Portfolio review, zero to hero! Update: working on Portfolio, sharing progress



  • update: Im going to use this post to update my portfolio progression until is finished, and I do all the work related to create website portfolio, contact with agents, publishers, etc.

    Hi everyone, Im Jordi from Spain, 31 years old. I tried to work as an illustrator for a long time without to much sucess. Lucky in the past two years I got a solid job as a children Illustrator for a company that had english school around my country. Now I finished contract with that company and I'm on my own!

    Im really interested to understand the business side of illustration becouse Im really bad at it. Recently I did my frist attempt of doing a solid portfolio and I send some mails to diferent companys and I didnt recived a good feedback ( not interested, they aren't looking for anyone right now etc). Maybe sending mails directly is not the best way. As I said Im really new on this freelance thing ๐Ÿ˜ž

    I started to watch the tutorial "How to make money as a Illustrator" and I realized I have 0 idea of how the business works and I see that I will need to put a lot of effort and time on it to try to undrestand how everything works and learning to open the correct doors. Im really bad at advertasing and I dont know why but I have a lot of resistence, its hard for me doing this kind of work.

    I post here if you can check my portfolio and tell me if there is something wrong, or something I need to add or remove.

    The idea of the portfolio it was to be something original, showing diferent works I did. My frist and fast goal is focus educational resources for children. is an area I already worked and I have exprience doing it. 95% is vector art done with Illustrator.

    But I also intersted on doing children illustration. ( Should I make another portfolio?). Thats my final goal, and dream!

    So, here is my PORTFOLIO

    Also Im adding some images of the stlye Im working as children illustrator, style still work in progress! here

    And here a total diferent stuff I did in the past years, traditional art

    Thanks for reading!


  • SVS OG

    @Jordi-Ventura Hi, Jordi! Welcome to the forum. You have an amazing style. it's very kid friendly and very marketable in today's illustration industry. I don't think you need anymore work on your skills seeing you not only excel on cartoon styles but also in more realistic ones.

    If you're looking to get more jobs in the children's illustration market my first and most important advice to you is to improve your portfolio. Like I said, I think your style is already topnotch. What you need now is to make more pieces showing your skill. Make more pieces showing:

    1. Kids of various races, sizes color, etc. This is very crucial. include adults too.
    2. At least 3 pieces of a fairy tale. This will show that you have the skill to draw consistent characters.
    3. Anthropomorphic animals. Not required but very helpful
    4. Regular animals
    5. Vehicles
    6. Seasons/ Different times of the day

    This is just a shortlist of topics you need to include in your portfolio. If you have other interests, include them too. Will has a comprehensive list of the topics you need to include too.

    Now, if you're looking for projects, you might consider looking for an illustration agent. Most companies currently consult agencies when searching for artists. They usually take about 35% commission from the work you'll do but most of the time they'll also find you jobs you would not have found all on your own. I say they're worth it but it's up to you to decide for yourself. if you work on the pieces I mentioned above, I think you'll get an agency interested in you in no time.

    I hope this helps.


  • Pro

    @Jordi-Ventura Hi Jordi, welcome to the forums ๐Ÿ™‚

    I know just how you feel, I left a studio job 3 years ago to become a full-time freelance illustrator, and it's rough out there! There is very little information on the business side of things, and most of it is out of order or contradictory. Most all advice I've seen centers on social media as the main strategy to get work, and in my own experience that's not great advice. Social media is both a a long game and a very passive strategy, so it's best to use paired with other strategies, NOT as your main strategy, so that can get you work NOW, not 3 years from now...

    For what it's worth I've been able to make it work, and this year for the first time my full time freelance income has exceeded my last annual salary at the studio! So it's definitely possible, especially for someone so skilled as you. Lately I've been thinking of starting a Youtube channel to share advice on how to get started and thrive in freelance illustration. I'm trying to gauge the interest for such a channel, as well as learn how to make videos.

