Friday, December 10, 2010

Less IS in fact MORE. A Portfolio makeover.

Three weeks ago I was lucky enough to find myself at the CTN Expo taking in the forum discussions, catching up with friends, and toting my wares around to the studios. I was not able to show the recent film work because the movies have not yet been made or released but I had enough new stuff that it was time to freshen up my book. Thus began the task of designing a new portfolio. There are plenty of places on the web with great advice about putting together your book, most notably Escape from Illustration Island, and most are well worth the time it takes to read them even for someone that has been showing work for more than twenty years. Much of the advice is standard so I will not go into the details but will share a few observations that I had in this most recent go-round.
First off it was far more difficult than I remembered so your first stop should be to check your calendar. The day that you read about a conference like CTN or Siggraph that you may want to attend, you need to build time into your production schedule. Treat it like a job because your next one may depend upon it. Build in time for going through your images, designing the thing, editing, feedback, more editing, and finally printing and shipping. I used Blurb and was very happy once again with the results though I would recommend spending the extra money for the paper upgrade.
OK, so you have picked some recent images of work that you like. These are pieces that you enjoyed making and show the type work that you would like to get more of. I put together a contact sheet like this:
The portfolio that preceded this version, and there have been many, looked wonderful but as a friend of mine pointed out it was a bit of an embarrassment of riches. It was well received but clocked in at a hefty 34 pages. Even people that loved my work were stuffed by page 20.

I was a prime candidate for a radical intervention on Portfolios Biggest Losers. If you have a copy, I am sure that it looks very nice on your coffee table but my goal this time around was to make something a bit more user friendly. How? Simple. Edit until it hurts. I am good at critiquing, in fact I used to get paid to crit and edit while teaching at RISD but when it comes to your own book, we all need a fresh eye. So I sent it off to my friend Buck Lewis. I received something like this back.
Ouch! Thought this guy was my friend?-well he is. Buck was able to cut through the redundancy and the fluff and get me to show a range of work that highlighted my strengths in character design and visual development. Trust the process and make the cuts. You want to treat your art director, recruiter, or production designer to a nice cappuccino and fresh croissant not the open buffet at the Radisson. Don't get stuck in the trap of thinking that "if they only saw this piece then they would realize I am perfect for their project". You want to show them potential not every single decent piece that you have created in the past year. Give them a taste, let your work shine, save some trees, and get a gig. Trust me-it works. I am lean after shedding over 20 pages of portfolio fat and my friends, family and most importantly, my clients are amazed!
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