I am old! Portfolio feedback

  • Hi Everyone,
    Even though I've technically been a freelance Illustrator for my whole career, I've never really pushed to get work with bigger publishing companies. The most I've earned illustrating a book is $4000, but that including the design and layout and taking the whole thing to print too. In March this year, I gave up my part time Graphic design job to focus 100% on being an illustrator, so I'm trying to do all the right things and move in the right direction.

    I think one of my problems is that because I'm self taught, I have loads of different styles, including abstract painting, digital and traditional illustration and I think maybe my body of work looks a bit ... inconsistent. I really enjoy doing lots of different things, but I'd really like some feedback from others in the business as to whether doing that is actually a good idea.

    At 46, I'm a bit concerned maybe I've left this all a bit too late as well.

    Anyway, if you have a minute to look at my website (which I recently recreated and still has some things to be finished) and give me your honest thoughts, I'd really appreciate that. Thank you!



  • Hello Janette! I am old, too ๐Ÿ™‚
    Your children's book portfolio looks totally competent, cute, and professional to me. (I am someone who has not yet illustrated her first book, so I would totally defer to the many more experienced people here than me, if I were you.)
    But my two cents, if you want them, is that your website would present your strong body of children's illustration work even more strongly if you simplified it quite a bit. I think you need to lead with a gallery, and pare it down to just a Contact/Bio page, and you can let your work speak for itself, and simply not mention any of the non kidlit work you've done.

  • I agree with @Valerie-Light right upfront, if youโ€™re wanting to be seen for your illustrations and childrenโ€™s literature, we wanna see some art first thing! Then save the bio and credentials for another page but it looks good otherwise!

  • Pro

    @Janette 46 is not old at all! You have decades ahead of you to achieve whatever you want to achieve with illustration ๐Ÿ™‚

    However yes, in order to start aiming at bigger gigs that will pay better, focusing and specializing both your market and your style is super important. Consistency is one of the main things art directors look out for! I have a video on Youtube explaining why being a "Jack of all trades can hurt your chances so much. If you're interested give it a watch, it might help clear things up a bit: https://youtu.be/k2rsuripitk

  • @Valerie-Light Oh, good feedback. It is quite wordy! Good idea to simplify it. I sell paintings too that I've done, and still do Graphic design, so I think I felt like I needed to show everything I'd ever done in the whole history of time!!! lol I should streamline it a but though. Thank you for looking!

  • @NessIllustration Yes! I'll definitely take a look! Thank you!

  • SVS OG

    @Janette Wow.. looks like you are already there with the quality of your work! super nice... you are looking for website feedback so i thought i would share what i just heard in one of the Storytelleracademy classes taught by someone that was the design editor for children's book at Chronicle Books for 20 years. She wants to see 10 to 15 (i think that was it... it was a low number...maybe 12?..anyways...) of your best pieces. That is it... should be no clicking to see the work if possible. She said this shows respect for people's time. I think landing on a page full of your awesome art would be the way to go and let people click to find the other stuff if they want to...but make sure we see the art first. That is what i got out if it. ( I currently have a landing page with a mini slideshow, you have to click to see more and i am thinking maybe i should change that) I think it is important to only display the type of work you really want to do also.. she mentioned that if an editor likes your work that they will ask to see more if what they are specifically looking for is not represented on your site. I'm definitely Not a pro but thought i'd chime in anyways with what i had heard ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @Kevin-Longueil That makes a lot of sense. I'm definitely going to change the way I have it to make it easier. Thank you for your feedback ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @Janette Old ladies unite! (I'm 47). Have you gotten a portfolio review from an industry professional? That could help guide you toward a direction that makes sense for you. You could easily fit in a publisher's roster. Go for it.

  • @Laurel-Aylesworth-0 LOL I'm glad I'm not alone! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have never had it reviewed. I'm a SCBWI member, maybe there's a way to do it through that? I definitely feel like I need some guidance.

  • Hiya Janette and welcome ๐Ÿ‘‹

    I'm 41 and was worried I was too old. But I have decided we are not 'old' we are 'wise' ๐Ÿ˜‚ so go for it!

    Also a fellow Brit but still living in my hometown in England (Tamworth, Staffs).

    I have had a look at your site and I agree that it would be better to go straight to a gallery your work rather than the about page. I have been told to keep styles separate or categorise them, which I think you have done on your site and also your children's book style seems quite consistent to me. ๐Ÿ‘

    Your work looks great ๐Ÿ™‚

    Do you want any more graphic design work? If not I would remove it. Although I do need to practice what I preach there... I am like you and have been a graphic designer for 20 years working in design and advertising agencies, also freelance. I have a design section on my site too, which I need to remove but I do feel like I'm hiding 20 years of experience away. I have removed a lot but it's hard to press that button to disable the last few pages, but on the other hand I don't want to create any more logos - I'm all logo-ed out now ๐Ÿ˜ต

    I do enjoy working in a lot of different styles too. I think it's because as a designer we have to create illustration work to fit around clients look and brand style and also it has to fit a function, so every brief is pretty different but you have to be able to complete that particular brief to their requirements.

