[En] How to Craft Portfolios: Course Material Online

Updated 12.4.2013

The “How to Craft Portfolios” course I run for the Finnish Academy of Fine Art (KuvA) is now complete. The week was fun but unfortunately only 3-5 students attended the course. I’m told this is quite common at KuvA.. To make the best of the situation I changed the program and ended up teaching 3-5 different courses simultaneously; each fitted for a partisipant. This was great as we could look into how the participants write about their art in detail and I’m satisfied with the technical progress too.

The course material we used will remain online indefinitely. I also had time to make an exemplary InDesing “Artist portfolio layout” for download (.zip) . It’s not perfect but it’ll get you started. If I get the opportunity to host the course next year or is the fall I’ll make a similar layout with scribus too. Below is an overview of the week.. Following learning from it you’ll learn how to make portfolios to suit the Finnish art scene. See also CREATING AN ARTIST WEBSITE, or The Art of Storytelling by Toccarra Thomas

To make your career as an artist easier: Prepare a printable portfolio and a website for yourself. Make them simple so that you can personally update BOTH regularly! Don’t make this too complicated for yourself. It’s just a portfolio – Not a tombstone. Please compare these guidelines to your own experiences and please leave some feedback in to the course etherpad. http://ldezem.muistio.tieke.fi/kuvataideakatemia-portfoliokurssi-kevat-2013-paiva-1

Making a printable portfolio can be as simple as:

  1. The first page should show your name in big letters and a short (max 1300 character) artists statement (and contact details).
  2. Present max. eight artworks. Each artwork presentation should have one-to-three photographs and some 500 characters of technical details (name of artwork, year of completion, format, size, duration (etc) followed with optional artwork descriptions.
  3. On the last pages of the portfolio you ought to place your CV. With (again) your name in big letters, contact details followed with CV categories education, solo-exhibitions, group-exhibitions etc.

The eight artworks you present in the portfolio should be selected for the specific occasion you intend use the portfolio for… You may also add a cover photo and a DVD/CD/USB-stick with video-works, audio and multimedia into the package. Try adding business cards to the mix too. The portfolio pages should be printed on min. 180mg paper using ink. The sheets should be placed in A4 polypropylene display book (that has black covers). All of this will costs some 30-50€ and (if you have the materials, digital texts and images ready) making it ought to take some 4 hours. A portfolio can be made as a speed project – sprint.

The reason printed portfolios are made this way is cruel.. Curators, jury members etc. (people who are responsible for selecting artists for galleries and group shows) go trough a lot of portfolios in their line of work.. It’s convenient for them if all of the portfolios are presented in an uniform manner. Un-uniformity frustrate readers.. Because then one needs to work more in order to understand what the art is about.When you meet a curator or a collector face-to-face it’s good to have a printed portfolio with you but I imagine today it’s common to present artworks on laptop screens and tablet computers too. Check that your portfolio is easy to read even on small PDA screens. A portfolio manifests your art and you must learn how to talk about your work. I think that the less *bling* and tricks your put in the portfolio the more time you will have time to talk with a curator or customer. Talking is more important then text or pictures. The people you socialize with will employ you.

Online portfolios serve different functions then printed ones. They are ideal for reaching out to new audiences, getting feedback and networking with peers.. I like it when artists write blogs and sharing inspiring images works too. When I’m interested in an artist everything they share about their life is useful for me. If you want to stay connected to your audience you should update the pages frequently. It’s smart if the layout of the pages mimics what the printed portfolio looks like.

To make things easier on yourself I recommend using commercial (but free to use) social website services and content management systems like wordpress, tumblr or even blogger.. Updating such can be much easier then updating a site you’ve made yourself. Even if you don’t mind showing your art behind the service providers domain (i.e. yourname.tumbrl.com) you should eventually lease a domain in your own name.. Or if you are smart you’ll lease a domain name together with you friends! This way you can share the costs and accumulate more traffic on the site.

When you have your own domain you are more independent from commercial companies. I recommend that you don’t use the email address your university has provided you.. After you graduate you won’t be able to access it.There is nothing wrong in buying and using website templates someone else has designed. Decent wordpress themes cost as little as 20€! Hosting your portfolio behind a domain (www.your-personal-artist-name.com) cost 30-80€ a year. But don’t trust these services… Always keep a duplicates of the content on your own hard-drive. Remember to make backups of everything and name all of your files in an URL friendly manner.

Your name should be found in every digital file name you produce.. So that if you send ant files to the press etc. they’ll have enough metadata to credit the content accordingly. More detailed tips on how to name files available here under Organising files “Tehdas Workflow” http://ldezem.muistio.tieke.fi/kuvataideakatemia-portfoliokurssi-kevat-2013-paiva-1

The division between online- and printed media is blurry as practically everything is digital. This is great news for us because after one masters desktop publishing software one can just as easily make a .pdf for printing or a website in the same template. Computers systemize creativity. But working efficiently with computers requires that you work systematically too. Consider your hard-disk an archive and keep it in good order. Name your files properly, so that people who you work with (or inherit the hard-drive) understand how the files link to each other (based on the file names).

