Could you please help me with my portfolio?

  • Hi! I decided a fairly short while ago that I should finally actually try to do illustration professionally. I think I should have made that decision 20 years ago, but here we are, now. I hadn't painted or drawn "seriously" for a very long time, and I always felt quite apprehensive about showing my art to people. I have matured in self-esteem though and I feel I'm on the right course after drifting for decades. It's a fairly big step for me, and I have now spent a few days putting together a portfolio.
    I would like some help with how to organise the categories in it, please! I'm using watercolours and ink pens for the most part (will add some pencil stuff as soon as I have time to make some...), and I'm just not sure how to name the different categories. Currently I have a mix of subject matter and style and medium, which is obviously not very workable. I would like to aim for easy navigation and that people can quickly find what they are looking for, without doubling up pieces between different categories too much... (I've also literally added everything that I have that is decent enough to show, because I have virtually no artworks on hand apart from what I have made in the last month. So the amount of different things is a bit skewed at the moment I'm sure, and so forth...)

    I would appreciate your help a lot, as I have no knowledge of the conventions. Many thanks!! 🙏

    My website:


  • @Miia-Child i personally dont have a portfolio, so take this with a pinch of salt, but ive looked at a fair few, and i would say dont have too many categories. Even if im looking at some AAA hollywood art Superstar portfolio, ill probably click through two or three categories, if that. I want to see all the cool stuff, right away. I have zero attention span. The more you can present immediately, the better in my opinion, i dont really care if someone puts an ink next to a watercolour, its easier to just move my eyes than it is to move my thumb! Lol. Anyway, looks alright as youve got it to be honest.

  • Pro

    @Miia-Child Hi Miia 🙂 You have wonderful skill! You art is lovely, but as a portfolio it is quite ineffective. If you want to do illustration professionally, your portfolio is like your sales page and you need to cater it to people who would like to hire you.

    An important question to ask yourself to guide all your decisions is: what kind of illustration work do I want? Editorial, children's books, advertisements, personal commissions, etc. If you want to do children's books for instance, then you need to showcase book spreads, you need to show you can draw the same character consistently, place characters in an environment, and draw a variety of characters like children and animals. Or do you want to do realistic pet portraits? Then, showcase more of that. Do not put anything in your portfolio that you don't want to do professionally, even if you're able to do it.

    It's also important to showcase a consistent signature style. Categories should be kept to a minimum because ideally your whole portfolio should work together as one and display a variety of things to showcase your skill. Breaking it down could only fracture it. A common way to break work into simple categories is: main portfolio (finished illustrations), books and projects, and sketches or ink (unfinished look).

  • I really shouldnt be allowed to comment on these things. I try my best, i really do, but then someome like Ness comes along and shows me up for the imbecile i truly am! Lol. Id take her advice if i were you, not mine!

  • Pro

    @gavpartridge Awww don't say that Gav, all opinions are valid! Besides we said mainly the same thing: not too many categories!

  • I love the seagull and bison, I'd say do some more pieces in that style. Maybe aiming towards editorial animal illustrations?

  • Hi Miia, congrats on taking your big step! This is great!

    I would suggest checking out web portfolios of artists you admire, see how they've organized their stuff, and see which formats you find most engaging. There are quite a few routes to go, including organized categories and a single hero image on the landing page. You might want to check out Will Terry's website ( has his work split between 'Art' and 'Drawing' which might be a good approach for your portfolio.

    Also, as a web design note (since you weren't asking about this specifically, please feel free to ignore): you might consider simplifying or establishing a clearer hierarchy for your main navigation. As a main link, the 'Work' link should stand out more than its sub-links, which can easily be done by increasing its size. Also, It is a little confusing having two 'About' links that take you to different pages with the same content--you would only need the one main 'About' link.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Great, thank you all for your advice! Thoughts and responses:

    • "Art and drawing" might be a good way to separate the stuff indeed. Or, "finished illustrations, books and projects, and sketches or ink (unfinished look)", which is pretty much the same idea. Great! (Not that i have anything to put under "books and projects", but anyway 😛 For future reference)

    • @gavpartridge , actually, what you're saying is exactly the reason why i posted this question in the first place! I get very frustrated looking through people's websites if i need to click extensively, but also if i need to scroll and search for what i'm looking for. If i can't find what i want in the first 30 seconds, very likely I'll just leave! So your comment is valuable!