    I find it a bit weird that being able to do more than one thing is a disadvantage but I can see the point that art directors want to understand what they are getting as they want to pick the illustrator to the brief. Where as in design, it's sometimes the other way around, you get the brief and it's up to you to create something to fit the brief. You literally have to be able to do everything, and that's what I'm used to.

    There is some great advice here and I thoroughly support the professional portfolio critique. I imagine a SCBWI one would be great. The British Isles SCBWI have just released critique applications but I am not ready yet unfortunately. They say what they would ideally like you have in it and I don't quite have it all. I am using the SVS monthly art prompts on here to help me create a more consistent and coherent portfolio of which I am lacking at the moment and one day I will hopefully be ready for one.

    @NessIllustration videos are great. I love watching them and recommend. Thanks for doing them Ness!

  • Hi @Janette! Thanks for sharing your site with us. Beautiful, varied work! (I'm especially drawn to the Smarty Locks and Sneezy Bear styles.)

    Like everyone else has said, lead with your art on the home page. Let a visitor click on the 'about' page if they want to, and since most people don't visit websites to read a ton of content, you may want to condense your bio and organize it in a way that's easy to consume. (There are a few ways to do this; on my site, I use bullet points to simplify my bio.)

    One question about your children's book portfolio: why is it mostly book covers? Are you looking to illustrate book covers? If your goal is to be hired for picture books, you may want to show a variety of illustrations as well as covers: spreads, full pages, spots, etc. Show that you can illustrate an entire book.

    Regarding style: according to art directors and editors (in articles I've read and webinars I've attended), they want to see that you can consistently render style and character throughout 32 pages. Most don't care if an artist works in more than one style, some even like it! But what they do want to see is portfolio organization, that you recognize you work in more than one style and can switch back and forth and be competent in all. Most say that if an artist works in more than one style, they would like to see their portfolio organized by style. (That's what I've done with mine -- you can take a look, but I haven't had a professional portfolio review, so take what I've done with a grain of salt! ๐Ÿ˜‰)

    Thanks for sharing your work with us. Onward and upward!

  • @lizardillo I still enjoy doing Graphic design and would like to keep my hand in it, plus being able to design and take a book to print is an extra thing I can offer self publishers.

    I'm for sure going to follow everyones advice and simplify the whole site and have illustrations as the first thing you see. That makes so much sense.

    Thank you for the video link, I will take a look!

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Hi Melissa, Yes, I'm going to rework the site so my best work is shown on the home page, without all my verbal diarrhorea!!!

    The book covers actually link to their interior illustrations, but that adds another extra step that I need to remove. I could see how it might look like that's all I do.

    I looked on the SCBWI site and didnt find an option to get a portfolio review. I think maybe I've seen that offered at their conferences in the past. I need to find a way to get that done, I think it would be really helpful.

    Thank you for your comments, everyone on here is really nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • @Janette you're so welcome! โค๏ธ

    So, just FYI, but I did click on the book covers in your portfolio but no interior illustrations displayed, or arrows to show a carousel. Might be a glitch to explore/fix.

    Or you could just eliminate that extra click to see interior illustrations, like you said. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Oh, yeah, not all of them have interior images up there yet - that's the 'not quite finished with the website' bit! lol, BUT, I plan on changing up the way things are presented now anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter. When you click on a cover, you have to scroll down to see the illustrations. I apparently like to make things as complicated as possible! lol

  • @Janette ๐Ÿ˜‚ understood! Looking forward to seeing your new-and-improved website! (Maybe I can get some tips from you ... I seem to keep tweaking and updating mine.)

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 LOL It's like doing art - there's always more you can do ... Finished, not perfect - I keep hearing the guys say that on the podcast! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I love your illustrations btw. The little girl with the egg reminded me of when I found a tiny egg on the walk home from school one day and I took it home, determined I was going to get it to hatch and become its mother. I order to keep it warm, I took it to bed with me. You can image how that ended!!

  • @Janette good plan. Being able to layout books and send to print is a great advantage. If you are combining all of the text on your site into one bio page I would let people know as it doesn't quite make it clear at the moment on your graphic design page that you have prepress skills. It mentions billboards and email marketing but you may have to say about taking a book to print.

    I was advised to have a paragraph mentioning the transferable skills, apparently you want to put keywords in the sentences that would show up in a Google search for SEO which I was not aware I should be doing. If someone is googling an illustrator with print knowledge then hopefully you will show up in a search. ๐Ÿ‘

  • @lizardillo Oh Yes! Good point!

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