You've got your illustrations done, now it's time to show off your stuff.
Well, I recently attended a Florida SCBWI event with art rep and agent Chris Tugeau of the CATugeau Agency. She spent two hours giving advice about organizing and displaying your work as well as did a quick critique of each attendee's portfolios. The main points she wanted to get across were to 1) have a website showing about 10-15 of your strongest pieces (not ones that you're still clinging to even though you know there's something wrong with them), 2) keep your website simple and easy for people to find online, and 3) organize your work into themes or styles.
She also suggested showing kids in a narrative way, not posing for the reader. In addition, since the market revolves quite a bit today around character driven stories, Chris highly recommended showing work in a sequential fashion so that you can show publishers you could illustrate the same character over the course of a book. You can find more information about her portfolio advice and her agency on her blog.
Well, what about when you're showing your portfolio at a conference or in person to an agent or art director during a critique? Then it's probably best to have only 6-8 pieces in one style that they can quickly glance at. If you have two styles, be sure to have only 6 pieces in each style and separate them in the portfolio. Put your work in a smaller-sized book, no larger than 11" x 14" (9" x 12" is a good size, especially when so many books are being shown at the same time at a conference). Some come with plastic sleeves that you can easily add or remove images, others have pages like a scrapbook or photo album that you can use double sided tape or glue to fix your images on. Some people even get a book printed with their illustrations, though that can be costly and doesn't allow you to update or change any of your pieces.
And NEVER put original artwork in your portfolio - also make high quality prints or colored copies. Originals can get lost or ruined, and you don't want all your hard work to go to waste.
You also should have postcards, or "takeaways", that the art director or agent can take with them after viewing your portfolio. Be sure to include your website and contact information on the cards so they can call you for that next book deal (more about promotional material will be discussed in later post).
If you're a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), they have several resources providing tips about portfolios.
And here are some more places where you can read portfolio advice:
Four Simple Portfolio Tips for Illustrators
Portfolio Tips from SCBWI MidSouth Members Susan Eaddy and Mary Uhles
Portfolio Comparison: What made an SCBWI winner
Will Terry, who is a children's book illustrator and one of the amazing teachers at the online art school called School of Visual Storytelling, put together a video with his suggestions on what should be in an illustrator's portfolio. When Will Terry talks, I listen!
Author/Illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi has a great blog post discussing how her portfolio got her noticed.
No matter how or what you illustrate, having a strong portfolio is essential to getting work. There's a saying "Let your artwork do the talking." So let your portfolio start blabbing about you!
Angela Padron is a published illustrator of two books, including "The Hero in You" by Ellis Paul, as well as a Star Wars geek and chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. She also writes and illustrates her own picture books, board books, and chapter books. When she's not teaching, Angela works as a freelance writer and editor for educational publishers and spends weekends enjoying walks along the beach with her family. View her online portfolio at www.angelapadron.com. You can also "like" her facebook page, follow her on Twitter @angela_padron, and follow her own blog called "Show and Tell" with weekly posts about teaching, writing and illustrating books for children.
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