How to Put Together a First Rate Fine Arts Portfolio

by Bronwyn Timmons

Making it as a fine artist can be difficult, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the financial success of an artist depends on the state of the economy and the level of charitable contributions being made to the arts. In order to secure clients and build a career in art, you need a strong portfolio that demonstrates your talent and skills. Regardless of which media you use, there are several ways to build a first-rate portfolio.


Include only your best pieces in your portfolio, and leave out any sub-par or mediocre examples of your work. Pay particular attention to composition, design, value and spacial perception, and pick out pieces that show a firm understanding of each concept. Choose works that demonstrate your originality and personal style while showcasing your technique and mastery of your chosen medium. It's okay to include older pieces in your portfolio, but try to include recent examples so potential clients can see your current skills. Variety will add to the strength of your portfolio, as it will showcase your versatility as an artist. For example, select pieces that feature several different media, or combine two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of art.


Modern technology allows fine artists to compile and display their portfolios digitally. Upload photos of your work to a flash drive or disc, or present your entire portfolio online through your professional website. Digital portfolios are easier to display to a large audience, and posting your portfolio on the Internet will allow you to attract clients. Alternatively, you can put together a hard copy of your portfolio by printing out photographs of your work and displaying them in a binder. A hard copy of your portfolio is difficult to market to a wide audience, so you'll only share this format upon request.


Include only high-quality photos of your artwork in your portfolio, and put nothing but your work in the pictures. For paintings and drawings, you could crop the photo so only the art is included in the frame, or hang the work against a solid background for a wider-framed view. For sculptures and other 3-D works, a solid background should always be used. Make sure every photo is in perfect focus and that the lighting in the space doesn't wash out your art or cast awkward shadows across it.


Label each entry in your portfolio with the title, size and medium used. A short artist's statement about the background or concept behind each piece is also appropriate. While your art will speak for itself, providing this information will enable potential clients to better understand you as an artist, and help put your work into clear perspective for them.


If you've done any commissioned work for a company that later branded or trademarked the piece -- such as a logo -- you might need to obtain the company's permission before including the work in your portfolio. In the event any of your work was a team effort, mention this in the description and credit the artists you collaborated with.

Photo Credits

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