Tips on Reviewing and Editing Your Portfolio.
Are you working on upgrading or creating your artist website for the first time? Have you finally landed a studio visit with a curator? Have you had 30 seconds to share your website on your phone with a potential collector at an art opening? Then you know how critical it is to make the most of these precious opportunities to show your work at its best. We have all heard about 1st impressions. It is no different here. We are a fast paced world and whether you have a key person’s attention for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, presenting your work in the best light possible is everything. You have worked hard, so do yourself a favor and treat that work with the respect it deserves and make sure your portfolio on-line or in person is giving you the chance to share your art with pride.
I know as an artist, I have deep attachments to my babies, I mean my artwork. It is hard to sometimes put one aside and treat it as an outcast. But when it comes to presenting your work on-line on your website or in your studio during a studio visit, editing your portfolio down to the best consistent work is essential.
When I look at a larger body of an artist’s work, I look for a continuum in concept and approach. Over the span of that artist’s short or long career, I look for the building blocks that are ideally leading them to a marketable mature body of work. As an artist with a history in sculpture and site-specific public art, when I am presenting my paintings of the past 7 years to curators or collectors in my studio, it is important to me to share the conceptual context from which my paintings were launched. My history as a public artist- considering site- is significant to the continuum of my work. It adds depth to my overall work as an artist when I am presenting my current portfolio of mixed media paintings. While I have a nicely organized leather portfolio of all my sculptural projects embracing interactive, kinetic, social and site-specific projects in which I have great pride, I choose to start the conversation by presenting images of my only one major two-year project rather than all of them. This select project shows a professional execution of a large scale commissioned project. It serves its purpose of being impressive in scale. It also is effective in connecting directly with how my own paintings developed both in ideas of place as well as the role photography has held in my work as a sculptor and now as a painter. During a studio visit, I then launch into my current body of work, with 2–3 pivotal paintings that jumped my work into the approach which most currently defines my work from the past two years. Everything I present serves as a clear building block. However, the jumping off points are not 5 minutes presentations; they are 2–3 minutes with most of the breathing room being left for the visitor to embrace my most current pride and joys of 2016–2017.
In an on-line situation, you want to jump immediately to your best 3–5 works within a very short amount of time. Thus, your website’s home page should be set up to show case your best on that homepage and click through in one click the other 2–5 works. Having way to many images to show in a quick cocktail party situation can be a buzz kill and drain your potential client of their interest.
Now many artist complain to me that this supposed consistency that they keep hearing they need in order to approach galleries is restraining them from their true creativity and locking them into a box. But no! It is not. In any field, growing your career requires an in depth study and concentration of a topic or approach. It is the same with art. I do not shy away from saying that developing a brand is what visual artists are also doing, but brand is referring to your explorations as an artist that are building upon another. It does not mean you have to create the same damn painting over and over again.
I am currently working with an artist client who has a beautiful website but the gallery section is full so many plentiful series of work, that it is dizzying even for an art lover like me. In addition, her tremendous body of current abstract paintings are all plopped into one overwhelming series! The first step we are taking is to shave off the other seven series that really look like student work and are only hurting her overall image. Secondly, we are taking her 40+ current paintings and breaking them up into clear concise series that reflect her awareness of her studio practice. It is important that as visual artists we can look back and see the connections we are making as well as the way our work is growing. These technical and gestural evolutions happen with each new period of studio work. For my client, we will be streamlining her mature body of work into about 5 series of beautiful paintings. This will help her achieve her current goals and establish new relationships with higher level US based galleries. We are also taking out many of her SOLD works because she has the fortune to have so many! Another step we are taking is making a PDF of 5 available works including her portfolio documents and creating a PDF link for easy on-line access from her website for those 30 second conversations or quick follow up with new dealer and/or curator connections. Just thru organizing her website alone, she will look like MONEY vs an artist who wants to cling onto everything and not show her work off in the deserving professional way it needs to be.
Here are six tips to help you get starting with the process of editing your portfolio into a tight body of work you will want to show off:
- A series should have at least 5 works in it to put it on your website as a series. If you do not yet have 5 or more, leave them off your website until you do. These series should naturally develop into series of 12 or more.
2. Within a series, the execution should be consistent. Meaning, if there is one piece in there that is not as good as the rest technique wise or developed as maturely conceptually, take it out. If you include it, your lack of judgement of your own work will be noted.
3. Be sure each work is photographed with a consistent professional quality. If you want to show that you are professional, then do not show work that does not meet that standard. The way you present your work is a testament to the professional levels that you can be counted on to create your work and manage a professional exhibition.
4. Include all title work, excluding the price. Many times artists present work to me without a year. To me, that indicates that they are not used to working professionally. The year is the one of the most important curatorial pieces of information. Title information should be presented in this fashion: Title, Year, Media, Dimension. If your work is an editioned piece, be sure to note it like this: Title, Year, Ed. 10, Media, Dimension. Along with that, always note when a work is sold by simple writing SOLD after the dimension.
5. If you have a lot of work, and much of it is sold, better to present your available works than image after image of SOLD work. Dealers and collectors alike want to know from what they can chose. Navigating thru tons of SOLD work is exhausting; they may quickly abandon looking at your website.
6. If you have not written an artist statement, it is a great exercise and necessary document to get your work out there into the world. Typically 1–2 paragraphs, your artist statement serves as a statement about the ideas behind your art. It should note the continuum of concept and also directly pertain to your current most marketable mature body of work. If you are entertaining putting work on your website that does not fall under the blanket of your artist statement, it should be edited out. That goes for studio visits as well.
Sit back and embrace the freedom! Just like cleaning out your closest, you will be glad you did. When you sit back and look at how good your website look, you will eager to share it and your work with pride. Looking for ways to show off your newly edited website? Like WaldmanArts’s Facebook Page for upcoming Calls for Art.
Follow me for weekly tips about marketing your art. Next week: How to make the most of an exhibition opportunity.
Beth Waldman, Artist, Art Consultant & Independent Curator