Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 2014: COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting

April's COSCBWI Illustrator Meeting focused on an artist's most important asset: their portfolio.

If you want to get a book deal or art-related job, you're going to have to show your work to some very important people.  Those people could be agents, art directors, other illustrators, or even your next door neighbor who knows someone--who knows someone--who knows someone else who is looking for an illustrator just like you.  Just as a publishing house wants to see a polished manuscript before signing an author's book deal, they want to see an artist's best work before offering them an illustration job.  A well-rounded, professional portfolio is the perfect way to showcase your talents and prove you're the perfect artist for their illustrating needs.

While back in the day, artists had to schlep their original artwork around with them, the digital era has changed things up a bit.  COSCBWI's Illustrator Coordinator, Stella Hickman, explained that many artists now keep a digital portfolio in addition to their traditional one.  This can be a website where you post your work, or scans of your art that you carry with you on your smart phone or tablet.  The format art directors, agents, and other employers request to see is ever-changing.  Some may want you to send them digital files; others might request a link to your website; and some people still want physical samples, such as illustrator postcards or tear sheets.  Pay close attention to the submission guidelines of each publishing house or agency, and follow it precisely.   

After explaining the purpose and formats of a portfolio, Stella looked at illustration samples from brave members and offered tips and advice to the group.  Some of her feedback included:

-Be conscious of the order of your portfolio artwork.  Start off with a wonderful piece to impress them off the bat.  Follow that up with a few okay pieces, then another great one, then a couple more so-so's.  Top it all off with a SUPER FANTABULOUS SPECTACULAR piece so there's no way they'll forget you!

-Make sure to update your portfolio frequently.  An illustrator's style and skill-level changes with every piece they draw.  Your favorite piece from two years ago is probably not equivalent to your best work today.  Don't be afraid to take out older pieces and keep your portfolio fresh.  If you haven't added any pieces in awhile, challenge yourself to make some new illustrations and see how much you've improved.

-It's a good idea to include a series of illustrations from the same story.  (Perhaps two to four.)  Doing so proves you can tell a story visually, and shows that you can illustrate a character consistently.  It's also helpful to include some sketches and concept art.  This gives the portfolio viewer insight to your artistic process, and also shows if your final product is similar or far removed from where you started.

-If you're showing your portfolio in-person at a meeting or conference, remember to bring something you can leave at the end.  This can be your business card, illustrator postcard, tear sheets, etc.  Arriving prepared with promotional materials makes you look professional, and makes it easy to find you again!

Members left the meeting with wonderful ideas on how to promote their work and polish their portfolios.  I can't wait to get back to work on my own portfolio!

If you want to learn more about COSCBWI, be sure to check out the NEW website at or "like" the group on Facebook.  I hope to see you at the next meeting!

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