Putting together my first illustration portfolio and looking for feedback

  • Hey Everyone,

    I just happened upon SVS and this forum a month or so ago after iTunes recommended I listen to the 3 Point Perspective podcast. I am in the process of putting together my first illustration portfolio and I would love some honest feedback. I have thick skin and a learning mindset so feel free to be tough and tell me what I need to improve, I want to put in the effort and get better!

    A little context: I went to school for design and I have been working 9-5 as a designer for 4 years now. After some reflection on what I like/dislike about my current job I have decided that I want to start positioning myself primarily as an Illustrator, improve my skill, and build a portfolio with the goal of becoming a full-time illustrator. I would love to work on children's books and one day author my own graphic novel.

    I have been lucky enough to get pulled in on a few illustration projects through my day job so I have a few actual published pieces where I worked with a client. I have them in my portfolio now but they aren't really in the style I want to pursue and I feel some of them aren't my best work. I've supplemented them with some personal projects where I have started trying to develop my voice as an artist and illustrator. I plan to keep developing my style and my portfolio in my own time, letting my day job pay the bills while I improve. I want to show that I can create compositions with backgrounds and layers (something that is missing in my instagram series) so I am starting work on building out a children's book dummy based on some pre-existing public domain text (currently choosing between a few nursery rhyme/fairy tales I think could be good practice).

    I would love thoughts on areas I should focus on improving or things I could do to round out my portfolio. You can find my work at www.studiolooong.com

  • Hi Taylor, and welcome!

    Of the images shared on your web site, which style is it you want to pursue?

    I really like the image with the letters. The style is unique, and I like your color choices.

    I guess my only advice at this point is to fill your portfolio with solid pieces in the style you want to work in. That will happen with time.

  • I would suggest signing up for a monthly on the SVS learn sight. If you haven’t already. There are great tutorials on all things illustration mainly with story telling in mind. One on line class offered is How To perfect your children’s book portfolio. It has loads of great info in there. Also, another class/ video on there Portfolio and self promotion with James Yang. Cheers and good luck portfolio building!

  • Your work is really attractive and professional! My biggest critique is that I feel like your landing page is a little cluttered and the focus is unclear. There are six different thumbnails with a lot of different kinds of images going on: full illustrations, an image of a framed print, an image of a webpage, and an image of magazine spreads. There are also two different styles represented and you haven't labelled anything. The first impression is that I don't really know what you are offering. Are you an illustrator? Are you a graphic designer? Are you a web developer? Are you all three? It's a little overwhelming.

    To resolve this issue, I have two different suggestions:

    Suggestion 1: You can keep many unlabeled thumbnails, but keep your illustrations at the forefront. No images of magazines or webpages- use the actual illustration from the magazine or webpage for the thumbnail. You can still feature the product photos, just not as the first impression.

    Suggestion 2: You can keep product photos, but have less categories and have them more clearly defined. You could break it up to some thing like:
    Personal work
    Editorial and Web Illustration
    That will help with having 2 styles represented, help visitors have an organized experience, and tell them more clearly what you do.

    Anyway those are my thoughts! Good luck with your transition. I think you'll do really well if you can get your name and work out there. 🙂

  • @kelly-lane Thanks, I signed up and went through the composition class and shading class last month, I think the classes are really good quality so I'll probably keep my subscription for a while and work through some of the other classes, I'll look into those ones you mentioned!

  • @tessaw Thanks so much for the feedback, those are all really great suggestions. I think currently when you look at my home page you can tell that I have more experience in print and web design than illustration. Most of the documentation of my work has been as the designer but I can definitely change what I lead with to focus on the illustration and hopefully as I build out more projects the focus on illustration will be more clear. I think the site template I'm using already has the category functionality too. I'll see if I can make it visible in some way on the home page too.

  • @twiggyt I really like how the letters and the character quest drawings turned out and I think I want to go more down that route than say, the editorial examples I currently have. I have only really had time to start creating my own work since I got a new job in June (my old job was not very respectful of my work/life balance). The editorial and web illustrations in the keyline-less style are all things that I've done through my day job and I wanted to include them to show I've done some professional work but in creating those pieces my focus was more on the overall design of whatever the piece is than the individual illustrations. I think that I'll phase those projects out as I build up work that I'm more proud of.

  • Pro

    You have some really good stuff going on, but like others said there are many different styles and that's a bit confusing for people looking at your portfolio. Even after reading your forum post, I'm left wondering which one is the style you'd like to pursue? Your next step is to pick one and make a lot more new pieces in that style. On the forum we can also give you feedback on individual pieces as you make them, if you'd like 🙂 I would suggest filling your portfolio with pieces that show a story, some sort of narrative thread happening, and a focus on characters. Make sure you're showing that you can draw a character consistently in different poses, and that you can cover a range of emotions. My last suggestion would be to head over to Youtube and find Will Terry's video on what to put in an illustration portfolio. He gives examples on what ground is good to cover, and some ideas to have a variety of themes in your portfolio. Good luck!

  • @nessillustration thanks for the feedback, I think I followed Will on YouTube the other day, I'll look for that video. I've only been on the forum for a few weeks so all this work was completed prior to me finding all you wonderful people. ☺ I plan to post works in progress and ask for advice as I work through the picture book dummy just as soon as I have something to show! I'm thinking that will be a good opportunity to work on showing character depth and consistency as well as backgrounds. As far as a style goes, I want to build on the style I've started to develop in the character quest project. I'm not as interested in the key-line-less style of the editorial and web illustration pieces and I want to phase those out as I create more work.

  • It is fine to have more than one style just like Jake Parker does but you need to demonstrate a good understanding of each and have a few examples of each clearly organized

  • @nessillustration The video on the SVS site for portfolio building comes with a downloadable list of things to include

  • SVS OG

    @StudioLooong Just here to say Nice work fellow Ackerman! #samelastname 🙂

  • @artbytra haha thanks! Maybe we're distantly related and it runs in the family?

  • @rcartwright Watched it last night! It was very helpful! And I think the other style (the keyline-less flat colors with a little shading added) evolved mostly because I was at a marketing firm where I had to execute a finished illustration extremely quickly, so it was something I felt safe saying I could execute consistently and fast. It isn't a style I necessarily want to continue working in.

  • Thanks for the pointers everyone, I have reworked my site to incorporate some of the changes and hopefully with the reorganization my style is coming across a little more clearly already. Of course I know that a little time and a lot of hard work will be necessary to get it up to the level I want to be at. It's still a work in progress. I have the list of 100 things to put in your illustration portfolio and I will slowly be working toward crossing them all off.

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