably pound out in a few minutes, and get you some much needed information. That is so much more appealing to me - I get to stay in integrity to my desire to be a mentor, and also stay focused on the choices I've made as my priorities for the day.

There are a million roadblocks that we put into our way, and cause ourselves to flirt with failure, or just flat out demoralize ourselves. What are some of the roadblocks that you put in your way? Let's share them and let folks in the community share some of the means that they have used to remove those roadblocks.

Home Work Assignment:

Look back over your strategy and plan and see in which ways you can improve them, and use them to set you up for success.

Look at the roadblocks that you have put in your way in the past, or are currently putting in your way, and share them with the community so that we can all learn from them.

Next week we'll be talking about storyboarding and presentation as it refers to building a powerful and successful portfolio.

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