Monday, March 26, 2012

An Illustrator's Portfolio Critique

Topic: Guidelines for preparing a portfolio.On March 31st I'll be attending the Houston Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference.  It will be my first time to have my portfolio critiqued and on display.  I've been setting up my portfolio for months now.  It's been quite a process. 

Above:  Illustrations for my portfolio and business cards.  The first is pencil and ink with image manipulation (GIMP).  The center illustration is a graphic illustration using GIMP.  The last is pencil and GIMP.

 How to Set Up Your Portfolio for Public Viewing and Critiques*:                                    

     1. Choose your best illustrations (those that have action or can tell a story)
     2. Scan them in
     3. Clean images up using digital software such as GIMP or Photoshop
     4. Size them correctly
     5. Print copies of these illustratons
     6. Purchase a portfolio
     7. Insert the illustrations in the best order:
           a. your best pieces go in first and last place (they make a lasting impression in these positions)
           b. select and group illustrations by story
           c. if you are STRONG in more than one style of art (ie. pencil and oil), group the styles
           d. have no more than 15 illustrations in your porfolio (Only your strongest pieces!)
           e. try to arrange it so that all illustrations are facing one way
     8. When possible, have your portfolio critiqued by your peers
          a. remove any illustrations your peers deem the weakest
          b. rescan the originals of any illustrations that need clean up (as suggested by your peers)
          c. correct and clean up all errors (digitally)
          d. print them again
     9. Make business cards (or i.e., bookmarks, postcards) to pass out at the conference.  Include:
           a. Image of book cover if published (include year) - is it a book and/or eBook?
           b. On the back side add an illustration and your name. Include whether you are an author,  
               illustrator, and/or artist. Add any important contact information ie. phone number, eMail,   
               Twitter, Website, Blog.  Are you a member of SCBWI? Put that down, too.                     
   10. At a later date, go back to your portfolio and study each copied illustration  
           a. are there any ink smudges                                                              
           b. are the colors correct                                                                            
           c. do you need to manually touch up any areas
           d. do the characters appear as you would like
   11. If you have a book dummy, you can include it with your portfolio.
   12. Make sure that as your portfolio pages are being viewed, your name and contact information can be seen with each page turn.

*Credit for much of this informaton goes to SCBWI and it's members.  SCBWI is a great organization to join. 
Do you have any other ideas on how to present an art portfolio?  You may use the comment section to help make this an informative post for all.  Thank you!                                                  


  1. this is excellent!
    Thank you for posting!

    1. Thanks Louise, please feel free to add to the list anytime. :)

  2. Brenda, I have a question for your list. You give a number of 'perfect' illustrations, and how to get them 'perfect' so to speak... love it all... but WHAT SIZE should they be printed to? also in the portfolio, do you add the standard 3 inch boarder mat board or do you 'fit' the illustration to the page protector size? ALSO, what is the 'perfect' or standard size for a portfolio for illustrations?
    I don't have enough for a SCBWI portfolio, but I am going to use your list to start putting mine together to show my critique group and start getting comments on my choices.

  3. Great questions, Louise! I knew I'd leave something out. :)

    Okay, the standard size of the portfolio should fit 8.5"x11" pages. To me, this size seems best. The reason being that you can make inexpensive letter size (or smaller) copies using your copier at home (if you have one). Also, since most picture books seem to be about this size (sometimes a little bigger/smaller), the viewer gets a picture book feel.

    Don't add a standard 3" boarder mat. Fit the illustrations to your page protector,or make the image slightly smaller for a framed look.

    Some of my illustrations (due to their large sizes)were scanned at the local copy place. I like to print these out to fit my 8.5"x11" portfolio. Some of my other illustrations are small (ie. 5"x5"). For small illustrations, I like to center the image before printing it out.

    For this conference, I plan on checking out all of the portfolios that are on display hoping to get new display ideas from other illustrators.

    When you attend your first conference, just try to have fun and learn. I didn't have a portfolio, and I didn't even check out the art portfolios when I attended my first conference. I was too busy trying to absorb everything I was learning about writing and publishing.

    Lastly, wait before purchasing anything. I'll try to take pictures and post about the portfolio showcase next week.

  4. I have been a member of SCBWI for many years and have attended several Florida Conferences and Workshops, but never a national conference but hy husband has been edging me on to one. So maybe next January, I might try NY. I prefer a snowy cold NY to anything California (except San Francisco! I would go back there in a heartbeat!)

    Good Luck with your portfolio! I can hardly wait to hear what happens!


    1. I'll be letting you know ASAP. I'm catching my breath right now. Planning on sorting my thoughts out tomorrow. I think you'll find some helpful advice from my notes about the conference I know I did.