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10 Key Elements to a Professional Art Portfolio: Q & A

by Daniel J. Keys on 8/21/2009 8:37:17 AM

This Post is by Daniel J. Keys, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


My last article seems to have spurred several good questions about perfecting our portfolios, and I feel that now would be a prime opportunity to discuss them further in the hopes that we’ll discover some useful answers along the way. 

It seems that this is a time for many of us to begin pursuing a gallery that will represent our work. Whether it’s our first real gallery, or that elusive one we’ve never had courage enough to approach before, these pieces of writing are designed to build confidence in our ability to make a good impression and put our best foot forward. 

Getting down to business 

Here I’ve selected three of the most relevant questions recently asked, and have answered them accordingly: 

Question # 1. What size should the photographs representing our works in a portfolio be? 

Though this is probably a matter of penchant, I think that the photos used should be about 8” x 10”. Anything smaller is likely to underwhelm by leaving out a great deal of detail. 


Question # 2. Would you please share your artist statement with FAV’s readers? 

Certainly, however please keep in mind that the following should be used for inspiration only; your artist statement needs to come directly from you, and express how you feel about your art. 

My Artist Statement:  

"Continuing to develop as an artist in today's world, I have come to realize just how much Master Artist's of old had a sense of discovery in their works and manners of painting; things were new to them and untouched in many ways, thus their subjects were portrayed, using paint, with a vigor and enthusiasm.

Much the same way that a botanist would describe a new found species of rare tropical plant, or a scientist explains a breakthrough medical discovery, artists have through the centuries set out to enlighten others with their interpretations of seemingly familiar things: revealing a new way to see them.

The artists whose works have compelled me to take a closer look were undoubtedly versed in what is I believe to be, a universal language. Using this same means of communicating my inner feelings toward the world around me, I too desire to describe simplistic things as I see them: As astonishing and captivating beauty in everyday life. Whether it's a painting of a flower, vista, or small inanimate object, viewing my work should expose oneself to his own capacity to respond to such ordinary things in a far more meaningful way; stirring up feelings that become a fusion of the understanding of temporal existence, and lasting memories.

Most of all, I desire that my works give off a sense of unconfined history: A story needing not only to be told, but also interpreted by ones very own soul." 

The idea behind an artist statement is to allow the potential client a little more access into your philosophy, personality, and overall thinking process. It should be rather short, precise, and ultimately cause the reader to turn from the statement, back to the actual work, and confirm what they’ve just read.

Question # 3. Can you share a list of things not to do when submitting a portfolio to a gallery? 

Where to begin… 

Do not use second-rate photographs. Pictures printed directly from your home-printer rarely look as good as professionally developed ones will. 

Do not forget to use good stationary. I made this point in the last article, but feel that it’s worth repeating. A consistent quality of material in you portfolio gives the impression that you’re a successful artist worth representing.

Do not use difficult to read fonts anywhere in the portfolio writings. Fancy script may look artistic but if it’s complicated to read, your defeating its purpose; going though your portfolio should be a pleasant experience. 

Do not forget to “spell check” everything! Misspelled words can look ghastly unprofessional. 

Do not speak ill of your work anywhere in your portfolio; when possible praise what’s good about your work, and then just let it (or the photographs of it) do the talking. 

Do not be impatient when the gallery takes a bit more time, to respond to your request, than you feel is necessary. Most galleries take as much as thirty days to decide on whether or not they’re going to take on another artist. 

Do not think that all of this deliberate planning will detract from your artistically spontaneous, or relaxed, style. I heard it said once that “if you do something well, it will have the look and feel of spontaneity”. By planning out the details of your portfolio, you’re sure to make a good impression and put your best foot forward every time. 

Lastly, try not to be discouraged if a gallery rejects your work. It’s like your Mother always told you if ever you were rejected by a person that you swore you just could not live without: There are plenty of fish in the sea. Keep trying until you find the gallery that’s the perfect fit for you, and your work. 



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Related Posts:

12 Steps to Get Your Artwork Noticed by Galleries

10 Key Elements for a Professional Art Portfolio

How to Make it Easy for Your Art Collectors to Browse Your Artwork

Getting Your Artwork Published

Artist Daniel J. Keys Shares His Studio Routine

Topics: Art Business | art marketing | Gallery/Artist Relationship 

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Joanne Benson
Hi Daniel,

Thanks for sharing your artist statement with us and all your great portfolio tips. Perhaps one of these days I will get serious enought to submit a portfolio. It is nice to have a consolidated list to refer to. Now I have to go work on my most ordinary statement! LOL

Daniel, I very much appreciate your excellent thoughts. May I humbly point out, however, that and editor can always be our best friend. In Question #3 above, you mis-spelled the word "stationery." "Stationary" means something fixed and not moving. "Stationery" used to write letters actually has an "e" in it, like lEtter does. May our art be wonderful and we improve with age. To err is human, to create art is divine!


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