Getting a Portfolio Together

Here are my own personal thoughts on the best way to get a portfolio application together – there are no rules and sometimes it’s just a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

1: Keep things simple. You only have one chance to impress and now is not the time to show how versatile you are. I know it’s tempting to put in examples of all the different aspects of your work but you only have one chance to impress. Random pieces that do not relate to the main body of work are pointless – try to keep the look fairly uniform.

2: Presentation. All applicants are expected to be professional and it’s very important that the work is presented to the highest standards. It goes without saying that all the work should be clean – no crooked mounts, no dirty or creased margins. If you don’t think your work is worth presenting properly, then there’s no reason to think anyone else will.

3: Supporting work. Make sure it is relevant – don’t put in life drawings to support urban scenes, as I once did. You want to reinforce the thinking behind the work and hopefully increase the appreciation of it. If you don’t use sketchbooks, then try to show examples of the process you’ve used to get from the initial idea to the finished piece.

4: CV. Make sure it’s up to date, relevant and preferably on one page – a good exhibiting history obviously helps but so does an interesting project, residency or commission.

5: Don’t get discouraged if you’re not successful – people sometimes get in on the first try but it’s much more usual to have several attempts. The panels who review the portfolios change all the time and what gets turned down one year may well be accepted the next.

And just one more thing – all this preparation is important but at the end of the day, it’s the work that really counts…..

2 thoughts on “Getting a Portfolio Together

  1. Thank you for writing this. I'm slowly putting together a portfolio — hoping to apply to the RE next year — and your post is the only practical advice that I've found anywhere about what to do (for applying to *any* art society).

    One question: is there any standard guideline about whether prints should be mounted or not?


  2. That's the trouble, Michael, there are no standard guidelines – I wish there were.
    Personally I would use window mounts, with the print just taped on at the back.This gives the work some rigidity and also finishes it off in a professional manner.
    If you have very large work, then leave it as it is – it'll be too bulky and what you really want is for your work to be handled by the selectors as easily as possible and therefore to be seen properly….

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