    Your portfolio specifically confuses me. For one thing it's a PDF document. Nowadays when art directors ask for a portfolio they mean your website. If there's anything to download, a lot of them won't bother. They might also doubt your experience or your savvy if you don't have a website. Do you use Adobe Creative Cloud? If so, you're entitled to use their Adobe Portfolio platform for FREE to easily build a top notch portfolio website. Then you buy a domain, link it and you're done in one afternoon! That's what I use for mine and I love it.

    For another, your portfolio is a... joint portfolio for you and this Ellen lady? I don't think I've ever seen such a thing. Are you a writer and illustrator team? I think this would confuse the heck out of publishers. Are you trying to get illustration work for yourself, or a book deal for you and Ellen? Trying to get a book that your two would make together published is an entirely different (and more complicated) process than just getting hired for illustration. You would need a literary agent, and then you'd need to write and submit a manuscript/book dummy. If accepted by your agent, this would get sent to publishers who would have the option to bid on it. For illustration work, you can just email your website and get matched to a book that needs illustrating. I've personally had a lot of luck with cold emails. But I think people you've sent this too might not know what you and Ellen are about. Your portfolio looks like a story, or like you're pitching different stories. A publisher might think they're asked if they're interested to publish any of those stories, not if they're interested in hiring you for a book they already have in the works.

    @Nyrryl-Cadiz has provided great advice about what to put on your website portfolio and about agents ๐Ÿ™‚



  • Hey Nyrryl and Ness thanks for the extensive answers! Everything you said is really helpfull! Also I check your works and they are really really amazing!!

    @Nyrryl-Cadiz Ok, so I should work on a specific portfolio for children Illustration right? I will start working on these images. I was thinking to do some images of classical stories, is that a good idea? Like hansel and gretel, simbad, cinderella etc.

    @NessIllustration

    Yes, as you see Im a total newbie in the business area haha.
    I really need to do a website, I tried but looks quite dificult also I dont know what to put on it etc, I will check Adobe Creative Cloud and follow your advice!

    Yes, I team up with a friend, we worked in the last job, She is a teacher/writer and we had good synergy working togheter. For what I heard was a good idea to go like illustrator+writer, but now Im not that sure haha. The idea was to find a company that wants to hire us doing Educational resources. And the portfolio we just wanted to show what we did and what we can do!

    Yes, probably the portfolio can be quite confusing, anyways in the mail we specify that is job we done, and we just want to show what we did.

    Awww...looks like I have to start over again, probably I focus the whole thing wrong!

    Im really interested to find a coach, teacher,someone who can help me in this process.
    Subscribing to svslearn you only have acess to the videos and podcast? or you also recive some kind of personal feedback/critique?



  • Hi @Jordi-Ventura , for the website, I use Wix (I know there's also Squarespace and some other similar sites) and it's really easy to set up. You don't need to do any programming or nothing similar, you just pick which looks you want to have (regarding menu, gallery, etc...) and place them on the website. Regarding on what to have on your website, I honestly just looked up other illustrator's websites, and mostly there were few categories - porftolio, books, about, blog, contact. My personal choice is to keep it simple and show your best work - someone more experienced might have a better insight into this. But as @NessIllustration said about having a Adobe Creative Cloud and making a free website, I would definitely suggest that as a first choice ๐Ÿ™‚ , as for the other sites I've mentioned you need to make yearly payments.


  • Pro

    @Jordi-Ventura I think having a joint portfolio will only make it more difficult to get work for both of you. Typically, publishers don't like when authors submit manuscripts that already have art, or already have an artist picked. They take great care and pride in picking themselves an artist that is most suited to illustrate the story. Having your portfolio together means if they're only looking for one type of work they'll likely pass on both of you. The very fact you have a portfolio together might confuse them, and since they're such busy people who receive so many submissions daily, usually anything that's even slightly confusing goes straight in the trash bin.

