What Should You Include in a Portfolio Submission (Which Artworks, How Many)?

It can be daunting to choose a certain number of your artworks to include in a portfolio submission. Do you pick your favourites? Do you pick other people’s favourites? Do you only pick new works? Read the tips below to help chose your absolute best selection of art works for any submission.

Pay attention to what they want

This is the #1 golden rule of submissions! Sending a submission that does not comply to guidelines given is a quick way to make yourself look unprofessional, and could get you ignored. If guidelines state they want 5 images only, do not send 10 thinking they should see more. Choose your best 5 works and present them in a professional manner.

Avoid redundancies

In the interest of keeping your submission interesting and fresh, avoid sending in multiple images which are very similar to each other. Your portfolio will end up looking much more engaging if you avoid this.

Quality over quantity: only send your best work

If you are asked to include 10-20 works in a submission, remember that quality is more impressive than quantity. If you have works you are no longer interested in showing, don’t like anymore, or don’t represent where you are as an artist, don’t include them. It’s much better to send 10 outstanding works, than 10 outstanding works and 10 mediocre ones.

Ask other people what they think

You may have an idea of what works you want to include, but it never hurts to get a second (or third, or fourth!) opinion. Borrowing some fresh eyes can give you a different perspective on your selection of images, and which ones might work best for your submission.

Compose a selection that represents your practice well

Chose your images carefully to make sure your portfolio makes sense as a whole. This doesn’t mean everything needs to be from the same body of work, in the same medium, from any particular time period, or any other cohesive grouping; it just means that each piece should represent an element of your artistic practice which is relevant.

Do you have any strategies for choosing images for a portfolio submission? What works and what doesn’t work for you? 

Image credit: Rainer Topf

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4 comments

  1. Great list, and a very important post. It is difficult to know which photos to include sometimes.
    Also, quality photos are a must. If the jury or curator can’t make out the artwork because of bad lighting, you won’t leave a good impression. If you have a piece of artwork with an important detail that can easily be missed in the image, a close up / detail would be of great value to the person viewing your portfolio.

  2. I always worry that my work is TOO diverse – so I am glad to see your viewpoint about “cohesiveness”. Luckily, some of my stuff is no longer relevant, and I can shorten my list of “lines”. Thanks!

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