Friday, March 12, 2010

Artist Survival Kit Recap: Extreme Makeover: Portfolio Edition

On Saturday, February 27, twenty-six artists attended the “Extreme Makeover: Portfolio Edition” workshop at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. The workshop focused on three areas: 1. Writing an artist statement 2. Putting together a professional looking portfolio 3. Photographing your artwork.

Here are a few tips from the workshop that may help you give your portfolio a makeover.

Artist Statements with Beth Downing

An artist statement should not only answer the question of why you are making the artwork, but also why are you making it now. Answering the “why now” question in your statement will give it relevance and can help the viewer to understand the work. Of course, this means that your artist statement will always be changing, in order to keep that answer current.

Here are a few exercises you can try that might help you get started developing your statement.
-Describe three pieces of your work as if to a blind person.
-Interview a friend (particularly someone with little art knowledge) and have them describe your work.
-Describe how it is distinguishable from other similar artists (but be careful not to be defensive or negative).

Presenting Your Portfolio with David Holland
There are a multitude of options for putting your portfolio together: binders, folders, special papers, fancy printing, etc. The most important thing to remember is that it should look clean and organized without distracting from the focal point: your artwork.

Here are things you can include:
-Cover letter (as in insert, not bound into the portfolio). This should be written specifically to the recipient and explain why you are sending it.
-Artist Statement
-Image List
-Press Clippings
-Image List with Prices (again as an insert). Since a recipient may file your portfolio for future reference and your prices may change over time, it’s best to have this as a separate insert and not bound into the portfolio.
-CD with digital copies of all documents and images.
-Handouts (things like business cards, brochures, etc)

Photographing Your Artwork with Carl Shortt
Getting high quality images of your artwork is one of the most important components of a successful portfolio. Different types of artwork require different set-ups for getting a good image. You’ll need to experiment a little to see what looks best for your work. Getting a good image doesn’t require you spend a lot on equipment. With a little creativity, you can make it work.

Here are a few tips from the workshop:

For 2D work:
-Whenever possible, always photograph the work without the frame or mat, as they may cast a shadow or cause glare.
-Digital editing makes it quite easy to crop out any excess background and you should do so.

For 3D work:
-3D work should be photographed against a background that is neutral or produces a pleasing contrast with the dominant color of the work. The background should also help clearly show the contour or edges of the work.
-If possible, avoid natural settings unless it is an essential part of the work as it might be in an installation or sculpture.
-For specific examples, try a Google search of “product photography” or “table top photography”.

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