The Art of the Portfolio

Authenticity.Art portfolio

It’s the most important thing about your art portfolio, beginning with your artist statement.

I know, you’re thinking –  how could my art NOT be authentic? I created it! Well, it goes deeper than that. I know you can’t fake what you create (mostly not), but is it aligned with you? How about the rest of your portfolio?

Want an awesome portfolio?

 First be yourself.

Nearly every month I deliver a professional development workshop to artists at a local arts center. Everyone there wants to be successful and happy, but some don’t want to be SEEN. We are an insecure, tender bunch, like little baby spring lettuce. Egos get easily bruised, hearts are on our sleeves, we wish for respect but don’t feel entitled to it. I get it. I’m one of you.

The first workshop in my series focuses on writing the artist statement. Participants spend over 30 minutes in an exercise that explores who we are, what we create and what this means to us and to the collectors who buy our art. We use similar techniques as we move into writing our bios and resumes.

So, why am I pickin’ around the artist’s brains? I’m a perverted sort of mind gamer, eh? Well yes, but that’s not why we do the exercises.

Different fishI like my students to build their entire marketing and branding platforms around who they really are and why they make their art. That’s part of the “intrigue of them.” And, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Many collectors think so, too. You see it when they stop to read the statements on the walls. You hear in the questions they ask at gallery openings and open studios.

Your artist statement and bio are the story of you and your work. The real deal. (click to Tweet)

Tell the story.

A student told me she was hired to write an artist statement for an emerging artist. He brought an accomplished artist’s statement to her and said, “Make me sound like this guy.” Really? Nope, she wouldn’t do it. She knew the value of authenticity in that statement. She knew all that followed, the branding, the marketing, the portfolio – all relied on the true story. And I mean relied, not re-lied. You don’t want to live your life as an impostor! There is no better you than you!

So, while we may feel insecure, unready, uneducated or unpolished, it’s important to be where we are at this time – because there really is no convincing people otherwise. Authenticity pays because it puts us in a position to sleep at night, ask for help, and live from a place of optimistic acceptance, at least for now. You cannot get ahead of yourself in this very moment (click to Tweet). You must place one foot in front of the other like the rest of us.

Now, given that bitter pill, how ‘bout some sweet tea to chase it down? The following questions will help you dive into your artistic intentions. Your answers may be the very thing you need to make an authentic statement!

Ask yourself:

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you create your art?
  • What people or artists influence you?
  • What inspires you?
  • What materials do you like to use?
  • Do you have a unique process? How so?
  • What sets you apart?

With a renewed sense of clarity, readdress your portfolio. Who you are is at the core of your art…

Tell Your Story ~

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Michelle Andres is a writer, artist and coach who nudges, nay, shoves, her clients in the direction of their dreams,  helping them to overcome non-productive behaviours and enjoy more success in their lives. 

Writer, Artist, Coach

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16 Replies to “The Art of the Portfolio”

  1. Michelle, truer words were never said. I have very recently stopped listening to the opinions of my family and started listening to my head and my heart. Suddenly my thoughts are clear as to what I need to paint.

    I am so excited about the prospects of the journey I am about to take.. I sustained a brain injury 6 year years ago and have seizures, so I listened to everyone who was trying to take care of me, NOW I am will stand on my own two feet and not look back…

  2. If anyone comes close to understanding what it takes for a successful BUSINESS ARTIST to make there way in the world, I feel Michelle has her fingers on the right keys.

    Always look forward to your insight. Would love the opportunity to work with you sometime.

  3. I’ve just finished reading “Inside the Painters’ Studio,” by Joe Fig; a series of interviews with, and photos from, well-known painters. All affirm what you say, Michelle–be yourself, form (or join) a community around you, and practice your art daily–even if it is just cleaning your studio. Authentic–yes! Thank you for the monthly workshops and the weekly blog, I am miles ahead of where I was before your guidance.

    1. Thank you, Max. It’s great to be validated by the likes of Joe Fig and his artist interviewees. I’ve heard great things about the book. Thanks for your kind words and support. I look forward to seeing you in the Time Management module. ~ m

  4. Hi Michelle. Lovely clear, down-to-earth guidelines there. In my artists statement (which is on my website) I have ensured to be myself. This was an ace which was given to me by a man who I worked with many years ago. I never let people or artists influence my life or my work, at least not that I’m aware of. I practice being myself every day, even though sometimes, when you’re not going with the flow one can find oneself out there in deep and dark waters. Now I think I’m going to rewrite my artists statement. Pretty much the same thing, but put in a different way. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Pat. Yes, those statements do need to be updated periodically. We change, our work evolves and it’s good to keep them fresh…and authentic, of course!

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