    As for educational publishers, from my understanding their methods are very varied. Some of them hire authors and illustrators in house. Some hire authors in house, and contract out to freelance illustrators. I've had educational gigs as a freelance contract before, but it might be interesting to note that all of them were through my agent. I think a lot of educational publishers like to use agencies to find their artists because some of these are really big projects and that's easier. I'm currently working on one that's so big, the publisher had to hire several artist to make the illustrations of the one manual and I myself only got a small section of 30 or items and spot illustrations to create. They used the agent to distribute the work between their artists and act as the go-between (I haven't even talked to them directly).

    In general, educational gigs are more restrictive, less creative and less paid than picture book gigs. If you're able to get picture books, I don't think there's any reason to restrict yourself to just the educational market.


  • SVS OG

    @Jordi-Ventura yup! Any story would do actually as long as you show consistent looking characters through various illustrations. Publishers want that.


  • SVS OG

    @Jordi-Ventura hi! Iโ€™d have to agree a lot with @NessIllustration Most educational publishers nowadays turn to illustration agents when looking for illustrators. My first 2 books with my agent were educational books for kids. And yes, they were very restrictive and pay quite low. Are you really set in only illustrating educational books or are you open to trade books too?


  • SVS OG

    @Jordi-Ventura also, if youโ€™re looking for a coach/teacher, you can approach pro illustrators and ask them if they offer mentoships. Sometimes theyโ€™d take you on for a fee. Or you can continue posting here. Sometimes Lee, Will and David poke their heads in here and offer some useful advice. Most of the time youโ€™ll have us. I think our combined experience and gut feel make up for a well-rounded pro illustrator. ๐Ÿ˜… feel free to ask us more questions. Weโ€™re happy to help.



  • @Jordi-Ventura I know that illustrator Stephanie Fizer Coleman offers some classes and advices, so she might be doing individual portfolio reviews/mentorship as well. Here's the website if you want to take a look https://www.learnwithsfc.com/ . But I also agree that people here are super helpful ๐Ÿค—



  • @Nyrryl-Cadiz @NessIllustration @TamaraDomuzin thanks for all the feedback!

    Im going to use this post to show my portfolio progression. So anyone is wellcome here to share their opinion and feedback!

    I started working on fairy tale as Nyrryl told me, I choose cinderella. Probably I will do more fairy tales was funny but challenging.

    I share here what I did also If you can help me to choose what version of the 3rd images work on I will appreciate it. Thanks for all the help awesome forum!

    1 - This for me is 100% finished
    alt text

    2 - This one still need a little bit of work, but Im quite lazy to finish it ๐Ÿ˜ฃ
    alt text

    3- Here I dont know what image will work better, if you can tell me what version do you like more i will appreciate it!

    alt text


  • SVS OG

    @Jordi-Ventura Looking awesome! Youโ€™re so fast! As for the third illustration, I prefer 1. That blue background compliments nicely with the yellow carriage.


  • Pro

    @Jordi-Ventura This is amazing!! I really like version 1 ๐Ÿ™‚

    Is the cat in illustration 2 the same as in the last illustration? If it is, the cat looks inconsistent and not "on model" so be careful with that! Make sure we can recognize the characters from one illustration to the next. I do like that you did include the cat as it adds a little "story inside the story" feel to the illustration. You could include the cat in the first illustration as well so it's a constant presence accross all 3 illustrations, and have the cat do a secondary action in the scene (like hide behind Cinderella, scratch at the step-sister's dress, etc).

    I think it's interesting that you took a spot illustration approach for these. But since all 3 are spots it makes me wonder, do you plan to have full bleed illustrations in there as well? It's important to have a variety ๐Ÿ™‚



  • @Jordi-Ventura I think the 1 is better because the blue background makes everything pop more. In the 2nd one you can see her hands a bit lost in the green. If you put a black layer on top of everything and turn it into Color mode you can tell which values are right between colors so you can avoid that overlapping (if you want to). Keep in mind that if they are complementary colors they will make a contrast even though the values are the same.26Lie7M.jpg
    And from the other ones I really like the one with the fairy! I think maybe it's because of the color scheme and the lighting.
    Hope this helped. You are doing great!


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