NYFA: Portfolio Development

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By Susan Myers, Courtesy of New York Foundation for the Arts.


Your portfolio is a valuable tool in your arsenal as an artist, and it is often the first opportunity you have to impress and influence those in charge of making the decisions and choices that affect you and your work. By developing and preparing a professional portfolio, every artist is taking a step towards ensuring her or his own success.


In general, a portfolio consists of various presentation materials representing both the artist and her or his work. Some artists will have a very detailed and complex portfolio, but the basics almost always include: an artist résumé and bio, an artist statement, work samples, press clippings or reviews of artwork, and, if appropriate, a query or cover letter. I see the artist's portfolio as an evolving assortment of credentials that can be modified and tailored for any particular audience. While each artistic discipline has its own conventions and standards in preparing a professional portfolio, all artists can benefit from the information and suggestions included below.


Artist Résumés and Bios

Just as an employment résumé outlines employment history, experience, and skills, an artist résumé details the accomplishments, endeavors, knowledge, and abilities of an artist. There are many common conventions that all professional résumés should follow. Remember, an artist résumé is not an “artistic” résumé. You want to present yourself and your accomplishments in a professional manner.


Artist résumés are organized by headings or categories that outline your particular artistic activity. Under each heading—listed by date with the most recent event first—list and then summarize the necessary information. Headings should stand out and can be bulleted, bold, underlined, or italicized. The specific categories you include depend upon the artistic discipline with which you are involved.


Typically, an artist résumé is one to four pages in length. Most artists have two versions of their résumé prepared: a long version and a one- or two-page version. Your résumé should be easy to read, typed, and printed on quality paper. Résumé paper should be muted in color. I prefer to see résumés printed on white, off-white, or ivory. Font size should be no smaller than 10 pt., and should be a font type that is easy to read. I find it helpful to include a date in the upper right-hand corner of my résumé. The date helps remind me when I last updated my résumé, and it also lets others know if my résumé is current . . . read more.

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