The ArtOrder

ArtOrder Portfolio Building class #5a - Presentation

What's in your portfolio is step one of locking down a successful portfolio review. Perhaps even more important, are the 30 seconds before the Art Director even opens up your book...

Tuesday, February 05, 2013 · by Jon Schindehette · in Blog, Creativity

What's in your portfolio is step one of locking down a successful portfolio review. Perhaps even more important, are the 30 seconds before the Art Director even opens up your book...

But before we jump into today's topic, let's make sure that everyone is on the same page. If you are just jumping into this topic, I highly recommend that you go back through the previous lessons and get up to speed. If you just jump in here, chances are good that you will be doing yourself a disservice.

Class Introduction

Class #1 – What is a Portfolio?

Class #2 – Self Assessment

Class #3 – Setting A Strategy

Class #4 – Making A Plan

Class #4a – The Insanity Loop

Class #5 - Storyboarding and Presentation

Last week, I talked about the importance of storyboarding your portfolio. Did you find any insights in that discussion? If you really dug into the inquiry, you might have realized that there might be more than just combining your images in an appealing manner. Let me tell you one last little story before I jump into todays lesson.

Recently I was reviewing  the pencils for an upcoming comic being created for Dungeons & Dragons by IDW.  David Baldeon is the artist, and I'm absolutely in love with what he did for me. Any way, I was commenting on the wonderful narrative in the panels, and a nearby team mate commented that there was any text in the panels yet. I tossed the pages over to them and asked them to tell me the story by just looking at the pencils. Amazingly, they were able to get a lot of the key beats of the story, and even caught a few of the very subtle interplay between personalities. Hmmm...with out any words what so ever.

...that's what we call visual narrative. You can do the same thing with your portfolio...


At IlluxCon, this past year, I was wondering my way back to the portfolio review area, and wondered past the elevators. Most of the artists that were waiting for the reviews were waiting in the area of the elevators and I couldn't help but ask who was ready for their review. I stepped onto the elevator, and told them that they had until the next floor to convince me why I should work with them. There were some nervous laughs, and not a single person took me up on it.

So, I was goofing around, but I was also being quite serious. Have you even been  given the opportunity to bend the ear of an art director for a few seconds, and you found yourself tongue tied and feeling foolish? In the past, I've written about having your "elevator speech" planned and in place for when you have that opportunity to chat with an art director for 10-20 seconds. It's amazing what you can fit into such a short space of time, and having a plan affords you to opportunity to say something more than "OMG! I love your stuff!", and then standing there in awkward silence.

You don't have to be some kind of crazy used car salesman. You don't have to be pushy or obnoxious. You can have a simple little banter that runs something like

"Hi, _________. I am a fan of your product line, and would be honored to be considered for potential projects. I have a solid understanding of your products and the specific needs that you require. When you have some time, I would be honored if you would take a few minutes to review my work."

Pass them the business card that you conveniently have available for such occurrences, thank them for their time, and then excuse yourself. It's that simple.

You'll get a lot of points for not being one of those guys that glom onto an AD and demand a bunch of their time. It's not that we don't want to spend time with fact, it's just the opposite. We DO want to spend time with artists. I know from personal experience that I never have enough time to see every artist at an event. I always try. I cut short conversations I'd love to have, bounce from table to table, and shake as many hands as possible, and every time I leave knowing that I only saw half the people I wanted to see.

Just like the elevator speech, that "intro" talk when you walk into a portfolio review is a vitally important moment. I always start out my reviews in a similar way...essentially I'll always ask them what I can do for them. Sometimes I'll use different words, but the intent is always the same.

I'll get responses that range all over the way, but I would recommend folks to really take on this question. This isn't one of those "How are you doing" type questions where you just blurt out some nonsense answer that we've all gotten really good at ignoring. This is a real question! You've got a number of directions you can go with this question.

• You can say that you want to convince me to give you work.

• You can say that you are looking for feedback on you portfolio.

• You can say that you know that you aren't a fit for my product line, but are looking for a referral based upon your portfolio

• You could say that you are struggling, and just want an conversation about your strengths and weaknesses.

Whatever reason you are going to be having a conversation, have it in your mind BEFORE you sit down with the art director. An art director should not have to guess why you are talking to them. Take the time to make a choice about who you want to be and how you want to show up. "Winging it" is for amateurs that have no desire to be anything more. Having the answer "everything" when asked what you want to do might sound positive and adventurous to the uninitiated, but to an art director that is trying to get some clarity and understanding of who you are what are your strengths and preferences, it's an answer that almost always shuts down the chance for real conversation.

While we are here, let's talk about a few do's and don'ts:

• Don't have excuses or justifications. If you don't like the prints, replace them. Don't tell me they aren't good, and expect me to judge the art other than I see it.

• Don't be negative. I don't care if you are Mr. Negative in life, at a portfolio review you better be the most upbeat and positive person in the world, or you are going to turn me into a negative person to...and negative people say "no".

• Don't brag. Keep you ego in check. You aren't going to impress the AD with your words, only your work.

• Don't argue. If you ask an art director for their thoughts and opinions about something, then you opened yourself up for something you might not like to hear. You don't have to agree with it (but then, if you aren't going to take it in, why did you even ask?), but you asked the get to sit in the situation you just created.

• Remember why you are there...hopefully you are there for one of two reasons - to learn about yourself and your work, or to learn what it takes to get work with the person doing the review. Stay in integrity to that stand.

The Online Portfolio

Last but not least. The bulk of this class is centered around the face-to-face portfolio review, but the information can, and should be applied to your online portfolio. Is your site set up for your fan, or the art director you really want to work for? Do they have to surf through tons of junk in order to get to the 4 or 5 images that are really targeted for them? Do you have a conversation with them, through your visuals and your intent? Think about who you are trying to target with your site design, and find ways to offer them a tailored and targeted experience. I'm not going to get down and dirty with this subject in this class series, but if the classes are popular, I'd do a series on web portfolios next.

Next up, we'll dig into the talking points and questions that we can use to enhance the portfolio review process.

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