Japan's Must-Read Magazine

How To… Create The Perfect Portfolio

Aside from artistic talent (or lack thereof) the portfolio is the best promotional tool an artist could dream of. Sadly, most artists out there don’t have a portfolio ready, which is often part of the reason why their careers aren’t really moving along. Making a good portfolio is the single most important thing you can do to improve your career prospects. There are many kinds of portfolios for different purposes but let’s stick to a basic, general purpose design. Here are a few tips to help you create a good portfolio:

Keep it simple. Some people go overboard with ornate binders, which often outdo the artwork itself. You wanna go the other way. Simple is elegant, lets the artwork speak for itself and gives a more professional impression. A hard-cover binder should do the trick. Lots of hands will be flipping through it, so picking a durable binder is a very good idea. Slip a meishi on the spine pocket for easy reference.

Now that the outside is taken care of, let’s work on the guts! Begin by splitting the portfolio into three basic sections, like any good narrative.

Section 1: The intro.

Start off with a cover page with your name on it. Follow that up with your "profile". That’s basically your background information – education or art experience, any art-related memberships, exhibition history, etc. Split your exhibitions under two headings: Solo Exhibitions and Group Exhibitions. If you’ve ever won any awards, you should also list them here. If you have an artist statement, this is where it should go. An artist statement is a brief explanation of your current series of work and the motivation behind it. In Osaka, there is not much pressure to provide an artist statement, so, conversely, it’s a good idea to include one anyway to make a great impression. If time is against you, or if you consider these statements to be an elitist way for the artfarts to keep their boots firmly stomped on the throats of free-spirited artists, then an introduction letter talking about you and your art would be a great substitute.

Section 2: The meat.

This is where your art pictures go. Stick to an A4 paper size and binder as this format is easiest to handle, store and display. One photo to a page, including title, date and media for each piece. You don’t need to have 20 unique pieces represented – you can use a couple of these for close-up details of larger pieces or installation views for sculptures, etc. You can also include a couple of wider shots of your art in the exhibition space to show the artwork’s flow and scale. Aim for ten to 15 shots of individual pieces, between four and six close-ups, and up to four gallery shots. Don’t try to put everything you’ve ever done in here, instead try to tailor the portfolio for a particular purpose or audience. Arrange the works in chronological order, from most to least recent. Go back a couple of years if you can. It’s very valuable to show progress in your work.

Some places will accept only slide portfolios, but the same ideas apply so long as you have 20 slides. Artwork info should then be labeled on the slide’s frame. A red sticker needs to go on the top-right corner of each slide; this lets people know where the top of the image is when loading the projector tray.

Section 3: Contact.

This is the place to put your personal contact information and any other goodies such as artist brochures, past exhibition invitations, postcards and catalogues, clippings of media coverage and/or a DVD containing more pictures of your work, and multimedia content such as videos or slideshows. (A proper multimedia portfolio is a totally different animal.)

Keep things simple and make sure the information is accurate. Finally, take it with you on your next gallery visit and listen for some valuable feedback. All things being equal, it’s a good portfolio that will help to open the doors of success.

art pick ups

"Wings of Kilimanjaro 2009" Contemporary Art Travelling Exhibition

Nagoya-based, internationally celebrated artist Julius Njau and photographer Ulrich Moehwald present a new body of work including paintings, silkscreen prints and photographs.

This exhibition runs from July 6th through 11th at Osaka Contemporary Art Centre. Opening hours are 10:00-18:00, and 10:00-16:00 on Sunday. Take the Subway Tanimachi or Chuo to Tanimachi 4-Chome Station and leave via Exit 1A.


An exhibition of English teachers in Japan by Gary McLeod

Inspired by Victorian photographs of native races taken between 1872 and1876, "Privilege" involved the documenting and interviewing of English teachers in Japan for the purpose of creating a photographic archive of these transient workers. These photographs are taken with a hybrid camera that consists of an 1878-vintage British lens and Japanese digital camera. This combination required 300 individual photographs for one picture, which are stitched together afterwards, taking 20-25 minutes to shoot and 4-5 hours to stitch. The result is a fragmented but honest image of each English teacher.

Having made large use of Social Networking websites to recruit volunteers, the collection consists of over 100 teachers from various English-speaking countries taken over one year in Japan. They are a record of people taking an opportunity that may or may not be around forever. A printed version of the collection will be donated to the Natural History Museum in London in autumn, but here they will be exhibited in digital format alongside the teachers’ words as narrated by students of their language. These works will also be exhibited in Tokyo in August and September. Visit the artist’s website for more details: www.garymcleod.co.uk

Contemporary Art Space Osaka – CASO
Getting there: Subway Chuo, Technoport Line, Osaka-ko Station, Exit 6
July 28th to August 2nd (11:00-19:00 – last day closes at 17:00). Closed on Monday. Admission free.
Tel.: 06-6576-3633

To download a PDF of this story as it appears in the magazine, click here