During this course we’ll be working “under the hood” of your portfolios. This means that we won’t concentrate as much in their graphical design and the visual appeal. The more simple you keep your portfolio the more easier it’s to maintain. We’ll focus on learning how to “manage digital media” and “organise digital archives systematically” (a little into writing and how CVs should look.. And anything you feel important to address). When you keep your digital archives in order, you’ll be able react to questions concerning your practice accurately and quickly. In praxis the most important thing is that you provide swift answers and deliver media in the right formats to people who ask for it. This is even more important then having a portfolio.

Artist today are in a relation to the digital world like it or not and today we cannot hide form the internet – But we can effect how we are portrayed there. I enjoy it a lot if I can’t find any information of some artist online. That’s a statement! On the other hand I think t is the duty all artists to to make their practises accessible for the general public and having a webpage is best device for that. A good portfolio provides an insight to your creative practice. After you know the basics and feel confident about your practice you can make any sort of a portfolio you like. I think a portfolio *should* eventually look more like an Artist’s Book. It’s should not provide easy answers. Don’t make a manual on how to understand your art.

When I’m fiddling with my own portfolio I’m also learning about my practice. I’ve never been content with the idea of building a portfolio for only marketing my practice. I see my portfolio(s) as “tools for systemising personal creative practices”. It’s never perfect or ready. If you want feedback on your writing and if you have specific problems with your portfolios. Please let me know and we’ll look at those face-to-face or in small groups.

[En] How to Craft Portfolios: Visiting Muu Ry

Thanks to a tip from Jyrki Kirjalainen I got the opportunity host a course at the Finnish Academy of Fine Art. It’s been a while since I’ve done any teaching.. And this is the first time I’m runnig a intensive course on how to make portfolios. I’ve previously hosted only performance art courses. A friend who has worked alot as a teacher told me that instructing technical things (like how to use desktop publishing software) is more relaxing then teaching others how to make art. But I’m not sure… I’ve collected all sorts of online tutorials, images etc. online and additional material will be published during the week.

I hope this material will be of use for others in the same situation and if  you have some ideas on how to improve the plans, you can write suggestions and changes straight in the text. Below is a memo from a field tript to the Muu Ry Association portfolio library.

Artist Timo Bredenberg arrived for the voluntary Valentines Day date at Muu Gallery. He’s not attending the course so it was fortunate that he came. We browsed trough the Muu Ry portfolio library together. The library is open for all visitors and if you want to have a general view on how artist present their work in printed from I recommend you make a visit there. No appointment is required and Muu Association staff will answer any questions that you might have.

When artist apply for membership in Muu Ry they submit their portfolios for evaluation. If they are accepted the portfolios are added to the library. Members are encouraged to update them over time.. But unfortunately artist seldom find the time to do this. The library was cleaned a couple of years back and some really old un-maintained portfolios where tucked away. Even so most of the portfolios there today have not been updated for a few years. So you wont gain insight to the current Finnish art-life there.. Luckily most of the members have web-porfolios (http://www.muu.fi/site/?page_id=18) and some even update them!

Some Muu members are famous today and their portfolios in the library have been neglected for ages. It was interesting to read trough old artist statements and see how people wrote about their work 10 years back.. It was like reading old diaries. The way art is talked about changes really fast and even two year old texts felt outdated. Many portfolios had been made with laser printers and trough time their colours had darkened.. In worst cases it was hard to make out what the pictures where about. I grew weary of the plastic-folders most artists use to present their portfolios in. The quality of the plastic is crappy and the “transparent pocked-pages” made even decent ink-prints look cheap.

It’s bad for everyone if the majority of portfolios remain neglected.. After investigating ten abandoned portfolios in detail I sort of lost faith in the hole affair. If you are not planning on updating your portfolio at the Muu library.. You should reconsider if you really need to store it in there. Some members had already replaced their portfolios with exhibition catalogues and other publications. Printed catalogues where more interesting to read trough.

There where some pleasant surprises among the portfolios. I particularly liked Lauri Wuolios presentation. It was a sort a box that had several high quality a4 prints, some exhibition flyers and a CD (if I remember it right) in it. Like a treasure chest. Each printed page featured one work. There wasn’t a player nearby so I could not access the data on the disk.. The prints weren’t attached to each other and the contents could spread on a table to gain a fast general view on his art. (Wuolio told me later that he had made this kind of portfolio so that interested parties could take photocopies of the pages conveniently!!)

I also liked the portfolio of Katri Kainulainen (even though it was really old). An interesting feature of it was that she had two separate CVs in it. One for her personal artistic work and an other for a performance group called “RUBENS” she’s member of. The idea of having a fully separate CV for separate projects seems smart. The majority of the portfolios where made in standard A4 size and had upright layouts but atleast Arttu Merimaa and Miina Hujala both had horizontal portfolios. I think that many painters and photographers would benefit from this approach because there is more room for images. Anyway I hope that participants of this course will find the time to visit the gallery.

=== EXTRA (In Finnish) ===
Täyttikö yksikään portfolio näitä kriteerejä? Ei
Kirsi Niemistö-Smedberg: “Galleristin näkökulma kuvataiteilijan portfolioon”: http://www.slideshare.net/Koistinen/kirsi-niemist-smedberg-portfolio (Vanhaa ja värittynyttä tietoa mutta kiva lukea.)