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Portfolio Portent

by Chris Tugeau

Chris Tugeau is an artist and artist's representative. This article is used by permission. It and other articles can be found at her excellent web site at www.catugeau.com

"por-tent": something that foreshadows a coming event.

Think about this word as a guideline to what to put into your portfolio and mailers. "Foreshadowing" is precisely what an illustrator in children's publishing wishes to do with his/her portfolio. You need to show in advance what the buyer can confidently expect from your talent.

Children's publishing is a wonderful market for new assignment art. The picturebook audience does not read yet, or their skills are rudimentary. Stories and poems cannot be illustrated with stock art or photographs because the story is so particular to its own needs. It requires very personal, unique, creative visuals to help it come to life for the reader. That very fact however does create a dilemma for the art buyer. They cannot see the actual art before they assign the project! Thus assigning means a big "Leap of Faith" that the end project will wonderfully satisfy the needs of a particular story and client. How do buyers choose and assign to an artist? Their comfort comes from the artist's samples and portfolio.

Logically, it would seem obvious then that the artist must show portions of several actual stories in his/her portfolio. The A.D. can then see the way the artist ‘thinks' a story. They can see character development in the way the artists shows the same characters in different situations, scenes, and emotions. They can see consistency in character, color, compositional abilities, and creativity. It makes their job possible.

Always present a story or two in your portfolio. It can be a classic or a "made-up" story of contemporary or historic nature. It only requires two or three images from this "story" to show off what the buyer needs to see. One can even reduce each and put all three on one sheet. This is good for sending off as "keepers" too. Done separately in a portfolio, two such stories will only take up six pages at most. In a 12-15 image artist book this leaves plenty of room for other pages of samples. All together these samples allow the art buyer to visualize the "portent" of your talent!

(rep's note: I get several unsolicited portfolio/samples presentations every week, and I'm forever surprised how few demonstrate their storytelling abilities in the above manner! -- and how few remember to send a SASE!)

A useful link: Three Mistakes Illustrators Make in Their Portfolios

A wonderful link: How to Put a Children's Illustrator Portfolio Together by Juana Martinez

First appeared in the SCBWI Metro NY newsletter June 2002.
© Chris Tugeau. May not be reproduced or printed, except for personal use, without permission.

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