Great question! Do you include everything, like a CV? Or focus on the strongest & most recent work, like a resume? It's up to you and how you plan to use your site.
Look at the ePortfolios of artists you respect. Look at artists whose work bears some kinship to yours in terms of its conceptual nature, or media, or artistic subculture.
Perhaps the easiest and most appropriate way to start is with your most recent work. You have, or will have, images of the work, everything about it is fresh in your mind, and it's current. You might have video. You may have written an artist's statement, or even more, about the work.
With the portfolio platform of your choice, upload images and text. Some sites might include video or audio uploads, but often you'll upload those media to sites like YouTube & SoundCloud and embed them in your portfolio from there.
In addition to organizing and placing content on a portfolio site, you should also be organizing your materials on a backup platform like Dropbox, or on local media like hard drives & flash drives. You text could be documents stored on the same drives, or documents on an online platform like Google Drive.
These source materials will be valuable in things like online applications, and you should also maintain the ability to quickly and easily upload your work to a different portfolio site.
If you go back in time a ways, you'll find the web covered with sites that have "under construction" banners on them. I haven't seen one of those banners in ages now. It's not that all those websites suddenly got finished, it's that we've come to accept that everything online is a work in progress. Nothing is ever finished. So we've stopped apologizing and just started saying something like, "here's what I have right now."
Once you upload a project to your website, you have a portfolio. You can continue to add past work, and new work, for years to come.
Once you do have something online, your portfolio should continue to go through your career with you. The less desirable approach is to ignore your portfolio till a curator wants to look at it or you're applying for something, and then frantically try to update it. A better approach is to make updating your portfolio a normal part of your working process. This is why using a portfolio platform that's fast, easy, and convenient to update is essential. It's also why I'm not fond of having someone else do it for you. Documenting a piece as soon as you finish it is the easiest and best approach. Over time you might choose to alter the way you talk about work, or you might take some works down, all of which is fine. But getting in the habit of being up to date is priceless. If you do choose to take some works down, you might like to set those pages to Draft or Private rather than actually Delete them. That way they won't be part of your publicly accessible site, but you'll still have them for your own reference or in case you ever want to show them again.
Some of you might choose to show only a select number of your strongest or most recent works. Others might choose to make it a full career collection. A full career look might be useful to see the trajectory of your work over time. Full career is also nice as a personal reference. It can be a great way to review your own process and thinking.
If you do choose to include a lot of work, you might want to feature your strongest, most personal and passionate work in an up front summary.
What Kinds of Things do I Show?
Anything you want. Images of the work and short descriptions are a good start. You might choose to include in-progress images of the work. Or installation view images. Perhaps people viewing or interacting with your work if appropriate.
You could have brief text descriptions of images. Or longer artist's statement type text. Or you could include a process narrative taking readers along the process journey with you. You can try different approaches and see how they feel and we can discuss these choices in class and on Slack.
If your work is reviewed in print you could include images of the physical reviews. If it is reviewed online, you could include an excerpt of the review and a link to the full review. In your source materials storage (hard drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) you might want to save the full text of any online reviews, just in case the online review or review site is ever taken down.
You might like to weave in supporting platforms like Instagram, Blogs, etc.
What, besides my work?
Your portfolio will feature your work. And what else?
- Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Artist's Statement
- Artist Photo
- Welcome Video
CV? Resume? Bio? Artist's Statement? Which? How many? Well, it's up to you. A CV is fairly standard for artists. But many artist's websites do offer a resume instead. You could have either. Or both.
To have a CV, and a Resume, and a Bio, and an Artist's Statement might start to be text overkill. But to have 2 or 3 of these items could be a nice chance to express different facets of your work. Your CV & Resume are both listings of items, so it will be in your Bio & Statement that you get a chance to discuss the ideas you explore in your work. For your Artist's Statement, you might have one to contextualize your entire portfolio, but you could also have a Statement for each major body of works.
If you're lucky, you may already have written many of these documents. If you have a lot of writing to do and it feels daunting, approach it like adding work to your portfolio: start with the basics and expand over time. Maybe start with writing a CV, then move on to an Artist's Statement, and over time you might want to add additional statements for different bodies of work. Be serious about your ePortfolio, but don't kill yourself. Try to find a way to work that makes it fun and useful to work on your portfolio. If you can do that, you'll be a lot more likely to keep it up to date over time.
Did you spend time learning to draw? Did you spend time learning to write? Like art techniques, writing is a skill that can be developed. If you spent 10,000 hours learning to draw, but only really wrote a few paragraphs about your work and didn't like them very much, then you aren't really being fair to your potential with writing. It shouldn't be painful, but you definitely will get better with a little practice.
Photo / Video?
As fine artists we tend to avoid commercial gestures. You might not want a big photo of yourself on your site or a 30-second video of you saying Welcome to my portfolio. I personally like websites where the artist's name is up front and clear, and where there's a picture of whose work I'm looking at. An artist photo is also great for anyone featuring your work, like curators, galleries, residencies, and other projects.
What kind of photo? Headshot? Working in your studio? With finished works? Talking about your work in the gallery? Yes. Try to get all of these images if you can. You might or might not choose to place all of them on your website, but it's good to have the choice. Consider what feels like the right presentation for your work.
You might not want to be as direct as to make a Welcome to my portfolio video, but you could still use a short video of a conversation between you and a fellow artist, curator, or interviewer. An interviewer or curator could ask you about some of the ideas explored in your work. With a fellow artist who you share aesthetic or conceptual foundations with, you might discuss art and ideas that you share, ways of working, or how you understand each other's work.
Whether you choose to include artist photos and videos or not, you should still ask of your portfolio,
Am I in this?
Photo or no, who you are and what you care about should be clear and center. If you've assembled a number of interesting works, but somehow don't feel that you're really there, step back and reconsider what you're showing and how you're presenting it. A small tweak in your choice of images or words might make a big difference.
If you're applying for something, a grant, a residency, grad school, the BFA option, etc, you'll likely be uploading required materials to a website. Your Source Material files should really help here. If you do happen to submit your URL instead of uploading to their website, be sure that your ePortfolio does have all the requirements in terms of number and type of works and any other application requirements.
As you grow your portfolio we'll have in-class critiques to help you decide what to present and how to present it. We can also have ongoing Slack discussions on these topics.
After this class is over, stay in touch with your classmates. Offer to look at their portfolios from time to time. Ask them to look at yours. Reach out to me anytime. Ask faculty members, curators, and other artists you know for their feedback on your portfolio.
image: BlackBag.com / Amy Swartele's website