Editing my website portfolio + should I send these old postcards?

  • I am trying to decide what to do on my portfolio, after listening to more of the podcasts about not showing art "just because" I really want to show my best ones. Right now I have two sections- illustration and sketchbook, and I'm even second guessing if I shouldn't move 1 or 2 from sketchbook into illustration. Or if it is all bad! www.heatherbouteneff.com
    My top 4 in my illustration website are the ones I have done since I got an ipad vs a non cintiq wacom and I think they are a lot better.
    But I also have a few hundred postcards that I printed before all this- the red coat wolf, bog sweet bog, herding cows. All of them have the giraffe in jams on the other side. Are these good enough to send?

    I feel like I'm at this weird halfway crossroads point- I'm probably not good enough to go pro yet but I feel like I should be able to do something with art to be able to at least make some money. I have had some friends and friends of friends contact me about books they are thinking of self publishing so maybe I need to look into Upwork.


  • @HeatherBouteneff your red riding wolf is so cute! Love it.

    When you say sending out postcards, do you mean to editors and art directors? If so, it's a good idea to send out examples of the style you currently illustrate in and that you want to get hired for. If you're sending out samples of a style you no longer do, that might give a mistaken impression.

    Same goes with your portfolio. It has some truly charming pieces, but there also seem to be a few different styles. Do you still work in all of those styles? If not, it's probably a good idea not to showcase that art. Your online portfolio is you advertising yourself in hopes of getting hired. Clients will expect that you still work in all the styles you showcase.

    Some great advice from a recent SCBWI webinar I attended was to start and finish with your strongest pieces. There isn't a strict rule about how many pieces should be in a portfolio, but they said a good number to aim for was between 10 to 15 pieces.

    Really like how you've organized your pages, very clear. And love that your portfolio is shown as a gallery, allowing the viewer to click on the pieces they want to see more of. Good stuff! 👍

  • @HeatherBouteneff oh, and as far as looking for work on Upwork, not going to tell you what to do, but will strongly advise that you look into it thoroughly and weigh the pros and cons before jumping in.

    This is coming from someone who started her freelance illustration career out on Elance, Upwork's predecessor. It gave me some great experience and allowed me to figure out my style and find an illustration rhythm while still being paid. But there are some major cons too.

    A recent thread went more in-depth about this, which you may want to check out: https://forum.svslearn.com/topic/10779/upwork-is-up/35?_=1614196364860
    In it, I shared a little about my experience and posted a comment listing out some Upwork pros and cons. Hope it helps!

  • @HeatherBouteneff Being far from going pro myself, I can share with you my personal strategy at- but hey it might be helpful! My goal is produce portfolio work and then narrow it down to 12-15 good pieces. After I'm thinking about doing paid portfolio review to help determine if my work is suitable to be submitted/what work I need to do to get it to an appropriate level 🙂 Thus when I do eventually submit work and put energy into doing so, it will hopefully be informed by having spoken to a professional who has assessed my work to see if it is an appropriate standard. Naturally I'll keep on changing my portfolio and the work will hopefully continue to improve.

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 thank you Melissa! It's hard to know what are my strongest pieces, but I think I can at least go by which people respond to the most. There are a few things in my portfolio that I think the style is wrong but I still really like the idea of like the grocery cat and the yellow dog in the mud, I think I'm going to redo the ones like that and trim the extra.

    I did learn a bit by the nescbwi last year, the thing people liked the best was the alligator and flamingo but that was a style that I really don't enjoy doing all that much LOL. Or it may be flamingos because 13 years ago I had a slapdash flamingo ink drawing in my portfolio and that was the one the art directors liked. What the heck. It's a weird thing like with baking, when people's favorite is the thing I spent the least time on it is annoying- but it's a good lesson too!

  • @mollylgm That is a good strategy! I need to look into paid portfolio reviews, I've had one at a conference before but I don't know where to find one in the wild.

  • @HeatherBouteneff you're so welcome!

    You've got a good idea, redoing illustrations where you like the concept but don't work in that style anymore. Revisiting old work can be such a rewarding experience, to see how you've grown as an artist.

    As far as style goes, you'll be a much happier illustrator if you stick to the style(s) you prefer to work in. When I first started freelancing, I thought I had to be a chameleon and work in the style my client demanded. But just because I could mimic styles didn't mean I should. My clients were happy, but my work lacked personality and emotion, and I could've delivered MUCH better work if I would've stuck to my strengths & my style(s). Now, I do work in two different styles, but I'm no longer a chameleon, and it's made my work stronger and my clients even happier.

    Same goes with subjects you show in your portfolio. It's best not to show work in your portfolio that you don't want to illustrate, even if it happens to be your strongest piece. Someone will see it and hire you to illustrate that subject. For example, I used to have a cute little cat spot in my portfolio, but I don't necessarily like drawing cats -- after illustrating at least 6 picture books with cat characters, that was enough! You won't see cats in my portfolio now.

    Hope this was helpful -- feel free to learn from my mistakes! 😂

  • Hi! Melissa covered most of it really, I'd agree with all that advise. Overall there are a few pieces I think you could get away with taking out of your main section. I really love your recent Yeti work, as these portray consistent colours and a really lovely soft style as well. Of course that doesn't have to be what you want to go for, but I think its some of your strongest work. Personally I found that the last image with the trolls put me off a little.

    On another note, I noticed that when you click away from illustration on your website and then return to it, you have to click into a folder "Illustrations 2019" to access it again. I think that's a poor move because the general rule should be as few clicks as possible for people to find what they're looking for. SInce it's only one folder, it's also superfluous to have that differentiation. I think your main illustration page should definitly be less of an archive and more of a curated portfolio where old pieces just don't get shown anymore if they don't suit your current style and skill level.

  • SVS OG

    Aside from style issues, I just listened to the SCBWI conference and many of the editors/ADs said they weren't getting their postcards at the moment anyway because of the pandemic, so to send emails. Just a thought to add to the mix...

    The wolf is really cute though! I don't think there's anything unprofessional about it at all! In fact, the animal pieces are my favorites in your portfolio. I think these could sell somewhere! Have you thought about a shop?

Log in to reply