Prepaing to Sell - Portfolios and Details by Valerie (Valry) Drake

As artists we love to create – but when it comes to the details of selling we are sometimes a little reluctant. Just in case I get someone who actually wants to know about my work, I have to have a portfolio to show them. Whether this person is a potential customer, gallery owner, or just seems interested in art, having information to give them and recording the information you discover about the person is invaluable.

First, in order to create a portfolio, I have to have pictures of all of my artwork. EVERYTHING I do gets either scanned (at 400 dpi) or digitally photographed and saved on my computer. My documents are named with the name of the painting, size, medium, and date. On my computer I keep the art in folders by the year of creation.

I have two versions of my portfolio.

One is the print version which has the typical photos of my work in acetate page protectors. ALL of the prints are high quality color prints and are consistently on good quality white paper that exactly fits the page protectors. Each print is on the right hand side of the binder and on the left side is an information page. At the front of the binder is a bio with my picture. At the back is an artist’s statement.

The other version is a Powerpoint® with all the same stuff. It includes music and smooth transitions between all pages. I have copies of this on CDs and I can easily give it to anyone who is interested. Oh, and of course, the CD has a label with my contact information clearly printed in large type.

Whenever I am displaying my work, teaching a class, or sometimes even when I’m plein-air painting, I have my portfolio (both print and CD) displayed.

On occasions when I don’t have my portfolio and the conversation turns to art, I at least have a business card with me. Yes, I’m sure that hundreds of my business cards are carelessly thrown away at the first opportunity, but you never know.
It’s also important to keep careful records of who we speak with and what we talk about. Include hints about where you met the person, what they looked like, and any personal information you discovered (such as the person loves golf or has twin daughters). Always ask for a person’s e-mail address and ask if you can include them in your mailing list. A couple of weeks after meeting the person find some excuse to follow up by mail or possibly a phone call.

So why (other than just being OC) do I go to THIS MUCH work? Because there are THOUSANDS of artists out there. Competition is steep. If I do not present myself and my product well then I may get overlooked. Are art purchases based solely on quality? No. Does fame and success come to whoever is worthy? No. If you paint the best painting in the world will someone, somehow barge their way into your studio and fall at your feet weeping and begging to purchase it? No. These are things we all know. It is a rough market out there and we have to work hard to get our little piece of the pie.





Comments (2) -

Erin Owens

Thank you for all the great information.  I love your idea about the print portfolio.  I have one, but mine is not as well organized.  That's next on my to-do list!

I also just wanted to add that if you're willing to put in the extra work, Adobe director can be a good substitute to making a digital portfolio as you do not need any programs to run it and it can be run on mac OS as well.  Powerpoint is easier, definitely, and is perfectly acceptable to use, but it is dependent on windows and Microsoft Office and not all of your potential clients will have those available to them.  Director is also capable of more pizazz and you can customize the animations.  It does have a relatively steep learning curve, however, so Powerpoint will probably be the best option unless you have some time on your hands.

Also freeplaymusic.com is a great resource for music for your slides.  No royalties involved, and it's all legal!  So, just in case your portfolio makes it big, you don't have to worry about copyrights or legal troubles.

Linda Freund

I loved your information about how to put together a portfolio. I am a new artist and have very few paintings. I actually don't think I'm ready to start selling any but I do want to get set up and organized so that when I do have enough paintings, I won't have to scramble around and choose which one is salable and which one I want to frame and keep in my house, etc.

I would also like to know about pricing. I've looked at a few blogs about setting up portfolios and websites and organizing your studio but I have not seen any articles that address pricing. Most of my work is done on small scale right now. My largest watercolor is 12" X 16" but I intend to start painting larger sizes as I get better at it. Is there anyone who can give me some advice on this?

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