Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hey Artists, Get an Online Portfolio, NOW

More helpful advice from Uncle Jim.

Lots of artists out there don't have an online portfolio, not even at a place like Deviant Art which is free.

This sort of thing is vital. A couple months ago I put out a call for artists. I got all sorts of contacts, but many of the artists, instead of linking me to portfolios with an example of their work, sent me some examples of their work as attachments to their email.

Were they the best examples of these artists' work? Or just the kind of thing they assumed I wanted to see? If I don't like what I see, I have no way of knowing if the artist does other things that I may like, so their emails and samples go straight in the trash.

Let me use an example that goes the other way.

When I saw Cynthia Sheppard's work, I was instantly enthralled. I've spent less money on round trip plane tickets between the US to Finland that I'm paying her to do my cover art.

But after hiring her, I found out that she'd previously been hired to do work by Wizards of the Coast. As her blog put it:

Tomorrow is d-day for three pieces for Wizards, and I'm pretty happy with how they've turned out. Getting used to working within the constraints of the D&D brand has been an amazingly cool experience in itself. Being a tall slender creature, visualizing the stocky ideals of D&D weaponry and armor came slowly, though I've internalized that if there's any question at all whether or not it's in-brand, the weapons are probably not big enough. ;)

She just linked to one of her WotC pieces yesterday. It's here.

If I'd seen that first, I certainly wouldn't have been so enthralled. Obviously that's not a knock on her talent. She's giving the client what the client wants. But if she had been one of these artists that had just sent me a few sample pieces, and perhaps thought "Oh he's doing something like D&D, I should send this D&D stuff as examples of my work," she wouldn't have been hired, because that's not the kind of thing I was looking for.

But luckily she didn't do that, luckily she has an online portfolio so I could see what she's done instead of what she thought I might like to have done.

By the by, I've received some of the prelim sketches from Sheppard, concerning the background and wardrobe, and even though some of the details need tweaking, just the paper doll sample lets me know my money is being well spent. If and when this gets into stores, the cover art alone is going to move copies.


  1. I'd think an online portfolio would be common sense for an artist.

  2. I'll second that sentiment. Art directors and such often have a very narrow concept in mind of what they need, so showing a broad range of work gives you a better chance of getting the job.

    I think a lot of artists shirk on the online portfolio because it takes a bit of thought and work to make it happen, and sometimes when folks are in the middle of all sorts of competing drains on their attention, the portfolio gets put on the back burner and never taken off it.

    Don't let it slide. A good, easy to navigate* online portfolio is an amazingly powerful tool to get your work out there.

    *Resist the urge to get all clever with the presentation. Just show your best work and leave the razzle dazzle at home.

  3. Good points made about choices in what to show in an online portfolio. A lot of artists throw everything they've ever done online (I've been guilty of that, too). Even more important than necessarily showing the work other people tell you is the "best," show the work you want to do MORE of. Great post, and thanks for the shout.