Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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02/14/2006: "Help with portfolio ideas desperately needed!"

Today the Juneau Douglas City Museum asked me to help give a workshop for students and local artists, on how to 1. Document your work. 2. Exhibit your work. 3. Create a professional portfolio. They already have a local artist doing the documentation part, and the curator of exhibits at the museum is doing the part on they've asked me to do portfolios. It's an all day thing broken up into three parts and each is supposed to be interactive...part demo with something for participants to do or take home with them.

I agreed to do it right away. I did a show there with two poets several years ago...they wrote poems based on my paintings and vice versa. Then we gave a workshop on collaboration the day after the opening; it was a lot of fun with half writers and half visual artists working together.

The only thing that concerns me now is that I haven't done much to develop a portfolio yet (oops). I have books on how to do them and I probably have all the materials I need to put one together (show invitations, slides, resume, newspaper clippings, reproduction prints of some of my favorite pieces etc.) I've considered publishing a tri-fold brochure as well...I have until April.

But anyway, pretend you are going to a workshop to learn how to put together a professional portfolio...what kinds of things would you be expecting/hoping for? What would be something fun or interesting to "do" for the hands on bit? I mentioned e-portfolios and they said they could get some laptops set up for me if need be. A friend and I were talking about how to do a promo video (using time-release footage of a painting being created) though that's probably getting a wee off track. Ahhh....*any* ideas or comments would really be appreciated.

Replies: 16 Comments

on Wednesday, February 15th, leahpeah said

my favorite portfolios of all time: one i did of my own work using with a hardbound cover. and the other one a woman made herself using large pieces of chipboard wrapped in leather she had worked designs on and then bound the whole thing together with really heavy string. it was awesome.

on Wednesday, February 15th, Elise said

Hi Leahpeah, I haven't been to so I'll have to check it out...thanks for the tip!

And as for the other one, as for the homemade one, it sounds incredible but a little beyond my abilities I'm afraid. I was thinking of just bringing a nice prefab one (I actually have lots of the portfolios, I just don't really use any of them)...

on Wednesday, February 15th,">Rob Roys said

Did they tell you where they got your name?

on Wednesday, February 15th, Elise said

No, why? Did you give it to them? I did wonder about that.

on Wednesday, February 15th, Rob Roys said

well, lets just say a little bird sang your praises.

I told them I thought they should gear it more towrds Artists looking to improve their portfolios and presentations. Have someone who has extensive curatorial/juror experience talk about it, what they are looking for, what constitutes a good portfolio, but they thought that was outside of the topic.

Now that I know there is someone of quality I am going to attend. Although I think if Ellen gave a talk I would go even if the topic was the history of accounting principles. Even better if she brought Scot along to demonstrate climbing poses.

on Wednesday, February 15th, Elise said

So, were you the little bird?
Maybe we could add this to our growing list of things to talk about? I have some ideas, I'd like to make it really useful. I feel a lot more qualified to talk about online presentation issues but perhaps discussing the change from print to online presentation and showing good and bad examples of both would be cool?

on Wednesday, February 15th, E said

I got the following suggestion through email from someone who didn't want to post to this blog but it sounds great so I thought I'd share it:

"My recommendation is to present a portfolio that shows a cohesive series of work. I send out five types:

Slide Sheet (15-20 slides), I shoot digital with a basic 3.2 mp camera and correct on the computer, then upload to “” for development.
CD-Rom with 15-20 images at full size mp (usually around 1.5 – 3 mp)
Photo-quality printout on premium matte photo paper of 20 images, presented in a black sleeved (9x12) portfolio I buy from Dick Blick for $2 each
Send a letter with a link to the website.
the fifth is a tri-fold full-color brochure, I print in photo-quality. I send this out for major mass mailings

I include cover letter, resume (show record only) and Artist’s Statement with every mailing. I only send the Photo-quality print-outs to “sure-thing” galleries, museums or collectors that I am just trying to push over the edge."

on Thursday, February 16th, Daniel said

How soon is the program?

on Thursday, February 16th, Kasia said

I wish I could help you but I hane no idea about professional portfolios:(

on Thursday, February 16th, Elise said

Hi Daniel, the program isn't until April 1st or something like I'll have a little over a month if I need to send away for anything.

And no worries Kasia, I wouldn't know how to develop a lesson plan in Polish either!

on Thursday, February 16th, greg said

Sounds like a cool gig! Paid or volunteer?
*groan* portfolios of a differnet sort have been so time consuming lately, I can't even think about them ... sorry ...

One thing that comes to mind tho': aren't fine artist portfolios supposed to reflect primarily what a gallery is looking for? Think about what you have to offer the participants towards that experience.

on Thursday, February 16th, Elise said

Hi Greg,
good point, a photographer I work with reminded me that if you're a photographer or graphic artist, you want your portfolio to reflect versatility, whereas, if you're using primarily as a vehicle for getting shows or gallery representation than you want a cohesive sampling of work that goes well together and fits within the scope of the galleries representation.

So, I suppose I should mention that as well...and it's strictly volunteer...which is fine. I love to volunteer!

on Thursday, February 16th, RB said

"you want a cohesive sampling of work that goes well together"

That's always been my problem, I paint a couple of pictures sort of in the same style and then almost as a reflex go in an almost opposite direction. :confused:

on Thursday, February 16th, Elise said

At least you feel free to experiment and try new things...some people just get stuck in a single style because they consider it "their thing" and then proceed to never try anything else for the rest of their lives.

I think your way is ultimately better...though galleries would beg to differ with me!

on Friday, February 24th, Lori Witzel said

Hey Elise, just found you via the Dao of Wallace Stevens blog. Back in the day I did illustration work, and I found agencies wanted to see a single style from me. Fine art? I suppose showing who you are is key (if you're not a "fit" for the gallery, better to find a channel you will fit.) And with CafePress and other channels available, I wonder if galleries will become an endangered species.

on Sunday, March 5th, Elise said

Hi Lori! I didn't catch this comment right away, sorry about that. But I agree that with other routes to selling work some artists may be able to circumvent the traditional gallery system.

However, I think people will always enjoy viewing art in person.

Thanks for the advice!