    • @NessIllustration and @carrieannebrown I haveb't been completely sure what kind of work I want, as I'm at this "anything would be great!" starting point.... But I think animal editorials or books would be fantastic indeed. Those 2 paintings (seagull and bison (which is actually still unfinished)) are as far as i can remember the first animals I have ever painted on watercolour (and maybe among the only about 5-10 animals i have ever painted on any medium O_O), but i loved making them and am pretty pleased how they turned out. It feels like a good fit for me and i should probably concentrate on doing more of those for sure as it's very enjoyable and seems to come quite naturally. I know it sounds really strange to try to approach something professionally when in the scheme of things my experience is very small... But i'm guessing everything I have done in my life has poured into the same bucket and it's just taken me a while to find the right medium and subject matter combination that works best for my skillset.

    • Thank you for reminding me that it's probably a good idea to find a specific focus. I tend to scatter myself a lot, which is one reason why i haven't done illustrations before, even if i always gravitated towards arts. I was thinking I should paint some human faces, too, to put in there, because that was my main focus when I was younger and seemed to be my best strength, but to be honest I feel more comfortable, and i guess more interested, in animals now. And I think there would be more work available, too. So i think, following your advice, i will just scrap that thought for now. 👍

    • I think my second favourite after animal editorials would probably be children's books, although that is a very wide category in itself style-wise. Those suggestions you made @NessIllustration make perfect sense, thank you! I will look into making something like that. I was actually going to use the lockdown to illustrate a few pretty funny stories my daughter's dad has made up for her, but our lockdown finished before i had the time 😮 I'll see about it though, and if it doesn't feel appealing to me while doing it, then, that's not for me.

    • @miranda-hoover Oh yes, that double "About", i spent like half an hour trying to fix that, but couldn't figure out how. It's pretty annoying. I have done nothing to play around with how the site looks like. That's been my usual problem with websites; I get really anal about the look and then end up getting frustrated with the platform and never even make any content in the end 😛 So this time i chose the first platform i looked at, and the first layout that looked fine. I'm a procrastinator and a nitpicker by nature so i'm trying to do things differently this time to actually get something done for once in my life 😃 I might migrate somewhere else at some point, or ideally, have someone else manage the website.... X_X But i appreaciate your points! 🙂

    I literally have no favourite modern artists or published or extensive work of any kind, as I have only been doing art as a way of private self expression or drawing silly things for my daughter. I drew a lot as a teenager, a little bit in my 20's when i did a few acrylic paintings and some journaling, and that's pretty much it.... I'm feeling slightly re-born being back to it now in my late 30's, but I have no idea of the industry and it's so much work just to get something to show together.

    So having sat with this for half a day now, I'm feeling I should concentrate on animals. I still enjoy drawing those semi-realistic whimsical types, as well, like the two beetles examining things. I also like drawing those types of plants and flowers, and would like to keep doing that and somehow include this style in the portfolio. I think I will scrap everything going more human-like animals, like the cat sitting. Also all the human faces. Now how do I effectively combine such different styles?

    And then the type of drawing that i actually get most pleasure from are the first two pieces under "Ink". I feel like as far as personal artistic expression, that's something where i will lean more strongly. That would stem from all the journaling. I feel like I can express private concepts easiest in this style (and fastest ha, totally a big part of the satisfaction, when it's ready in about a minute :P). But I don't know if it's something to be kept more as a personal rather than commercial thing and thus not include in the portfolio?

    All your suggestions so far have been very useful, so thank you 💚

  • I think "not too many categories" is a good point but it's okay to maybe have two or three max. So if you want to do some looser ink drawings and also some more realistic animals, you can! But make sure you have enough consistent examples for each that they could be considered full portfolios for each style!

    I understand having trouble narrowing down your style or the industry you want to be in and I've been struggling with that for a few years as well. I think you're on the right track, just keep going. The more work you do, the more your style(s) will show!

    I'd also suggest making an effort to find other artists that you like or that are doing similar work to you, and then seeing what industries they work in and how your art could be applied. ☺

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