Cartoon and Illustration

Your Portfolio and You (part two: a sketchbook isn’t a portfolio)

Since I got a number of responses from yesterday’s blog, and I had a little time to kill after finishing up today’s work (before running off to tonight’s cartoonists meeting) I thought I’d proceed with my next thought.

That thought is:  A sketchbook is not a portfolio.  Neither is a smartphone.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I enjoy looking at artists’ samples.  It’s what I plan to do tonight–and it’s one of the great joys of my life!  When I’m at comic conventions, cartoonists gatherings, visiting schools, where ever I may find myself–I love looking at artists’ samples–the works of all ages and skill levels.

But there is a great difference between asking to see someone’s portfolio and asking to see a sketchbook.  Some people just don’t get that.  What really gets me is the people who fish out their smartphone (especially if they have one with a cracked screen) to show their samples.

I see a lot of those sort of things at comic book shows.  People who honestly seem to think they’re going to get hired to draw Spider-Man because they showed up with a bunch of loose, dog-eared pages crammed into a folder they bought at Staples (maybe).  I can excuse such ignorance on the part of an eleven year-old.  I was such a person myself at one time.  But by the time one reaches, say, twenty-four–it’s time to get real.

(For the record, I am in no position to hire anyone to draw Spider-Man.  I might be in the position to hire someone to assist me on a job now and then, but thus far no Spider-Man jobs.  So nobody get their hopes up–I’m not.)

I’m a little less disturbed when I encounter the recent graduate who presents a giant portfolio filled with charcoal figure studies–at least the grad has a neat presentation, but when he does this at a comic book show and has no story telling pages I still have to wonder what he’s thinking.

Well, we’ll get to that.  Like I said last time, getting to specifics of a comic book portfolio is like sharpening a pencil.

In years past it was necessary to carry around a large portfolio with originals in it because the artist usually couldn’t afford to make duplicates of all his or her work.  The originals were bulky and difficult to keep organized.  Thank the Lord for recent innovations in desktop printing that have made it possible for artists to inexpensively produce neatly bound, multiple copies of their best work in portable form.

About once a year now I collate my best work from the past couple of years, organize it all into a booklet and have my local print shop make up some booklets of the work to pass around to potential clients.

Sometimes I do one such portfolio for “commercial” clients and a different one for “comic book” clients, because the needs of the two are so different.

There are some similarities, however that work across the board.  I like to make certain that my name, address, phone number, email address, website, etc. are all displayed on each page of the printed portfolio (or in industry parlance, “book”).  Compared to the old zippered portfolio I started out with 30 years ago these books are lightweight and I can carry 20-30 of them around with me to a trade show with no problem (if I’m going to be traveling across the country I usually ship the bulk of them ahead to the hotel I’ll be staying at, but keep a few in my carry-on just in case something untoward happens).

That way, if the potential client says, “Do you have a copy of this I can keep?”  I can happily reply, “You can keep that copy right there in your hands!”  This is what I’m going for when I make a presentation, really.  I want the potential client to ask for a copy.

Admittedly, some folks don’t want to be burdened with a bunch of bulky samples, and so have asked if I have a digital version of the same.  So I have also made up things like thumb drives with the same info on them.  But I suspect that these often get “repurposed”for other use as soon as soon as the client gets home.

Some people seem to think that they can get as much milage out of a good presentation and a business card with a website address included.  But I’m afraid this is another case of out of sight out of mind.  I believe if I can convince a client to take home a copy of my samples I’m that much more likely to convince that person to eventually hire me to do work for them.

This is why a physical portfolio is so important to have, and why having one that you can give to the potential client is equally important.  You can’t expect them to keep your name in mind without a constant reminder–but you can’t be calling them up all the time without risking annoying them, right?

Okay, that’s it for today.




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